Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into science?
My name is Paola Moreno-Roman. I was born and raised in Peru and moved to the US for graduate school, where I earned my PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I've always been fascinated with studying life around me, and one of my earliest memories is spending hours observing a little caterpillar eat and move. However, it wasn't until I used a microscope to observe microorganisms that I fell completely in love with cellular biology. From that point on, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in science and use my knowledge to make a difference in the world.
Where did the idea for Foldscope come from?
Foldscope was invented by Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski. The invention occurred while Jim was a PhD student in Manu's laboratory at Stanford University. During visits to field stations, they repeatedly encountered bulky, broken microscopes or a lack of microscopes entirely. They realized the universal scale of this problem and the need for a low-cost, revolutionary solution. In the early days of the project, ideas for a low-cost microscope were sketched down on paper. These sketches ultimately led to the critical revelation that paper, a versatile and inexpensive material, could be folded into precise configurations to create a low-cost microscope. The project blossomed into the invention of Foldscope, a foldable microscope made mostly of paper that to this day still achieves the goal of being less than one U.S. dollar in parts.
DNP123’s mission is making nanoscience affordable and easy enough for anyone. Foldscope’s highly affordable microscopes have been very inspirational for us in that regard. Tell us a bit about the impact Foldscope has had. What communities have benefited most from your work?
Foldscope has had a significant impact in making microscopy accessible to communities around the world, particularly those with limited resources and access to traditional microscopes. Foldscope's affordability has enabled students, teachers, and scientists alike to explore and discover the microscopic world around them. Many different communities have benefited from Foldscope's work, including educators in developing countries, healthcare workers in rural areas, and citizen scientists. Foldscope has distributed thousands of microscopes to schools, research institutions, and NGOs worldwide, and their impact has been felt across a wide range of fields, including biology, ecology, and public health. We have distributed more than 1.8 million Foldscopes worldwide and reached 164+ countries.
Foldscope’s website has an impressive list of publications. What are some of the most interesting projects you’ve seen done with a Foldscope?
Since Foldscope was created, it has been involved in numerous impressive projects. Since I joined the company in July 2020, one of the most remarkable projects that I had the opportunity to be involved in was the partnership with Ector County Independent School District in Texas, USA. All 4th and 7th graders of that school district received a Foldscope. I had the pleasure of attending their summer camp in 2021, and witnessing firsthand the ways in which educators and students alike were able to adjust to the rapidly changing world and embrace innovative ways of learning. This project was a great success and truly highlighted the potential of Foldscope in science education. For more information about this project, readers can refer to this article: https://www.tepsa.org/resource/igniting-curiosity-and-discovery-through-a-new-lens-how-a-paper-microscope-created-new-opportunities-for-students-teachers-and-parents/.
Where would you like Foldscope to be in 5-10 years?
Foldscope is a tool that has the potential to become even more accessible and versatile for scientific research, education, and healthcare over the next 5-10 years. Foldscope could play a significant role in public health by detecting and monitoring diseases, particularly in low-resource settings, enabling diagnosis, screening, and monitoring. In science education, Foldscope has already been used to engage students in hands-on learning, and in the future, it could be integrated further into science curricula on a country-wide level to enhance students' scientific skills and literacy. Foldscope could also be used to monitor environmental quality, studying microorganisms and pollutants in various ecosystems, leading to informed environmental policies and promoting sustainability. Furthermore, Foldscope has the potential to empower citizens to participate in scientific research, enabling them to collect and analyze data in their communities, leading to a better understanding of local ecosystems and informing environmental and public health policies. In conclusion, Foldscope has the potential to be a powerful tool in a range of fields, democratizing science by making it more accessible and inclusive.
Suppose some of our readers would like to get involved and purchase Foldscope kits. Where would they find them?
If readers are interested in purchasing Foldscope kits, they can visit the official Foldscope website (https://www.foldscope.com/) to place an order. The website offers a variety of Foldscope kits, ranging from basic models to more advanced versions with additional features.
Are there any new or upcoming Foldscope products you’d like our readers to learn about?
Foldscope has recently launched online training workshops to help users acquire the basic skills needed to explore the microcosmos with their Foldscopes. Additionally, a new generation of Foldscope with multiple magnification lenses is in the works and will be released soon.
If you had to hire a nanobot to do a job for you, what would the job be?
If I had the opportunity to hire a nanobot for a job, I would choose to employ it to deliver iron directly to my red blood cells. As someone who suffered from anemia for several years, I know firsthand how long and slow the process of recovery can be with traditional iron supplements. By having nanobots deliver the iron directly to my red blood cells, I believe the recovery process could have been faster and more efficient. This could potentially revolutionize the treatment of anemia and other blood disorders, making them more manageable and efficient.
Paola, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today! Keep us posted on your exciting work!
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