The National Science Foundation has announced the award of a grant in the amount of $124,616 to Francis Marion University to support the work of Tim Shannon and Kirk E. Dineley, associate professors of biology, and Erin Eaton and Latha M. Malaiyandi, assistant professors of biology. The title of their research project is "MRI: Acquisition of centrifugation, refrigeration, and sterilizing equipment to enhance the research program for faculty and undergraduate students at Francis Marion University.”
The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program will serve to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and training, improve the quality and expand the scope of research in science and engineering.
“The fact that we received this grant speaks volumes about the quality of the professors’ research,” said FMU Provost Richard Chapman. “The university is working to enhance its science programs and the experiences students have here. We want to improve the facilities that support science instruction and research, and the acquisition of this equipment represents an important step in that process.”
The core suite of tools funded by the grant will allow the team of scientists working at the molecular level to expand their body of research and produce publishable results. Researchers require these major instruments to support and improve their research capacities. The instruments consist of: (1) an ultracentrifuge, (2) a water purification system capable of producing ultrapure water, (3) an 86 degree freezer, and (4) CO2 incubators necessary to provide the correct environment to produce the necessary cell cultures. Additionally, the availability of this equipment will have an impact on the undergraduate research program in three significant ways: (1) enhance independent student research projects, (2) promote faculty research programs and increase opportunities for future external funding, and (3) improve and expand the department’s ability to train students in modern scientific methods.
“This project ushers opportunities for undergraduate research, curriculum and course development,” said Shannon. “The institution has developed approaches to engage and retain students early on in their studies. The instrumentation strengthens this endeavor.”
An even greater impact of this project for the community is its role in economic development, said Shannon.
As FMU serves as a resource for economic development, it is tightly linked with business and industry in the region and houses the Northeast Strategic Alliance (NESA), the main economic development hub for the nine-county region occupying the northeast corner of South Carolina which includes the Pee Dee.
A successful MRI program will enhance the likelihood of deeper understanding of science concepts such that students will be able to successfully attend graduate school or move immediately into positions with industries in the region, he said.
“As the research initiatives in biology are increasingly supported and become more widely known, there is an increased likelihood for greater collaboration with biology-intensive industry,” said Shannon. “Availability of personnel with quality research experiences as part of their undergraduate work will, in turn, assist economic developers with attracting firms to the area.”
· Kirk E. Dineley joined FMU in 2003. He earned the B.S. degree in biology from Pennsylvania State University and the Ph.D. degree in molecular pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh.
· Erin M. Eaton of Charleston joined the FMU faculty in 2006. She received the B.S. degree (cum laude) in biological sciences from the University of South Carolina, and the Ph.D. degree from Vanderbilt University.
· Latha M. Malaiyandi of came to FMU in 2006. She earned the B.A. degree in molecular and cell biology/biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Ph.D. degree in molecular pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh.
· Timothy E. Shannon joined the faculty in 1999. He earned the Ph.D. degree in molecular and cellular biology from Ohio University in 1998, after earlier receiving both the B.S. and M.S. degrees from Western Kentucky University.