JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

Grant Enables JSU
To Acquire Electron Microscope

Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau

JACKSONVILLE -- March 15, 2001 -- Thanks to a National Science Foundation grant, Jacksonville State University's newly completed, state-of-the-art McGee Science Center will soon house a highly-prized piece of equipment -- an electron microscope.

Dr. Benjamin (Benjie) Blair, assistant professor of biology at JSU, and his colleagues designed the new biology labs in McGee Center to best fit the needs of each lab. They also had a special place designed for a scanning electron microscope. However, the university didn't have a way to buy one -- until now.

"We hoped to get the grant, and we prepared the lab as if we had already received it," comments Blair. "If we hadn't gotten the grant, we would have kept on trying."

Blair received a letter from the National Science Foundation on February 26. The amount of the grant, including matching funds, is $182, 299.00 And this is even sweeter for Blair, because the news came on the same day his first daughter was born.

The microscope will be custom-made when the order is placed, according to department chairman Dr. Bill Bowen. It should arrive sometime in early summer.

"We're excited about how the microscope will be used," says Blair. "It will cross departmental lines."

Not only biology students and faculty will use the microscope, but chemistry, computer science, geology and forensics will also have access. Professors in these areas also had a part in the grant writing process: Dr. Blair; Dr. Jan Gryko, assistant professor of chemistry; Dr. Kelly Gregg, associate professor of geography; Dr. Frank Romano, professor of biology; and Dr. William Bowen, professor of biology.

"The grant writing process is a very long, drawn out process," says Blair. "The idea for this electron microscope has existed for over three years."

And it couldn't have come at a worst time. Most grants require matching funds from the university that receives them. With the onslaught of proration, Blair was worried that the university wouldn't be able to match the grant.

Bowen said matching funds are available.

"The administration has been very supportive," comments Blair. "Our President, Dr. Bill Meehan, wrote a tremendous letter of support to the Science Foundation for our grant."

In the world of grants, administrative support is a key factor. It was actually one of the main aspects the Science Foundation was looking for in JSU.

The total cost of the microscope is less than $182,299.00, but what is not used for the purchase will be used for maintenance and upkeep of the machine.

Most universities JSU's size wouldn't dream of buying such a piece of equipment. But JSU is going an extra mile. Instead of just allowing graduate students access to the microscope, it will be used extensively by undergraduate students.

"Now JSU's students will have a leg-up with hands-on training provided by our electron microscope," says Blair. "This is a tremendous milestone for Jacksonville State University."


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