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Dauer Electron Microscopy Lab Provides Rare Opportunities

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Dauer Electron Microscopy Lab Provides Rare Opportunities


By Melissa Peerless
Special to UM News

electron microscope lab

UM President Donna E. Shalala and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely visited the lab to learn how the electron microscope is expanding the horizons of science, and the opportunities available to undergraduates.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 20, 2014) — Although he’s only in his third year of undergraduate studies at the University of Miami, Sumedh Shah, a biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences, is already conducting groundbreaking research on glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that killed his father.

Shah uses a powerful electron microscope —capable of magnifying objects up to 1.2 million times—to view the cancer cells up close, and see how their structures differ from normal cells.

“The electron microscope allows us to cut a single layer of cells into segments just 60 nanometers thick,” he said. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Shaw added that the technique requires extreme precision, eye-hand coordination and time.

Shah is honing these skills in the Techniques in Electron Microscopy course, taught by Jeffrey Prince, an associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Prince’s class is one of the most exclusive on campus. More than 40 students applied for just seven spots. Prince personally interviews each student, and acceptance is based upon their grades, courses taken and additional factors.

“This class is a reward for hard-working students,” he said, adding that the electron microscope is worth close to $1 million, and the lab work involves toxic, even explosive, chemicals. “They have to be responsible and willing to put in the time and effort. The intent of this class and laboratory from the beginning has been to provide UM students with a trait that allows them to be heads above all other applicants for a professional position.”

Prince and his students invited UM President Donna E. Shalala and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely to the lab on November 17, to learn about their research and how the electron microscope is expanding the horizons of science.

Prince said, “This class is not a show and tell; it is hands-on. And for the last 30 years, students have stepped up and done it—with excellence.”

Shah—who serves as Prince’s teaching assistant—is enrolled in the Honors Program in Medicine (HPME), through which he will earn a B.S. in biology from the College of Arts and Sciences and an M.D. from the Miller School of Medicine in seven years.

He noted that all of Florida’s research institutions have electron microscopes on campus, but UM is the only institution that allows undergraduate students to use the equipment. “We are learning a skill that most do not get until graduate school,” he said.

Two more of Prince’s students are also working on innovative collaborative research projects.

Senior Neville Patel is investigating Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, an inherited neurological disorder that affects about 1 in 2,500 people in America. Involving both motor and sensory nerves, CMT causes weakness in the foot and lower leg muscles. Patel examines the affects of genes that cause CMT with the electron microscope. He is applying to medical schools for fall of 2015, and is an author on a paper that has been submitted to the journal Nature Genetics.

Senior Mateuzs Graca has been working with the electron microscope since he was a first-year student. He is studying retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease that causes blindness. Researchers at UM’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute identified the gene that causes retinitis pigmentosa in 2011; Graca is examining those cells with the electron microscope, seeking a cure.

Graca is currently interviewing for medical school for fall of 2015. “Just days ago, an interviewer asked about my background as an applicant,” he said. “I told her about this research. The interviewer was very impressed by this experience.”

Other current students are: pre-med sophomore Natalie Flores, who will be taking over Graca’s research when he graduates; junior Elizabeth Guirado, who plans to earn a joint D.M.D./Ph.D. in dentistry; junior Eric Keen, who received honorable mention for a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship; first-year student Kasey Markel, who said that the electron microscopy lab was a major factor in his decision to attend UM and will be helping Shah with his research next semester; junior Katelyn O’Neill, who will also be working on retinitis pigmentosa research; senior Dominika Swieboda, who is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology; and sophomore Mason Schecter, a third generation ’Cane majoring in biology, physics and chemistry.

“Our work is complementary with what is going on at the medical school,” Keen said. “What is unique is that we can look at cells directly. This is a piece of the puzzle that is very relevant today.”

He is interested in virology, and will be using the electron microscope for his ongoing research on viruses that attack bacteria. “Once you show that you are able to use the technology effectively and safely, Professor Prince gives you the freedom to pursue research that is meaningful to you,” he said.

Shalala congratulated the students on their work, adding, “I think you are all privileged to be able to participate in such a class.”

Shah concurred. “This class has made my time at UM worth it,” he said.

Electron microscopes are costly to procure, and expensive to maintain. The annual service contract for the scopes and other gear in the Dauer Lab is $60,000. This ensures that a technician will arrive within one to two days when problems occur with the delicate apparatus.

The grant funding the Dauer Lab service contract ends in March 2015, and the Department of Biology is unable to absorb the maintenance costs if other resources cannot be identified. The student research projects—and the Dauer Electron Microscopy Lab itself—risk closure. Prince said that 70 percent of the nation’s electron microscopes have been shut down due to lack of funding for service contracts.

“The electron microscope must be consistently available for effective teaching and research,” he said. “The initial images produced by the first-year students and the research conducted by the project students are remarkable.”

