Past Awards: 2018

The following are brief descriptions of the projects selected for Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards in 2018. These awards are designed to facilitate interdisciplinary partnerships and strengthen the University’s research infrastructure. One-to-one matching funds from the collaborating colleges, institutes and/or centers were required for funding eligibility.

Achieving New Imaging Capabilities in a 10.5 Tesla MR scanner

Kamil Ugurbill, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

Magnetic resonance techniques play an indispensable role in biomedical research. Access to this technology is provided for the entire University of Minnesota community by CMRR through its unique instrumentation and expertise. This request is for significantly improving the imaging capabilities and the usability of the most advanced MRI system recently established in CMRR, the 10.5 Tesla scanner, the highest available magnetic field for human imaging.

10.5 Tesla has been recognized as a critical tool in NIH’s BRAIN Initiative with a recently funded (priority score 11) U01 grant. It plays a central role in a recent NIH Biotechnology Research Resource grant submission to support of a plethora of biomedical applications, ranging from neuro- to musculoskeletal imaging, involving a large number of UMN investigators. 

However, the electronics of this system developed about a decade ago is inferior to the current technology. Siemens recently agreed to rectify this to enable new and unique measurement capabilities (such as 128 receive channels) and significantly improve the usability through better hardware integration and software. This upgrade is critical to enable CMRR investigators to exploit the advantages of this unique scanner in research and funding opportunities, plus enabling increased access by a large community of UMN researchers.

Acquisition of a 400MHz FT-NMR Spectrometer for Research in Chemistry/Biochemistry at UMN Morris

Nancy Carpenter, Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of Minnesota Morris Science & Math Division
Matching funds: UMM Academic Affairs, UMM Science & Math Division

The 17-year-old 300 MHz NMR spectrometer on the Morris campus is no longer dependable and is rapidly becoming obsolete. Replacement parts are currently sourced from abandoned instruments and will soon become unobtainable. NSF MRI proposals in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to replace the instrument were unsuccessful. As NMR is a fundamental tool used by UMM’s chemistry and physics faculty, UMM’s Division of Science & Mathematics proposes to decommission our current unit and replace it with a 400 MHz JEOL JNM-ECZ400S spectrometer. Reliable access to NMR will sustain our scholarly work in chemistry, physics and materials science with improved reliability and at lower operating expenses, while the upgrade to 400 MHz will dramatically improve our capability to conduct leading-edge research due to improvements in resolution, advanced techniques and efficiency. This replacement is necessary to ensure continuing progress in our research in photovoltaic materials, the intelligent design of ligands, carbohydrate synthesis, water purification, polymer science, optimization of new catalysts and fundamental research in hydrogen bonding and physics of NMR.

Acquisition of a State-of-the-Art High-Resolution X-ray Diffractometer for the UMN Characterization Facility

Chris Leighton, Chemical Engineering & Material Science, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Pharmacy, College of Science & Engineering

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is one of the premier methods for the characterization of materials. The UMN Characterization Facility (CharFac) thus operates an entire suite of XRD instruments, serving a broad, multi-collegiate user base. The high-resolution variant of XRD is particularly important, enabling characterization of highly perfect materials, such as single crystals and epitaxial films. These materials are ubiquitous in science and technology, forming the basis for collaborative interdisciplinary research by many at the U. The CharFac therefore operates a heavily-utilized high-resolution diffractometer. This tool is now 15 years old, however, and is suffering from a litany of increasingly problematic failures. With this award we propose to address this acute problem by not only replacing this tool, but doing so with a state-of-the-art instrument with extraordinary capabilities. An instrument ideally tailored to our specifications has been offered to us by Bruker for $492,288, reflecting a negotiated discount of $193,095. Enthusiasm for this acquisition is such that 11 PIs, 1 undergraduate program, 5 departments, 2 centers, and 3 colleges have pledged support, generating $291,500 in matching. We request $200,788 to complete this fundraising and reestablish the U as a center of excellence in the practice of high-resolution XRD.

