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President Hendrix donates research equipment to College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

ISSUED: 1 April 2020
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix has donated a large amount of research equipment, including four high-grade microscopes, to Shepherd University’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The equipment came from Hendrix’s cancer research lab that was previously housed at West Virginia University and has now transitioned to a biotech company. It includes a Zeiss Televal 31 inverted microscope, Zeiss Axiovert 25 microscope with imaging system, Zeiss Axioskop II fluorescent microscope, and Zeiss Axiovert 135 microscope with time lapse, environmental chamber, and microinjector/micromanipulator. Other donated equipment includes a SPOT Idea digital camera system, freezers, refrigerators, shaker ovens, ELISA readers, incubators, centrifuges, microfuges, glassware, and consumable lab supplies.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to provide some useful research tools to Shepherd,” Hendrix said. “This is the place where my former professors allowed me to explore my passion for scientific discovery, and therefore, it seems only fitting to help other students pursue a career path in research. With the virus pandemic the world faces today, we certainly can benefit from encouraging more students to enter the field of science.”

“The various instruments and laboratory equipment now at Shepherd will greatly enhance both the methods and applications that we can provide for our students,” said Dr. Robert Warburton, dean, College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. “The level of familiarity the students will gain with these methods will be directly applicable to the research that they will be able to conduct here at Shepherd and will enhance their résumés and CVs when they apply for graduate and professional positions.”

“All of our teaching labs will be a bit more efficient in terms of students in classes getting access to equipment and having readily available supplies,” said Dr. David Wing, chair, Department of Biology. “A large number of our majors conduct research with us, and the research students will be able to have a much easier time gaining access to equipment.”

Warburton said many of the pieces that were donated complement those already in Shepherd’s labs, while others enhance and provide methodologies the university did not have.

“Examples that are directly applicable to my own research are the western blot modules, the PCR instruments, and the expanded cryogenic storage capabilities,” Warburton said. “All are going to be used immediately and are being applied to research that is directly related to that of President Hendrix’s own research work.”

Warburton is studying aggressive breast cancers in three-dimensional format in vitro, known as spheroids. He said this work will involve using chemotherapeutic agents, including the anti-nodal antibodies developed in Hendrix’s lab, and trying to improve their toxicity by use of immunotherapy reagents. Several other professors and their students will benefit from having the microscopes, including Dr. Conner Sipe, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Peter Vila, associate professor of environmental and physical sciences.

“I am extremely grateful to Dr. Hendrix for the donation of laboratory equipment made to the sciences,” Vila said. “The donation of a high-quality research inverted microscope greatly expands the capability of the aquatics laboratory to study plankton, or organisms such as algae or microcrustaceans that are suspended in the water.”

Sipe said Shepherd already had two florescent microscopes, but those donated by Hendrix are more sophisticated. He said having the top-of-the-line microscopes will allow him, other professors, and students to do a specific type of microscopy using florescent light.

“We can label particular structures inside a cell, embryo, plant, or whatever we want to look at and will be able to visualize where inside cells particular proteins or structures are,” Sipe said. “All four are high quality research-grade instruments, which we didn’t have at Shepherd previously.”

Sipe’s research focuses on how embryonic stem cells in fruit flies know when to start and stop dividing.

“I study the neural stem cells in the brain and how nutrition controls their division and the ultimate outcomes of that on brain development,” Sipe said. “With these microscopes, I can look in individual cells and see whether or not they are dividing in an entire brain.”

Both Sipe and Vila said having multiple microscopes will give students more opportunity for hands-on experience, and the inverted microscope has a digital camera that will allow students to simultaneously view images on a screen and for recording images for further study.

“These microscopes are going to be really great for Developmental Biology lab and Cell

Biology lab,” Sipe said. “Students will have the opportunity to look at these structures, whereas before we simply didn’t have the ability to do that very well.”

“I am excited and look forward to use this microscope in my Stream Ecology and Limnology and Biological Oceanography classes as well as research projects with students,” Vila said.

Vila pointed out the refrigerators and freezers are also important because they are essential for preserving chemical solutions, keeping field samples alive for analysis, and storing food to keep animal fed.

“This basic equipment is fundamental for a functional laboratory and stretches limited funds allowing for excellence in education and research,” Vila said.

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