A concise history of the Electron Microscope Laboratory (EML) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) from its inception in the 1960s to the present; the first fifty years, compiled from a historical sketch recorded by Emeritus Physics Professor Robert Liefeld and reviewed by former Biology Professor and Chair, Marvin Bernstein.
The first electron microscope on the NMSU campus, a Philips EM75, was acquired in the early 1960s from a Boston hospital through the efforts of NMSU bacteriologist Professor Owen Weeks* (pictured right). It was housed in the Research Center (currently the Astronomy building) where it was maintained by technician Hans Mueller. In 1967, Bernhard E. F. Reiman from the Beaumont Army Hospital in El Paso, assisted operations and taught a course in electron microscopy at NMSU, and when the Research Center was disbanded in 1970, the microscope was relocated to Foster Hall (Department of Biology) where operation was resurrected in 1972 by Professors Robert Liefeld and Joseph LaPointe, with the idea that students in Physics 391 and Biology 406 could gain hands-on experience with electron microscopy techniques.
In 1977, a Siemens Elmiskop IA (pictured left) was transferred to NMSU from Sandia Corporation and with support from Associate Dean John Monagle and the Arts and Sciences Research Center. This first-class microscope was operated to great advantage by Professors LaPointe and Liefeld along with Ed Hoskins. This professional convergence, cemented by the technical expertise of retired engineer George Hain, marked the origin of the EML at NMSU.
The first scanning electron microscope (SEM) a Philips 501B (pictured right) was acquired in 1979 and electron microscopist Hank Adams was hired to operate the facility. Much credit for the successes of the EML during the 1980s and 1990s is due to his technical capabilities and the direction of Dr. LaPointe as well as many faculty in the natural sciences and engineering who utilized microscopic imaging in their pioneering research. An x-ray microanalysis accessory was added to the SEM in 1982, and in 1987 a major research instrumentation grant supported the purchase of a powerful new Hitachi 7000 scanning-transmission electron microscope (pictured left). In 1995, another instrumentation grant was won by faculty to purchase a Hitachi 3200 SEM with a Kevex x-ray microanalysis system.
With the sudden death of Professor LaPointe (pictured right, instructing students) in 1993, retirement of Professor Liefeld and departure of Hank Adams, a new director was hired in 1999, Dr. Soumitra Goshroy, who moved the facility in 2000 from Foster Hall to the specially designed microscope platform in the new Center for Sustainable Development of Arid Lands, Skeen Hall, and in 2006 another major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) was funded for the purchase of the current transmission and scanning electron microscopes. An interim director, Dr. Rebecca Creamer in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science, operated the facility until the current full-time director, Dr. Peter Cooke arrived in 2009.
A major instrumentation grant from the NSF awarded to faculty in Biology supported the purchase of a Leica Microsystems laser-scanning confocal microscope in 2010 and another NSF award in 2012 to faculty in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry-Biochemistry for a revolutionary-type of atomic force microscope from Bruker Nano-surfaces, rounding out the current list of microscopes in the Skeen Hall facility, leading to the name change from EML to the more inclusive moniker, MICS, reflecting the new types of microscopes added to the list of imaging instruments, all managed and administered through the Office of the Vice President for Research, Dr. Vimal Chaitanya.
*Dr. Weeks, a faculty member at NMSU during the 1960s and 1970s, is memorialized through the Owen B. Weeks Graduate Research Award and further honored scientifically for his contributions to microbiology by the naming of two genera of microbes, Owenweeksia sp. and Weeksellsa sp.