Dates for the 17th Course will be 30th March - 09 April 2022

Meanwhile, if you wish to be kept informed and express your interest in taking part, please complete the email field on the next tab (under course details)

Practical Course Location:

The Marine Biological Association
The Laboratory
Citadel Hill
PL1 2PB U.K.

Tel: +44 (0)1752-426493


The course takes place in the Laboratory of the Marine Biological Association from Wednesday 17th - Saturday 27th March 2021. Fee comprises teaching and half board; single room accommodation, breakfast and lunch.  Evening meals can be taken in local restaurants.

View the 2021

View the InFocus report

For being kept informed and to provide expression of interest, please fill in your email address above.


There will be 2–3 lectures each day throughout. Lectures will cover topics from basic optics, detectors and light sources through to photochemistry involved in the development of novel fluorescent probes and the application of advanced super-resolution optical microscopy techniques.  The first 3 days will be spent setting up microscopes for brightfield and epifluorescence microscopy, including polarisation and interference contrast methods. The final 6 days will be organised in rotations around the 9 experiments listed below. The experiments will be in the large classroom at the MBA and in rooms nearby. Use will be made of marine specimens where possible and students may have an opportunity to trawl for benthos and plankton, depending on weather and availability of the MBA research vessel.

For an idea of the teaching schedule, please see the timetable for the last course: 

Developmental Biology

Experiments with confocal imaging.  CCD imaging and deconvolution, microinjection, genetically encoded probes.

Cell Physiology

Confocal imaging with electrophysiology
CCD imaging with electrophysiology
Photolysis and photometry
Total internal reflection fluorescence imaging
Laser traps
Marine bioluminescence

Special demonstrations and hands-on exercises

  • Multi-photon and confocal imaging
  • Quantitative interference microscopy
  • Use of an optical bench for basic experiments on scanning and apertures
  • Spectroscopy and filters
  • Abbe’s experiments on the role of diffraction in microscope image formation with absorption and phase objects.


      Preparations used will include: invertebrate preparations (tunicates, molluscan neurones), zebra fish, mammalian brain slices, Fucus, Arabidopsis, and cell lines.

      Poster Session

      Students at the course will be invited to display a small (maximum A3-size) poster of their current research and time will be allocated for presentation and discussion. There will be a prize for Best Poster.




      There is usually a 3:1 ratio of applications to places, and there will be up to 20 places on the course.  

      Please submit the

      by email, attaching your Curriculum Vitae and Research Project (giving a concise description of your research, your reasons for wishing to attend and your experience of techniques taught on the course) and PDF copy of a signed Letter of Recommendation on organisation letterheaded notepaper from an academic referee, preferably PhD supervisor or Head of Laboratory.   This letter should indicate how your research, the laboratory in which you work and the area of research that you intend to pursue will benefit from your participation on the course.

      Please make the subject of the email ‘Application Optical Course 2020′ followed by your surname.

      Please send these three parts to arrive no later than 09:00am on Friday 10 January 2020 to:

      All email submissions will be acknowledged. Applicants who are visa dependent will need to apply for tourist visas.  Letters will be provided to those in need of supporting visa documentation.


      There will be a registration fee of £1,500 Academic Rate (Industrial Rate upon request).  Accommodation, breakfast and lunches are included.  


      Each day, there will be two lectures in the morning (probably 9.00 and 11.00), then practical work, and a lecture in the early evening, probably 6 pm.

      Enquiries can be directed to

      Pre-course reading

      Dr Brad Amos’ lecture at the Royal Society (45 mins) on revolutionary microscopy:  (click ‘Watch the video’)

      Basic opinions paper (Nature methods)