Summer Courses Wrap Up with Microscopy in Focus for Maine INBRE Students

Students and young science faculty from all around Maine converged on MDI Bio Lab’s campus this month for an intensive 10-day course in the use of the most modern microscopy of the day.

 “When I started out I thought I knew all about microscopes: you adjust the lens, you look through light. And you see,” says Seth Ashby, a rising junior studying microbiology at UMaine Orono. “But what I didn’t realize, and almost every student I think would agree with this, is how little we actually knew about microscopy.”

That knowledge gap was amply filled, Ashby says, by the daily lectures and hands-on experience provided by a roster of faculty and others who work with the array of advanced imaging instruments and software in MDI Bio Lab’s Light Microscopy Facility, directed by Frederic Bonnet, Ph.D.

“We use microscopy as a tool that’s essential to microbiology, but we were severely underutilizing it,” Ashby says. “And I think that was the best part; every lecture without fail introduced that to me. And I loved it.”

Ashby was one of 12 students and young faculty who applied for and won coveted seats in the course, which is offered free thanks to the federally funded Maine INBRE network. INBRE stands for IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. Led by MDI Bio Lab, the program is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Over the last decade it has sent $87 million in direct support to 14 research and higher education institutions in Maine. Working collaboratively, they’ve leveraged those funds to provide-hands on research experience for undergraduates, support early career faculty as they build labs and seek research grants, and modernize scientific infrastructure, such as state-of-the-art microscopy. INBRE was created by Congress to steer federal research dollars to 23 rural and other small states (and Puerto Rico) with historically low levels of NIH funding. For students from economically challenging backgrounds, such as Seth Ashby, the support is vital.

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