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Breakthrough Magazine

Slice of Life

Emeritus Professor of biological sciences, John Herr, has developed a new device to cut cross sections of plant parts without distorting their structures.

A magnified cross-sectional image of a marsh grass (Spartina) stem looks like a thing of beauty. To John Herr, it’s a work of art. That’s because, after years of disappointment with commercially prepared botanical specimens, Herr decided to build his own device and technique for capturing more accurate cross sections of plant parts. His patent-pending device, called a hydro-microtome, can slice off thin cross sections of plant stems, leaves and roots without distorting their anatomical structure. Herr continues to conduct research and publish on botanical topics nearly 25 years after retiring as a distinguished professor emeritus at USC.

View a larger version of Dr. Herr's spartina grass cross-section photo. [pdf]