Benedict Diederich

Benedict Diederich

Leibniz IPHT Jena

After doing an apprenticeship as an electrician Benedict Diederich started studying electrical engineering at the University for Applied Science Cologne. A specialisation in optics and an internship at Nikon Microscopy Japan pointed him to the interdisciplinary field of microscopy. After working for Zeiss he finished his PhD in the Heintzmann Lab at the Leibniz IPHT Jena, where he focusses on bringing cutting edge research to everybody by relying on tailored image processing and low-cost optical setups. Part of his PhD program took place at the Photonics Center at the Boston University in the Tian Lab. A recent contribution was the open-source optical toolbox UC2 (You-See-Too) which tries to democratise science by making cutting-edge affordable and available to everyone, everywhere.

UC2 – an open source system for optics (The power in your pocket)

With UC2 (“You. See. Too”) and “cellSTORM” the team around Benedict Diederich at the Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technology Jena in Germany have successfully demonstrated that cutting-edge microscopy can be realised for a fraction of the cost of commercial devices using open-source hard- and software. Establishing quality standards and encouraging other researchers to use open-source in their research is one of the key aspects of his research. Science lives from the curiosity to get to the bottom of problems and from the subsequent discussion, where scientists exchange knowledge and opinions to finally come up with new questions. However, as a recent study showed, the vast majority of the experiments conducted within publications can often only be replicated partially, if at all, which contributes to the rising disbelief from society into scientific practice [1]. The high level of exclusivity of scientific experiments often due to a lack of available instruments and knowledge of their use, as well as their high cost, makes it impossible for many researchers to replicate their experiments. Particularly in high-resolution microscopy, which is an essential tool for many different scientific disciplines such as cell biology or biochemistry this is a problem to be solved if we aim for realistic interdisciplinary scientific exchange. Our ever-growing open-source optical toolbox UC2 (“You.See.Too.”) [2] shows that this is not only important but also possible. With UC2, we are trying to democratise optics and microscopy in particular. To achieve this, UC2 relies on widely available components and 3D-printed parts so that it can be easily built by anyone, anywhere. Through online platforms such as GitHub [3], we enable anyone to use, replicate, and customise it for individual purposes open-source licenses. Additionally, we invite users from around the world to share their designs with the community in order to create an iterative and decentralised optimisation loop. This way, completely new collaborations can be created, from the field of education to the realm of cutting-edge biology. In the ongoing Corona pandemic, we were able to show that state-of-the-art microscopic imaging can be realised even where access to such equipment is very limited, but no less urgently necessary. Also, we were able to detect and even optically resolve the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus in the high-safety biological laboratory. The open-source nature of UC2 allows connecting with other open projects to unite the expertise of scientists from around the world, together with approaching the goal of making cutting-edge tools available to all. Additionally scaling up the production of the UC2-components and organising interdisciplinary workshops, we hope to lower the entry barriers to get creative with optics and think science easily “out of the box”. [1] Baker, M. 1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility. Nature 533, 452–454 (2016). [2] Diederich, B., Lachmann, R., Carlstedt, S. et al. A versatile and customizable low-cost 3D-printed open standard for microscopic imaging. Nat Commun 11, 5979 (2020). [3] UC2 GitHub Repository: [] GitHub – openUC2/UC2-GIT: Respository for Open-Science modular microscope system.