Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012

Top left to right: Andrew Carroll, Shawn Bearden, Jason Reynolds Bottom left to right: Cheng-Hung Chen, Jamie Mayo, Bryce Rhodehouse, Emily Renner

ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

Molecular Research Core Facility Provides Support for ISU Research Efforts

Fall 2012 Issue

This year Idaho State University researcher Shawn Bearden published a study that gives hints for the effective treatment of dementia, while his colleague, Michael Thomas, has published a study on the possible environmental causes for the increase in autism.

These two prominent studies share a common thread: both would not have been possible to complete at Idaho State University without the ISU Molecular Research Core Facility located in the Gale Life Sciences Building.

"The MRCF is a vital resource to ISU as we move ahead in biomedical research," said Deb Easterly, director of ISU Research Development and Compliance. "Researchers need state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to do high-level research and that is what the Core provides."

Although the focus of ISU's Molecular Research Core Facility is biomedical research, it is used by a full spectrum of researchers in a variety of disciplines including ecology, anthropology, psychology, pharmacy and chemistry.

"The Molecular Research Core Facility is a lynchpin for biomedical research, but it serves the entire research community at ISU," said Thomas, MRCF academic director and assistant professor of biological sciences. "The instrumentation and expertise provided by this facility is key to a lot of this university's research endeavors."

Nearly $10 million in research grants and contracts coming into ISU depend on MRCF resources and the facility is a key component of ISU's future plans for biomedical research. Within the last year the University invested nearly $600,000 to acquire a confocal microscope, a powerful imaging instrument. The MRCF also was awarded $200,000 from the National Science Foundation to acquire "next-generation" DNA sequencing technology.

The MRCF provides services that range from DNA sequencing and molecular analysis to cell sorting and advanced biological imaging. Lab personnel collaborate with researchers on experimental design, conduct lab analyses, and assist in analyzing and interpreting data. They also assists principal investigators in the preparation of research grant proposals, and anticipate future needs for instrumentation and expertise.

The MRCF isn't just used by ISU. Its clients include researchers from other institutions, including the University of Idaho, Boise State University, the University of Montana, Montana State University and other universities in the Intermountain West. Government clients include the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Idaho National Laboratory. The MRCF also is developing some relationships with private enterprises.

"Our staff is second to none in the Intermountain West, and they are the reason for our growth and success," Thomas said.

That staff includes managing director Erin O'Leary-Jepsen, research assistants Michelle Andrew and Christine Ryan and bioinformatics data analyst Luobin Yand. A third research assistant will be hired soon. Between two and four undergraduate interns are employed per semester.

Besides Thomas, the MRCF is led by biological sciences professor Jean Pfau, director of cell sorting, and Bearden, director of biological imaging. The MRCF is overseen by a steering committee comprised of nine research faculty from across campus. Although it receives institutional support, the MRCF is increasingly self-sufficient.

With this staff, the MRCF plays an important role in the training of undergraduate and graduate students, provides graduate student seed grants for biomolecular research, and is tightly integrated into future plans for a Bachelor of Science/Master of Science training program in bioinformatics at ISU.

"We provide expertise and instrumentation that is found nowhere else in Idaho," Thomas said. "And I'm proud of our role in education at ISU."

For more information on the Molecular Research Core Facility visit www.isu.edu/bios/MRCF