The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a grant for $213,740, entitled "Major Instrumentation for Undergraduate Research and Teaching at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU)," to the biology department at the university. The grant will be used to purchase three key pieces of research equipment.
The grant was written as part of an undergraduate senior honors project by Kristin Evenson, who, along with instructors Dawne Page, David Cummings, and Kerry Fulcher, did much of the groundwork and research, and ultimately wrote the grant. Last summer, Evenson's research halted because it became apparent that it would require the use of the research equipment that PLNU did not have.
"Dr. Page approached me with the idea of writing a grant as my honor's project," she said. "This was an amazing opportunity because usually not even graduate students get to write grants, and even when they do, they don't get to interact with their PI's (principal investigators) the way that I got to while writing this grant."
Having previously received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Department of Biology faculty submitted the grant in hopes that they could help transform PLNU's biology laboratories into research-based labs.
"I was so excited when we found out we got the grant," said Evenson. "Dr. Page and I grew extremely close during the process and she called me right after she found out that we got the grant. She taught me a lot during this time and I can't even put into words how grateful I am to her and to PLNU. I was awarded many experiences that most people my age don't get to do (because of the dedication of the staff here)."
The instruments purchased include a fluorescence microscope, which allows the viewing of small fluorescent animals like fish; a Real Time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), which allows amplification of DNA sequences and gives precise quantities of how much of a gene is in a certain cell; and a fluorescence activated cell sorter, which allows researchers to differentiate between cells in an organism and quantify them. In addition to research, the equipment will also be utilized in some upper-division biology courses.
The first piece of equipment should be on campus in a few weeks. The grant lasts for two years and became effective on August 1. Now graduated, Evenson works full time as a market research associate at Senomyx, a biotech company in San Diego.