A New GC-MS-Based Metabolomics Platform for UMN Researchers

Timothy Griffin, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics Med Regulatory Biochem, Medical School
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences, College of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resource Sciences, Medical School, College of Pharmacy, College of Science & Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine

This request is for a gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) system, for placement in the Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics (CMSP). GC-MS is a core platform for the analysis of biological molecules called metabolites, which are the products of the myriad of enzymes present in living systems. Large-scale analysis of metabolites, called metabolomics, provides a valuable snapshot of the state of the biochemical reactions underlying complex biological systems. Metabolite analysis impacts many fields of study -- including health and disease in animals and humans, plant and insect biology, analysis of environmental samples (e.g. water, soil), as well as characterization of molecules relevant to food science and biofuel production. UMN researchers from across these diverse fields of study utilize the CMSP for metabolomics, and have been hampered for the last 1.5 years due to a lack of an operational GC-MS system within the facility. This request seeks to solve this problem, through the purchase of a state-of-the-art GC-MS system, as well as necessary software to enable analysis of the high throughput data generated, enabling accurate identification and quantification of metabolites from complex samples. Placement of this instrument within the CMSP will ensure broad usage by the University research community.

Building on success: Expanding CATSS research facilities

Andrew Oxenham, Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
Matching Funds: AHC Shared Units, College of Education & Human Development, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science & Engineering

This proposal seeks to expand the research facilities and capabilities of the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science (CATSS) by renovating a vacant room adjacent to CATSS and installing a new electrically shielded and sound-attenuating booth that will house a new 64-channel electroencephalography (EEG) system and eye-tracking system, as well as our existing functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) system. This expansion is critical, given the intense usage of the current facilities that have led to them being typically fully booked more than two weeks in advance, with an average weekly usage of more than 65 hours. The facilities are used by researchers from across the University. Having been founded less than 3 years ago, CATSS has had a large positive impact on the University’s research, training, and outreach, having attracted a large 5-year NSF graduate training grant, as well as several new research collaborations with external industry and community partners. The four founding colleges of CATSS have recently committed to contributing towards CATSS operating expenses for another 3-year period. The proposed expansion will maintain this positive trajectory and ensure that CATSS is able to continue serving its community of University researchers efficiently in the years to come.

Implementation of a Microscopy Technology that Revolutionizes Biomedical & Engineering Research

Wei Zhang, Division of Basic Sciences, School of Dentistry
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences, School of Dentistry, Medical School, College of Science & Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine

Funding supports a direct electron detection camera for the F30 TEM at Characterization Facility, a consolidated core shared core facility at UMN Twin Cities. This cutting edge technology allows structural analysis of molecular machineries at atomic resolution using cryo-electron microscopy techniques. Having a direct electron detection camera on campus will benefit multiple faculty members across colleges who conduct biomedical and engineering research.

Infrastructure Support for Clinical Research at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research

Gulin Oz, Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, Medical School
Matching Funds: Medical School, College of Pharmacy

We request funds to support the salary of a research nurse to support clinical studies at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR). Until 2018, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) provided nursing services that supported CMRR studies but their revised structure now states that their employees (all are employed by University of Minnesota Physicians) may not work in non-UMP facilities. As a result, several externally funded studies have been left without the specialized nursing services needed to do their experiments at CMRR. Services provided by this research nurse include clinical assessments of research subjects with a medical condition and those who belong to a vulnerable population, such as children or elderly subjects, administration of intravenous drugs during, before and after MR scans, monitoring for adverse effects of administered drugs, collection of timed samples of blood and urine, creation and maintenance of a research environment that meets the specific medical requirements of subjects with chronic disease, and study coordination. These services will be utilized by investigators across the Medical School, School of Pharmacy and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Mach-1 Instrument for 3D Bioprinting Facility

Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, Ph.D., PEDS Blood/Marrow Transplant, Medical School
Matching Funds: Medical School, College of Science & Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine

We are requesting funds to upgrade and continue operating the 3D Bioprinting Facility that was opened in 2015 through this funding mechanism. Bioprinting is an automated and versatile technology to create 3D tissue constructs (cells and extracellular matrix). The facility currently houses 8 extrusion bioprinters (dual & multi-head), a laser-assisted bioprinter, a time-lapse microscope, incubators and sterile hoods. It is being used daily by several investigators, post-docs, grad students and undergrads. However, it requires the capability to test mechanical properties of the bioprinted constructs. This needs to be done in-house. This proposal requests funds to purchase a Mach-1 instrument from Biomomentum, that is a multiple-axis mechanical tester designed for compression, tension, shear, friction and torsion. It is specifically designed for soft tissues and materials such as cartilage, skin, collagen matrices and hydrogels. We also request funds to pay 0.5 FTE for the dedicated individual to operate/maintain the facility and assist with tissue construction experiments. Funds are required to pay for the EVOS II service contract. The 3D Bioprinting Facility has garnered a >10:1 return on the previous investment by the OVPR with new grants by several investigators. The ultimate goal is to enhance and maintain this facility at the forefront of bioprinting. Many new collaborations and projects have started because of this facility.

