The funds from this NSF MRI grant will be used to purchase a Zeiss LSM 700 laser scanning confocal microscope to enhance the 15,000 square-foot Loyola Microscopy Core Facility (LMCF) and to establish a multi-institution research and training consortium. It is anticipated that this will dramatically increase the quality and quantity of faculty and student scholarship at Loyola and at three nearby institutions (Mount St. Mary?s University, Towson University, and Washington College). Six faculty from Loyola University Maryland will be using the confocal microscope to expand their research programs and to augment undergraduate research opportunities. Specifically, the instrument will be used to assess: metabolism in human and non-human primate granulosa and luteal cells, modulation of cellular form and function by herbal supplements, the mechanism of drug resistance in breast cancer cells, venom-induced cell death in insects, and disruption of bacterial biofilms by Bdellovibrio predation. Moreover, three faculty from nearby colleges/universities will be using the LMCF to understand the mechanism(s) governing: growth of vascular smooth muscle cells, nickel and cobalt toxicity, and infection by human herpesviruses. In addition to improving faculty output, providing students with this type of hands-on experience will afford them the opportunity to understand how current approaches allow researchers to address molecular mechanisms in complex biological systems.
Confocal microscopy is far superior to the widefield fluorescence microscopy already available in the LMCF. It will provide the opportunity for researchers to determine the location and/or colocalization of intracellular molecules, to reconstruct a sample or specimen in three dimensions, and to image dynamic changes in living cells or tissues over time, all without compromising the integrity of the signal or sample. The creation of a multi-institution microscopy facility will allow current studies to be enhanced and expanded while also providing new opportunities for collaboration between universities. Within 2-3 years, it is expected that faculty and students from additional schools will join the consortium, thereby dramatically altering the research profile of predominantly undergraduate institutions in the Baltimore Metro area. In addition to increasing and extending faculty research and, therefore, their ability to compete for extramural research/educational grants, as the consortium grows, the STEM initiatives in place at the participating schools will be intensified and will provide area students with advanced training in microscopy that will ultimately make them more competitive for summer positions, publications, professional school, and careers in the biological sciences.