Knox student studies pottery in an archeology class.
A Knox student studies pottery in an archaeology class. Photo by Peter Bailley '74

A $188,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant will help students gain a more in-depth understanding of the world. Thanks to the efforts of faculty across five departments, students will now have access to a new scanning electron microscope (SEM) for use in class and training.

"Major kudos to Katherine Adelsberger (environmental studies), Esther Penick (neuroscience), Andrew F. Mehl (chemistry), and Nicholas J. Gidmark (biology)," said Mike Schneider, interim dean of the College, thanking a few of the many faculty who contributed to the grant proposal. "This $188,000 will buy a whole lot of microscope."

"The difference between an electron microscope and a regular light microscope is that you're limited as to how small you can look by the wavelength, and light has a way bigger wavelength than electron beams. It's the difference between 400 nanometers and 0.2," said Katie Adelsberger, lead writer for the grant, explaining the new instrument's significance.

In terms of her research, this is the difference between knowing that a rock has interesting layered structures and knowing that a rock was constructed, elemental layer by elemental layer, by thousands of years worth of hard-working microbes.

Students in environmental studies won't be the only ones who will get to take advantage of the new equipment; the SEM will be used in biology, chemistry, history (as part of a an archaeological site in Dhiban, Jordan), and neuroscience.