By CALEB CALHOUN
6:46 PM EDT, September 21, 2012
Hagerstown Community College is getting new microscopes that can take digital images and be used on living cells.
The school was awarded a three-year grant worth $651,249 from the National Science Foundation to create an on-campus microscopy training hub as well as a mobile hub for its biotechnology program,
“This will give our biology majors a leg up when they transfer because they will have already used that equipment, and it will give them a skill that is very marketable if they’re looking for a job in a lab,” said Judith Peisen, division chair of math and science at HCC. “It says that we know what we’re doing.”
The mobile training hub will have a set of microscopes that will be distributed to K-12 schools in the area, Peisen said. Teachers will be able to use them with their students in classroom settings.
Teachers also will be trained on how to use the microscopes correctly so they can work with their students.
The mobile microscopes will be housed at HCC and teachers will check them out, similar to the way library books are checked out.
“This grant is going to introduce a physical attractive instrument that will engage the students and hopefully get more of them interested,” Peisen said. “We’ve really done a lot of outreach.”
In addition to the mobile microscopes, more advanced microscopes will be used for the college students in the program.
They will be able to take digital images of what is being viewed through them, show living cells and provide a more detailed visual of what they are displaying.
“If a student is saying they’ve got something really cool on the microscope, we can actually project individual people’s microscopes up onto the screen so that everybody can see what that student is seeing without crowding their space,” said Alicia Manfre, coordinator of the biotechnology program at HCC. “Right now on campus, if a student sees something, they have to call the professor or other students over to look at it.”
Manfre said the old microscopes still will be used in addition to the new ones.
“The demand is very high for having microscope capabilities,” she said. “Right now, it’s a matter of sharing. Once we get the new ones, it will alleviate some of that burden.”
Thomas Port, 22, of Hagerstown, who is in his second year in the biotechnology program at HCC, said the digital images will make work involving microscopes much easier in a classroom setting.
“It will be easier to be able to print a picture off instead of having everybody in the class have to come over and look into your microscope,” he said. “You can have a group of people see it at the same time.”
Daniel Fry, 34, of Jefferson, Md., said he hopes the grant will allow students to do more in-depth studying.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to do more detailed work with more powerful microscopes,” he said. “We’ll be able to look at more complicated organisms.”
Debora Sites, a lab technician at HCC who also teaches introduction to biotechnology, said the microscopes will be much better for group discussions.
“Instructors will be able to explain things the students are looking at,” she said. “You’ll also be able to see different functions of living cells through the scope, so you can associate what you read in your book to what you are seeing.”
This is the second three-year grant the biotechnology program has received from the National Science Foundation since the program’s inception at HCC in 2007, according to an HCC news release. The first one was awarded in 2009 and worth $672,696 to help build a connection between the program and high schools in Washington County.
U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, both D-Md., announced the grant in an emalied release.
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