Mock Scanner Environment to Support Clinical and Pediatric Neuroimaging Research

Kathleen Thomas, Institute of Child Development, College of Education & Human Development
Matching funds: College of Education & Human Development, College of Liberal Arts, Medical School

Over the past decade, the University of Minnesota has emerged as a leader in pediatric and clinical neuroimaging. However, unlike other leading clinical imaging centers, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) does not have a functioning mock-scanner facility. Clinical populations and children may suffer from anxiety or claustrophobia, or simply be scared by the MRI environment. In addition, MRI research requires participants to lie extremely still in the scanner, sometimes for as long as 1-2 hours. The current proposal seeks to fund a state-of-the-art mock MRI scanner to accurately simulate the true scanner environment and serve as a training site to prepare participants for research MRI scans. The proposed system includes a physical scanner bore (tunnel) and motorized bed, a replica of the radio frequency head coil needed for brain imaging, hardware and software to track head motion and provide adaptive feedback to the participant to train movement compliance, and the identical audio-visual equipment and response devices used to present stimuli and collect behavioral responses in the scanning environment. A modern MRI simulator, available to users across multiple units, will help insure that the University of Minnesota remains at the forefront of the pediatric and clinical neuroimaging fields.

Obesity Prevention Center: Lending Library for Nutrition Data System for Research with Online Training

Lisa Harnack, Epidemiology and Community Health Division, School of Public Health
Matching funds: School of Public Health

The University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center (OPC) is requesting funding to support expansion and enhancement of the equipment and protocol lending library that is maintained by the Center. Equipment and protocols are lent freely to University faculty and students carrying out obesity-prevention related research. The library is used to supplement and enhance projects ranging from internally funded pilot studies to NIH trials. The provision of equipment has proven invaluable for cost effective resource utilization and has allowed rigorous measures to be collected that otherwise would have been unaffordable. The current inventory of library equipment includes the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR) 2017, food amount estimation tools, laptop computers, activity monitors, body composition analyzers, scales, stadiometers, skin fold calipers, and sphygmomanometers.

Infrastructure funds will be used to address the dietary assessment related needs of library users, and will include: 1) upgrading to NDSR 2018, 2) purchasing additional laptops to support dietary recall collection in community settings, 3) purchasing telephone headsets to support collection of dietary recalls over the telephone, and 4) development of online NDSR training modules so that faculty and students can rapidly readily learn how to conduct dietary recalls using NDSR.

Outside-the-"box": Infrastructure for DIY Genomics

Kenny Beckman, Ph.D., UMN Genomics Center, AHC Shared Units
Matching funds: Academic Health Center Shared Units, College of Biological Sciences, College of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resource Sciences, Medical School, College of Pharmacy, College of Science & Engineering

Over the past 20 years, the UMGC has brought cutting-edge genomics to the UMN, usually in the form of large, expensive instruments (known in the industry as “boxes”). Access has been offered via services, as opposed to user access, due to the instruments’ size, complexity, and cost. Although genomics continues to be powered by big and expensive “boxes”, a new breed of smaller, simpler, specialized instruments designed for individual PIs, have recently entered the market.

This new wave of instruments offers a novel opportunity for direct access. We propose to acquire a suite of such instruments, and make them available not only via a full-service model, but also via a tool-lending library model (“DIY Genomics”). Similar to the way in which other cores operate, DIY instruments will be accessed at kiosks within the UMGC, or in some cases, directly in the labs of users. The UMGC will provide training, and in case of in-lab rental, we will transport, set up, and remove devices from PI labs. We view this proposal as a start-up package for a model which – if popular and successful – can be scaled in a self-sustaining fashion in the future.

