Biology faculty and students are applying latest lab tools

Drs. Scott Figdore, William Jones and Rebecca Schmidt (l-r) are pictured alongside a biological safety cabinet, which is one of the latest tools now available for use in the University’s cell and molecular biology labs. This and other state-of-the-art equipment was purchased with a $100,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

Upper Iowa University faculty and students are now applying the latest state-of-the-art tools to their cell and molecular biology labs. From a specialized incubator and centrifuge to culture and experiment with living cells to a fluorescent microscope that reveals subcellular structures and functions, these and similar educational experiences would not have been attainable without a recent $100,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust.

Created through the will of Roy J. Carver, a Muscatine industrialist and philanthropist, who died in 1981, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust is one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in Iowa. The Foundation typically supports biomedical and scientific research, scholarships, and programs addressing the educational and recreational needs of youth in Iowa and Illinois. Since the beginning of its grant-making activities in 1987, more than $283 million has been distributed in the form of over 1,900 individual grants.

Drs. Rebecca Schmidt and William Jones, assistant professors of biology, submitted a letter of intent to apply for the grant in October 2014 and a month later were invited to complete the full grant submission. The faculty members were rewarded for their efforts when notified in January 2015 that they were the recipient of the $100,000 award and received the funding this school year.

“My initial thoughts were with our students and how this was going to make such a difference in their education. It was going to open up so many new opportunities for them,” said Schmidt.

“I was ecstatic, but there was some disbelief at the same time,” added Jones. “This is truly a benefit to both the faculty and students in that it provides an entirely different package of curriculum and research we can offer here at UIU.”

“It allows each of us (students and faculty) to continue pursuing, exploring and investigating our own research,” Schmidt agreed. “While I’m most excited to mentor our students, I’m also happy that the new equipment allows our faculty to remain up to date in their respective fields. To have these additional tools to help us answer questions when conducting research is really satisfying.”

The new equipment purchased using the grant benefits both educational opportunities and research projects involving multiple disciplines, including cellular and molecular biology, plant physiology, biochemistry, and microbiology, and it will also impact teaching students DNA-based and protein-based techniques. From these expanded studies, both Schmidt and Jones noted the students will gain hands-on knowledge and experiences that will better prepare them for careers in health sciences, agribusiness, biotechnology, etc.

“This can only expand the resources available to them in conducting their senior Capstone research projects,” added Schmidt. “The more experiences the students are exposed to, raises their awareness and allows them to distinguish themselves from other students in their chosen career field.”

Schmidt and Jones said the capabilities of the lab will enrich a variety of UIU majors, especially ongoing partnerships in health and lab sciences such as those with the Mayo Clinic, Palmer Chiropractic College and Northwestern Health Sciences University.

 “Both Rebecca and Will are to be commended for their efforts in securing this grant,” said Dr. Scott Figdore, Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics. “The new teaching labs will result in attracting more students and building an even stronger STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program here at Upper Iowa.”

 While a large number of UIU faculty and students have and will continue to benefit from the recent Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust grant, donors may further help the UIU School of Science and Mathematics by donating to the Churbuck Dean’s Fund.

Professor Lew Churbuck ‘67 returned to UIU as an associate biology professor from 1970-2007 when he retired.  His initiatives led to advances in the science department and included establishment of the conservation management major. Named “professor emeritus” upon his retirement, Churbuck died in 2014.

Donors may contribute any amount to the fund, and may receive public recognition at a variety of levels:

  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Champions – $50,000.
  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Leaders – $25,000.
  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Officers – $10,000.
  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Mentors – $2,500.
  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Facilitators – $1,000.
  • Churbuck Dean’s Fund – Helpers – $100.

For additional information about the Churbuck Dean’s Fund, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement & Alumni Development at (563) 425-5388 or

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