Research Infrastructure Investment Program: 2021 Awards

The following are brief descriptions of the projects (taken directly from the original proposals) selected for Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards in 2021. 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.

Building Clinical Investigation Center Infrastructure for Translational Research

Antonella Borgatti, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine
Matching funds: College of Veterinary Medicine

We are requesting funds to enhance the Clinical Investigation Center (CIC). The CIC is a crucial infrastructure that is unique across the Twin Cities Campus. It facilitates design and conduction of clinical studies involving client-owned animals, as well as preclinical/translational studies to develop new drugs, devices, procedures, and treatments. Importantly, the CIC provides both preclinical to clinical research support and promotes interdisciplinary/collaborative research across all academic departments in the CVM, health sciences schools, and other institutes. This new request will enhance the CIC infrastructure in three ways. First, funds will allow for updating and enhancing CIC space and equipment. This will improve both quality and efficiency of ongoing work, and, in turn, will increase capacity and attract new projects. Second, funds will be used to establish a targeted biobank focused on samples from veterinary patients, providing a new resource for investigators from the Masonic Cancer Center, and other researchers within and outside of the VMC. Third, funds will be used for computational support to build pipelines for data extraction from electronic medical records. Increased capacity and the ability to collect relevant information and samples will strengthen and create new partnerships with faculty across the University, maximizing our return on investment.

MNC Upgrade for Patterning Low-Volatility Materials

Stephen Campbell, Minnesota Nano Center, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

The Minnesota Nano Center (MNC) enables faculty and Minnesota companies to build micro- and nano-scale structures as a critical part of their research and development. Most of these processes entail depositing a thin film, applying a polymer mask, and using the mask to protect parts of the thin film while the unprotected areas are removed. The process can be repeated many times to build up the layers needed to make the desired device. The removal process is typically an etch step in which the exposed film is chemically converted from a solid to a gas or a liquid. As our users explore very advanced technologies such as quantum computing and spintronics, they find the materials cannot be chemically etched. Instead they must use a physical process called ion milling to remove the undesired material. The fundamental problem with milling is that it is not selective. Once the film is patterned, the milling starts to damage any underlying structures. As a result, most devices are destroyed. This proposal will add a secondary ion mass spectrometer to the ion mill to determine the composition of the material being milled and stop the milling process once the target material is fully eroded.

Duluth Imaging Center Upgrade

Ruifeng Cao, Biomedical Sciences-Duluth, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School, College of Pharmacy, UMD Academic Affairs, UMD Swenson College of Science & Engineering

Match funding is requested to replace and upgrade the confocal laser scanning microscope in the Duluth Imaging Center, which serves a number of funded investigators in Medical School and College of Pharmacy in Duluth, as well as faculty in Swenson College of Science and Engineering, UMD. A confocal laser scanning microscope offers several advantages over conventional widefield optical microscopy, including the ability to control depth of field, reduction of background information, and capability to collect serial optical sections from thick specimens. It is an essential piece of equipment for life sciences especially neuroscience, which is our current focus of research growth in Medical School and College of Pharmacy in Duluth. The current Zeiss LSM 710 is the only shared confocal laser scanning microscope on the Duluth campus and it was purchased nine years ago. Replacing and upgrading this equipment will allow current NIH, NSF and EPA funded projects to continue without interruptions by costly repairs and provide the base for recruitment and retention of new faculty in Neuroscience. The new microscope will have expanded capabilities to do fixed and live cell imaging, as well as the capacity to do multi-photon work with future add-ons. We have obtained matching funds from multiple sources across all relevant colleges on the Duluth campus.

Closed-loop neuromodulation system upgrade in the Non-invasive Neuromodulation Laboratories

Mo Chen, Psychiatry, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

In this application, we request $40,000.00 from the OVPR along with another $40,000.00 from the identified matching funders to upgrade the equipment at the Non-invasive Neuromodulation Laboratories (NNL). The equipment includes: an electroencephalography (EEG) data acquisition solution (a 64-channel active electrode amplifier with a high sampling rate of up to 20 kHz, a fast data streaming device, and a close-loop trigger generating device) for closed-loop EEG-guided brain excitability assessment and a real-time target machine to process EEG signal for closed-loop neuromodulation intervention (please refer to the attached Quotations for technical details). This proposed upgrade will enable real-time closed-loop EEG guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) which will improve the ability to investigate the pathophysiology of multiple neurological and psychiatric disorders, and enhance the ability to target neuromodulation intervention to the ideal neural network with a critical temporal selectivity. Real-time closed-loop EEG-TMS is emerging as the standard for the trending brain excitability assessment protocols and non-invasive neuromodulation intervention strategies. This equipment will advance neuromodulation research at UMN to the next level, enabling UMN to remain competitive among top research institutions.

