$500K Gift Brings Advanced Microscope to Cal Poly Humboldt, Revolutionizing STEM Research

Mar, 2024
A photo of the Welsh family. From left to right: James F. Welsh, Suzanne Welsh Kathleen Welsh, Maureen Welsh.

When Dr. Kathleen Welsh asked her father, Emeritus Professor of Zoology James F. Welsh, how else she could support Cal Poly Humboldt, he told her to consider the students' hands-on learning experiences and access to advanced research equipment.

Thanks to a $500,000 gift from Kathleen, students will have access to a new Hitachi HT7800 transmission electron microscope (TEM) with digital imaging capability. This highly advanced microscope can magnify internal and external structures of biological cells, viruses, DNA, and non-biological materials up to 600,000x with a maximum resolution of 0.2 nanometers. This means that it can capture highly detailed images, especially of structures at the molecular or atomic level.

Humboldt will be one of the few institutions in the California State University system that will have a TEM available for its undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands-on experience in electron microscopy.

One day, Kathleen and James learned about a University of California Davis study co-authored by Cal Poly Humboldt alum Alana Chin (‘05, Wildlife, ‘08, Biology), Forestry professors Stephen Sillett and Lucy Kerhoulas and Marty Reed, an equipment technician for Humboldt’s College of Natural Resources & Sciences. With the help of Humboldt's student assistants, the study found that redwood trees have two types of leaves, one to absorb water and another to make food.

Throughout their study, the Humboldt faculty and students traveled over 500 miles roundtrip to UC Davis. After discovering that the researchers had to travel a long distance to conduct their research, Kathleen helped Humboldt acquire an upgraded TEM.

“It's remarkable that students and faculty had to travel hundreds of miles to use this technology. I imagined how much more they could discover if they had access to this microscope at Cal Poly Humboldt. Providing students access to world-class technology like the TEM will undoubtedly elevate their understanding as they pursue careers in the sciences,” Kathleen says.

The TEM microscope is expected to be available this August. Zoology Professor John Reiss says the microscope will aid in research projects on mouse stem cells and their differentiation, as well as the structure of bacterial parasites in ticks, giving students and faculty unparalleled access to data on the structure of organisms at the cellular level. The digital imaging capability of the new TEM will also make it easier to collect large quantities of data compared to the previous technology that relied on film negatives.

Kathleen's dedication to advancing education in STEM fields has always been at the core of her being. In addition to giving students access to advanced technology, Kathleen previously established the Dr. James F. Welsh Biology Scholarship with a $157,000 gift to create an endowment and fund scholarships for Biology, Botany, and Zoology students with four scholarships each year. 

Kathleen is inspired by her father, who was passionate about teaching and helping students.
James F. Welsh is known for being a wonderful and passionate professor during his tenure at Cal Poly Humboldt. For 27 years, he taught genetics, advised pre-med students, and helped young people, including Kathleen, find their passions in biological sciences and medicine.

“I enjoyed working with the students a lot during my time at Humboldt. As a pre-med adviser, I particularly enjoyed helping students get into medical school, which was surprising given that Humboldt was a small school with no national reputation at the time. It wasn't easy to get students into medical school, but I managed to do so. However, what kept me at Humboldt was my love for teaching and interacting with the students. I found teaching to be very fulfilling, and I loved being able to help students learn. Ultimately, teaching and working with students is what made my life at Humboldt so rewarding,” James says.

The new TEM will enhance students' hands-on learning experience at Humboldt and ensure they are prepared for careers in STEM fields. Consider contributing to the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation to help create brighter futures for Humboldt students.

The Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation is close to achieving its goal of raising $50 million. You can show your support by contributing to the Boldly Rising campaign, which aims to enhance access and create fresh opportunities for Humboldt students. If you wish to create a gift or require further details, please contact the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation at giving@humboldt.edu or (707) 826-5200.

Photo: From left to right: Emeritus Professor of Zoology James F. Welsh, Suzanne Welsh, Kathleen Welsh, Maureen Welsh.

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to correctly state that James F. Welsh is a Professor Emeritus of Zoology and not Wildlife, and to correctly reflect that the Dr. James F. Welsh Biology Scholarship provides four scholarships.