This project establishes a high resolution light microscopy imaging facility for biology and chemistry research and undergraduate research training at Occidental College. Grant funds will be used to purchase a Leica TCS SP5 II Spectral Confocal System for a shared microscopy core facility. Occidental faculty will use the SP5 Confocal System to study diverse problems in biology and biochemistry including the regulation of microtubules and axon outgrowth during C. elegans neural development, ion channel physiology in zebrafish, cone-snail prey-capture mechanisms, nutrient uptake and urease activity in tropical bromeliads, microbial symbiosis in newly discovered marine invertebrates, and the chemistry of bacterial biofilms. The imaging facility will update and greatly improve research and training capabilities, enable the current biology faculty to undertake new and collaborative research projects and provide undergraduate students with skills in advanced research technologies they are likely to use in their future graduate studies and work environments.

Occidental College is a nationally recognized liberal arts college located in Northeast Los Angeles that serves a diverse student population. Between 2005 and 2011, 54 percent of science majors have been women, and 22 percent were underrepresented ethnicities. Occidental has been a leader in integrating research and undergraduate education, encouraging students to engage in collaborative research with faculty throughout the academic year. The college sponsors an annual summer research program that has grown to include over 150 students each year and a K-12 science education initiative to prepare recent graduates for careers in science teaching at Los Angeles area schools. The Leica TCS SP5 II Spectral Confocal imaging instrumentation will help Occidental improve the quality and range of research opportunities available to students. The project will have a long-term impact on maintaining excellence in research and undergraduate training at Occidental College and supports development and retention of a talented and diverse STEM workforce.

Project Report

This project supported the acquisition of a Leica SP5 TCS II spectral confocal microscope to establish a shared core microscopy facility for biology and chemistry research and research training for undergraduate students at Occidental College. The SP5 instrumentation enabled a broad range of biological investigations, increasing our understanding of microbial symbiosis, uptake of water and nutrients by tropical bromeliads, regulation of the neural cytoskeleton, the chemistry of bacterial biofilms, and ion channel physiology in vertebrates. Occidental College is located in Northeast Los Angeles, serves a diverse student population, and has a long-term commitment to integrating research and undergraduate education. Recent graduates trained during the project period have continued in STEM fields, entering Ph.D. programs and science-related professional schools or the STEM workforce as science educators and technical staff. The SP5 TCS II microscope significantly improved the imaging capability for all biology researchers at Occidental, leading to improved quality and quantify of publications, new research opportunities for students, andl increased research collaboration between the biology and chemistry departments. The instrumentation has also facilitated the recruitment of new faculty to the college who have imaging expertise and the development of new curriculum at the college, emphasizing the pivotal role of advanced microscopy techniques in contemporary biology.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Robert Fleischmann
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Occidental College
Los Angeles
United States
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