Kurt Williamson was hired for our Virology position in the 2008-2009 academic year. Viruses are small - about 100 times smaller than bacteria. So for Williamson's research, a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) is typically used to look at viruses. Unfortunately, the Biology Department's TEM, which is over 30 years old, broke down this past summer. Dr. Williamson has submitted an equipment grant to purchase a new, state-of-the -art TEM for the College. In the meantime, Williamson found a used TEM on eBay, of the same vintage as the old scope that recently failed - and he won the bid for $1,000! With help from many of the faculty and staff in the Biology department, including Eric Bradley, Tom Meier, John Griffin, Evguenia Orlova, Joe Scott, and Brandt Robertson (Applied Research Lab), and departmental financial support from our Chair, Liz Allison, Williamson was able to install the used TEM, hire external technical support, and get all systems up and runnning. He has recently produced images of a virus. We still need a modern, up-to-date TEM, but the editors of The Niche tip our hats to Williamson's persistence, especially since the study of viruses is of such interest in the field of biology.
Kurt Williamson's work with environmental viruses has already fit in well in the department, recently collaborating with Mark Forsyth and Margaret Saha looking at viruses that attack bacteria. Read more in the Ideation Magazine's story of the discovery of a bacteriophage found right on campus, Freshman discoveries: It came. Out of the muck of Crim Dell....
Last spring, Williamson also oversaw purchase of a new phosphoimager and gel scanner: the "Storm 485". The multi-functional instrument will be of use to a variety of lab groups using gel electrophoresis to separate proteins or DNA fragments, or groups using autoradiography. The Storm can capture digital images of gel separations that use blue fluorescence to detect samples - DNA or proteins. The phosphorimager capablities enable the detection of radioactively labeled samples, with higher sensitivity than conventional autoradiogrphy with X-ray film. The Storm is currently housed in the newest common lab room set up on the second floor of the ISC (formerly Rogers Hall) and is available to all faculty and student researchers in the department.
In unrelated news: a friendly, but ginormous virus was spotted in the halls outside the Williamson phage lab Friday, October 30, coincidentally the day before Halloween. Department Chair Liz Allison quickly adjusted to the new order, stating "I for one am happy to welcome our new viral overlords" .