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Biomolecular Chemistry Wins Oldest Centrifuge Contest

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The Oldest Centrifuge

View photos and information about the IEC Model PR-2 centrifuge

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Madison, Wisconsin - The ability to keep an aging centrifuge operating for more than a half-century has paid off to the tune of $44,000 for important research for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s biomolecular chemistry department.


Beckman Coulter Inc., developer and manufacturer of life-science research equipment, announced the department winner of the “Oldest Centrifuge Contest.” The prize, a new Avanti J-26S centrifuge, was delivered with much excitement on May 30.


The department’s winning centrifuge, which was dated to the late 1950s, was so old that the university didn’t have records for the equipment. With no purchase invoice or property information available, Melissa Harrison, assistant professor of biomolecular chemistry in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), went so far as to create a webpage to display evidence to make a case for the department’s centrifuge.


The Department of Biomolecular Chemistry's IEC PR-2 centrifuge dates to the late 1950s.Like any good scientist, she stayed undeterred by early troubles with missing paperwork and submitted the aged centrifuge to the contest based on what she had. Joe Oliva, senior instrument specialist for the School of Medicine and Public Health, then had some detective work to do when Harrison informed him their centrifuge was a finalist.


“We took the centrifuge apart, looking for something dated and we found an original wiring diagram and some other corroborative evidence, so we submitted it to Beckman,” said Oliva.


How old was the tattered and yellowed diagram he found? A revision note at the bottom of the diagram was dated Sept. 7, 1956.


“Joe did a whole bunch of research digging into ways to actually date the centrifuge,” said Harrison. “We have another very similar centrifuge manufactured from 1956-61, so we know it was probably built in the late 1950s, which is pretty darn old.”


“Centrifuges are definitely a workhorse instrument for biochemists, which is why we have probably one of the oldest ones because the department has been using centrifuges in research since the early '60s,” said Patricia Kiley, chair of the department. “One of the great things of having this new instrument is that it will be a boost to our research, especially at a time when federal funding for research is really being reduced.”


“We decided to take the concept of these long lasting and important pieces of equipment and turn it into a contest that we could use to create some excitement and get people some new equipment without having to spend precious research dollars, and in some way give back to the research community,” said Randy Lockner, marketing manager for centrifugation at Beckman Coulter, who was on site at the delivery. “We had a lot of fun with it and received hundreds of entries. The process of delivery is a truly rewarding part of this, seeing what this meant to the department was really gratifying.”

Date Published: 06/14/2013

News tag(s):  research

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Biomolecular Chemistry Wins Oldest Centrifuge Contest

Last updated: 03/27/2014
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