Grant to fund new cell culture lab at Keuka

Keuka College has received a $25,000 grant from the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation to fund a cell culture laboratory.According to Professor of Biology Joan Magnusen, the funds will provide equipment to grow and maintain living cells and conduct research on those cells within a carefully controlled lab environment that keeps cells alive. This scientific process is known as “culturing” cells.The laboratory will benefit all biology majors and provide opportunities for independent research, according to Magnusen.“In our Microbiology course, students have learned how to culture and study living bacteria cells,” explained Magnusen. “Now, they will also learn how to culture and study cells from humans. Working with living human cells is a key feature of modern biology.”Previously, several students have completed Field Periods in research laboratories at other institutions and practiced these techniques, but now “all of our biology majors will be able to work with living human cells at Keuka,” explained Magnusen.“Let’s say we want to know how cancer skin cells are different from normal skin cells,” added Magnusen. “We can buy cultures of both types of cells and grow them under the same conditions and determine how they are alike and different.  We can treat cancer cells with different concentrations of a chemical we think will change their rate of growth and determine how they are alike and different. The key is that a cell culture lab will allow us to keep the cells alive and keep other things from growing in the culture medium.”Magnusen said the new laboratory will help students develop “a more realistic sense of cell biology and learn new techniques and ways of thinking.“These opportunities are also resume builders,” added Magnusen. “When applying for a job or graduate or professional school in the sciences, applicants should list the laboratory experiences, proficiencies, and research projects they have completed.  Being familiar with cell culture can help a student get a placement in a competitive undergraduate research program, get a job as a technician, and be taken more seriously by a graduate program.  Professional schools—medicine, veterinary, dental, and pharmacy—are more impressed by a student with research experience than one without.”The grant from the Dreyfus Foundation will allow the College to purchase:A CO2 incubator. “The incubator is somewhat like a low temperature oven; it keeps the cells growing at about human body temperature,” said Magnusen. “This provides an environment that will favor growth of the cells we want and not cells we don’t want, such as bacteria or mold.”A sterile hood. “It is a metal box,” explained Magnusen, “that allows us to transfer cells from an old culture into a new one without also introducing the bacteria or mold.”Three microscopes.Fluorescence capability for one of the College’s existing microscopes, which will allow students “to practice another technique, with cell culture applications that they have previously only learned about in theory,” said Magnusen.The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation (Washington, D.C.) has been a longtime benefactor of Keuka College, most recently via grants for the Field Period program ($45,000) and The Campaign to Save Ball Hall ($20,000).“We are grateful to the Dreyfus Foundation for its continuing support,” said COO/Executive Vice President Carolanne Marquis. “The foundation’s generosity has, and will continue to, enhance the education we provide our students.”

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