Cryostat to support behavioral neuroscience research

Project Title: Cryostat to support behavioral neuroscience research

Project Lead's Name: Anna Radke

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-6941

Project Lead's Division: CAS

Primary Department: Psychology

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Jennifer Quinn,
  • Matthew McMurray,

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal: Psychology

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 86

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 6

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: The behavioral neuroscience (BNS) laboratories are run by faculty members Drs. Matthew McMurray, Jennifer Quinn, and Anna Radke. We use animal models (rats and mice) to explore the neural mechanisms of learning and memory, emotion, reward and motivation, and decision making. Collectively, our research laboratories support approximately 30 undergraduate students conducting independent research projects and 4-6 graduate students working on masters and PhD theses each year. We also support undergraduate research in three Psychology courses – Advanced Biopsychology (PSY351), Broadening Undergraduate Research Participation in Behavioral Neuroscience (BURP-BN; PSY320), and the First Year Research Experience (FYRE). Histological analysis of brain tissue is a critical component of research in all three laboratories and the success of student research projects is dependent on this method. In brief, students use a cryostat to freeze brain tissue and cut it into thin slices for analysis. Our current cryostat is a Leica CM1850, bought in refurbished condition in 2008 with Dr. Jennifer Quinn’s startup funds. Over the past year, the cryostat has repeatedly failed and required service. Student research has been put on hold on multiple occasions so repairs could be made. Currently, the cryostat is not functioning and attempts to repair it (by Michael Weeks and Jayson Alexander from the Miami University Instrumentation Laboratory) have been unsuccessful.

To solve the problem of our malfunctioning cryostat, we will purchase a new unit. We have selected a Cryostar NX50 cryostat from ThermoFisher Scientific. This is a manual model designed to meet the needs of a standard laboratory. This new piece of equipment will quicken the pace of research in the Behavioral Neuroscience laboratories and relieve pressure on students whose projects and theses depend on this critical piece of equipment.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: The research opportunities offered by the Behavioral Neuroscience laboratories benefit student outcomes in a significant way. Over the past 5 years, students from our laboratories and affiliated courses have earned numerous accolades and achievements. 58 students have received internal awards such as Undergraduate Research Awards, Undergraduate Summer Scholars, Dean’s Scholarships, and Doctoral Undergraduate Opportunity Scholarships. Another 4 students have received external awards for their research accomplishments. In this time period, our laboratories have published 21 peer-reviewed research articles, authored 43 abstracts presented at national conferences, and been awarded 10 internal and 1 external research grants. 39 of our students have been admitted to graduate or professional schools. Without a functioning cryostat, the laboratories will see a significant reduction in research productivity and these outcomes will become unattainable for our students.

Additionally, the experimental techniques supported by the cryostat involve innovative technologies that are only available to students because of this equipment. Specifically, our labs are using technologies such as chemogenetics to manipulate the function of neurons and in vivo electrophysiology to record neuronal activity during behavior. The cryostat is used to section brains from animals in which these technologies have been employed and visualize their effectiveness. Use of these innovative technologies allows us to explore previously unanswered research questions and enhances the ability of our research programs to compete for funding at a federal level. In summary, access to these powerful, innovative techniques has significant benefit to student researchers at Miami University.

How will you assess the success of the project: The most direct, short-term measure of success will be the number of undergraduate and graduate students completing independent research projects and theses using the requested equipment. Other long-term indicators of success will be available, such as journal articles published, abstracts presented at national conferences, and grant funding awarded.


Total Amount Requested: $32,759.16

Is this a multi-year request: No