Program is illuminating young science minds

Author: William G. Gilroy


During her time as a faculty member in the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Michelle Joyce has seen a lot of scientific equipment come and go. Rapid advances in scientific instrumentation have meant that a lot of equipment with a lot of quality miles to go, so to speak, sat unused in laboratories.

The daughter of a high school principal in Wheeling, W. Va., Joyce also had seen first-hand the challenges her father faced in trying to keep his school supplied with modern equipment for science education.

These twin experiences motivated Joyce to develop a program now known as ND LIGHTS — Laboratory Instrumentation Giving Hope to Students. A partnership between Notre Dame’s College of Science and Office of Sustainability and scientific supplier VWR, ND LIGHTS takes working instrumentation from retired or upgraded Notre Dame laboratories and donates it to schools in need of such equipment. In its first year of existence, the program donated more than $250,000 worth of instruments to six schools across the country.

Michelle Joyce (left) and teacher Andrea Krebs look at equipment to be donated as part of the ND LIGHTS program

The donations for the program come from individual research labs, centers and teaching laboratories and can include any laboratory equipment, including glassware and other accessories. If an individual donation seems more suited to a college setting it is directed there as happened in one case.

“The donation of such equipment seems like a natural endeavor for Notre Dame given the University’s commitment to service and sustainability,” Joyce said.

In addition to donating the equipment, the ND LIGHTS program develops a laboratory experiment for the recipient high school which is suited to the particular instrumentation. Teachers at recipient high schools travel to Notre Dame in June or July to receive training on both the equipment and the specific experiment. VWR donates all the accessories and reagents needed to perform the experiments to the high schools.


During its first year, the program provided a DNA sequencer, an arrayer, two microinjectors, two rotary evaporators, a UV/Vis Spectrophotometer, two pHmeters, a multimeter and volumetric flasks.

“Having good teaching tools in the laboratory to illustrate concepts learned in the classroom helps science come alive to students,” Joyce said.

As a Notre Dame alumna, Joyce recognized that the program would be an especially apt fit with Notre Dame’s Catholic character and mission. It enables the University to share its gifts with needy schools across the country and promotes sustainability, both principles of Catholic social teaching.

Contact: Michelle Joyce, 574-631-2786,