New Laboratory in Biomedical Research Building to Advance Research in Diseases
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – MARCH 5, 2012 – Gerardo Rosas, 22, a senior chemistry and biology major and a Minority Biomedical Research Support, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement student from Brownsville, said the laboratory knowledge he is acquiring should help him as he pursues the medical field after graduating next year.
Rosas works 15 hours a week in the new Biomedical Research Building, a place where faculty members and students can work together on research tied to the region in diabetes, obesity, cancer and addiction.
Rosas works periodically with laboratory animals for protein extraction and analysis for epilepsy research. The extracted proteins are kept in a freezer set at minus 20 Celsius in the second floor laboratory of Dr. Emilio Garrido, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Gene Therapy.
Rosas said his data will be a small piece of a larger research publication on epilepsy.
“I like it because I have been here long enough to have my own project and I know what to do. I can tailor it with my time,” said Rosas, a graduate of Valley Christian High School.
Rosas sometimes works with Tarun Pandari, the university’s first Faculty Associate Vivarium Operations Manager who began work last October. Pandari is responsible for the livelihood of more than 200 rats and mice housed in the secured vivarium.
“I’m really happy,” said Pandari. “It’s my first job. I’m glad for this opportunity and that it opened up. It requires biology skills and managerial skills.”
The university is certified by the federal Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare to house rats and mice. Any other kinds of animals need approval from the United States Department of Agriculture.
“We have to make sure they are disease-free,” Pandari said about the animals. “They are so delicate.”
Pandari is responsible for putting newly ordered animals in quarantine for two weeks, washing their cages weekly with detergent and acid heated to 180 degrees, feeding and conducting once a week intellectual stimulation sessions using balls and a miniature track. Cages have filter systems to keep the vivarium odor-free.
“They need to be happy,” Pandari said about the animals. “If they are stressed it can manipulate the research results.”
The university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee monitor animal holding areas and ensure members of the campus community have sufficient training and are immunized for tuberculosis.
Pandari wants to get the vivarium certified by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International which is good for three-year periods. When successful, it will be the first time the university will have an accredited vivarium.
“It sets extraordinarily high standards for animal care and oversight,” said Dr. Eldon Nelson, Interim Dean of the College of Biomedical Sciences. “We feel the need now that our research and the number of animals has increased satisfactorily. We need to get this accreditation.”
The accreditation is also important because it ties into some grant opportunities from the National Institutes of Health, said Nelson.
Before the building opened last September, the animals and limited supplies of hay and food were kept in the Life and Health Science Building’s Biology Wing.
“In 2001, when Dr. (Luis) Colom (Vice President for Research) joined the university, he brought a million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health,” said Nelson. “His work involved the use of rats and mice. We didn’t have a place for rats and mice. We looked at several places: the Science, Engineering and Technology Building and the Life and Health Sciences Building, and found what could be described as a mop closet to house animals. It needed independent air conditioning, lighting and air flow.”
Rosas said he is glad to have a centralized space in Garrido’s laboratory to work. He said in the Biology Wing he had to walk to different laboratories which took time away from work and increased interaction with students who did not understand the work taking place.
“When you do research, you apply your knowledge from your classroom,” he said. “You are putting it to good use and see what you learn applies.”
The building also has another feature that is not seen by many people.
The windowless third floor is the university’s Emergency Operations Center used for manmade and natural disasters. It is also secured with a situation room, sleeping areas and a server room.
“It will make our employees feel more comfortable being in a structure that is built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane,” said Campus Police Chief John Cardoza. “Since it will be a fully functional emergency operations center, we will have infrastructure that we didn’t have at our previous facility that we can communicate to local and state authorities.”