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Researchers, students excited about new microscope made possible by funding

UNB is receiving $150,000 from the 2017 Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund awards to purchase a confocal microscope.

A confocal microscope will allow researchers to observe how cells grow, change shape and move through tissue.

It’s hoped that with this knowledge, researchers can better understand cell growth abnormalities and how they are linked to diseases such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease.

This new microscope will replace the older technology currently used by researchers and students. It’s expected to increase the quality of imaging at a much quicker rate with more data.

“Depending on what exactly is being imaged, you’re going to go from taking several hours to collect a stream of data to maybe 15, 20 minutes to collect the same amount of data,” said Bryan Crawford.

Crawford, a developmental biologist and associate professor of biology at UNB, applied for the funding with fellow researchers Tillmann Benfey and Denise Clark.

“Our old instrument I actually use for teaching undergrad students. The old instrument is still working, and I’ll continue to use it for teaching,” said Crawford.

Emma Jeffrey and Emma Matchett, students under Crawford’s’ supervision, are excited to start applying the microscope to their own research.

“I think it’s really exciting and a really big deal for our lab because a lot of the work we do is impossible without this sort of technology,” said Jeffrey.

The microscope they use now collects lower quality data at a much slower rate. Jeffrey and Matchett say the new equipment will take what used to be a three or four hour wait time down to a half hour.

“There’s just certain research projects that are technically possible that our lab just isn’t able to do because our equipment is outdated,” said Matchett.

The students say the possibility of using the new microscope makes them more excited to be in the lab working on projects.

Crawford said the unique thing about UNB is despite how delicate and expensive instruments like the microscope is, they don’t limit use to researchers, but allow students access to it as well.

“With careful supervision they absolutely can learn to use and apply them to their undergraduate research projects.”

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