Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
(214) 768-7650
August 13, 2002


DALLAS (SMU) -- SMU's Department of Biological Sciences has a received a $1 million grant from NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison helped secure the grant for SMU.

The grant has enabled the department to hire several new faculty members and helped them establish modern laboratories for molecular biology research. It also has enabled the department to purchase several new pieces of specialized equipment.

"This grant is another step in the process of helping us build one of the truly excellent biological sciences programs," said Jasper Neel, dean of Dedman College.

New equipment to be purchased includes a confocal microscope that will allow researchers to isolate individual proteins from among the 50,000 proteins in a cell. Other equipment includes a fluorescence-activated cell sorter for the analysis of tagged cells within a population, an electron spin resonance spectrometer that will help scientists learn more about the structure of large proteins, and a microcomputer that the department will use to help analyze protein folding and protein-protein interactions.

"This equipment will enable us to do new things that we haven't been able to do before," said Larry Ruben, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Research in SMU's Department of Biological Sciences focuses on four key scientific areas: the ability of life to capture energy, the control of gene expression, the mechanisms of aging and how infectious agents affect cellular behavior.