Who prefers electronmicroscopy

2022. február 18.

Our age can be called "the renaissance of microscopes". Today's microscopes are "works of art" in a different way from the old ones, and require even more care and expertise. That is why Dr Szilvia Kőszegi joined us.

What is the link between electron microscopy, crystallographic electron microscopy, scanning tunnelling microscopy, super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and cryo-electron microscopy?
It is the Nobel Prize, the most prestigious scientific award to date.
The first electron microscope was built in 1931 by Ernst Ruska and his master Max Knoll, who, not incidentally, also built the first scanning electron microscope a few years later, but only Ruska lived long enough to receive the Nobel Prize. The award ceremony took place 55 years later, in 1986. He wasn't the only winner, the other half of the prize going to Gerd Binnig, who was much younger than him, and the not so young Heinrich Rohrer for "the scanning tunnelling microscope", also deservedly so, but with much less waiting time. Even more astonishing than the 55 years waiting time, the Nobel Prize for the development of the electron microscope method was awarded as early as 1982! Aaron Klug was the only person to win for "the development of crystallographic electron microscopy", although it should be added that the citation for the prize also mentioned his achievements in research into the structure of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.
After a long break, two Nobel Prizes came in quick succession.
Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner in 2014 for the development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, and in 2017 Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for the "Development of a cryo-electron microscope for the high-resolution study of organic molecules in the dissolved state". If we call it a disease, it can be treated with money, a lot of money, because these microscopes are very expensive and require a high level of expertise to maintain and even to set up, which most researchers do not have.

This explains why László Barna joined us as the head of our well-equipped and expanding Microscopy Centre a good ten years ago, and was assisted a few years ago by Pál Vági.
Gábor Nyiri, the head of the Institute's Electron Microscopy Centre, also needed help, as our old and reliable technician Győző Goda retired in January. We were curious to see who would take over the task - and who will be accepted by the institute.
Her CV is impressive: she graduated as a chemical engineer from the Technical University of Budapest, obtained an MSc in chemical engineering the following year, and then a PhD from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the BME, with two intermediate C-levels, of course, as required. She has not done any TDK work here, nor has she had anything to do with the life sciences as a successful university lecturer, but the fact that she still travels to Budapest daily from his home in Székesfehévár, where she could still have a good job, is due in large part to electron microscopes.

But let Dr Szilvia Kőszegi, who has been our colleague since last autumn, tell us more about this!

- In my first job at Dunaferr, my main task was to identify and solve product-related defects/problems. It was at this company that I first had the opportunity to use light microscopy material testing techniques, and what has since become very dear to my heart, the scanning electron microscope. There we had an LEO SEM microscope, which is still used to this day, as well as the good old Hitachi or Jeol electron microscopes here. In the late nineties, the studies were carried out under the professional supervision of physicists, but I was driven by the desire to learn to be able to apply the method on my own. I had to learn again, and it was then that I first came into "physical" contact with KOKI, as we learned to use the instrument on a Phillips scanning electron microscope (SEM) at the Institute of Pathology II of the SOTE, together with technical and medical/anatomical participants. As everyone here knows, the Institute of Pathology is located on the other side of Üllői út, from where we had a good view of the KOKI building, which stands out from the surroundings.

- Dunaferr is located in Dunaújváros and you commute from Székesfehérvár. What was your job there?

- I went to Székesfehérvár to work for a company producing aluminium profiles, where I was involved in special alloy development. The work was interesting, but there were problems with the infrastructure because we didn't have our own metallographic testing laboratory, it was difficult to communicate with external partners where the tests for research/development were carried out. I proposed to the management to submit a tender for high-quality technology development work that included the creation of a new materials testing laboratory. We submitted the tender and were awarded the contract, and with the grant we received, we were able to build a new microscopy laboratory.

- That's a really nice success, you didn't stay there!

- In essence, this is what really happened, as my employer changed, but I still went in through the same gate to work, because the two companies were located on the same site and the connection between the laboratories was quite close. I was lured to my new job, in a company producing aluminium rolled products, by the fact that a three-year research/development project had started, with a lot of materials testing work, including metallographic microscopy. This sounded exciting to me, so I jumped in. I don't regret the switch, because the three-year project ended with great tangible results, including the production of a new high-strength automotive sheet product with excellent formability, recycling of waste foundry slag, the introduction of energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and the purchase of several up-to-date materials testing microscopes such as a Jeol JSM IT-200 SEM.

