Funding for this project supports the acquisition of a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to augment research and education opportunities at Ball State University and beyond. The new TEM will enhance existing research projects spanning the biology, chemistry, physiology, nanoscience, and physics departments. Some of these projects include: 1) structural plasticity in the developing nervous system; 2) the effects of chemical stressors on aquatic ecosystems; 3) the role of metabolism in organ development; 4) development of novel luminescent thin films for non-invasive biological imaging; 5) cellular mechanisms of endocytosis; 6) synthesis of functional carbon nanotubes; 7) and development of novel photocatalytic solid surface materials for organic decontamination and air purification.

The new TEM will be housed in Ball State University?s newly constructed Micro-Imaging Center that serves the greater East Central Indiana region. This instrument will be available to all departments within the university and used by both nearby undergraduate institutions and industrial partners. Students in a graduate course will work on individual projects aimed at optimizing conditions for investigators? sponsored research projects currently underway or those about to be undertaken. Such an approach aims to blur the lines between education and research, ultimately resulting in increased research productivity and direct student participation. The TEM will be demonstrated to local high school students who routinely visit the facility as a means of promoting science and research. The instrument will also be used to strengthen our existing ties to the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, for which multiple investigators currently serve as mentors. This device will be the only one of its kind in the region, and will serve as a critical component in broadening the education and research opportunities of the diverse student body at Ball State University and beyond while also promoting scientific collaboration among interdisciplinary researchers.

Project Report

In this project, we acquired a transmission electron microscope (TEM) and integrated it into our research and teaching environments. The results from our research activity make unique and important contributions to the fields of biology and chemistry through hypothesis driven research and training in a state-of-the-art facility that serves the east-central Indiana region and beyond. The updated TEM dramatically improved our forays into correlated light and serial section transmission electron microscopy by eliminating a significant bottleneck at the image acquisition phase. We used this new instrument and approach in an international collaboration to successfully determine the role of axon transport deficits in the nervous system. Additional experiments using the new TEM revealed cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in bacterial invasion of cells. The new TEM provided an unprecedented view of the cells and helped validate a novel compound that reduces bacterial invasion into host cells. A set of experiments aimed at better understanding the effects of silver nanoparticles determined that low but environmentally relevant concentrations of these particles are likely to result in measurable effects on freshwater ecosystems. We also explored the synthesis and properties of semiconductor nanomaterials. In particular, we focused on fabrication of quantum dots that can potentially be used for air purification or degradation of toxic chemicals. A final set of experiments characterized transgenic mice that cannot store glycogen in the brain and found that these mice differ in their ability to withstand hypoglycemic challenges. In addition to investigator-sponsored research, we successfully integrated the TEM into the classroom environment to train the next generation of scientists. The TEM has been fully integrated into the curriculum of two classes at Ball State University. The Microtechniques course was redesigned in Fall 2013 semester to better integrate research training and teaching. With the new TEM small research projects in the course were no longer bogged down by the drudgery of collecting electron micrographs on film with subsequent digitization. Instead, multiple projects were initiated that served as thesis data with one classroom project culminating in a journal publication. A final major goal was to collaborate with individuals and institutions beyond Ball State University. To this end, we successfully made the instrument available with remote connectivity. Using freely available 3rd party host/client software, we routinely have collaborators connect remotely to the TEM both nationally and internationally. These collaborators connect remotely to the instrument to analyze samples alongside Ball State University students. In an effort to promote the instrument within the community, the new TEM was also featured as part of the 6th Congressional Leadership Academy at Ball State University where high school students participated in hands-on exercises with instrument.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Robert Fleischmann
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Ball State University
United States
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