St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf receives $360,000 grant for scientific equipment

Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeremy Loebach (left) measures the brain activity of Brandon Cash ’16 with the functional near-infrared spectroscopy device recently acquired by the college.

The Sherman Fairchild Foundation has awarded St. Olaf College a $360,000 grant for new scientific equipment.

The grant has enabled St. Olaf to acquire a suite of scientific equipment that will significantly enhance the college’s ability to engage students in interdisciplinary scientific explorations using advanced visualization techniques.

“Modern scientific equipment allows researchers — students and faculty alike and often from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds — to truly see key components of their research in ways that were not imaginable in the past,” says Professor of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Matt Richey.

A hallmark of the St. Olaf science program is its long-standing commitment to engaging students in research with faculty members, especially in ways that demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of modern science. The college has continually invested in state-of-the-art science infrastructure, and in 2008 opened Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, a $63 million, LEED-Platinum certified facility.

“Our students’ success depends upon access to modern facilities and equipment,” Richey says. “This generous grant from the Sherman Fairchild Scientific Equipment Program will help us continue to provide that.”

Stuart Behling ’16 makes an adjustment to the advanced fluorescence microscopy workstation recently acquired by the college.

The award has enabled the college to acquire a differential interference contrast/fluorescence workstation; a spinning-disk, fluorescence workstation; and an inverted fluorescence/differential interference contrast workstation — which together allow researchers to perform advanced fluorescence microscopy.

The college has also used the grant to acquire an fNIR, or functional near-infrared spectroscopy, device, a multi-electrode array, and a gel documentation system.

The new equipment will be used in a total of 13 different courses in the Biology, Neuroscience, Chemistry, and Psychology departments, as well as in numerous collaborative student-faculty research projects.

“The fNIR provides St. Olaf with a way to measure brain activity that most schools do not have,” says Assistant Professor of Psychology Jeremy Loebach. “It taps into the same mechanism, the Blood Oxygen Level Dependent or BOLD signal, that the fMRI uses, giving our students direct hands-on experience with a technique that is fundamental to cognitive neuroscience. This in itself is a rare opportunity, as students would often have to be at a large research institution to work with similar technologies, which gives us a definite advantage in preparing our students for careers in psychology and neuroscience.”