Olympus partnership provides cutting-edge tech to bio students
A recently-established partnership with Olympus America Inc. has placed a state-of-the-art scientific research tool at the fingertips of Penn State Lehigh Valley biology students. Using an Olympus fluorescent microscope, these students are engaging in professional science research at the undergraduate level.
Olympus America Inc., whose headquarters is just a mile away from the Center Valley campus, provided the technology following a request from Jacqueline McLaughlin, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, McLaughlin has spent much of her professional career exploring new ways to teach scientific concepts. Her efforts have been aimed not just at college students, but also at elementary and high school science teachers and students, and are centered on engaging these audiences in actual scientific research as a way of teaching concepts.
During her recent sabbatical, McLaughlin worked with Ross Hardison, Ph.D., T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Penn State, and text-book publisher W.H. Freeman to develop an online "Research Quest" that teaches biology undergraduates the often challenging concepts of transcription, translation, and gene expression using red blood cells. The quest would utilize immunofluorescence microscopy. It was this work that inspired McLaughlin to try to incorporate the technology at Penn State Lehigh Valley.
"I thought, 'Wow, my students can use these same types of experimental techniques to address similar questions in my biology lab at the campus,'" said McLaughlin. "So, Ross sent me home one day with cells and Olympus answered by call by delivering a fluorescent microscope to the lab."
Since then, the partnership has blossomed into new opportunities for the students. In addition to incorporating the technology into existing lab work, McLaughlin has created a new 400-level class, Supervised Undergraduate Research, where students are growing a virally transformed murine leukemia (red blood cell lineage) cell line in the lab and conducting experiments on it.
"We are creating real-world research opportunities that engage students in full-fledged professional science practice – making observations, formulating questions, gathering evidence, interpreting reproducible data, and communicating results – using cutting-edge research equipment and methods.
"Jim Gonya and Mark Clymer from Olympus, associate product manager and product manager respectively, didn’t hesitate when we asked for help. They assembled a special fluorescent microscope with a camera/monitor system for our students to use this entire semester for their research, taught the students how to use the scope and the science behind fluorescence microscopy, and even visit the lab from time to time to see how we are progressing. It’s been amazing," says McLaughlin.
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