A grant has been awarded to the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) under the direction of Dr. Esther Leise for the purchase of a confocal microscope as the focal point of a multi-user facility to be housed in and managed by the UNCG Department of Biology. Confocal microscopy is an enhanced form of fluorescence light microscopy that depends upon laser illumination and computerized image formation to eliminate out-of-focus and scattered light, thereby providing the user with unprecedented clarity of detail and information extraction capabilities that are impossible to replicate by traditional fluorescence microscopy. This instrument will be the first confocal microscope at UNCG and in the greater Greensboro metropolitan area and will allow researchers at UNCG to use confocal microscopy on a daily basis and to routinely train students in the use of this state-of-the-art microscopical method.
The major users of this confocal microscope facility include Dr. Leise and 6 additional principal investigators from the Departments of Biology and Nutrition. All of the major users have active research programs that require confocal microscopy to maximize their data collection efficiency and to obtain data that is currently impossible to extract with existing university microscopy facilities. The research programs of all of the major users also involve undergraduate and graduate student research assistants, so students from each laboratory will be instructed in the use of the confocal microscope and will have ample opportunity to obtain hands-on experience in obtaining and analyzing confocal data. The research projects of the major users range from the molecular to the organismal, but all incorporate investigations into basic biological questions. Researchers will use confocal microscopy together with a broad range of model systems and organisms to study the changing patterns of gene expression and protein localization that occur during organismal development, to analyze the dynamics of subcellular protein trafficking and distribution in cultured cells, and to learn more about life cycles and geographic distributions of toxic microorganisms. Incorporation of confocal microscopy into Cell Biology Laboratory and Genetics Laboratory courses will expose some 250 undergraduates, including significant numbers of women and minority students, per year to the usefulness of this advanced microscopical instrument.
The confocal microscope facility will improve ongoing research programs at UNCG and will enhance the teaching mission of that institution as well. The confocal facility will also affect the broader missions of campus life science departments by promoting interdisciplinary collaborations between students and faculty in at least 2 departments. The confocal microscope facility will also link activities at UNCG to local technologically-oriented businesses in the Greensboro area. The improved quality of campus research and educational experiences for UNCG students will promote the new Piedmont Triad biotechnology initiative as well as make UNCG students more competitive for careers in the fields of biotechnology and in the life and biomedical sciences.