The Department of Biology and Chemistry of Upper Iowa University has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Trust. The grant is a result of collaboration between Drs. William Jones and Rebecca Schmidt and will provide for a “state-of-the-art cell and molecular biology teaching laboratory to better serve our growing population of students interested in pursuing careers in the biological and health sciences.” With the equipment, tools, and reagents purchased through the grant, the department will enrich current class offerings, allow for new laboratory course development, and support undergraduate research investigations in cell and molecular biology.
The grant allows for the purchase of several major laboratory equipment items, tools, and reagents, to promote research in a variety of experimental areas new to UIU. These research areas include cell/tissue culture and sterile technique, cell transfection, cell assays, and fluorescent microscopy, and purification and manipulation of DNA, mRNA, and protein collected from eukaryotic cell sources. To accomplish these goals, the department is purchasing a working hood to culture and experiment with living cells in a sterile environment, and a specialized incubator that provides the optimal carbon dioxide/oxygen composition to grow mammalian cells. Additionally, a sensitive fluorescent microscope with a digital camera will be used to visualize subcellular structures and function.
This lab will have a significant impact on the educational opportunities for Biology majors with Emphases in General Biology, Pre-professional/Health Sciences, Medical Laboratory Sciences, and Chiropractic 3+1, as well as cross-disciplinary studies for students majoring Chemistry, Conservation Management, and Life Science. The new equipment will enrich current course offerings, such as the Cell and Molecular Biology lecture course and the laboratory courses featuring DNA-based Molecular Tools I and the Protein-based Molecular Tools II. The new equipment will help put the theory and practice into context, as students would encounter in a working laboratory science environment. Other courses that may be enhanced through collaboration include Biochemistry, Plant Physiology, and Plant Propagation courses. Future laboratory course offerings may be structured around cell culture and microscopy techniques. The laboratory will also support the student-led capstone research projects. These tools will allow us to increase the variety and scope of research opportunities available for Upper Iowa University students, and capitalize current faculty strengths in cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, cancer biology, microbiology, protein expression from cell culture, immunoassay development, and plant physiology. Undergraduate research in cell and molecular biology will refine marketable skills and encourage students to explore new career pathways.
The Cell and Molecular Biology Teaching Lab will have meaningful benefits for UIU students and employers in the region. Students practicing skills in the new lab will be well-prepared for graduate and professional programs in health sciences, research, and clinical lab work, biotechnology industries and agribusiness research and development. Students will gain in-demand, hands-on skills, preparing them to make significant contributions to the region’s growing economy and bioscience-based industries upon graduation.