Wetzel is one of a handful of people who has operated an electron
three scientists operate the expensive scope at Hamilton's Rocky
Mountain Laboratories. And they are the core facility for labs in
Hamilton and in Bethesda, Md., both part of the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that performs primary research
on the world's most infectious diseases.
week was like being at Disneyland for Wetzel and his peers as they
toured the RML facility and heard first hand about the research
being done by Montana scientists.
incredible," Wetzel said. "I just love it. I'm a lab rat
anyway, but this stuff is great."
Blackfeet tribe descendant, Wetzel is a member of a national organization
that promotes the study of science and engineering in Native American
communities. Wetzel was one of seven students from the University
of Montana and tribal colleges who broadened their exposure to science
with an afternoon at RML, a well-guarded facility that houses research
on diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and chronic wasting disease.
by microscopic scientist Beth Fischer, the students sat at a $300,000
electron microscope to admire the formation of cells in streptococci
bacterium. They also looked at a spider.
electron microscope can open up the inside of a cell so the onlooker
can start seeing things on the atomic level, Fischer said. She explained
how a virus needs to be magnified about 100,000 times to be seen,
and with its short wave lengths, the electronic microscope provides
a lot more definition than a normal light microscope.
me it's just so much fun," she said. "It's like scuba
diving because you get to see a lot of stuff that other people don't
stayed looking at the sample in the microscope well after his peers
moved on to another room in the lab. He was clearly excited about
what he was seeing.
thought since we have such great science in our back yard, why not
set up tours in our own region," said Flo Gardipee, president
of the student chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering
Society. "We wanted to establish a collaborative relationship
with the lab and generate some interest in the important research
those scientists do."
group got an overview of the jobs available at RML and specific
scientific projects going on at the lab. Tom Schwan talked about
the significance of flea and tick borne diseases, and Olivia Steele-Mortimer
talked about salmonella.
who is a graduate student at the University of Montana, said the
tour opened a lot of eyes to how science work is really done. And
hopefully inspired students to continue their science study and
eventually get into hands-on research.
Americans are capable of being really good scientists," she
said. "I think this is really neat because things that hit
the news about Native Americans are about crime and how we do poorly
in school. This helps build a bridge between culture and science."