OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

New OSU labs to aid biology, pre-med education

01/05/1998

CORVALLIS - Everything from DNA analysis to studying the nature of cancer cells is possible in new, state-of-the-art biology laboratories recently completed at Oregon State University to benefit undergraduate science students - especially those seeking careers in medicine.

The introductory biology labs, funded with part of a $2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will be dedicated in a ceremony on Monday, Jan.12, from 3-5 p.m. in Weniger Hall 127. Prominent alumni, university officials and students will speak at the free, public event.

The grant also funded advanced labs in molecular biology and cell biology and is helping support pre-college outreach programs in OSU's efforts to persuade more women and minority students to pursue careers in science - including the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience (SMILE) program.

"These labs are allowing an enrichment of traditional methods to study organisms and convey biological concepts," said Michael Mix, chair of the OSU Biology Program. "Students can work at modern workstations designed for collaborating on projects, as scientists often do, or work individually."

Both science and non-science majors will make considerable use of the new labs, Mix said, but they should be of special value to OSU's many pre-med students who seek more rigorous training in biology and related types of research.

For instance, in these labs a student could do electrophoretic DNA analysis, which is now being used by scientists around the world in research ranging from new cures for disease to improved crops or even identifying criminals. Such technology can examine everything from the nature of cancer cells to the genetic composition of ancient mummies.

An OSU botany student might analyze leaf pigments with a spectrophotometer that's interfaced with a computer, in order to test hypotheses related to light absorption.

"This will be a major leap forward for undergraduate science education in Oregon," Mix said.

High school science teachers from around the state are among those invited to the grand opening, which will include tours, technology demonstrations and refreshments.

Speakers include Dr. William Ten Pas, an OSU alumnus and recent president of the American Dental Association; Dr. David Cutsforth, an OSU alumnus and 1996 Family Medicine Physician of the Year; Olivia Galvez, a pre-med student at OSU and past president of the OSU Hispanic Student Union; and Lew Frederick, director of public information for the Portland Public Schools.