Bates Awarded $791,480 NSF – MRI Grant to Acquire a Confocal Microscope

The new Leica SP8 confocal microscope will enhance research projects and teaching for faculty and students in biology, neuroscience, chemistry, and physics.

Leica SP8 Confocal

Leica SP8 Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope
(Source: Leica brochure)

A $791,480 award though the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant program has been made to Bates College to provide funding to acquire a Leica SP8 scanning confocal microscope with a white light laser to expand teaching and research opportunities in fluorescence and interference-reflection microscopy. This particular Leica microscope is one of the most versatile commercially available confocal platforms, with a wide range of adjustable excitation wavelengths and ability to capture emission spectra at either 5 simultaneous channels or up to 400 sequential channels. In the State of Maine, this system will be only one of two with such versatility, with the other housed at the Jackson Laboratories, a minimum drive of 2 hours and 45 minutes from Bates.

crgb2 curves

Labeled neuron image captured with confocal microscope.

The confocal microscope will enhance and broaden microscopy applications available through the College’s Imaging Center and permit four main research projects in biology, neuroscience, chemistry, and physics. In biology, Larissa Williams will use transgenic zebrafish to study the development of the ear and swim bladder. In biology and neuroscience, Nancy Kleckner will characterize the neurons involved in rhythmic motor behaviors in mollusks and other animals. Matt Côté of chemistry will study gold nanorods, while Travis Gould in physics will use the microscope to determine the molecular photophysics of fluorophores. The microscope is expected to be used on semi-regular basis by at least five other faculty from Bates College and Bowdoin College in their research. In the classroom, confocal microscopy will become an immediate and integral tool in courses and be used in demonstrations in introductory physics and biology courses, affecting the education of more than 300 students per year. The microscope will also enhance Bates College’s partnership with Southern Maine Community College by training and supporting the research of their faculty and students in workshop and research settings. Given that Bates has not previously had a confocal microscope, its impact on research and curriculum is expected to be large and complementary to existing platforms.