Biology Department Receives $175K Major Research Instrumentation Grant

Fairfield Biology Department Receives $175K Major Research Instrumentation Grant

Biology major Brenna McAllister '21 uses a microscope to study cancer cells in the Bannow Science Center.

The National Science Foundation grant will be used to advance the University’s undergraduate coursework and empower groundbreaking research through cutting-edge technology.

"We received this award because the NSF trusts our administration and believes our faculty and students will make important discoveries enabled by the new microscope."

— Anita Fernandez, PhD, associate professor of biology

Fairfield University’s Rudolph F. Bannow Science Center is adding yet another high-tech tool to its impressive collection of cutting-edge research technology, thanks to a $175,350 National Science Foundation (NSF) major research instrumentation grant that has been awarded to associate biology professor Anita Fernandez, PhD. The grant, which was supported by fellow College of Arts and Sciences faculty members Catherine Andersen, PhD; Phyllis Braun, PhD; Shelley Phelan, PhD; and Aaron Van Dyke, PhD, will fund the University’s acquisition of a state-of-the-art automated research microscope for use in the University’s undergraduate science labs.

Scheduled for installation later this month, the advanced research instrument will make it possible for science majors and faculty to participate in groundbreaking research studies that require detailed observations of subcellular structures, real-time and time-lapsed imaging, structured illumination, and three-dimensional reconstruction of intricate tissues. The ability to implement these sophisticated imaging techniques is essential to the study of human cells, in addition to large, complex organs.

“A staggering breadth of research on Fairfield's campus will benefit from this instrument,” Dr. Fernandez explained. “In one study, students will examine how lipid raft distribution responds to dietary intervention in ex vivo peripheral blood mononuclear cells. In a different study, researchers will monitor a human cancer cell line’s response to potential anti-cancer agents. These inquiries traverse the fields of genetics, development, biochemistry, metabolism, microbiology, and cancer biology, and will lead to exciting discoveries and new research trajectories.”

In addition to empowering independent faculty-student research and serving as a crucial training tool in biology lab coursework, the state-of-the-art instrument will also be used by area high school students participating in the University’s BASE Camp outreach program, a fully funded, two-week residential program for underserved high school girls interested in pursuing scientific research and careers in STEM.

Based on grant reviewers’ feedback, Dr. Fernandez believes that the quality of training and caliber of scientific research being conducted at Fairfield played a vital part in receiving the grant award.

“Several reviewers commented on the impressive research productivity happening on our campus, in addition to the fact that our research publications often include undergraduate student authors,” Dr. Fernandez said. “We received this award because the NSF trusts our administration and believes our faculty and students will make important discoveries enabled by the new microscope.”  

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Last modified: 10-10-19 12:00 AM

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