Facilities and Equipment

The department has the physical facilities and state-of-the-art equipment to allow students to be exposed to a variety of exciting and current techniques used in both laboratory and field studies. This exposure occurs routinely as an integral part of course labs and in independent student research.

The listing below offers the variety and type of specialized equipment available to students in course labs and in independent research.

Equipment for Cellular and Molecular Biology

The department has a long tradition of excellence in this area. Grants from the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Center have allowed us to update and increase our holdings of molecular and cellular instrumentation and to integrate these techniques in appropriate areas of our curriculum. Further idea of the scope of these facilities can be obtained by reading the descriptions of course laboratories.

Some of the types of equipment include:

  • Tissue and cell culture facilities
  • Electrophoresis equipment for nucleic acids or proteins
  • Multiple thermocyclers for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques
  • Equipment for mutagenic and anaerobic studies of microorganisms and developmental biology
  • Full complements of visible, UV and fluorescence microscopes
  • Departmental Microscopy Facility with live cell fluorescence, laser scanning confocal and scanning electron microscopes and associated equipment for preparation of histological samples located both in the microscopy lab and in the histology teaching lab
  • Macromolecular purification and analysis facilities including two FLPCs, two preparative ultracentrifuges, a chemiluminescence imaging system and a matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometer
  • Radioisotope license
  • Three walk-in cold rooms used specifically for biochemical analyses
  • Low temperature freezers for tissue and biochemical storage

Equipment and Field Sites for Studies of Organismal, Evolutionary and Ecological Biology

For those interested in organismal or ecological approaches to biology, the department is well-equipped, and we have access to a number of excellent field sites. For instance, the Harvard Forest located about 35 miles west of campus in Petersham, Mass., and numerous local lakes, streams, fields and woodlands. In addition to the usual sorts of equipment for preserving, measuring, and drying samples the department also possesses the following:

  • Greenhouses used to grow plants and certain animals in conjunction with field studies. A recent grant from the Sherman-Fairchild Foundation has increased the number of greenhouses to three and has improved access to them from the teaching labs.
  • Growth chambers in which a variety of organisms can be grown or tested in controlled environments.
  • Electrophoresis equipment for determination of genetic variability of natural populations.
  • Motorized jon boat and equipment for sampling of aquatic life and for making physical and chemical measurements of environmental conditions.
  • GIS-enabled computer lab
  • Oxygen and carbon dioxide analysis equipment all interfaced to computers; used to determine metabolism of humans and different animals under a variety of different conditions.
  • Anaerobic growth chamber for studies of bacteria.
  • Bioacoustics equipment for collection, measurement, and analysis of animal sounds (including recording equipment, computers and software for analysis, and sound pressure analysis equipment).
  • Scanning electron microscope for morphology studies.

Computing and Information Technology

The department has a long history of making use of computers in both its teaching and research, and faculty members have received a number of grants involving the use of computers in labs and for simulations. The College maintains these labs by replacing all equipment on an approximately three year cycle and software as needed. Each station possesses modeling, graphics, image analysis, and statistical software in addition to word processing and spreadsheet programs.

Whenever appropriate, teaching laboratories are equipped with computers that are used in data capture, analyses and simulations.