Coming into Focus

Vincent Fredericks ’16 was a student in an introductory biology class when he first laid eyes on the Zeiss LSM700 confocal microscope in SUNY Oswego’s Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation.

“Here was this quarter of a million dollar machine,” Fredericks told an audience of more than 100 at the 2016 Quest Symposium, held in April. “I wanted to play with it.”

It would be a few years before Fredericks got his chance. The state-of-the-art microscope became the focus of Fredericks’ project to print three-dimensional copies of unicellular organisms so that his students at Nottingham High School in Syracuse may see how organic structures are formed.

Fredericks, an adolescence education and biology major who is student teaching, explained the complex process that started with a soupy green glop taken from a puddle outside of the Shineman building.

“The [confocal microscope] creates optical sections of tissues and unicellular organisms,” Fredericks said. “I wanted to take it step further. I wanted to go 3-D.”

Fredericks used the microscope to shoot a laser beam into the organism, which excites the chlorophyll in the cellular membrane. Next, an optical cross-section may be taken, and then exported as a sliced image at the thickness desired. These are edited and stacked, and ultimately a 3-D model is created for export to a 3-D printer.

“My next plan is to create a 3-D model that can be taken apart and put back together by my high school students,” he said. “It really provides the capability to make abstract concepts more concrete.”

Fredericks is just one of many students who use the complex microscope equipment for research and projects. In fact, the annual maintenance for the confocal microscope is approximately $15,000; this is supported through a fund established by James Seago, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biology who taught from 1968 to 2014, and his wife, Marilyn, who worked in the office of admissions until her retirement.

The Seagos’ gift was augmented by anonymous gifts, all with the intent of honoring their commitment to the equipment maintenance fund.

“We are pleased to know this fund will make certain that amazing opportunities for inquiry will continue at Oswego,” James Seago said.