UNCG awarded first NSF major research instrumentation (MRI) grant

Posted on April 27, 2022

scientists work on instrument as man instructs
scientists work on instrument as man instructs
A team of scientists from UNCG participate in training on the micro-CT scanner.

An interdisciplinary team of scientists at UNC Greensboro has been awarded the university’s first National Science Foundation (NSF) major research instrumentation (MRI) grant – totaling $642,892 – to install a high-powered micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) machine.

The new X-ray based instrument, installed in March, will give scientists at UNCG and across the region the ability to produce high-resolution 3D images of both ancient and modern organisms.

Xray of two animal skeletons
A 3D scan produced by the new instrument, depicting two masked shrews (Sorex cinereus) that are part of an undergraduate study on changing brain mass in mammals.

“Essentially, the new micro-CT scanner allows us to ‘digitally dissect,’” said Dr. Bryan McLean, a UNCG biology professor and one of the grant’s principal investigators. “We can now see the three-dimensional internal anatomy of artifacts and organisms without destroying the objects.”

The scanner – a Nikon XT H 225 ST – is housed at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), a collaborative space between UNCG and N.C. A&T State University. The machine is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program, with a 30 percent cost match from UNCG of $275,525 (total $ 918,417).

Students and faculty in many disciplines and across institutions will benefit from the new technology, including archeologists, biologists, nanoscientists, and engineers.

The instrument also will be available to researchers across the Triad, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia, dramatically accelerating STEM research and training at institutions in these areas.

“These are highly competitive grants to receive,” said Dr. Terri Shelton, vice chancellor of research and engagement at UNCG. “The new micro-CT machine will open up new research and training opportunities not just at UNCG, but across the region.”

Story by Elizabeth Keri, College of Arts & Sciences
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Scan provided by Dr. Bryan McLean

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