Three laboratories in UFV Abbotsford’s A building underwent extensive renovations over the summer, with new and improved equipment and furnishings installed. Among the changes, UFV’s DNA-handling facilities were given an upgrade.
The transformation was primarily motivated by safety concerns. In their pre-renovation state, the labs had become unable to meet the minimum safety standards. For example, the laminate on the old counter tops had chipped away in places, exposing the porous wood underneath, which could have potentially absorbed harmful pathogens sometimes handled in these labs. The new solid countertops will put an end to that problem permanently. Other benefits include increased storage space, and a cleaner appearance.
Dr. Allan Arndt, department head, associate professor of biology, explained some of the special equipment used in the labs.
He explained the procedures for extracting, processing, replicating, and storing DNA samples. Sequencing is outsourced, which is a common practice among biology labs.
Arndt also explained what the data gathered is used for; he gave examples of some research projects being pursued by faculty.
Dr. Lucy Lee, dean of the faculty of science, is using isolated fish cells to examine the effects of byproducts from tar sands development. Dr. Terry Starr is investigating the genetic causes behind Johne’s Disease, an affliction that causes lesions in the digestive tracts of cattle. In addition to the tangible benefits these research programs can yield, performing toxicity tests on cell cultures is a humane alternative to animal testing.
Advanced-level biology students work within the labs, like the ones that have been recently renovated, performing research duties under faculty direction, contributing to UFV’s scientific projects, while at the same time adding to their knowledge and experience as students.