New science facility to open 'really hot field'

A National Science Foundation grant of nearly $250,000 will create a new proteomics and mass spectrometry facility at SUNY Oswego that will open up opportunities for faculty and students in a growing field of scientific and medical research.

Proteomics—the study of all the proteins in a cell at any given time—is “a really hot, important field right now and becoming more and more important,” said Dr. Anthony Ouellette, the biology professor who is leading the project. “This is a good time to get this facility.”

His colleagues on the project are Dr. Webe Kadima, Dr. Martha Bruch, Dr. Casey Raymond and Dr. Kestutis Bendinskas from the chemistry department, and Dr. Al Lackey of the biology department.

Ouellette said that the new facility could be operational in Snygg Hall on campus as early as January.

Following the completion of the human genome project, proteomics has become a focus of medical and pharmaceutical research, with career opportunities for today’s students, Ouellette noted.

“To fully understand what’s going on in a cell, you need to be able to look at the proteins,” Ouellette said. “Most genes encode for proteins. Proteins are really the key.”

The mass spectrometer is a tool that helps to identify and analyze many kinds of molecules—biological, organic and inorganic. At Oswego, it will be used in biology, chemistry and biochemistry courses, in research by undergraduate students in these fields and graduate students in chemistry, and in research by faculty members.

Among the research projects first to use the new facility will be Ouellette’s study of cyanotoxins in local waterways, including Fulton’s Lake Neahtawanta, Bendinskas’ efforts to develop a simple test for the date rape drug GHB, Kadima’s study of the molecular mechanism of anti-diabetes compounds obtained from medicinal plants, Raymond’s investigation of clusters of the metallic element molybdenum, Bruch’s analysis of how an antibiotic works, and Lackey’s study of the genetic relatedness of deer mice populations from Manitoba to Tennessee.

Ouellette plans to make the facility available to area high school teachers and students, too. “We can devise cool experiments to drive home science concepts and techniques and excite high school students about becoming scientists,” he said. “I’d like to see high school classes come out here to meet us and to see some really cool instrumentation.”

The mass spectrometer will be the most significant equipment acquisition in the sciences at Oswego since the chemistry department purchased a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer with the aid of a $100,000 NSF grant nine years ago.

SUNY Oswego’s College of Arts and Sciences and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs are funding four years’ worth of expendable materials, including reagents, that the equipment uses in the process of analyzing molecules. They are also funding the imminent renovation of Rooms 329 to 331 of Snygg Hall to accommodate the new equipment.

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(Posted: Aug 25, 2004)