At first glance, the large instrument, which has its own room in Franklin & Marshall College’s Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building, appears like an ordinary microscope.
But Associate Professor Clara Moore, Department of Biology chair, said F&M’s new laser scanning confocal microscope is much more. It was acquired with a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant and delivered to F&M last fall.
“This advances research across many fields on campus,” Moore said. “It’s for training the next generation of scientists.”
For biology, biochemistry, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience and physics, the confocal microscope “has the potential to advance faculty and student research and student exposure,” she said.
In addition to faculty scholarship, the microscope also is used for learning basic science in laboratory classrooms, as well as by high school international baccalaureate biology students from Lancaster’s McCaskey High School.
The microscope uses lasers that provide extraordinarily high-resolution images, allowing students to view tissue at subcellular levels, with three dimensional Z stacks and images of living cells.
“You can look at cells while they are alive, rather than only fixed samples, and then track their movements,” Moore said. “It’s much more powerful in terms of magnification and resolution, as well as visualization of multiple fluorescent dyes in the cells.”
While the microscope raises the quality of research on campus, it also gives students access to highly sophisticated equipment.
Eight co-primary investigators worked on the grant, with outreach to other F&M faculty, three faculty members from Millersville University and Elizabethtown College and educators from the School District of Lancaster.
F&M faculty trained on the microscope in autumn, and students this semester already have started to use the instrument in a core science course, Cell Biology. Moore said the experience fully prepares students for graduate studies.
“The exposure gives them a glimpse of the power of the technology, as well as what types of questions they can ask and how they may go about answering those questions,” Moore said. “Students will have advanced research and learning opportunities with this microscope system, which further prepares them for graduate school or whatever career path they choose to follow.”