If you’ve never had the opportunity to hold a conversation with Dr. Maria Todd or Dr. Maria Cuevas, you’re missing out. They’re bubbly, throw out phrases like, “face contrast microscope with digital camera and computer” like they’re talking about the weather, and earned a whopping $98,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to help push foreword their projects here at the university.
“We wanted to set up collaboration between the faculties of the Biology departments and the students to make progress in our fields,” Dr. Todd said of their initial reason for the grant application. “We felt new equipment was necessary in order to make this progress. It was really a very practical need for state of the art instrumentation. High level equipment is necessary to achieve the quality experimental objectives we’re going after.”
Other professors on campus are ecstatic with grant money, too, as it will benefit the entire biology department. “Getting these grants is very difficult,” Professor of Biology Dr. Benjamin Pierce said. “So many people submit proposals and so few of those proposals get accepted. It’s particularly impressive that two professors from a small university accomplished this. It benefits everyone involved.” Others, like Professor of Biology Dr. Rebecca Sheller, are excited for the future of her personal research. “[The Biology Department] is a very collaborative group. It’s certainly going to benefit me!” she said laughing. “We’re all very excited for this.”
Both professors felt that the reasons for the grant went beyond immediate need – they saw it as necessary for the future of their students. Juniors and seniors in the uppermost level of their studies here at Southwestern University will heavily benefit from the purchased equipment. Both professors believe experience in the use of this equipment puts their students a level above those at other universities. “The equipment we buy allows for more scientific merit, and ability for usage of this equipment makes students more competitive for graduate study,” Dr. Cuevas said.
$43,000 of the grant money has been spent on two pieces of instrumentation: an automatic cellular counter and a face contrast microscope with a digital camera and computer. No one ever said science was cheap. The next piece of equipment up for purchase will be a flo cytometer, which will be hooked to a computer and used for DNA analysis.
“We’re very excited and pleased because it’s going to help our projects move forward,” Dr. Cuevas said. “And help students on their independent research studies as well,” Dr. Todd added. $98,000 isn’t as much as they need, but both agree that it will get them where they’re going – for now.