The students at Texas A&M University are in a state of euphoria. And why not? A top-notch Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer has been lowered into the opening of the biochemistry and biophysics building, putting the university in the league of major US research institutions.
The German-made instrument of a high-field 800 megahertz power was flown on a cargo plane with an engineer on board and was then transported to the University through a special-truck. It is expected to be fully operational by September 1.
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The NMR technique is the forerunner of most widely known MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging- used for medical purposes. Dr. Gregory Reinhart, the department head explained that while an MRI makes the images of human tissue for medical diagnostics, NMR makes the images at the molecular level for scientific exploration.
"This is a major step forward in the capability of the university in the general area of structural biology," said Reinhart, whose department collaborated with Texas AgriLife Research, a part of the Texas A&M System, to obtain the equipment.
Structural biology means looking at macromolecules which consist of hundreds or thousands of atoms and then deducing the way these are built and how they move.
Reinhart also added: "These macromolecules are important in disease research as well as for studying all biological problems, from plant growth control to waste management feedlot"
The new NMR which is worth $2.5 million is a new addition to already existing one 500 MHz and two 600 MHz NMRs. It is expected to complement the existing technique of electron microscopy and x-ray crystallography for structural biology studies at the university. All four will be operational, but now with the new arrival, results obtained will be relatively quicker and detailed.
The University also has plans to train Undergraduate and Postgraduate students to use the equipment as well as to process and interpret the data.