Research at Mississippi State University broadly covers both life and materials science & engineering and relies on major research instrumentation located primarily at the Institute for Imaging & Analytical Technologies (I2AT), a university supported, centralized facility to advance synthesis methods and probe the physics of behavior and response to various stimuli. The analytical transmission electron microscope (TEM) is configured to serve the multi-disciplinary research needs of diverse faculty representing 9 departments, 5 institutes, and 4 colleges, in addition to local industries. Significant benefits are obtained through access to shared major research instrumentation including both cost savings and facilitation of cross cutting collaborations.
The Intellectual Merit of this project is the enhanced imaging and analysis capabilities the equipment provides at MSU to ensure and support the growth of multi-disciplinary research programs. Researcher teams, including members from diverse departments (Biology, Entomology, Forest Products, Geosciences and Veterinary Science; Aerospace, Bio, Chemical, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering) are actively engaged in collaborative efforts requiring analytical TEM: An overview of representative research in critical need of the TEM is provided.
Life Science Research relies on understanding molecular mechanisms of disease; visualizing the architecture of tissues and cells; and observing individual viruses and macromolecular complexes in their natural biological context. TEM techniques are vital to an in-depth exploration of normal and diseased cell structure/function and have significant application in the design of prevention and intervention protocols. Expanding traditional TEM imaging with digital capabilities, increased resolution, and elemental analysis techniques ensures the continuation and enhancement of diverse life science research at MSU. Materials Science and Engineering Research relies on understanding crystal structure, defect characteristics, and elemental distribution/segregation, which is vital to understand rate controlling mechanisms in plasticity across length scales, support development of semiconductor devices, and protect our natural resources. As this research area continues to expand at MSU, a TEM with analytical capabilities is necessary to observe and quantify defects in crystalline materials, map elemental distributions and support modeling efforts.
Nanotechnology Research relies on the synthesis and use of nanoparticles (NPs) used in nanobiotechnology and nanomechanics applications. Because NPs can enhance material properties, their incorporation is being investigated experimentally and used to expand modeling efforts. A recently awarded NSF-Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education Award highlights the emerging nanotechnology research at MSU. Correlating synthesis techniques with mechanical properties requires the ability to identify elemental composition of the core NPs.
The broader impact of this project is the training of the next generation of scientists for multi-disciplinary teamwork, by a diverse group of researchers at MSU who collaborate across discipline, department, and college lines. Student access to specialized major research equipment provides a "hands on" environment for learning the "tools of the trade". The open access structure of the I2AT includes an interactive setting for viewing of equipment and data from anywhere on campus and throughout the K-12 educational system. These activities benefit the state, region, and nation by attracting, training and retaining academic and industry investigators in integrated research, education and professional development activities.
The analytical TEM provides benefits to MSU as well as local industries through complimentary research activities and workforce development. Successful research and educational efforts are broadly disseminated via scholarly works, presentations at national and international conferences, web content, regional/national media and outreach activities.