Engineering undergraduates build OPT microscope

Previously, when Andy McMahon, head of USC Stem Cell, wanted a three-dimensional image of a kidney, he would ship the organ to Australia. Now, he can send the organ down the hall to the university’s new specialized microscope — built by a team of five undergraduates from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering as part of the course ENGR 499 Microscope Design and Construction.

Called an optical projection tomography (OPT) microscope, the instrument produces three-dimensional images of pea-sized biological samples, such as organs and embryos. This provides a valuable tool that enables biologists, such as McMahon, to study how organs develop, maintain and repair themselves.

To read more and to view a time lapse video of the construction process, visit