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The Biological Imaging Center (BIC) is located in the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and is under the guidance of Dr. Scott E. Fraser, who founded it in 1991. Dr. Fraser or Kristy Hilands, his Outreach Coordinator and Administrator, may be reached at the above address.


Mission

Since its inception, the mission of the Biological Imaging Center has been to develop new technologies for the imaging of biological structure and function. The technologies employed range from conventional light microscopy and laser scanning microscopy, to optical coherence tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) microscopy. As these technologies are refined, they are made available to the members of the Caltech research community. Thus, the Biological Imaging Center serves dual, complementary roles as a research center and as a user facility.

To fulfill its research mission, the Biological Imaging Center houses an interdisciplinary research group, encompassing researchers in disciplines ranging from applied physics to neurobiology. The overarching research goal is to apply technologies for the intravital imaging of cells and cellular processes in living tissues. Much of the work in the BIC is focused upon the study of tissue patterning in developing embryos, but recent efforts have moved the research towards models of disease as well. The diseases of primary interest have been Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease, with an increasing interest in Macular Degeneration and other eye diseases. In all of these varied research topics, there is a common theme: BIC researchers employ advanced imaging tools to follow events as they take place inside an intact organism. These methods continue to yield unique longitudinal data, as well as insightful tests of proposals made from molecular or cell culture data.


Organization

The Center is organized into three subgroups (light microscopy, MRI, chemistry). Each sub-group acts as a focused research team, holding its own meetings; weekly Center meetings help co-ordinate the sub-groups. Each sub-group is no further than three rooms away from the other two. Common equipment rooms, housing components important to all sub-groups, and a shared coffee/conference room bring researchers into contact on an ongoing basis. This permits a cross-fertilization that facilitates the development of new technologies. For example, the chemists developing new reagents and the researchers developing new imaging equipment cannot escape from interacting with the biologists that will use them.

In its service role, the Biological Imaging Center offers outside users a variety of tools for imaging, image processing, presentation and analysis. There has been a surge in interest in analysis tools, and we have expanded both the software packages and number of workstations to meet this demand. There are no charges for the use of the facility by academic scientists, other than per-item charges for expendable supplies.

Use of the facilities continues to be strong. In the past year we have had nearly 150 users drawn from 46 labs from five divisions at Caltech. In addition, we continue to host outside laboratories sending researchers to use the Center. The most popular instruments are in use almost around the clock.