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New Microscope Will Allow UI Scientists to See Biology in Action

Wednesday, June 4 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – June 3, 2014 – Biologists in the College of Science at the University of Idaho will now have an opportunity to image cells and small organisms while they are in motion, responding to environmental change or changing shape during development. 

A group of investigators led by Deborah Stenkamp, a professor in the UI Department of Biological Sciences, has received two competitive awards toward the purchase of a dynamic imaging system. The National Institutes of Health has awarded the group a $455,000 Shared Instrumentation Grant, which will be combined with a $142,500 award from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust toward the project. 

The live-imaging microscope will provide a controlled environment for cells, tissues and small organisms to move and grow. High-speed cameras and an automated focusing device are used to create images of multiple fluorescent labels in the cells and high-resolution time-lapse movies, capturing the action over hours and days. 

The proposal team also included biological sciences faculty members Lee Fortunato, Peter Fuerst, Eva Top, Onesmo Balemba, Douglas Cole and Jill Johnson, and the director of the Optical Imaging Core, Ann Norton.

The developmental neurobiologists, virologists and microbiologists who plan to use the dynamic imaging system have previously had to rely on assumptions made about biological changes over time by studying many different fixed cells and organisms at multiple sampling times.

Watching changes dynamically will save time and supplies, tell a more accurate story and provide novel insights into biological processes, Norton said. Live-action results will likely show steps in specific processes that were completely missed in previous studies. 

“Whether studying a disease process in virology or the transfer of plasmids in a growing colony of microorganisms, the dynamic imaging system will not just tell us what happens over time, but when, how and where it happened,” Stenkamp said. “The system will enable breakthrough observations and exciting undergraduate and graduate student research and training opportunities.”

The dynamic imaging system will be housed in the Optical Imaging Core in the Life Sciences Building. This high-speed microscope will complement results obtained from other instruments in the core that permit high-resolution evaluation of static samples and sorting of fluorescently-tagged cells.

The Optical Imaging Core is under the administration of the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST), which also oversees the Computational Resources Core and the Genomics Resources Core. Ann Norton, director of the IBEST Optical Imaging Core, will oversee the installation and training of this new research tool. 


Tara Roberts
UI Communications
(208) 885-7725 

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