Beyond research opportunities with individual faculty members, the Microscope Facility supports courses across many departments in McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

Fundamentals of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (NSCI 251)

This is an introductory course required for all neuroscience majors, and it is taught twice per year (24 students/semester) by three Senior Personnel on this grant (Crocker, Ernstrom, and Spritzer). The laboratory component of the course currently uses electrophysiological techniques, fluorescent microscopy, and genetic model organisms to teach the principles of membrane excitability, neuronal structure, and synaptic signaling. In one lab exercise, students explore the site of synaptic vesicle release versus neuropeptide release using fluorescent markers in Drosophila larvae. Students also explore the axonal and dendritic processes in sensory and motor neurons in Drosophila larvae.

Biomedical Imaging (PHYS 241)

This course is a mid-level physics elective taught once per year by Michael Durst (co-PI), with an enrollment of 20 students. Besides physics majors, the course attracts students majoring in chemistry and molecular biology. Beginning with the study of geometrical optics, students explore the concepts of image formation by building a microscope from scratch. This topic facilitates learning resolution, aberration, diffraction, scattering, the point spread function (PSF), and deconvolution. After understanding these fundamental imaging concepts, students explore biomedical optics, including standard optical microscopes, fluorescence imaging, spectroscopy, fiber-optic endoscopes, and laser-scanning microscopes.

Animal Physiology (BIOL 370)

This is an upper course that fulfills elective requirements for both the biology and neuroscience majors (24-36 students/year). It is taught once per year by two Senior Personnel on this grant (Ernstrom and Spritzer). The course examines the bodily functions of animals using general physiological principles and a comparative approach. Weekly laboratory exercises emphasize experimental design, data analysis, and independent study using diverse methodological approaches. Specifically, students will analyze co-expression of androgen receptors and a marker of cell proliferation in rat brain tissue sections. Comparisons are made between castrated and intact male rats, with the hypothesis being that castration will reduce proliferation of cells that co-express the androgen receptor. Tissue sections could either be prepared by the students in the class (a rat surgery lab has already been implemented for the course), or prepared slides collected in Spritzer’s research lab could be used.

Methods in Systems Neuroscience (NSCI 425)

This is an upper level seminar course covering modern methods in neuroscience. It enrolls 15 students every other year and is taught by Amanda Crocker (co-PI). The topics covered include fluorescent labeling of tissue, confocal and two-photon imaging, electrophysiology, and optogenetics. Students read and discuss relevant articles, including many on microscopy. This microscope facility allows students to see the methods discussed in the class firsthand.

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