World's Smallest Greeting Card
Laser capture microdissection (LCM) is a specialized form of microscopy intended for the isolation and retrieval of biological material of interest… unless you are like me and decide to use LCM as a micron-scale engraver. The “World’s Smallest Greeting Card” was an idea I had to display the resolution of the Zeiss PALM CombiSystem while simultaneously creating some enjoyable micro-art for the holiday season. After a series of tweaks and calibrations to the system, I was able to etch my holiday greeting design onto a polymer membrane down to a 50μm x 50μm area. At the time of creation, this was the smallest holiday greeting card by my account. The image was picked up by the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and used as the final post of the Zeiss Advent Calendar.
Ok, so I should say that LCM is not all fun and games. There are some very practical applications for these systems and my greeting card exemplifies a particular aspect of their capabilities — the potential to accurately extract micron-scale features for downstream analysis. Using a UV laser and a 100x/1.4NA objective, laser cutting widths of 1μm are possible. Through my work as a Microscopy Technician at the MBL, I have assisted researchers in using LCM for projects ranging from single-cell PCR to the purification of bacterial colonies. That said, I’ve never turned down an opportunity to write my name with a microscope.