Funds are requested for the purchase and installation of an Opera Phenix Confocal High Content Screening System. This equipment will facilitate new collaborations to address important questions in fields ranging from molecular biology to environmental engineering. The team will use this equipment to answer research questions regarding: (1) the survival of life in extreme environments, (2) the design of more efficient dispersants for use in remediating oil spills, (3) the growth of cell and biofilm on diverse surfaces including water filtration systems, (4) the use of aerosol medicines in cancer treatments, (5) the dynamic complexities of tissue repair and regeneration, and (6) the interactions between nanomaterial therapeutics and sensors and human cells. The equipment will be housed in a state-of-the-art imaging facility that will offer training workshops for students and industry professionals, and provide external services through state-wide and national networks. The researchers will also reach general audiences through a new open-house activity called "Images of the Invisible," which will highlight the work of this initiative. This instrument will also have a positive impact beyond campus, fueling research and education initiatives involving regional colleges and universities, collaborations with industry, and growing outreach programs in local secondary schools.
The proposed instrument will allow for the rapid study of many phenotypic and molecular features of cells and cell components because of its high throughput capabilities. Nine high-impact projects have been identified by investigators in this collaboration, where the unique capabilities of this laser scanning confocal high-content screening system are essential. The data obtained from this time-resolved and parameter-controlled equipment will be beneficial in the design of materials and implementation of activities, including next-generation nanotechnology-based biosensors, biofouling control agents, discovery of new Fanconi anemia genes, drug delivery strategies, and novel biomaterials. The ten participating investigators will perform ongoing funded research in areas of cell and molecular biology, nanomedicine, nanotoxicology, geobiology, materials synthesis, biomaterials, regenerative biology, and environmental engineering using the new capabilities. Beyond these areas, the instrument will promote on- and off-campus collaborations with other fields of research through statewide research networks and the Rhode Island Consortium for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. The research team has an extensive record of education and outreach activities. The applications and results obtained from this equipment will broaden and enrich curriculum development, mentoring, and outreach activities.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.