USD Secures Funding for Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

University of San Diego researchers and students will be able to advance their work in physiology, biophysics, neurobiology and other topics with a $415,000 National Science Foundation grant for a laser scanning confocal microscope.

“USD has a strong commitment to both faculty and undergraduate research and education,” said Marjorie Patrick, associate professor of biology and the principal investigator on the grant. “The acquisition of this versatile and powerful microscope represents a significant step toward achieving those goals.”

Her work with biology Professor Richard Gonzalez, for example, involves studying insects, fish and other animal species that can tolerate unusual water chemistry, such as acid pH or high salinity. “Confocal microscopy is essential in providing high-resolution, three-dimensional images to study the proteins involved in moving ions across the cells of organs, such as fish gills that are important in maintaining ion and water balance for aquatic animals,” she explained. Other researchers in biology and physics will use the microscope to understand the physical properties and movement of DNA molecules or to observe cells as they move and change shape.

Along with Gonzalez, the other co-principal investigators on the grant are biology professors Lisa Baird, Curtis Loer and Rae Anderson, assistant professor of physics. Natalie Prigozhina, adjunct assistant professor, will serve as the microscope facility manager.

USD researchers actively involve undergraduates and even high school students in their work, including students from Mater Dei High School in the South Bay. USD has established programs to foster diversity in the sciences for first-generation college students and underrepresented groups. At USD 58 percent of the undergraduate population is female and 20 percent comes from underrepresented groups.

“The state-of-the art instrument will help attract new students to the sciences and enrich the experiences of students already studying in the areas of science and technology,” Patrick said. “The ability for students to work directly with faculty in a laboratory using advanced microscopy is an opportunity unique to an undergraduate institution like USD.”

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