Dordt College News

New molecular biology lab completed at Dordt College

February 4, 2010

Molecular Biology

Dr. Tony Jelsma has worked in research laboratories in England and Canada doing postdoctoral research. As a biology professor at Dordt College he wanted students to experience the excitement of a well-designed and properly equipped molecular biology lab. He’s excited to report that wish is now a reality.

The college hosted an open house for the facility in January, giving students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to check-out the makeover of four small rooms into one large, fully equipped laboratory. The new lab is for upper level molecular biology lab courses and student research projects, and will be used both during the school year and throughout the summer months.

A new piece of molecular biology equipment housed in the laboratory is a DNA Analysis System, which can perform DNA sequencing, DNA fingerprinting, and other molecular biology techniques. The laboratory is also equipped with incubators, thermal cyclers, electrophoresis equipment, and a high speed refrigerated centrifuge. A separate room houses cell culture incubators and a laminar flow hood for mammalian cell culture.

“This is an exciting time for us as students and faculty,” noted Dr. Duane Bajema, Dean for the Natural Sciences. The addition of a molecular biology and biotechnology emphasis in recent years has allowed Dordt graduates to specialize in the molecular and biochemical areas, as well as gain basic skills in manipulating bio-genetic and developmental systems.

Provost Erik Hoekstra described how collaboration, fresh ideas, and teamwork were used to convert previously underutilized space into a quality research area for a dozen student molecular biologists. Hoekstra said an herbarium was moved elsewhere to a larger space; an old photography dark room was replaced by a new one in the Ribbens Academic Complex; and a rarely used prep room and non-functioning electron microscope were dispensed of in making room for the new laboratory.

“It’s a fun place to work, with a pleasant, inviting ambience, space, and quality furnishings,” says Jelsma, who is chair of the biology department. “Having all our equipment in one room makes it much more convenient for student and faculty research.” He commended Dordt’s maintenance department for their hard work and craftsmanship in carrying out the renovation, specifically noting the carpentry of employees Vern Eekhoff and Stan Haak; the plumbing and gas line installation done by Brian Vander Stoep; and the electrical work of Brian Mellema.

Senior Josh Bowers remarked, “There’s a synergy in the lab, with students working together and helping each other. Any day of the week you’ll see people here working.” Bowers did a biotechnology internship at InnoVac biotechnology firm during the fall semester, and this semester is using Dordt’s DNA sequencing equipment to continue research on the production of vaccine antigens for dogs.

The new laboratory is located in the lower level of the Science and Technology Center. The center also has several teaching, research, and project labs, as well as facilities for maintaining animals, microbes, and plants, including a 3,700 square foot greenhouse adjoined by a horticulture lab.

For more information about science majors and emphases offered at Dordt, see

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