Platforms to Support Biomarker Discovery in the Biorepository and Laboratory Services Division of the UMN

Cole Drifka, Biorepository & Laboratory Services, Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Matching funds: AHC Shared Units, Medical School

This proposal is to upgrade biomarker staining and imaging capabilities within Biorepository and Laboratory Services (BLS). BLS provides centralized specimen procurement, processing, storage, histology, and imaging services to the University. In our services, we offer immunostaining and slide imaging. Currently, BLS supports ~24 histology projects/month, and immunostaining increased 61% between 2016 and 2017. Researchers who request histology services also typically request slide images for publication, quantitative analysis, and education. Slide imaging requests increased 205% between 2016 and 2017.

Immunostaining and imaging services rely on outdated platforms that have limited capabilities for current demands and will soon be unsupported by vendors. Moreover, despite BLS offering immunofluorescent staining, the current imaging platform does not offer fluorescent detection. In fact, no full slide imaging platform capable of both brightfield and fluorescence exists as a University shared resource. Therefore, BLS seeks to acquire two intelliPATH immunostainers and a Zeiss AxioScan imaging platform. IntelliPATHs will allow BLS to meet an increased volume of immunostaining requests. The AxioScan will enable both high-volume brightfield and fluorescent imaging coupled with quantitative analysis software. With these upgrades, BLS will offer enhanced end-to-end services spanning specimen procurement, staining, imaging, and quantification for collaborative biomarker discovery.

Reinvestment in the whole-animal in vivo imaging system to support interdisciplinary biological and biomedical research

Tsutomu Shimotori, Administration, UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Medical School, College of Pharmacology, UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering

A whole-animal fluorescence imaging system is an essential research tool for studying human disease and medical conditions using animal models. For example, it allows us to monitor disease progression, track disease phenotypes in specific tissues over time, and test effects of treatments or other manipulations that can lead to cure. It is also a versatile tool for general biological research to image particular areas of small animals and plants using fluorescence probes or endogenous luminescence in large and penetrating views where a fluorescence microscope is not suitable. Our IVIS Spectrum system, originally purchased in part with OVPR funds and located in the Research Instrumentation Laboratory on the Duluth campus, is the only such equipment in Duluth. It has been supporting our interdisciplinary biological and biomedical research for seven years, resulting in successful publication of journal articles and acquisition of external grants. During a recent service by PerkinElmer, we learned that its CCD camera, most important and expensive part, is aging and degrading and may fail at any time. Therefore, this grant application seeks funds to replace the CCD camera of our IVIS Spectrum system to prevent instrument downtime and interruption of ongoing research projects including NIH-funded ones.

Reinvestment and Upgrade of the UM Duluth Stable Isotope Analytical Facility

Kathryn Schreiner, Duluth Chemistry & Biochemistry, UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds
: UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering

The UMD Stable Isotope Analytical facility is an interdisciplinary analytical facility vital to the continuing work of faculty and researchers through the Swenson College of Science and Engineering (SCSE), the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), and multiple researchers outside of UMD. This facility was established with a successful NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant in 2003, and the instruments and equipment in the lab are now 15 years old. We request funds to 1. purchase a suite of new isotopic equipment, 2. refurbish existing equipment, and 3. support laboratory technician time to complete both of these efforts. The needs of this facility have grown significantly over the past 5 years as new faculty have been hired in SCSE and NRRI, and this laboratory upgrade is necessary to both support new research needs and increase throughput availability in the laboratory.

Scanning Electron Microscope and White Light Profilometer for University-shared AISOS space

Gilliane Monnier, Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts
Matching Funds: School of Dentistry, College of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resource Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science & Engineering

AISOS, the Advanced Imaging Service for Objects and Spaces, was created in CLA two years ago. It specializes in 2D and 3D imaging at the meso and macro scales. We now propose adding a microscopic component to the service, in the form of a tabletop SEM and a nanoscale profilometer.

