By Lynne Shackleford of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal
A $50,000 Duke Energy Foundation grant has transformed Room 235 of Limestone College's Hamrick Hall of Science into a modern crime scene investigation laboratory.
The new Duke Energy science lab is equipped with a comparison microscope, FlashGel system to study DNA, a full-body trauma mannequin, iPads and a 70-inch screen smart board, all of which were unveiled Tuesday morning.
Duke Energy awarded the grant to encourage female students to explore careers in science and technology, said George Acker, Duke Energy vice president for external affairs.
Jenelle Fortunato, a chemistry and biology major, and Heather Pachel, a biology major, demonstrated the comparison microscope for community leaders and the college's Board of Trustees as they toured the lab. Fortunato said the microscope allows students to compare hair samples from simulated crime scenes to determine whether the hair came from the victim or a suspect.
Before, students used multiple microscopes so they weren't able to view the samples at the same time.
"This microscope is the one we would use out in the field, so it's extremely useful," said Pachel, who plans to have a career in forensic science. "To be able to investigate evidence exactly the same way that crime scene investigators do now is valuable."
A new FlashGel system allows students to analyze DNA samples taken from a mock crime scene and get results, which display on a 70-inch screen, in about two minutes. Before, the same analysis would take about an hour, said Heather Brazell, who wants to become a veterinarian.
"We can now get results faster, and it's so beneficial," Brazell said. "We had a lot of downtime before, but now we'll get everything we need much quicker and then do our lab reports."
The school's athletic training program will also benefit from the grant with a 175-pound manikin the students call "Tom." Tom can simulate arm and leg fractures. He bleeds, and can be used to perform spine boards and CPR.
"He's amazing," said Taylor Padgett, who has plans to become an athletic trainer. "We practiced on ourselves before, which was extremely difficult. The manikin bleeds until we properly tape his wounds, and our instructors see first-hand if we can perform the right treatment."
An airway dummy allows students to open an obstructed airway or nasal passage. Before the dummy, students watched videos.
Limestone College President Walt Griffin said the new lab will allow the college to become a leader in recruiting females for science and technology careers, which are on the rise. Griffin said that in the 1950s, the college was known for its strong science department.