Coming into Focus
Hi-tech microscope aids research
Assistant Professor of Biology Julie Gates studies how cells move and change shape as tissues and organs are formed in the developing embryos of fruit flies.
In her research, she uses a microscope to examine the tiny details of proteins, the cell workhorses, to determine how they carry out the functions of cells. Those details are becoming clearer with the arrival of a new, laser-scanning confocal microscope, purchased recently with a $324,621 National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant.
The confocal microscope, which encompasses four lasers with different wave lengths, will be used by faculty and students in the biology and biomedical engineering departments to explore fundamental questions in developmental biology, neurobiology, genetics, virology, cell biology, evolutionary biology and biomimetics. Few universities anywhere give students access to such a microscope.
"The biggest advantage is it gives us a higher resolution image of the inside of cells," said Gates, who coordinated the grant application. "With a standard microscope, you can end up getting signals from outside the plane of focus you are interested in, which can make it difficult to analyze the image."