Through its state-of-the-art Biology Imaging Suite, Trent University is giving both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to use microscopes and auxiliary equipment that surpasses what’s available in teaching labs.
The Suite’s full value to students however goes deeper than that. Debbie Lietz, lab demonstrator and electron microscopy technologist, says the impact of working in the suite can be profound.
“It has opened up a new world for some students,” says Ms. Lietz. “It allows them to see a research project from the very beginning to the end, which regular teaching labs cannot. There’s huge self-satisfaction and pride in that. Also, research does require long hours and days, so working in the Suite can help define for a student whether or not research is really what they want to do.”
The Suite’s equipment includes high-end microscopes such as the Transmission Electron Microscope, which allows students to go above the magnification of a regular light microscope and right into the cellular level. Some of the Suite’s other microscopes have florescent attachments, and some are equipped with digital cameras — enabling students to send images of their work directly to their professors.
Students also have access to essential equipment for histology (the study of the microanatomy of cells, tissues, and organs via a microscope), with microtomes, an automated processor, a sample embedder and slide stainer. The Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s labs have donated some equipment, points out Ms. Lietz, and many students go on to work in hospital settings.
Allowing for new research breakthroughs
Graduate student Josephine Esposto, whose work focuses on the biochemical and biophysical structural analyses of the fundamental and pathological protein in ALS disease, is conducting research in the Suite using the Transmission Electron Microscope.
“Without these instruments my research would simply not be nearly as reliable or accurate as it should be,” says Ms. Esposto. “These cutting-edge instruments not only enable new discoveries in my research, but also make the production of novel knowledge that much more efficient.”
Following an initial shutdown of the Suite in March 2020 due to the pandemic, it was able to safely reopen in the summer, with masking, distancing, scrupulous disinfecting of equipment, and using an online booking system to coordinate scheduling.
Hannah Wood, an undergraduate student working with the Epifluorescent Microscope to investigate the impact of chronic antibiotic use on part of the gastrointestinal tract, says being able to access the Suite is “essentially priceless.”
“I’ve used the Epi microscope for countless hours to visualize the cells in my tissue samples and take images of those tissues,” says Ms. Wood. “And, with my undergraduate thesis work, it has led me to continue my fascination with research and pursue a masters’ thesis degree. I basically had a foot in the door for a master’s program having already had lab and thesis experience at Trent.”
Trent University’s Biology program has been ranked as one of the top 20 university Biology programs in Canada by Maclean’s University Rankings. Learn more about the program and Trent’s world-class facilities.