Dr. Gerald Schlink saw an opportunity, so he called Steve Russell at Joplin’s Joseph Newman Innovation Center.

Dr. Gerald Schlink saw an opportunity, so he called Steve Russell at Joplin’s Joseph Newman Innovation Center.
That opportunity, a DNA lab on campus and a partnership with the Center, got a green light Friday by the Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors.
Schlink – a professor of biology and environmental health at MSSU – proposed to consolidate the research equipment located in various spots in Reynolds Hall into one location. He said that the student research lab on the second floor of Reynolds Hall doesn’t get much use and would make an ideal spot for the DNA lab.
The testing equipment, he said, is all run by software from a computer lab.
“Students will learn how to operate the equipment and then prepare samples in the lab,” he said. “They’ll use the machinery, set the parameters and then analyze the results.”
By working with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Joseph Newman Innovation Center, Schlink said the DNA lab could become a valuable community asset as well as a learning tool for Missouri Southern students.
“We can do workshops with local companies who could be using DNA analysis as part of their quality control programs,” he said. “We can train people in that science so they can take it back to their respective industries.
“For instance, the food industry tests for bacteria by conventional methods using petri dishes and looking for colonies. With DNA testing, it takes hours instead of days, and it’s just as exact.”
The DNA lab would also serve as a recruitment tool for potential Missouri Southern students, he said, and could be used during science fairs for high-school students.
“Having a lab there shows prospective students that we are on the cutting edge of DNA technology and that Missouri Southern is the place to study if they want to enter a career in this industry,” he said.
Russell, executive director of the Newman Innovation Center, said training offered through the DNA lab could prove a valuable tool for food manufacturers.
“Joplin has about a dozen food manufacturers, and there are 60 in the nine-county region that employ about 8,000 people,” he said. “We see a lot of opportunities.
“It will raise the DNA and life sciences opportunities in our region.”
Russell noted that economic development officials in Missouri have targeted three areas for growth: information technology, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.
“A DNA lab at Missouri Southern hits two of those,” he said.
Additionally, Russell showed the board that current regional DNA analysis areas would set the MSSU lab apart. Russell said that St. Louis focuses on human and plant analysis, Columbia on human and animal analysis and Kansas City on newborn and animal analysis. Joplin would assume the duties of food safety analysis.
Schlink told the Board that the lab would require little more than some paint and moving the existing equipment to one location. He also said the lab would be incorporated into the existing curriculum, rather than requiring new courses.
After approval of the new lab, Russell told the Board that the Newman Innovation Center would provide $1,000 in seed money for the project.