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Funds Support Students with Flow Cytometer, Enhanced Undergraduate Learning and Research

Central Washington University Foundation has received $350,000 in grants to acquire a flow cytometer, to create new and updated biological sciences curriculum using flow cytometry, and to foster undergraduate research. The funds for the three-year program come from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and the Seattle Foundation.

The grants were acquired by Blaise Dondji, CWU biological sciences professor and four other biological sciences faculty: Holly Pinkart, Ian Quitadamo, Linda Raubeson, and Gabrielle Stryker. They collaborated with Margaret Reich, CWU Foundation staff member and director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, to ensure their success.

“The effort involved in the acquisition of this technology epitomizes the collaborative spirit of Central Washington University,” said Kirk Johnson, dean, College of the Sciences. “I wish to congratulate Dr. Dondji and his colleagues for their success in obtaining the instrument and to thank the W.M. Keck Foundation, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, and the Seattle Foundation for their generous support. Having a flow cytometer on our campus will not only allow us to conduct new lines of research but it will provide students with technological expertise readily transferable to their future careers.”

Flow cytometry (FCM) is a technology that simultaneously measures and analyzes multiple physical characteristics of single particles, usually cells, as they pass through a beam of light. FCM has applications in a diverse range of fields, including immunology, molecular biology, plant biology and marine biology. Its applications in medicine are vital to pathology, organ transplantation, tumor immunology, and chemotherapy.

“This project will be of great benefit to our students, the university, and the central Washington region as a whole,” said Dondji, program director. “It will transform the cell biology curriculum at Central. We will revise our programs to take advantage of the new equipment. This will give our students crucial research skills and increase their competitiveness for graduate schools and jobs.”

CWU President James Gaudino speaks to the importance of hands-on experience in education in this video

The program will also provide 15 summer fellowships to students and opportunities to attend conferences and present manuscripts.

Dondji and his colleagues will enhance classroom experience using FCM, expand undergraduate research, increase awareness of undergraduate research beyond CWU, provide essential skills for employment beyond graduation, and explore regional collaborations and contracting opportunities.

While the equipment will be housed in the biological sciences department, Dondji anticipates that its use will extend to other departments such as nutrition, public health, psychology and science education, and be a regional resource for others in central Washington.

“It is a very comprehensive program,” continued Dondji, who is working with Reich to develop relationships both within the CWU community, and throughout the region. “In addition to working institutions such as Yakima’s Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences and the Kittitas Valley Healthcare Hospital, we will be able to develop new partnerships that may result in contracting work that will engage CWU undergraduates.”

The W.M. Keck Foundation, Los Angeles, which contributed $250,000 for the project, is an American charitable foundation supporting scientific, engineering, and medical research in the United States. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Vancouver, Washington, which funded $89,000, provides grants and enrichment programs to non-profit organizations that seek to strengthen the region's educational, spiritual, and cultural base. The Seattle Foundation, which provided $5,000, is one of the nation's largest community foundations, whose mission is to foster powerful and rewarding philanthropy.

PHOTO: Dr. Blaise Dondji teaching a lab course with students

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,