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Scoping out the state of the art

For Jeff Goldberg, PhD, all it takes to turn a good day into a really good day is to look down the eyepiece of a microscope.

And when that microscope happens to be Mount Royal University’s new Olympus FLUOVIEW 1000, Goldberg is going to have a great day.

“This is a really powerful technology and one of the things I would have used in my own research,” says Goldberg, who is dean of Mount Royal’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

not your average microscope
Professor David Bird looking tries to answer the $400,000 question.

Goldberg says the FLUOVIEW 1000 confocal microscope — with a price tag of more than $400,000 — is a piece of advanced equipment not typically available for students at the undergraduate level. It provides clearly defined, sharp, 3-D images of tissue specimens or cells and offers sophisticated features that can capture the high-speed, complex responses to modern cell biological experiments.

And, Goldberg adds, it’s just one example of state-of-the-art technology in Mount Royal’s new Learning Labs and Resource Hall.

“We didn’t just build these new teaching labs, we’ve equipped them in incredible ways,” he says. “This microscope is one of four or five examples of very high-level, research quality equipment that we’ve been able to put together.

“It’s very exciting because this is a serious step forward in the level at which we can deliver to our undergraduate students,” Goldberg says. “Now that the degree programs are entering their third and fourth years, and the students are becoming mature in their programs, they’re really ready to be working at this more leading-edge level.

“We want our students to leave from their degree programs with a very strong perspective on the process of collecting the information and the critical processes that are put in place. Here we have a very advanced technology and a very expensive technology that allows students to understand that process of science even better.”

Since the FLUOVIEW 1000 was installed less than six months ago, Assistant Professor David Bird, PhD, has been busy preparing to introduce the new microscope into lab-based courses for fourth-year cellular and molecular biology students, probably sometime in March or April.

“It will mean that we’ll be able to train students with yet one more instrument that is a standard research tool in the field,” Bird says.

“If a student is planning to go on to graduate studies, medical sciences of some kind or further advancement, they will have some basic training in this rather complicated microscope.”

And, Bird says, the FLUOVIEW 1000 also opens up some new possibilities for his own research.

“What makes it exciting is that the kind of experiments you can do on it, you couldn’t do on a regular fluorescence microscope,” he says.

“The reality is that this kind of scope has now become a standard experimental tool in many, many research labs. So if we’re going to be graduating students with a Bachelor of Science in this field and creating what the federal government would call highly qualified personnel, our students really need to … to be able to say, ‘Yes, I’ve used a confocal and I know the basis of it.’

“On the [research] side, it really allows us to do some experiments that wouldn’t have been possible before, so we can do research and engage the students in that research,” Bird says.

That’s a key point for Jeff Goldberg.

“Working in research projects with professors is the richest form of experiential learning we can provide students: one-on-one, real world research projects with the intention that one day, if it all goes well, these projects are published,” Goldberg says. “That’s how science moves forward.

“For science in particular, you can’t separate teaching and research, because the people who are very active researchers at Mount Royal — like David Bird or Trevor Day or Roger Saint-Fort and others — they can’t do the work without the students.

“The students provide the capacity to do more work and to be more productive. They are a very important partner in all this. So it’s not that we just do some research and then we also just do some teaching — it all integrates together, which is the beauty of it.”

 

 

Nancy Cope, March 8, 2012