DNA machine donation

Georgia Power Company Brunswick area manager Paulo Albuquerque, left, and College of Coastal Georgia president Michelle Johnston, right, look on as CCGA students Kelsey Dunman, left, and Amanda Crane demonstrate a PCR machine the college acquired through a grant from the Georgia Power Foundation.

College of Coastal Georgia is the proud owner of a new piece of technology that will significantly change the research opportunities for students on campus.

The college’s School of Arts and Sciences recently obtained a DNA amplifier machine that allows researchers to generate copies of DNA for study. The equipment’s technical name is a PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, machine.

“This instrument amplifies DNA in test tubes,” said Holly Nance, an assistant professor of biology at the college. “We had a traditional PCR instrument, which also does that, but in a qualitative way … This is quantitative. So it will give us more precise data.”

The machine is a diagnostic tool and will be used to teach students the value of quality control in the lab setting, Nance said. The DNA amplifier will also improve the quality of student research, she said.

A grant from the Georgia Power Foundation provided the funds to purchase the $15,000 machine. The grant included additional money to fund trips for students to present their research at conferences.

Paulo Albuquerque, area manager for Georgia Power, attended a presentation of the new machine Wednesday in one of the college’s labs. Albuquerque also serves on the college’s board of trustees, and he said this sort of local support is an investment in the future of the college and the future of the community.

“Having the vibrant college and the vibrant facilities, and then cutting-edge technology — that’s what’s going to drive kids to want to stay here,” he said. “And it will hopefully continue to bring new jobs here, new industry, and our community will continue to grow.”

Kelsey Dunman and Amanda Crane, both seniors at Coastal Georgia, demonstrated for Albuquerque and other college administrators how the machine works. Both students are currently conducting research projects in which the DNA amplifier will play a vital role.

“Both the projects they’re working on are about environmental issues or invasive species in our communities,” Nance said. “So the results will be interesting. Stay tuned.”

Dunman is studying how fish on Superfund sites may adapt to the on-site toxins. Crane is collecting water samples from local estuaries to determine if the highly-invasive lion fish is present in this area.

The new technology will be beneficial for her research, which has been ongoing for several years, Crane said.

“We’re going to be dealing with a sample that contains multiple organisms’ DNA,” Crane said. “I need to amplify one sample … This is going to give me that opportunity.”

The new machine allows the students to analyze their data on campus, rather than sending the data to another lab, Dunman said.

Michelle Johnston, president of the college, thanked Albuquerque for the support from the Georgia Power Foundation.

“Those kinds of things make the educational experience here very special, and we believe takes us a step above and beyond what other places do,” she said.

The grant is one of many ways the Georgia Power Foundation has provided support to the college.

“We want to continue to challenge other organizations to do the same thing Georgia Power is doing,” Albuquerque said. “… Come and continue to invest in the future of this area.”

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