This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
Seattle University (SU) has received an award from the NSF MRI-R2 program to purchase a large-volume preparative ultracentrifuge to support programs in undergraduate research and education. The large-volume preparative ultracentrifuge is initially being used by three different faculty members and undergraduate student researchers to conduct basic research projects. Dr. Stenbak and her students use the ultracentrifuge to investigate the molecular requirements for assembly of foamy viruses (ancient, non-pathogenic retroviruses). Cell fractionation through ultracentrifugation allows students working with Dr. Smith (microbiology/biochemistry) to isolate and characterize bioactive compounds involved in territoriality from Myxococcus sp. Finally, students working with Dr. Murphy (biological chemistry/molecular pharmacology) use the centrifuge to prepare eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell lysates for characterization of Hsp90-based molecular chaperone protein function and activity. One of SU's foremost pedagogical goals is ensuring its graduates become independent critical thinkers who develop a lifelong love of learning. Faculty-mentored undergraduate research experiences play an instrumental role in realizing this goal. As a result, the biology faculty, the College of Science & Engineering, and the University are committed to building a culture of research and maintaining active research programs that fully utilize modern, state-of-the-art instrumentation, such as the ultracentrifuge. SU celebrates its diverse student body, and that diversity is reflected in the biology students: last year 42% of biology graduates self-identified as minorities and 70% of graduates were women. Research projects will be conducted by undergraduates and provide first-hand experience using modern instrumentation for students who are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Results from studies enabled by the new centrifuge will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented by students and faculty at regional and national meetings. The proposed ultracentrifuge is also used in virology, advanced cell biology, and microbiology courses, all of which have investigative laboratory components.