Illinois State University is the recipient of a grant of more than $661,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help establish a microscopy facility that will benefit the entire region.

headshot of Kevin Edwards

Kevin Edwards

The Confocal Microscopy Core Facility will be installed this fall in the Science Lab Building at Illinois State. It will allow scientists to study the building blocks of cells and the organization of tissues with exceptional clarity and detail, using a laser to excite dye molecules attached to cell structures. ISU scientists will use the facility to advance knowledge in genetics, cell biology, development, neuroscience, and plant science.

“This will be a significant new resource for Central Illinois and beyond,” said Associate Professor of Genetics Kevin Edwards, the principal investigator of the grant. “It will produce 3D reconstructions of complex tissues like nervous system and muscle, and time-lapse videos of processes such as embryo development and wound repair.”

headshot of Thomas Hammond

Thomas Hammond

headshot of Alysia Mortimer

Alysia Mortimer

Co-principal investigators of the grant are Professor of Genetics John Sedbrook, Associate Professor for Neurophysiology Wolfgang Stein, Assistant Professor of Biology Thomas Hammond, and Assistant Professor of Aging and Physiology Alysia Mortimer. Research projects impacted by the facility include everything from the study of bioenergy crops to the aging of cells. It will help Stein’s research on neurons and Vidal-Gadea’s research on magnetic fields.


headshot of John Sedbrook

John Sedbrook

headshot of Wolfgang Stein

Wolfgang Stein

A key feature of the grant is that it benefits researchers from outside Illinois State; scientists at Illinois Wesleyan University, Peoria’s USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, and Bloomington’s Millennium Pain Center all contributed research ideas to the proposal. “The instrument should match the best general-purpose confocal microscopes in Illinois, and we will provide assistance to help outside users navigate the new facility and make the most of its capabilities” said Edwards. The facility will also promote nation-wide and international research collaborations with Illinois State labs.

“Since confocal microscopes are widely used in biomedical research, the facility will open up valuable student training opportunities. Both our undergraduate and graduate students will work alongside faculty to learn cutting-edge microscopy techniques,” said Edwards. “We also hope to bring in middle- and high-school student groups to experience the process of studying live cells. It really promotes an appreciation of the living world and how science is done.”