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Grant Brings New Cell-analysis Technology to Pepperdine Undergraduate Labs
Pepperdine University has been chosen as a recipient of a stimulus award through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of a National Science Foundation grant, which will allow for the upgrade of facilities in the Seaver College Natural Science division to include a flow cytometer.
"A flow cytometer is an instrument that enables the characterization of individual cells, examining size, DNA content, enzyme activity, and whether the cell is living, dead or dying," says Jay Brewster, professor of biology at Seaver College.
The grant, a collaborative effort led by Thomas Vandergon, professor of biology, was awarded as part of the American government's economic stimulus plan, to support the purchase of equipment from scientific manufacturers and the research efforts of U.S. universities.
The new equipment, which includes the flow cytometer and specialized software that records the characteristics of each cell being analyzed, will be used in research laboratories as well as in classrooms.
"We used to have an old instrument, which Dr. Douglas Swartzendruber was able to acquire on loan, but we have since lost that," says Vandergon. "Now we can go back and do even more analyses as we integrate the new equipment into the undergraduate laboratories."
The instrument will be used in five different professors' research programs, crossing disciplines including biochemistry, sports medicine, neuropsychology, and biology.
In Vandergon's laboratory, students will be applying the technology to the study of plant DNA. "We're going to be looking at hybridization in chaparral plants," he says. "The flow cytometer allows you to process hundreds of thousands of cells in a matter of seconds. Students will be looking for 'ploidy'—the number and size of genomes in a plant."
Brewster will be using the instrument in the study of apoptosis, or cell death. "It will aid our experiments in evaluating how cells make life or death decisions in response to different types of stress and how neurons die in response to trauma," he says.
"Flow cytometry is a standard technique that is a part of many research and graduate programs," says Vandergon of the significance of the new equipment. "Very few undergraduate students are exposed to this particular technique in the classroom. We hope our students will be at an advantage as they apply for post-graduate positions."
Vandergon also notes the collaborative effort that went into acquiring the grant. "It has been a group effort. I’m really proud of the integration across divisions in this grant; we're going to expand both the number of students and the kinds of experiences students will get using this instrument," he says.
For more information on the Natural Science division, click here.