A grant has been awarded to Drs. Kirk, Houde, Darnell, and DebBurman in the Biology Department at Lake Forest College to acquire a state-of-the-art multi-imaging system to further biological research and enhance the undergraduate biology curriculum. Faculty in the biology department currently utilize molecular techniques to research basic aspects of biology such as chromosome replication, neural development and degeneration, and the evolution of sexual behavior. The multi-imaging system will allow the department to transition from conventional analyses of protein and DNA to a highly sensitive and quantitative approach utilizing fluorescent and radioactive signal detection.
Faculty-student collaborative research and teaching at Lake Forest College relies heavily on the use of modern molecular techniques in order to visualize a particular class of DNA or protein, separated from all other molecules of its kind. For example, Dr. Karen Kirk studies the interaction of specific proteins that bind to telomeres, the ends of chromosomes, in the cell cycle of the protozoan, Tetrahymena. Dr. Diana Darnell studies the expression of certain genes affecting neural development in chick, and Dr. Shubhik DebBurman studies the effects of protein-remodeling factors on human disease-associated proteins in yeast. Dr. Anne Houde will initiate a new molecular fingerprinting project in her ongoing studies of the evolution of sexual behavior and color polymorphism in guppies. The multi-imaging system is so versatile that it can be used in all these research contexts. Data will be collected much more efficiently and quantitatively from a variety of techniques, including agarose and acrylamide gel electrophoresis of nucleic acids and proteins, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), colony library screening, and Southern, Northern, and Western blotting. Acquisition of the multi-imaging system will allow more rapid processing of the data and hence greater throughput in laboratory procedures and will extend quantification capabilities to allow faculty and students to employ new experimental approaches.
Lake Forest College and its Biology Department are committed to an educational mission that stresses integration of research and teaching and provides an environment in which students can engage in original, publishable research. Students majoring in biology at Lake Forest College receive training in modern research methods through these research programs and through their course work. The undergraduate biology curriculum emphasizes student-designed investigation using current technology. This kind of environment in small colleges has been shown to contribute disproportionately to the pool of future research scientists. Lake Forest College has a strong track record in collaborative faculty-student research and will benefit substantially from the availability of a state-of-the-art multi-imaging system. Ultimately, the enhancement of the research and training capabilities of the biology department will help attract larger numbers of talented students interested in research and research careers. Currently, the majority of biology majors at Lake Forest College are women and a significant number are minority students. The college is strongly committed to recruitment of underrepresented groups and improved research facilities will help to achieve this goal.