NDSU Provides TEM Training for the Workforce of Tomorrow

Dr. Scott Payne at the JEM-2100
Teaching students to use a modern TEM has never been easier thanks to the latest advances in technology. TEM training experience is becoming essential to the workforce of tomorrow, and there is no better platform than the tried-and-true LaB6 TEM geared towards traditional materials science R&D.
At North Dakota State University, the core microscopy facility houses a previous generation JEOL JEM-2100 LaB6 TEM that has served as a research tool for more than a decade. Six to ten groups of students use it throughout a typical year--approximately 100 researchers in the fields of pharmaceutical sciences, polymers and coatings, biochemistry, physics, and engineering.
The lab’s Director, Scott Payne, describes his goal: “When students move to the next step in their careers, they can hit the ground running and know the basics of TEM. The 2100 is a good teaching tool that’s not totally analog and not totally digital – we’re in that vintage so it really makes students think how optics work. They still have to turn knobs, so it engages them a lot more, rather than just pressing a button to focus and you’re good to go.”
Payne wants to create a few true microscopists among the graduates. “We try to make students very confident about what the tool does, how it works, and what it gives them. It’s more than just insert the sample and here’s the data. If they go on to a postdoc they need to know things like how sample prep affects output. I’ve heard back from a few students that they are really appreciative of how we do it.”
HRTEM1075 Multilamellar vesicle for drug delivery systems, Image courtesy of Dr Sanku Mallik Dept of Pharmaceutical Sciences NDSU
Most programs rely on Payne’s lab to do all their TEM work, encompassing a wide range of projects. “We do a lot more negative staining (for soft materials and biology) than we do sectioning. We have a strong pharmaceutical sciences program and there’s a push for cancer research and drug delivery. We look at drug delivery systems and image how they can be manipulated at the molecular level.”
The agricultural/engineering/coatings and polymeric materials programs use TEM to look at cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) or cellulose nanofibers (CNFs), nanomaterials extracted from agricultural residues of fast-growing crops or wood. Researchers plan to repurpose them as bio-based hydrogel polymers which could have applications in the biomedical field--wound dressings, drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, or other polymeric nanocomposites.
HRTEM26115 Cellulose Nanocrystals (CNCs) sample courtesy of Dr Long Jiang Mechanical Engineering Dept NDSU
While the JEM-2100 has been instrumental for hundreds of more traditional materials-science research projects at NDSU, it has been taking on a new purpose in the lab - this easy-to-use, workhorse TEM from an earlier generation is stepping into the future of biological research.