UCA shares microscope technology with students, teachers across state

Have you ever seen a tick?s tongue, a grain of pollen or a single cell? Well, thanks to an $85,000 grant from Toyota USA Foundation, the University of Central Arkansas will be able to share these rare sights with hundreds of students and teachers across the state.

In 2000, the university received a grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase a Scanning Electron Microscope. The nearly $200,000 instrument magnifies objects, through the use of electrons, more than 100,000 times and produces a three-dimensional image, whereas a light microscope is limited to magnifications of about 1,000 times and only produces two-dimensional images.

The SEM was needed so that faculty in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics could perform necessary research, and so that students could learn to use an emerging scientific tool.

The college also planned to begin an outreach program using the SEM to reach K-12 students. ?The forensic shows are very popular on television right now, and the SEM is a tool that all forensic scientists use,? said Dr. Paul Hamilton, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. ?We wanted to use the outreach program as a way to bring students in and get them interested in science.?

The outreach program was sustained the first couple of years on a shoestring budget that was supported by some small grants. The grant from the Toyota USA Foundation has given the outreach program enough money to expand and operate for three years.

In an effort to expose Grade 7-12 students and teachers to the SEM, the college is offering several ?Saturday with SEM? workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters. The all-day workshops allow participants to bring their own samples, learn to use the SEM and take home prints of their samples and a certificate for completing the program. The Toyota USA Foundation grant also allows the university to assist distant schools with travel costs.

In addition to the ?Saturday with SEM? workshops, four summer workshops ? two for teachers and two for students ? will be offered next summer. Teachers will complete a more extensive study of samples of their choosing, and will develop a plan for incorporating SEM images and analyses into their classrooms. Stipends will be provided for participation and housing costs covered for participants staying on campus. Teachers also will receive certification for in-service technology credit once they report on their incorporation of SEM in classroom activities during the following academic year.

Students who participate in one of the summer workshops will be paired with UCA science majors in a group effort to construct an atlas of the body surface of a single animal, such as a fruit fly. Once the surface of the animal is mapped, the project will be published as a CD-ROM and made available for distribution to other science teachers and researchers.

The outreach program also allows science teachers at any grade level to submit a sample to the college for SEM imaging that can then be downloaded from the UCA Web site. A limited number of examples are currently available online at: <a href="http://


For more information about any of the SEM outreach programs, email semlab@org.uca.edu.

-Jennifer Boyett