A New Podcast from Bitesize Bio and ZEISS Microscopy

The Microscopists takes you into revealing, entertaining, and personal meetings with the great microscopists of our time. Your host is Dr. Peter O’Toole. Peter will help you understand what drives great, successful scientists, what really inspires them and what they enjoy most in life.

This set of candid, fun, and engaging interviews serves not only to help inspire upcoming scientists but to show how career tracks and work-life balance are managed by some of the best. Not only are they great at work, but they have some amazing stories to tell about their lives outside science.

More episodes will be released every two weeks. Follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, or via RSS feed and stay tuned for inspiring guests!

Share this podcast:

Petra Schwille

Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry

Petra is a dedicated high flyer that simply loves her work (and her music, for which there is little she cannot play to concert level!). We chat about how she was given very little PhD supervision but encouraged to simply explore.

We also discuss her time in the USA before returning to Germany where she has become a Director at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry.

Not only high flying at work, Petra also has a head for heights that she reveals as we talk about raising and balancing family life, her hobbies which include climbing and yes…music! Watch/listen to this ‘classical’ podcast.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Jeff W. Lichtman

Harvard University

From Cajal to Google, networks to solve networks! Jeff is another person who does not stop innovating and exploiting new technology. In this podcast, he talks about the first time he saw the Brainbow image, in a step-by-step manner that blew him away, through his past inspirations and today’s motivations.

With an equal passion for teaching and research, Jeff does not slow down, although he does have fun outside of work and enjoys the simple pleasures of morning dog walks and good Italian food.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Dan Davis

The University of Manchester

In this episode, Dan talks about how he developed his career, including the real motivation to becoming a Professor at Imperial at such a young age.

Starting out as a Physicist, Dan made a remarkable and fast switch in careers to which he attributes much of his success. Sometimes a passion coupled with early naivety can be the perfect starting point. Dan also discusses balancing being a father, husband, scientist, and popular book author. I wish I had asked him what he preferred, starring in book festivals or headlining science conferences!

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Lucy Collinson

The Francis Crick Institute

Lucy Collinson has been at the forefront of 3D volume and correlated electron microscopy since setting up the internationally renowned facilities at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute and now The Francis Crick Institute.

In this episode, Peter O’Toole discusses not only Lucy being a leading light in her field and her motivations, but uncovers some of Lucy’s more obscure passions. Not to give too much away, but surfing and being a dedicated Eurovision fan are just elements worth listening for. While the episode isn’t just about work, it was great to hear about how Lucy’s career developed and how she became so successful.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Hari Shroff

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Young, successful and still so disarming. In this episode, Hari Shroff (NIH) reveals what it was like to work in the exciting area of super-resolution microscopy during its infancy, and discusses working in the early days of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus.

Hari discusses his latest work and the efforts that go behind such a high impact publication while also talking about the advice and patience he needed when setting up his own lab. Unwittingly, Hari and Peter O’Toole’s paths came very close as Hari spent some of his youth in Peter’s city of Birmingham in the UK, which unfortunately was not the place that it is thankfully now.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Scott E. Fraser

University of Southern California

It would be fair to say that Scott Fraser has influenced the microscopy community more than most. As the person behind the Meta detector, he made a massive impact on the microscopy community and is now seeing these adaptations being adopted in other fields again. But how did Scott find himself in such a position? It appears as though his coffee machine is the answer behind most inventions!

This episode reveals just how personable Scott is, along with his natural humility. Scott also shows his softer side, as he is joined by his new kittens in his Rudolf Schindler house (worth tuning in for itself!). He also discusses how he has had to improvise and invent new gadgets to protect his home-made amps from his new kittens.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Ricardo Henriques

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência

There’s no doubt that Ricardo’s career so far has been stellar. He’s moved up the career ladder at lightning speed, starting his own group in 2013, following only a brief postdoc, to holding a professorial position and starting another lab at IGC. This is especially impressive given that his original BSc was in physics!

In this episode, Ricardo reveals how imposter syndrome can affect anyone, with his thoughts and feelings on his first day as a group leader at UCL. We also see Ricardo’s more light-hearted side, including dressing up as Batman at a monthly UCL cocktail hour (pictures included) and how playing with lego can help overcome grant rejection.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Alison North & Kurt Anderson

Rockefeller University & Francis Crick Institute

Ever wonder how people end up working in a core facility? You are about to find out. In this show, Peter O’Toole welcomes Alison North from the Rockefeller University in New York and Kurt Anderson from the Francis Crick Institute in London. Alison, originally from the UK, now works in the USA, while Kurt is from the USA but now works in the UK. So there’s an interesting dynamic to this interview!

Both Alison and Kurt are internationally renowned in the world of microscopy, but neither started out with a passion for microscopes and nor did their current roles even exist when they were in their early postdoc days. They talk about their early careers, getting established, and how they balance work with outside life. They share their interests, from Kayaking to serious mountain biking, supporting rival baseball teams, and discuss Alison’s extraordinary collection of New York Yankee caps and tops.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Jason Swedlow

University of Dundee

In this episode, Peter O’Toole chats to Jason Swedlow of the University of Dundee, whose open-source tools are revolutionising microscopy. While Peter has known Jason for many years, this was a great opportunity to find out more about Jason on a personal level including his decision to stop competitive road cycling through to his travels around the world.

Taking a rest from being a leading jet setter, Jason is now enjoying lockdown and more time with his family while also still driving forward many international initiatives and balancing his research and company interests.

Catch Jason at home and hear about what motivates him. You’ll discover some great tips and tricks for getting to the top, as well as hear about his first microscope experiences!

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Tony Wilson

University of Oxford

Step into a brief history of how the confocal microscope came to be! Peter O’Toole chats with one of the pioneers of the confocal microscope: Tony Wilson from the University of Oxford.

Wearing his cowboy hat and boots throughout the interview, Tony talks about his passion for cattle, his Jaguar and Yorkshire cricket, and how finding life scientists to try this ‘new’ technique was not as simple as you may now think.

It is an intriguing insight into the trials and tribulations of transforming a concept into a ubiquitous technique without which (arguably) several Nobel prizes may never have come to be. Beyond the confocal microscope, Tony also talks about the tribulations and opportunities he experienced in creating a spin-out company. This is a fascinating chat that captures the person and the science behind such vital developments in the world of microscopy.

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Join this informal chat with Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Beyond kayaking to work and a passion for plants, Jennifer explains how she became interested in Biology from her time teaching in Africa, and how she was fortunate enough in her early career to work alongside some of the true giants of cell biology.

Very few cell biologists have had so many major impacts on the field, and underpinning most of her work was the use of the microscope, with many discoveries going hand-in-hand with the development of microscopy itself.

Jennifer shares some great stories as to how these developments came about, what it is like to work in the Janelia Research Campus and how to Kayak to work (hint: don’t do it in the dark!).

Listen to this episode here

Watch this episode here