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IALS Light Microscopy Facility Designated Nikon Center of Excellence

AMHERST — The Light Microscopy Core Facility, housed in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at UMass Amherst, was designated as a Nikon Center of Excellence at a recent grand-opening event. It is one of eight Nikon Centers of Excellence in the U.S.

The microscopes that make up the core facility have been purchased by UMass Amherst with funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Education Consortium and furnished by Nikon at a discount. They will allow the campus and the surrounding region access to cutting-edge technology and foster economic development, according to James Chambers, director of the IALS Light Microscopy Core Facility.

“This new equipment will allow for the exploration of uncharted research on diverse topics including cancer biology, reproductive science, neuroscience, microbiology, and polymer engineering,” said Chambers. “One of the great benefits of our facility is that the microscopes are all in one room, providing easy access to staff and other researchers.”

Chambers said part of the mission of the facility and IALS is to foster collaborations between academics and industrial partners as well as bolster the training of the Massachusetts high-tech workforce. During the short time that the facility has been in operation, more than 150 trainees have become users and have learned microscopy skills that they will carry on into future endeavors.

Chambers added that the impact of this new facility on the region and campus is already being felt through numerous new lines of research opening up for researchers who were once geographically isolated from some of the higher-end technology such as structured-illumination, super-resolution microscopy. This technique allows the study of bacteria and cells at a level of detail not possible just a few years ago.

The Center of Excellence Designation from Nikon allows UMass Amherst to continue receiving discounts on purchases from Nikon, as well as supply scientists and students with expert training and technical support. Additionally, UMass will be able to beta-test new equipment from Nikon before it becomes available on the market.

Researchers from both academic and industry, including those in the Boston region, can get access to the facility by emailing Chambers at [email protected]. Training in basic and advanced light microscopy, as well as quantitative image analysis, is quick and efficient, and users can generally start collecting their own data within two hours. Staff are always present to help users by answering questions, providing suggestions, or discussing new ideas. Additionally, facility staff can assist or work on their own, acquiring data for clients.