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Electron Microscopy Sciences

Illuminators, Magnifiers, Microscopes, & Graticles

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KEYNIGHTSEA / EMS KEY Award Winner 2019

The NIGHTSEA and Electron Microscopy Sciences (EMS) KEY Award is an annual equipment grant to an individual entering their first faculty position at a U. S. college or university. The KEY Award was introduced in 2015 and many excellent applications have been received.

This year's winner is Dr. Joshua Currie who started his new position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology at the University of Toronto in Canada.

Dr. Currie is researching the cellular and molecular basis of regeneration of complex tissues. Salamanders, including the Mexican axolotl, are able to regrow lost limbs and tails. The process is remarkably adaptable, producing just the right limb segments, perfectly scaled to the stump tissue regardless of the animal's size or where an injury occurs. During his time as a research associate at TU Dresden in Germany (under the tutelage of Prof. Elly Tanaka) he was a key contributor to using live imaging of Brainbow transgenic axolotls to identify which connective tissues build the blastema for regeneration, and the source zone from which they migrate. He documented distinct migratory and proliferative dynamics and discovered that the timing of dermal migration into the blastema biases contribute to skeleton of dermis, and that PDGF-BB is a connective tissue pro-migratory signal necessary for blastema formation. Dr. Currie's goal is to use his pioneering method of using "Limbow" axolotls to image individual cells during the process of regeneration, to understand how cells interpret molecular cues over space and time, to regenerate the correct amount of tissue. His hope is to uncover the axolotls' secrets, compare to what we learn in mammals' incomplete wound repair, and work towards improving therapies for human wound healing and regeneration.

He will receive

Dr. Currie's new SFA system will provide him with the capacity for fluorescence screening of animals and embryos under a conventional stereo microscope right in his vivarium. He will also use it to perform grafting experiments of fluorescent tissue onto non-fluorescent hosts, as well as use it as a teaching tool for trainees. Josh appreciates the portability of the system for bringing fluorescence to schools and Science Street Festivals such as Science Rendezvous. The Limbow axolotls can fluoresce multiple colors, and having interchangeable wavelength sets of the NIGHTSEA SFA will be useful in working with the variety of fluorescing axolotl tissues.

Past Award Winners

2018 KEY Award: Dr. Pierre-Paul Bitton, Memorial University of Newfoundland
2017 KEY Award: Dr. Kristen Gorman, California State University Chico
2016 KEY Award: Dr. Sarah Petersen, Kenyon College
2015 KEY Award: Dr. Robert Mitchell, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

About this award

Fluorescence is increasingly central to many fields of research, most notably in the life sciences, but also in other disciplines. New faculty start-up budgets are limited and fluorescence microscopy equipment can be very expensive. Immediately after the introduction of the economical NIGHTSEA Stereo Microscope Fluorescence Adapter (SFA) system, we realized that it was popular among researchers entering their first faculty position because it provides an economical way to implement a fluorescence capability at a reasonable cost.

NIGHTSEA founder Dr. Charles Mazel's R&D career owes much to the inspiration and support of many people. The KEY Award is a way of giving back to the community and honors several of those individuals.

According to Dr. Mazel:

'K' is for Dr. Les Kaufman, Professor of Biology at Boston University. I met Les when he was Director of Research at the New England Aquarium and I was just a SCUBA diver walking in off the street with a 35mm slide deck of photographs of fluorescing corals. His excitement and encouragement led me back to school to pursue research into the meaning of the phenomenon and ultimately to a rewarding research career.
'E' represents two people – Dr. Harold E. 'Doc' Edgerton of MIT and Dr. Thomas Eisner of Cornell University. I was privileged to know both of these great men. Doc was a pioneer in both high speed imaging and underwater search, and an inspiration to all who met him. Tom was a great entomologist, the 'father of chemical ecology', and absolutely brilliant at using photographic imagery to communicate his observations of nature and the novel scientific investigations that they inspired.
'Y' also represents two people – the remarkable husband and wife team of Drs. Charlie and Clarice Yentsch. I met this inspirational pair of scientists when I entered my PhD program, and Charlie was on my thesis committee. I was privileged to spend a summer conducting research at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, which they founded, and working side by side with them on numerous field projects.

Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Currie! The 2020 edition of the KEY Award will be announced in January.

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