ITP Blog

Citizen Science - Week 3

September 20, 2018

The three articles we read after this week indicated the importance of microscopes/optical instruments for scientific research and education. I never thought about access to this kind of equipment because the science classrooms I attended growing up always had them. But that’s an indication of a privilege—a privilege I took for granted.

The Foldscope and the smart phone spectrometer, however, show that comparable instruments can be fashioned out of cheap, low-to-no power materials. This excites me because as Cybulski, Clements, and Prakash’s Foldscope paper point out:

this platform could empower a worldwide community of amateur microscopists

I definitely see a connection between these kind of DIY/“hacked” scientific instruments (which could observe a satisfactory agreement between fruit ripeness and fluorescence signals) and Genspace’s biohacker mentality. When we visited Genspace last week, Will pointed out how they fabricated their own metal holders for an incubator shaker, bypassing the high marked-up components sold by the manufacturer. And the education aspect is even stronger in my opinion. The fact that a Foldscope could include instructions/guides on the paper material itself (Happy Meal Microscope toys in the future?) provides a great opportunity to drive more interest in STEM related fields—which are fields that could use more diversity and are less likely to be replaced my automation in the future.

Regarding diversity, the last thing I want to highlight about this week’s readings are the places where the smart phone biosensing paper was downloaded. Most views came from the United States and Europe, which are relatively developed nations with access to and budgets for science labs and equipment. But there were some that came from developing parts of the world and I’m hopeful to see scientist, students, and even Instagrammers from these parts of the world engaging with the global scientfic community.

smartphone biosensing downloads


Adrian Bautista

NYU ITP documentation blog.
Words are my own.