Making time to inspire the next generation of scientists is a really important aspect of what we do as researchers. In Fremantle near Perth on the 30th April students were given an amazing outreach experience at the recent International Conference on Biophotonics, which was held in conjunction with the long running medical research conference Science on the Swan. This event provided students with an opportunity to engage with a number of exciting people, including former NASA astronaut Stephen Robinson, The Naked Scientist Chris Smith and the previous Chief Scientist of Western Australia Lyn Beazley. In addition, students took part in a range of activities that introduced them to the world of optics and microscopic imaging. Students got to build their own origami microscope, learn the dangers of green laser pointers, and the imaging capabilities of optical coherence tomography and scanning electron microscopy.

Yes, SEM was the odd one out at a photonics conference, but it was great to give the students an appreciation of the various benefits and limitations of using light and electrons for imaging. It was great to have exhibitors involved in the event, with Newspec’s Dr Martin Cole providing back up to Dr Jeremy Shaw from UWA’s Centre for Microscopy Characterisation and Analysis. Newspec supplied the Hitachi TM3030plus Tabletop SEM for the event, which showed a tick sample in all its blood sucking proboscis glory. Needless to say the students were amazed at the close up detail.

We hope that such events impart some lasting impressions on students and spur them on to consider science as an option for a future career. At the very least a great time was had by all concerned and, if nothing else, everyone got the message that science can and should be fun!

Acknowledgement goes to Science on the Swan for the use of photographs.