The eye has always been a fascinating structure to me. I find myself, nose against the mirror, staring into one of my eyes, admiring how the pupil dilates as I move my head, exposing my eye to variable amounts of light. I have always been in awe of this involuntary, dynamic, and powerful structure.
Fortunately for me, one day this semester in neurobiology class, during a sheep brain dissection, our professor brought two full cow eyes into lab for us to observe. I rushed over to the nearby bench and listened as our lab assistant explained the various structures of the eye. She would take us deeper and deeper into the eye, peeling away layers, pouring out the viscous fluid of the eye, and cutting away others structures. Finally she revealed to us the lens which she separated out from the eye. I was so confused at this point, because by the looks of things, this structure looked very hard. I asked to hold it and to my surprise it was just as I suspected – very hard, almost like a marble. I soon began playing with the lens in my hand and noticed some interesting things.
In the picture above, you can see how the lens is focusing light. As the lens rolled around in my hands, it would catch and focus light in different ways and it truly was spectacular to watch live.
One of the most interesting phenomena that I witnessed that day was how the light actually magnified the words on the page (see photo above). I exclaimed, and my lab partners rushed around me to see it, too. Everyone was amazed by this. It was truly awesome to have the opportunity to get hands-on time with a structure that not many people ever get to engage with intimately like this in their entire lifetime.
At the end of lab, I asked my professor if I could keep the lens. With a loud laugh she agreed, and handed me a falcon tube in which to store the beauty. I collected some of the vitreous humor in order to store it and sealed up my tube. I was a happy guy that day. I had light in my hands and on the way back to my dorm showed all my friends. These are the types of moments Swarthmore College gives its students, and I am grateful for every moment thus far. I still have the lens to this day!