Grants from three sources totaling $300,000 will soon bring a new confocal microscope facility to the Department of Biology at the University of Rochester. The National Institutes of Health is providing $140,000, with an additional $112,000 coming from the National Science Foundation and $48,000 in matching funds from the University.
In traditional light microscopy, researchers are limited to superficial views of living organisms, but confocal microscopes provide clear images of the cells inside those organisms. The confocal microscope will allow researchers to observe molecular and cellular rearrangements that happen during key biological processes such as cell division and embryonic development. In the past, researchers had to prepare slides of organisms at different stages rather than viewing the actual changes.
The proposals were coordinated by Joanna Olmsted, professor of biology and associate dean of the faculty in The College. She is one of nine faculty members who will use the instrument in cell and developmental biology research. Faculty will use it to track the fates of proteins or other contents of the nucleus and cytoplasm and to study layers of cells deep in the developing embryos of sea urchins, zebra fish, fruit flies and plants. The microscope will be set up this fall.
Faculty will also incorporate the confocal microscope into graduate and advanced undergraduate courses. "We want to make undergraduates and graduate students aware of the technology available for research," Olmsted says.