Gallery: Natural world appears alien when put under the microscope at the University of Essex

Larvae of a small crustacean

Larvae of a small crustacean - Credit: Archant

These surreal images may appear alien – but they are in fact what scientists at the University of Essex see when they put our natural world under the microscope.

Cell division

Cell division - Credit: Archant

Featuring human cells, coral, plants and even baby shrimp, by magnifying objects researchers hope to learn more about the world around us.

Dr Philippe Laissue, from the university’s School of Biological Sciences, is giving a public talk about the power and importance of microscopy and uses the stunning pictures to bring his lecture to life.

The biologist, who has a particular passion for coral, said: “This is about looking into a world which is otherwise completely hidden from us.

“The more you can magnify something and look at it the better you can understand what it does and glean what exactly is happening.

Withdrawn polyp

Withdrawn polyp - Credit: Archant

“I am very often surprised when I put something under the microscope. It is a world which is hard to imagine, and we are simply not aware of it.

“Coral is very beautiful, serene, calm and quiet, but when you magnify it you see the whole drama that drives on the smallest scale and battles with organisms attacking them in a fight for space and nutrition.

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“It gives you an admiration for life.”

One of the biggest uses of microscopes comes into research for disease. As Dr Laissue explains, diseases are attacking cells long before we see any symptoms, so by examining those early battles in the fight against infection doctors hope to learn more and develop better tests and treatments.

Dr Laissue added: “This has become even more important in the past decade as on the technology front we have had many developments such as lasers and digital cameras, and there have been some really creative things in the chemical and bio-chemical sciences.”

The advances have been so spectacular that two Nobel prizes have been awarded for work in or contributing to microscopy.

Dr Laissue’s talk is part of the Cafe Scientifique series and takes place at The Minories Garden Café, 74 High Street, Colchester, with doors opening at 6.30pm for 7pm on Wednesday January 14.