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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Department of Biological Sciences Receives $575,000 Grant for Confocal Microscope

National Science Foundation grant will elevate Minnesota State Mankato's scientific imaging capabilities to levels seen at large research institutions.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release, 11-15-2017

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Mankato, Minn. – Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of Biological Sciences has been awarded a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program grant in the amount of $575,211 that allowed the department to acquire a state-of-the-art laser scanning confocal microscope.

The new microscope, a Zeiss LSM880 with Airyscan, will provide fast super-resolution and sensitive confocal image acquisition. The microscope will be installed in early January 2018 and be operational by the beginning of the spring semester.

David Sharlin and Michael Bentley, faculty members in Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of Biological Sciences, collaborated on writing the grant request.

Sharlin said the microscope would elevate Minnesota State Mankato’s scientific imaging capabilities to levels seen at large research institutions. According to Sharlin, Minnesota State Mankato is the first institution in the Minnesota State system to acquire a confocal microscope with the sensitivity and resolution of the LSM880 with Airyscan.

The term “imaging,” as it relates to microscopy, said Sharlin, is visualizing and capturing pictures of structures that are too small to be seen by an unaided eye. He said the LSM880 with Airyscan can “essential image any type of sample including living and fixed tissues and cells.”

“This microscope will immediately enhance the University’s ability to conduct transformative cutting-edge research in the sciences and significantly boost our training of undergraduate and graduate students,” said Sharlin.

“Many types of experiments—such as protein co-localization studies, live cell imaging, and 3D visualization – were not previously possible,” said Sharlin. “Therefore, the toolbox for faculty has been expanded greatly, and faculty can now propose to complete experiments that were once not possible without finding outside collaborators. Ultimately, faculty (and students) will be more competitive in acquiring outside grant funding. Additionally, the microscope will support recruiting and hiring new faculty who need access to such resources.”

Sharlin said Minnesota State Mankato students would have exposure to the microscope through faculty-mentored research projects and classes, particularly upper level biology and chemistry courses. Sharlin said there have also been discussions about developing a new course in advanced microscopy that would involve use of the confocal microscope along with other equipment.

Sharlin said the Department of Biological Sciences would also welcome regional collaborations with industry partners that may have advanced imaging needs.

For more information, please contact David Sharlin, associate professor in Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of Biological Sciences, by phone at 507-389-1085 or by email at

Minnesota State Mankato’s Department of Biological Sciences is part of the University’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 14,712 students, is part of the Minnesota State system, which comprises 31 state institutions.

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