Science Department benefits from new technology

Science Department benefits from new technology

by Vista Kalipa

Numerous students and visitors flocked to the Carver Science Hall open house Friday to view the new state-of-the-art equipment recently purchased by the science department.

The new equipment, valued at approximately $150,000, was purchased through the help of grants given to the department by the National Science Foundation, Roy J. Charitable Trust and the Carver Trust.

The need for new equipment has been a top priority for the department because professors needed a more practical way to illustrate their teachings.

The equipment purchased was:

* A fluorescent microscope, which costs $14,000

* A fluorometer, which costs about $25,000

* Spectrophomoters, which costs about $27,000 for almost fully equipped machines

* A Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument, which costs about $54,000

According to the chair of the department of biology and environmental sciences, Pat Singer, the rest of the funds will be used to purchase software that will analyze DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequences.

“We’ll purchase a photographic imaging system for the fluorescent microscope and an imaging system for use in genetics and biochemistry,” said Singer.

Science students and professors are already using the equipment. Each of these new machines performs functions that enable the students to get a more practical understanding of the work they are doing.

The new equipment helps students determine the structure of molecules and helps them study how enzymes work and how they can be inhibited. The students are also able to study how embryos develop and how their development is impacted by the environment.

Singer says that working with this kind of equipment has greatly enhanced the students’ learning abilities. “There is no substitute for a hands-on experience,” said Singer. “I can describe to my students how we make and analyze DNA, but my words have no meaning until the student does it for himself in the lab.”

“By using this equipment, I have had the chance to work with state-of-the-art tools used by cutting edge research labs,” said senior Doug Besch.

“I used a nano-injector to inject small portions of a tracer dye into individual cells of a dividing embryo and the fluorescent microscope to view the tracer dye, which emits fluorescent light.”

Not only has the use of the new equipment provided the students with an opportunity to practice their theoretical knowledge, but also it has encouraged them to perform better and take on greater challenges.

One student was inspired to research DNA fingerprinting on rattlesnakes.

“He thinks he has identified two distinct populations of rattlesnakes. One way to confirm his [findings] is to DNA fingerprint the snakes from these two populations,” said Singer.

Using the new DNA detector will enable the student to confirm findings.

Singer said that she also has two other students doing research projects right now. The students are constructing a piece of DNA “that will allow E.Coli to fluoresce in the presence of a chemical signal called HSL, that many bacteria use to activate genes, which may lead to harmful consequences for us (like causing anthrax to sporulate), said Singer.

For some students, working with this kind of equipment provides groundwork essential for those who are going on to graduate schools.

“I am planning on attending pharmacy school next fall to pursue a PharmD. The experience I have gained by using this equipment will prepare me for the laboratory work I will be facing in pharmacy school,” said Besch.

Use of this new equipment proves essential to the science department. With this equipment students are allowed to immerse themselves. “We are inviting them out of the spectator stands onto the playing field,” said Singer.

Not only has the equipment inspired the students but the professors as well. Brittingham, assistant professor of biology, is said to be looking at various chemicals to see if they are likely to cause birth defects.