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R-MC Awarded NSF Grant
R-MC Awarded NSF Grant
R-MC will purchase a Hitachi TEM similar to the one shown above.
Above: a slide taken with a TEM
Randolph-Macon College has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, which will be used to purchase a transmission electron microscope (TEM), was secured by Biology Professor James Foster. The grant is under the direction of Foster as well as
Professors Grace Lim-Fong, Wallace Martin, Melanie Gubbels Bupp and
Professor Kelly Lambert.
TEMs are capable of imaging at a significantly higher resolution than light microscopes.
“You may recall from biology classes when you learned about cells – the images of a ‘typical’ cell with darkly stained membranes, the big, grainy nucleus and the slipper-shaped mitochondrion,” explains Foster. “Those images were taken by a TEM. It is most useful for observing cell organelles and other sub-cellular structures.”
The grant will allow R-MC professors and their students to collaborate on research projects involving cell ultrastructure.
“We already have standard fluorescence microscopes and an NSF-funded confocal microscope, so our microscopy instrumentation is outstanding for a liberal arts college,” says Foster. “Our students will learn how to use these instruments and that experience is an invaluable part of their education.”
Among other things, the TEM will be used to evaluate the following: the structure of synapses during adaptive stress responses; the formation of tail and head structures of sperm; cell structure of new species of fungi; the location of symbiotic bacteria in marine animals; and the maintenance and turnover of mitochondria to evaluate the effects of calorie restriction in mice.
“The TEM differs from the confocal microscope in several ways,” explains Foster. “Confocal microscopy uses fluorescently tagged molecules to see proteins and cellular structures, but it cannot distinguish fine subcellular details like membranes or the parts of a flagellum or a mitochondrion. TEM provides high-resolution details of these structures, and recent advances in digital photography allow amazing images to be captured with relative ease.”
The scope will be available for collaborations with researchers at R-MC and other institutions.
“In addition to looking at cells, TEM is useful for materials science and can be used for analyzing macromolecules,” says Foster. “Like all our instruments, the TEM will be available to any student doing a research project and it will certainly contribute to the preparation of students in biomedical areas such as veterinary school,
, or research careers.”
Foster also plans to work with students at local schools who will visit R-MC to learn about the TEM. The “Learning Cell Structure by Doing Transmission Electron Microscopy” project aims to get young students interested in biology through a fun, hands-on experience.
“This is an exciting project,” says Foster. “The plan is to recruit R-MC students to mentor younger students in order to get them excited about science. The younger students will have the opportunity to see college-aged role models in action. It’s a win-win situation, and one that I look forward to very much.”
Delivery of the scope is in the works, and Foster says he hopes to have it up and running soon.
“Once it is here, we plan to have an open house to celebrate,” he says.
About Randolph-Macon College
Founded in 1830, and ideally located in historic Ashland, Virginia, just minutes north of Richmond and 90 miles south of Washington D.C., Randolph-Macon College is a selective, co-educational, nationally-recognized liberal arts college with a mission of “developing the minds and character of its students.” The college achieves this mission through a combination of personal interaction and academic rigor. Enrollment is approximately 1,300 with a student-faculty ratio of 11:1 and an average class size of 15 students. Randolph-Macon College is known for its exceptional faculty, national and international internships, study abroad and undergraduate research opportunities and unique First-Year Experience and January term programs. The college pledges a Four-Year Degree Guarantee for eligible students and also offers The EDGE, a program within the innovative Center for Personal and Career Development, aimed at helping graduates lead the pack when competing for jobs and applying to graduate schools. Randolph-Macon, the oldest United Methodist Church-affiliated College in the nation, is recognized by the Phi Beta Kappa Society for having the most outstanding chapter at a liberal arts college in the United States.
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