Starring…UVic’s world-leading microscope

- Melanie Tromp Hoover

Small has been really big at UVic ever since the Scanning Transmission Electron Holography Microscope (STEHM)—the most advanced microscope in the world—began its installation in the basement of the Bob Wright Centre in May 2012. But small has been huge for Dr. Rodney Herring, associate professor in mechanical engineering, since he began his career as a research facilitator with the Canada Space Agency years ago.

And it’s Herring’s lifelong passion for helping people do their research, advancing science and developing new technology that captured the imagination of two BC filmmakers who turned his story so far—and its culmination in the 10-years-in-the-making STEHM microscope—into Pico Meter, a three-minute documentary shot this past August to compete in Vimeo’s Focus Forward International Film Festival.

“We’d thought about doing a documentary for a while but hadn’t found the right subject yet,” says Erik Zaremba, who worked with Vidyn Media partner Neal Melançon to put the short together. “Rodney told me about the STEHM after a game of squash one day and, after thinking about how this microscope story might work as a film for a while, this competition came along.”

According to Zaremba, each film in the contest is meant to highlight world-changing ideas that have either impacted the course of human development or that have potential to profoundly affect how humans live in the future.

“It just seemed like the right place to tell Rodney’s story.” And Pico Meter made it all the way to the semifinals.

Under less than perfect conditions, the STEHM has been able to tie the world record for seeing small at 49 picometers (that’s 0.000000000049 meters)—an animated view of the subatomic world at a scale and resolution that will no doubt revolutionize what scientists can see of their field. In the brief three minutes that Zaremba and Melançon were given, Pico Meter explains the microscope’s capacity and shares two of the dozens of examples of how UVic’s STEHM will shift the potential for research on a world scale.

“So many researchers have such interesting ideas and stories to share but no medium to highlight if for people—I think film can do that; and this is the perfect story to show the creative ways that research can happen,” says Zaremba.

While the film didn’t make it into the top 20, it did make the semifinals in November—making it eligible for the audience choice voting that will remain open until Dec. 20.

Watch (and vote for) Pico Meter at


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Keywords: Scanning Transmission Electron Holography Microscope, microscope, research

People: Rodney Herring

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