Communication Home

Nancy Stevens, Ph.D.

Federal grant funds fossil preparation at OU-COM

Faculty member awarded $180,000 from NSF for specimen facility

By Matt Bates

November 11, 2009 

Nancy Stevens, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences at OU-COM, was recently awarded a grant for $180,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the creation of a university laboratory for fossil preparation and imaging.

“Having an in-house specimen preparation facility removes the most significant obstacle to my research productivity: the cost and delay of off-site specimen preparation,” Stevens says.

Paleobiology is a rapidly growing field, which Stevens attributes to the increasing interest in climate change and the related necessity to understand environmental trends over time. Despite this growth, Stevens explained, many paleobiology research projects face delays and increased expenses because fossils must be prepared off-site, at locations such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and Stony Brook University in New York.  

The new fossil services at Ohio University will be housed in existing laboratory space, with the grant paying for equipment and personnel. The facility, which will allow for the onsite preparation of nearly all specimens needed for research, will be available to faculty and students from many different academic units, including the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, and the Departments of Geology and Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.  

“Having a centralized facility for specimen preparation will also provide a significant opportunity for interaction, exchange of ideas, and for developing collaborative studies across different disciplines within paleobiology,” Stevens says.

To teach OHIO students about paleobiological research, Stevens—along with OU-COM assistant professors of biomedical sciences Patrick O’Connor, Ph.D., and Susan Williams, Ph.D., both co-principal investigators on the grant—plans to hold events in the facility for undergraduates. 

According to Stevens, the facility will be used both for preparing specimens, which involves removing fossils from surrounding rock, and for various imaging techniques, including 3-D imaging, microscopic imaging and the assembly of photographic plates for publication.

Along with equipment, the grant will pay for a full-time specimen preparation technician, whose work will speed up the research process, Stevens explains.

The funding for this facility comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed earlier this year and is part of an NSF program that only awards laboratory funding to early career scientists.

This government funding augments the university’s current research capabilities without detracting from existing university initiatives, according to Stevens. “Ohio University and OU-COM are both strong proponents of research, so we have been able to leverage facilities and personnel that already exist to go after funding opportunities that will allow us to do more.”


  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
Copyright Ohio University (Home)
Last updated: 01/28/2016