Our staff spotlight this month features Professor Karl Oparka and the spectacular images he creates in his lab and his garden.
The School of Biological Sciences recently hosted a photography competition amongst staff and students, with a view to finding interesting and exciting images of their research. The winner was Professor Karl Oparka, of the School’s Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, for a spectacular shot of a dandelion seed head.
Karl has been taking macro photographs of his research throughout his career, but has also expanded the skill into a hobby and has been taking macro photos of nature for over ten years.
The winning photo was taken on a standard Nikon D800 camera with a macro lens and the laboratory photos of cells were taken on a Lyca SP2 confocal microscope.
The importance of imaging
Karl’s main area of research concerns how things move through the small pores which interconnect plant cells; a process which is important in the transfer of viruses and also in the effectiveness of pesticides.
The development of new imaging techniques in order to explore the functions of these pores in living tissue has been hugely important to the work, and has produced some stunning images.
The one featured here shows cellular transfer in trichomes, the small hairs found on plant leaves.
These images are helping to explain how viruses are transmitted and will hopefully help solve the mystery of how virus genomes are transmitted through pores which are seemingly too small for them to fit through.
Valuable teaching tool
Karl says the boundaries between his research photography and his hobby photography have gradually become blurred as he amasses an ever more impressive collection of images.
One great outcome of his passion for illuminating the smaller side of nature is the interest and enthusiasm they create in his students.
The images have been great for teaching undergraduates as they really seem to love them. I’ve gradually started to use them more and more in lectures and have even made some time-lapse films of a viruses progression through adjacent plant cells.
Many of the photographs which Karl submitted for the competition were taken as a part of his hobby photography at home or in his garden. Below are a selection of just some of the stunning images which give a whole new perspective on the microscopic world of plants and insects.
For more information on Karl’s research you can visit his lab pages.
For more information on the School of Biological Sciences, including our exciting plans for the new Darwin Building which will house cutting edge research in epigenetics, synthetic biology and infectious diseases, visit the School of Biological Sciences’ website.