Keck grant provides new technology for science class

The W.M. Keck Foundation and Trinity University have gathered $280,000 and are purchasing three new microscopes that will be available to students and faculty involved in scientific research and a broad range of science-related curriculum.

“This grant is educational and researched focused. It will be used in research but also in classes around campus in the science department. [The Keck Grant] was 100 percent monetary. We went out microscope shopping essentially,” said Jennifer Steele, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “Dr. Bushey and I started working on the idea together. The two main pieces are the Scanning Electron Microscope and then something called an Atomic Force Microscope. We have one on campus already, but it’s a lower class one, so we are going to give that microscope an upgrade and then we are going to get a whole new one. We are hoping to use it to image some of the structures that students make in research and classes.”

Along with Steele and the physics department, other departments are also involved in the use of the new microscopes.

“I’m really excited about it. I’m interested in this as part of my activities with chemistry and art, and we ran into issues with some of the things we were looking at in several projects that would have been enhanced with being able to use an S.E.M. [Scanning Electron Microscope],” said Michelle Bushey, chemistry professor. “We have materials from the Alamo that we can look at, and now we will be able to hopefully identify the particular pigments that were used in the frescas, and then we can expand the use to other projects as well.”

This equipment will be used in many different areas of the university and be widely available to undergraduates, graduates and research students.

“We do have some non-science classes that will be using it as well. The main thing is just getting cutting edge technology that our students can get their hands on before they go to graduate school or wherever else they are going to go. These are state of the art instruments that are very ubiquitous in the sciences. These are very standard instruments that are not often found at undergraduate institutions because they are very expensive, so it’s nice to be able to give our students the opportunity to use this equipment,” Steele said.

Both the Scanning Electron Microscope and the Atomic Force Microscope should arrive by the end of this year. Once the equipment is assembled, and the faculty are acclimated and trained with it, it is anticipated to be available for student research in the summer of 2013.