The Image: "Polarized Benzil Crystal Melt"
I took this image as part of a polarized light assignment at RIT. Benzil is normally found as a yellow crystal that is used in various chemistry experiments, most frequently in polymer chemistry as a photoinitiator. A photoinitator breaks down into free radicals when exposed to light.
In order to make the crystal melt, I placed a small amount of it on a slide and melted it on a hot plate. After the sample cooled, I placed it on a polarized light microscope to look at the birefringence, or double refracted light.
I graduated summa cum laude from Rochester Institute of Technology with degrees in Biology and Biomedical Photographic Communications. While there, I was able to learn different lab techniques conducting experiments as well as discover beauty in the microscopic world. During summers I interned at Northeastern University Optical Science Lab and at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. I did biomedical research with sophisticated microscopy at both places.
Are you currently working in a lab setting or pursuing work in art + science?
I am working at TissueVision, which is a microscopy company based near Boston, MA. We have a microscope system that can automatically image whole organs or tissue samples. My main purpose at TissueVision is to come up with new bioassays, with a focus on whole mouse brain imaging. In addition to this, I will help install microscopes for customers.
Did you ever have an “aha!” moment when you knew you wanted to pursue a career in science? Did you intend for this path to include art + design?
I have always been interested in both science and art. I love learning how the world works. I think that both artists and scientists are innovative and creative people who like pushing boundaries. I hope that my images of science help inspire people to take a closer look at the thriving tiny world around them.
To see more examples of Marissa's photography work, visit her website.