The project has developed close cooperation with the Universities of Széchenyi István, Dunaújváros and Miskolc.

- I read from your CV that you also taught!

- I have close ties with the University of Dunaújváros (DUE), as I was an associate professor there, not only teaching materials engineering students, but also carrying out special materials tests with a ZEISS EVO MA 15 scanning electron microscope.

- Did you like teaching at university?

- Yes. University is a great place to keep the researcher in the flow of academic life, to maintain the need for self-development/learning, and last but not least, to help talented students to develop and realise themselves as mentors and supporters from the background.

- I suppose you can give an example of this!

- I would be happy to, as I can be proud of my DUE students, among whom Attila Széll won first place in the 2021 OTDK in the Engineering Sciences section, but many of my students also achieved placements in the Science Week Talent Day.

- Speaking of "pride", what do you look back on with particular satisfaction from your previous work?

- At Dunaferr, in the hardcore of metallurgical and mechanical engineering, I won the Dunaferr Outstanding Professional Award as a young research engineer.

- This sounds like a great recognition indeed, almost incomprehensible, why would a successful and respected professional in his field switch from materials science to life science?

- The multinational environment of 20 years not only provides a great opportunity to learn about complex, interdependent systems but also strongly emphasises the effectiveness of teamwork and encourages precision, correctness and quality work. This is particularly true in the automotive industry and automotive supply chain. The downside is that it is therefore too much a regulated, bound, systemic world, as this is the only way to maintain competitiveness, stay at the cutting edge and employee satisfaction. In addition, soaring thinking and individual creativity must be pushed into the background, but the opportunity for deep reflection is also lost.

- With these thoughts in mind, it's no wonder you spotted the KOKI job ad!

- KOKI's job advertisement for a position as a manager in an electron microscopy laboratory seemed like an opportunity of a lifetime! I like change because it always adds something to the personality, and when the change is radical, I find it even more attractive and exciting, so I applied.

- And here you are! How do you see your situation from the inside after a few months?

- I have entered a new world, which is a great challenge for me, and it is a great honour to be able to gain insight into the topics I am researching here.

- Everything here is very different from what you have been dealing with!

- I wouldn't say that! My childhood dream was to become a research doctor or a cell biologist. When I was about ten or twelve years old, I saw an interview on TV with a very great brain research professor, János Szentágothai, who I thought at the time was, well, "THE RESEARCHER". And what will fate bring? Every morning, as soon as I walk through the door of KOKI, I am proud to be greeted by his statue in the lobby.

- It is so beautiful that it seems almost exaggerated, although I have no doubt that it is true.

- I'm really happy to be able to re-learn about the cell biology that interested me so much as a child, to delve deeper into the techniques of scanning submicroscopy, to communicate with great researchers about their projects.

- What is your current job?

- In the months I've been here so far, I've had to learn a lot and train myself. Getting to know the electron microscope instrumentation, learning the user software and even understanding their operating logic is no small task and requires a lot of perseverance.

- How much help did you get?

- I can say that I have had and am getting all the help I need. My colleagues have been very welcoming. They answer all my questions with great patience and explain everything, even though I ask a lot of questions. Some of them were particularly pleased to have an engineer in my person. I would be very happy if I could add something extra or spark to their research because of my profession because I have a different approach to the world, I think globally, in systems, inflows. I really like to apply this approach to the submicroscopic environment, as this is what my alloy development work was all about.

- Can you briefly explain how such a process happens? If only so that we can learn something that is quite different from the research work here!

- To produce a better alloy, you first have to break down the material, understand its microstructure, understand the properties, roles, functions and modification possibilities of the constituents, because only then can you start the task of creating a new system with different properties. This is why microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy, in particular, is so attractive.

- Up to the point of creating a new system with different properties, you could have said the same thing about our work! As for what you said about microscopy, I can only add that anyone who loves microscopy cannot be a bad person!
I must add, however, that although a love of microscopy is necessary, it is by no means a sufficient condition for the work you have undertaken with us. You are now experiencing in practice what is required of you. Can you do it?

- You have to spread the awareness in many directions. It will also be the case when the technical operation and updating of the four electron microscopes, the use of their complex software, the supervision of their mechanical equipment, etc., become part of the daily routine. Because something can and does happen. I will have to constantly learn the jargon of your science, I will have to be able to interpret the electron microscope images of the tissues being examined.
But that is why I came here! I want to prove that I can stand my ground and that I will be able to contribute to the international standard of research here.