|MadSci Network: Cell Biology|
When you observe a cell under a microscope, especially at higher magnification, the fact that you have to focus up and down through the cell to see different parts of it is an indicator that the cell has a certain thickness. On some microscopes, the fine focus is calibrated in microns (millionths of a meter) so you can actually measure the approximate thickness of a cell by how far you turn the fine focus knob to focus from one side of the cell to the other. In general, cells are about 10 to 20 microns in thickness but this can vary quite a bit depending on the cell type and how it was prepared. Some more sophistacated microscopes like Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope or a Scanning Electron Microscope allow you to take more accurate measurements of cell thickness but a simple student microscope can give you a pretty good estimate.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Cell Biology.