Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. has announced that a program initiated by the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT) will provide undergraduates with access to the Thermo Scientific NanoDrop™ 1000 spectrophotometer.
The GCAT program uses National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to purchase laboratory instrumentation, and encourages colleges and universities to adopt the use of DNA microarrays in their undergraduate curricula through student genomic research.
With the help of GCAT resources, undergraduates design and perform experiments, ship their microarrays to a GCAT site for scanning, and then download and analyze their data. GCAT assists higher education institutions by providing essential analytical tools, free access to information and results through its web site, and email distribution list of more than 300 subscribers worldwide
In response to faculty feedback at GCAT-sponsored workshops, GCAT began working with NSF to provide funding for additional instrumentation at undergraduate institutions.
NSF has funded seven mini-grants of $14,000 each to support schools implementing GCAT research activities. During the 2007 NSF grant cycle of the program, GCAT received 35 applications for the initial seven grants. The Thermo Scientific NanoDrop 1000 was the only instrument which was requested by all seven of the funded schools.
According to Dr. A. Malcolm Campbell, founding director of GCAT and professor of biology at Davidson College, the NanoDrop 1000 eliminates a number of common problems for undergraduates. Its sample retention technology allows students to conserve precious samples, which can be time-consuming and costly to prepare. Using conventional methods, students would use up to 40uL of a sample which was not retrieved from the cuvette. As the NanoDrop 1000 does not require the use of cuvettes, wasted sample is reduced and the associated costs are eliminated. By installing the NanoDrop 1000, students have been able to significantly reduce the time spent on analysis as well as eliminate the need for costly reagents.
Campbell said, “There are two kinds of molecular biologists: those who have a NanoDrop and those who want one. The NanoDrop 1000 is ideal for undergraduates as it allows them to focus on science rather than on correcting mistakes due to older technologies. Training faculty and students takes only 30 seconds and the instrument’s simplicity enables undergraduates to use less sample and still quickly achieve reliable results.”
According to Thermo Fisher Scientific, GCAT projects have replaced some student laboratory methods which are less prevalent in today’s research, such as manual DNA sequencing, and Northern blotting. To date, approximately 14000 undergraduates from 150 schools have analyzed over 7000 DNA microarrays through the GCAT program.
The GCAT program still has a number of challenges, including faculty training and providing undergraduates with access to microarrays and instrumentation. GCAT renewed four years of funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), enabling GCAT to buy and scan more chips for undergraduates, the company says.
In addition, future NSF funding will enable GCAT to donate more laboratory instrumentation to eleven more schools where it is most required.