Melissa Peerless can be reached at 305-284-2485.

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Author Presents ‘Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement’ November 20


SoldierofChangeU.S. Army Major Stephen Snyder-Hill, who was booed by a national television audience over his timely question about gays serving in the military, will discuss his new book, Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement, at 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 20 at the Student Activities Center’s Activities North and South rooms.

Days after the U.S.’s  “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military was repealed in 2011, Snyder-Hill, who was stationed in Iraq at the time, asked Republican presidential candidates, via video tape, whether they would reinstate the policy if elected. Aired at a nationally televised primary debate, his video was loudly booed by the audience. Soldier of Change chronicles not only the media frenzy that followed that moment but Snyder-Hill’s 20-year journey as a gay man in the army: from self-loathing to self-acceptance to the most important battle of his life—protecting the disenfranchised.

Soldier of Change, which was edited by UM’s Meredith Camel, editorial director in the Office of Communications and Marketing, will be on sale at a reception and book signing following Snyder-Hill’s presentation.

For more information and to RSVP, contact as.miami.edu/SoliderofChange

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Noted Journalist Speaks at UM about the Dangers Foreign Correspondents Face Abroad

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Noted Journalist Speaks at UM about the Dangers Foreign Correspondents Face Abroad


In a gripping talk presented at UM’s Miller Center, international journalist Ilene Prusher explained that reporters are no longer only truth-seekers but also targets of extremist terrorist groups.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

Ilene Prusher, left, is interviewed by School of Communication faculty members Tsitsi Wakhisi and Joseph Treaster during the Q&A portion of her talk. Prusher, who has worked for Time, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other notable publications, once worked with a group of UM students who participated in the University of Miami-Jerusalem Press Club reporting seminar in Israel in the summer of 2013.

Ilene Prusher, left, is interviewed by School of Communication faculty members Tsitsi Wakhisi and Joseph Treaster during the Q&A portion of her talk. Prusher, who has worked for Time, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other notable publications, once worked with a group of UM students who participated in the University of Miami-Jerusalem Press Club reporting seminar in Israel in the summer of 2013.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 5, 2014) – Ilene Prusher got the disturbing news in an email from a close friend: Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal correspondent taken hostage in Pakistan in early 2002 while investigating an alleged link between shoe bomber Richard Reid and al-Qaeda, had been decapitated by his abductors.

The news shook Prusher to her core. As a staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor, she had crossed paths with Pearl on a few occasions, staying at the same guesthouse in Islamabad while covering the war in Afghanistan. Read the full story

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UMindfulness Lecture with Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan on November 10


Join the College of Arts and Sciences for a lecture and conversation with Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 10 at the Newman Alumni Center, 6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables. A representative for Ohio’s 13th District, Ryan is also the author of A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit. Registration is required to attend the lecture. To register, visit www.as.miami.edu/ryan-rsvp.

This lecture is part of the Mindfulness Lecture Series of the UMindfulness Research and Practice Initiative (mindfulness.miami.edu), an interdisciplinary collaboration across the University of Miami to engage novel implementation and cutting-edge brain research on mindfulness/contemplative training.

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Goran’s Gifts: UM Celebrates Creative Writing Professor Lester Goran’s Legacy October 23-24


A memorial celebration of the late Professor Lester Goran’s creative writing legacy at the University of Miami will begin Thursday October 23, with Recent Alumni Readings at 6:30 p.m. at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, and continue Friday, October 24 with an evening of readings and memories of his life and legacy at 6 p.m. in the CAS Gallery at the Wesley Foundation House, 1210 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables.

Goran, who  began developing creative writing courses for undergraduates in 1961, founded the MFA in Creative Writing Program and taught more than 20,000 students in his 53 years at the University. He published eight novels and three collections of short stories and mentored scores of well-published writers.

Free and open to the public, the Thursday night celebration will feature Daisy Hernandez, reading from A Cup of Water Under My Bed; Jason McCall, reading Dear Hero; Kristine Snodgrass, reading from War on Pants; and Natalia Sylvester, with Chasing the Sun.

Also free and open to the public, the Friday celebration is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the English Department’s Creative Writing Program, the MALS program, and the Mangrove Literary Journal. The evening will feature former students Chrissa-Jean Chappell, reading from More than Good Enough; Terrence Cheng, from Sons of Heaven; Paul Perry, from Gunpowder Valentin: New and Selected Poems; and  Michelle Richmond, from The Year of the Fog; and special remarks by Professor Eugene Clasby,Matthew Aspery Gear, and Chauncey Mabe.

A reception will follow. Please RSVP at http://as.miami.edu/goranrsvp.

For more information, contact UM’s Creative Writing director, M. Evelina Galang, at mgalang@miami.edu or Creative Writing Community Outreach and Events Coordinator Melissa Burley at m.burley1@umiami.edu. For information about parking, please see UM Parking Information.

 

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