UMass Amherst Life Sciences Laboratories’ Light Microscopy Core Facility Designated a Nikon Center of Excellence

AMHERST, Mass. – The Light Microscopy Core Facility, housed in the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been designated as a Nikon Center of Excellence. A grand opening event was held May 8 to celebrate the facility, which is one of eight Nikon Centers of Excellence in the United States.

The microscopes that make up the core facility have been purchased by UMass Amherst with funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and furnished by Nikon at a discount. They will allow the campus and the surrounding region access to cutting-edge technology and foster economic development, according to James Chambers, director of the IALS Light Microscopy Core Facility.

 “This new equipment will allow for the exploration of uncharted research on diverse topics including cancer biology, reproductive science, neuroscience, microbiology, and polymer engineering,” said Chambers. “One of the great benefits of our facility is that the microscopes are all in one room, providing easy access to staff and other researchers.”

Chambers said that part of the mission of the facility and IALS is to foster collaborations between academics and industrial partners as well as bolster the training of the Massachusetts high-tech workforce. During the short time that the facility has been in operation, over 150 trainees have become users and have learned microscopy skills that they will carry on into future endeavors.

Chambers added that the impact of this new facility on the region and campus is already being felt through numerous new lines of research opening up for researchers who were once geographically isolated from some of the higher-end technology such as structured-illumination super-resolution microscopy. This technique allows the study of bacteria and cells at a level of detail not possible just a few years ago.

The Center of Excellence Designation from Nikon allows UMass Amherst to continue receiving discounts on purchases from Nikon, as well as supply scientists and students with expert training and technical support. Additionally, UMass will be able to beta test new equipment from Nikon before it becomes available on the market.

Researchers from both academic and industry, including those in the Boston region, can get access to the facility by emailing Chambers at LMF@umass.edu. Training in basic and advanced light microscopy as well as quantitative image analysis is quick and efficient and users can generally start collecting their own data within two hours. Staff are always present to help users by answering questions, providing suggestions or discussing new ideas. Additionally, facility staff can assist or work on their own acquiring data for clients.

A Nikon Center of Excellence (NCE) is a partnership and exchange of knowledge with selected research centers around the world that invest in Nikon advanced imaging instruments to provide young researchers access to the latest optical systems. The research centers benefit from Nikon technical knowledge and access to high-end research microscopes at a favorable cost. Nikon gains a showcase for its products and invaluable feedback from “up and coming” researchers who can share emerging applications and science in specific research areas. NCEs support their scientific communities by offering training courses on basic and advance light microscopy techniques and introducing the latest innovations in light microscopy and imaging.