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June 21, 2006

Grants fund College of Pharmacy microscope

A giant microscope the University of Louisiana at Monroe will soon order is to be installed in its own room and will substantially progress the College of Pharmacy's research capabilities, courtesy of back-to-back grants totaling $500,000.

The large environmental scanning electron microscope is being funded through a $200,000 Louisiana Board of Regents grant and $300,000 of federal dollars U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, helped appropriate.

The microscope will likely be located in the new pharmacy building on Bienville Drive in Monroe, said Karen Briski, grant writer and head of the basic pharmaceutical sciences department. "In order to do cutting-edge, state-of-the-art research, it requires exquisite instrumentation that is usually pricey," Briski said. "We're happy to have it to do novel and creative and important research we couldn't do (without it)."

Most importantly, it will benefit a wide variety of projects for years to come, she said, and create the infrastructure needed to acquire additional grants in the future.

The microscope is primarily for surface imaging down to the nanometer level. For example, it can view every detail of the legs of a tiny mite, she said.

The extra federal money allows ULM to custom configure the product to detect inorganic elements and to also conduct transmission imaging to view the inside of cells, not just on the surface.

Such a multi-purpose piece of equipment makes it a rare acquisition for any campus, she said.

In Briski's own research, she intends to use it to study the positive effects of chromium on diabetes symptoms. But she can also use it to study potential side effects of chromium on human reproduction by seeing whether any brain cells that control reproduction are being impacted by the chromium.

This microscope comes on the heels of ULM's installation of a massive confocal imaging microscope in March that occupies a large space in Sugar Hall and is being used for a multitude of research projects.

"It seems ULM is achieving a lot of success in bettering its infrastructure and turning into a high-quality research institution," said Khalid El Sayed, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry in the College of Pharmacy.

El Sayed is just one of many faculty eager to use the equipment. He is researching the anti-cancer benefits of marine microorganisms.

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