One of the most powerful fluorescence microscopes in the world has been built at La Trobe University Bendigo after a generous $300,000 donation from a local family.
The Bendigo family, who are choosing to remain anonymous, made the significant donation through La Trobe’s Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation (BTEAF).
“They are actually a family who have given very generously to the Bendigo campus over a series of years,” BTEAF chair Dr Penny Davies said. “This is just one part of a number of donations.”
“The microscope was something that we ran past them and said this is something that we need, would you be interested in funding this?” she said. “They jumped at the opportunity.”
Biophysicist at the university, Dr Donna Whelan, built the microscope out of components from all over the world, including a one-tonne table, five state-of-the-art lasers, and a $60,000 camera.
The microscope, which took months to build, is 1000 times more powerful than a regular fluorescence microscope and will assist with research into fundamental biology and DNA damaging diseases such as cancer.
“It’s a single molecule super resolution microscope, which allows us to zoom in on cells with much greater clarity and power than we usually would be able to,” Dr Whelan said.
Dr Whelan grew up in Bendigo but obtained her PhD at Monash University in Melbourne before working at a research hospital in New York.
She returned to Bendigo 12 months ago and said it is really special to be able to do the work of her dreams back in her hometown.
“If you had asked me to write a Christmas list about a year ago, it would have everything in that room on it,” she said. “Just to have a family donate the money and say you build what you think this campus needs, what your research needs, was hugely generous.”
“I think it’s worked out really well because we have just built so much functionality and flexibility into this microscope that I can’t think of how to make it better,” Dr Whelan said. “I’m sure I will, but right now it’s perfect.”
Head of the La Trobe University Bendigo Campus, Robert Stephenson, said this development would help make Bendigo a key centre for scientific research and education.
“It’s really exciting,” he said. “The opportunities to build on the world-class research that is already being done here is phenomenal.”
“It’s the only one in regional Victoria that I’m aware of and it will enable our researchers here to do things that have never been able to do before,” he said.
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