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Monday, December 22, 2014

Cumberland County College professor shows the art in science

Written by Spencer Kent

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — When conducting his research in cell imagery, Dr. Robert Clark doesn’t just see cells and tissue — he sees art.

Recently, the Philadelphia International Airport displayed images that Clark — an award-winning professor at Cumberland County College — and staff at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school had captured while researching a disease called laminitis — a common but debilitating ailment in horses’ hoofs.

The exhibition — which concluded last week — was called Larger Than Life: Cells Made Visible from the American Society for Cell Biology, which had recently featured cell imagery created by research scientists from the Greater Philadelphia area.

While on a six month sabbatical studying the disease, Clark and the group of researchers realized that the beautiful images might engage people who might not otherwise be exposed to such work.

“I’d like them to be attracted to the beauty,“ Clark said. ”So that they can see studying tissue is an exciting and stimulating field."

Vivid lime green and orange-red patterns curving throughout a black background, the images are highly magnified pictures of the cells in horse’s infected hoof captured by a confocal microscope.

“The work that we do is quite beautiful and we went to engage the public and let the public know the work that is being done. It is a way of education people about the work that we do.”

Clark said the incredible aesthetic appeal of the images might shed light on the important research going on in the field and the disease of laminitis, which he noted is the second-most common reason horses are euthanized.

“It is a way to show young people that might catch their interest and then attract them into the biomedical veterinary research field,” he said.

Thea Clarke, director of communications at the American Society for Cell Biology, based in Bethesda, Maryland, said that she hoped people were impacted by the beauty of the images on display.

“We want people to be aware how our research works, how it is funded and how it is used for medical breakthroughs.”

She said she hoped it draws attention to the research being conducted and gets people to understand that funding for research should be increased and not cut.

Clark worked in collaboration with Hannah L. Galantino-Homer, senior research investigator at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center.

Clark, a 56-year-old Salem County resident, works in the field of experimental pathology and immunohistochemistry. He has been teaching at CCC for 24 years and is currently an associate professor in the STEM and Health Division.

In 2001, he was named New Jersey Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

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