Who are we?

Bugscope is run by the Imaging Technology Group at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois. This collection of imaging specialists and microscopists provides state-of-the-art imaging facilities to campus researchers. Entomology students from the University also frequently join our live sessions to describe the insects.

The Bugscope Team

Scott Robinson has been setting up Bugscope sessions and answering students' questions over chat since the program's inception. Hired to manage the ESEM when it arrived, his personality and strong general knowledge base fit perfectly with the chatting scientist role. His electron microscopy expertise is essential to the project--not only when chatting with the students, but also in advising on interface issues. He is the one to open most of the packages of bugs from the teachers, and thus has many stories to tell of bugs that weren't quite dead yet upon arrival. He has participated in more Bugscope sessions than anyone else.

Cate Wallace joined Bugscope in 2005 as our student publicist, encouraging news outlets near each school to cover sessions. Her work resulted in a resurgence of national attention about Bugscope. She now uses and maintains the Microscopy Suite's instruments full-time, sets up sessions, and chats with the students.

Camille Goudeseune rebuilt Bugscope's web site and connected it to a new microscope in 2018-19. At UIUC he's similarly supported research in areas as diverse as quadcopter elder-care, bendable medical sensors, in-car speech recognition, VR, and linguistics software for obscure languages. Beyond Bugscope, he has also done some educational outreach as sixty technical magazine articles about radio-control aircraft.

Teppie Apperson joined the Imaging Technology Group in 2018, and Bugscope in 2019. She manages scheduling, bug collection and preparation, and anything else that's needed to keep the microscope nerds at their microscopes: equipment purchasing, finances, web design, etc.

Josh Gibson is an entomology PhD student studying ants who joined the Bugscope team in 2014 to help answer students' entomologically intensive questions. He frequently provides specimens of interesting insect species for use during sessions.

Umesh Thakkar has been an integral member of the Bugscope project since it started. He directs Bugscope education and evaluation activities. Prior to Bugscope, he developed the education infrastructure of the Chickscope project. He has served as a program director at the National Science Foundation.


Bugscope was conceived in 1998 by Clint Potter and Bridget Carragher, to provide sustainable web-based remote access to sophisticated scientific instrumentation for K-12 classrooms worldwide. It built on lessons learned from the Chickscope Project, as well as the implementation of web access to our transmission electron microscope.

Many others have been involved with Bugscope over the years but have moved on to new things.


Bugscope is built as a LAMP stack, using the Javascript libraries Prototype and CalendarView, and the PHP library iCalcreator. It also uses Ruby, mailutils, git, Google's Geocoding API, fail2ban, FEI's proprietary microscope control API, and a host of other utilities.


Bugscope was initially funded by Submeta and the Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company. Purchasing the microscope was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Beckman Institute. Additional support was provided by IBM's Shared University Research Program, and the Informix for Innovation Software Grant Program.