A new grant will allow students and faculty at Augustana College to perform the latest in DNA research.

The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust grant will allow faculty and students to perform next-generation DNA sequencing research. The college will use the $118,062 grant to purchase an Illumina MiniSeq instrument, Nanodrop spectrophotometer, refrigerated shaking incubator and necessary supplementary equipment and supplies. 

“It’s the kind of equipment you don’t find at an undergraduate institution,” said Dr. Kimberly Murphy, associate professor of biology. “It’s the kind of equipment you see at a DNA core sequencing center, like at the University of Iowa, where you have a medical school and graduate programs.”

Dr. Murphy co-led the grant request with Dr. Troy Larson, a member of the biology professional faculty and said she expects about 200 Augustana students will use the equipment each year. They’ll use it to conduct original scientific research as part of the biology department’s Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences. This evidence-based and best practice model moves away from a “cookbook”-style laboratory curriculum and toward a more authentic research experience that is typically not available at undergraduate institutions. 

“It’s an incredible opportunity for our students to use this kind of technology and gain skills that help answer a wide variety of questions within biology and other fields, such as environmental studies,” Dr. Murphy said. “This approach provides countless opportunities for asking and answering questions in the sciences and opens the door for authentic research experiences.” 

Dr. Larson said engaging students in Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences creates an environment that resembles a traditional apprenticeship. This means students learn by doing, work alongside experienced faculty members and gain hands-on experience in cutting-edge research. 

“Equipping our students with the latest DNA sequencing technology opens doors for them to become tomorrow’s scientific leaders,” said Dr. Larson. “This state-of-the-art equipment will allow them to conduct original research and develop invaluable skills that will prepare them for successful careers in a variety of fields.”