The purpose of the SEM is to enable imaging and 3D surface characterization of objects difficult to study at high magnifications without the severe alteration (drying, cutting, polishing, carbon-coating) required by other SEMs on campus. The proposed SEM operates under variable pressure, providing outstanding high-magnification images and elemental information of large objects with complex topographies such as artifacts, insects, soil organic matter, and fungi. The white light non-contact 2D-3D confocal profilometer enables mapping of surfaces at a nanometer resolution. This new quantitative and portable technology has researchers from many schools keen to apply it to their work. It will enable them to quantify surfaces and wear on teeth, bone, artifacts, composite materials in dentistry, medical devices and in surface coating engineering. Both of these instruments are extremely user-friendly and will be valuable research tools useable by faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. They will help faculty leverage external funding for research; they will enable graduate students to carry out innovative, cutting-edge research; and they will provide key opportunities to train students.

Strategic Enhancement to the Mouse Behavior Core

Michael Benneyworth, Department of Neuroscience, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

The Mouse Behavior Core serves a vital role in the research community at the University of Minnesota by providing access to the critical tools of behavioral research and high quality technical and scientific support. This reduces the barriers for performing translational behavioral research to investigators across campus. In April 2016, we transitioned from a grant funded core to ISO core. In the nearly two years since that transition, we have seen steady growth in our user base. As our user base has grown, we have received inquiries for adding new experimental functionality. Awards like the OVPR research infrastructure grants are vital to our core, allowing us to improve testing throughput with increased capacity and stay relevant to all users by improving our capabilities with new testing services. Based on feedback from current users and prospective users we have identified three main areas that we are targeting for research infrastructure improvement; 1) motor function analysis, 2) advanced cognition testing, and 3) startle reflex. Targeting these three areas represents a strategic improvement we hope will further the core’s mission to provide high quality and state of the art testing services to the research community.

Thin Film Deposition Revitalization for the Minnesota Nano Center

Stephen Campbell, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Science & Engineering
Matching Funds: College of Science & Engineering

The Minnesota Nano Center (MNC) supports more than 400 users who collectively generate approximately $22M in externally funded research annually for the University. While users are heavily concentrated in the College of Science and Engineering, increasingly the user group includes engineers collaborating with a broad range of University faculty on technology approaches to discipline-specific problems. The majority of these users require the deposition of thin films to make their desired structures. The age of the equipment that MNC has to carry out these depositions ranges from 10 to more than 30 years old. When these systems break down, research performance can be severely impacted, degrading the faculty’s ability to complete the current research contract and making further awards less likely. This proposal would fund the replacement of components such as control electronics that are obsolete and cannot be serviced on these tools. Upgrading these tools will cost $116,000, but avoids the replacement system cost of about $2M.

Upgrade of the Hyperion Large-Scale Computer Cluster

Graham Candler, Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

The Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics Department runs a computer cluster with 280 nodes and 6720 cores. It is used by 102 researchers for large-scale parallel computational simulations. Users are primarily from AEM, but also include Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, and Economics. The cluster supports research in high-speed gas dynamics, atomistic studies of gas-surface interactions and solid mechanics, computational chemistry, and the study of economic dynamics. The cluster is intended for two types of calculations: large-scale, long-running simulations, and moderate-scale, rapid-turnaround runs. This enables different types of simulations than can be run at the Minnesota Supercomputing Center. The current cluster is five years old and desperately needs an upgrade (98 nodes are offline and many of those are dead). Therefore, we propose to decommission two racks (70 dead nodes) and replace them with new nodes based on AMD EPYC processors. Benchmarks show that these processors are approximately 8 times faster than the current processors, and they are particularly effective on memory-intensive applications, like most of the code run on the present cluster. The proposed upgrade would triple the performance of the current machine. Each rack costs approximately $200K, so the total cost would be $400K.

Viral Vector and Cloning Core

Kevin Wickman, Pharmacology, Medical School
Matching funds: AHC Shared Units, Medical School

The Viral Vector and Cloning Core (VVCC) is a new Internal Service Organization at the University of Minnesota. The goal of this service core is to help investigators develop and utilize powerful DNA and viral vector tools to enhance their research programs. The presence of a convenient and cost-effective custom DNA and viral vector core will facilitate the initiation and expansion of biomedical research projects, increase the impact of resultant publications, and enhance the prospects of securing external funding for research projects directed by investigators at the University of Minnesota. Support from the OVPR Research Infrastructure Investment Program is requested to help the VVCC purchase dedicated equipment needed to meet the increasing demands of an expanding client base, to offset personnel costs associated with VVCC services during this critical stage of core expansion, and to increase the visibility of this new service core within the local biomedical research community at the University of Minnesota.