Acquisition of a Quantum Design High-Magnetic-Field/Low-Temperature Physical Property Measurement System

Martin Greven, Physics & Astronomy, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Faculty Funds, College of Science & Engineering

Access to high magnetic fields and low temperatures is indispensable in modern materials research. For a R1 university with substantial depth and breadth in this area (eight departments, three centers, three colleges, two campuses), UMN is markedly inferior in this regard compared to peer institutions, as there exist no broad-use instruments with capabilities over 9 Tesla/under 1.8 Kelvin. We propose to address this problem by acquiring a 16-Tesla Quantum Design Physical Property Measurement System, an extremely versatile measurement platform for a wide range of materials properties (e.g., specific heat, magnetic susceptibility, electrical/thermal transport). The total cost including $15,000 for installation is $564,720, reflecting a negotiated discount of about 12%. Furthermore, leveraging SPA’s helium-recovery system, more than $70,000 will be saved compared to helium-free “dry” technology. The instrument offers the much-needed expansion of current capabilities: a maximum magnetic field of 16 T and a base temperature of 0.05 K, i.e., a field-to-temperature-ratio increase of nearly two orders of magnitude, from 5 T/K to 320 T/K. The system is of interest to more than a dozen faculty. We have secured $285,000 in matching, and request $279,720 to help establish the UMN as a center of excellence in the high-magnetic-field/low-temperature research.

Center for Immunology Equipment Renewal Application

Marc Jenkins, Microbiology, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

This proposal is for funds to replace aging equipment that is located in Center for Immunology (CFI)-designated laboratory space in WMBB and shared by CFI investigators. The CFI is a multi-departmental center that serves the research and education functions of an immunology department but does not receive the indirect cost dollars from its investigators grants. CFI is the strongest academic unit in the Medical School based on publication citation data. Funds are requested for aging core lab equipment including laminar flow tissue culture hoods, a gel illuminator, an ELISA plate reader, a high speed centrifuge, an orbital shaker, and an X-irradiator, all of which have exceeded their expected lifespans and many of which are now unserviceable. Funds are also requested for a new ultrasound imaging system to enhance mouse research in the CFI. The proposal is justified by the fact that CFI has not received significant institutional investment for equipment since it was formed 26 years ago. The requested funds will allow replacement of these fundamental pieces of equipment, which will otherwise fail in the near future and create setbacks for this productive research group.

Diversifying Science and Technology Education through Strategic Community Engagement

Anita Randolph, Neuropsychology, Medical School
Matching funds: Academic Clinical Affairs

As the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain solidifies itself as a world leader in research, education, and clinical intervention, it will rely on the Community Engagement and Education Core to build bridges with the community. The core aims to foster bidirectional communication, relay the community’s concerns to mold services, fast-track interventions to the community, and develop the next generation of underrepresented scientists. The Community Engagement and Education Core has identified numerous outreach programs across the University of Minnesota campus that aim to engage local youth, specifically those from underrepresented minority communities, in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). However, these programs plan, resource, and schedule independently in “silos”, resulting in a fragmented approach that may not sustain the University’s mission for outreach and may not provide standard methods to track return on investment and community engagement. This grant proposes a centralized infrastructure for community-based participatory research (CBPR) programs that provides CBPR training, supplies, scheduling, community relationship management, personnel support, and standardized assessment materials. Initially created by a collaboration across established neuroscience-focused outreach initiatives, this infrastructure will provide a blueprint for wider CBPR implementation.

Expanding UIC Core Facility Usage Metrics and Forecasting: A Blueprint for UMN Shared Research Facilities

Mark Sanders, University Imaging Center, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

Shared research facilities in the University of Minnesota system provide services, expertise, and instruments for high-quality research, teaching, training, and innovation. Some facilities are specific to their supporting groups; most are available on a fee-for-service basis to researchers both inside and outside the University. The University Imaging Centers is one of over 100 shared research facilities and provides services to hundreds of users across 50 units on and outside of the Twin Cities campus. Tracking usage, financial health, publications and grants are metrics that are common and important to monitor the return on investments to the University for all shared resource facilities. To that end, the UIC has begun to harness the power of the UMN invested software platforms (Elsevier’s Pure/UMN Experts, Tableau, Google, Analytics) to create a comprehensive set of reporting tools for 1) usage, 2) financial health, 3) publication tracking, and 4) grant data for monitoring, measuring, and reporting UIC performance. Once established, these tools and blueprints could be leveraged by shared research facilities across the UMN to enhance reporting critical for ongoing assessment and advocacy.

Replacement of aged workhorse SEMs with a state-of-the-art, institutional-impact SEM

Nick Seaton, Characterization Facility, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

One of the core methods in the Characterization Facility for a broad usership is Scanning Electron Microscopy, SEM. It provides imaging capabilities for many different sample types as investigated in the health sciences and other biological research as well as synthetic materials and geological samples. It also provides chemical and crystallographic information on these same samples. We are seeking to replace our two oldest SEM’s, which are reaching end of life (20+ years old), with one new system that will allow us to offer improved performance to our workshorse-SEM user base, which in FY19-21 included 75 unique PI’s from 20 different departments in 7 colleges. The new acquisition will extend our capabilities by enabling us to image non-conductive samples without an ultrathin coating for conductivity by using low vacuum technology ("variable pressure SEM"). The replacement of the two old SEMs with one new SEM will enable Charfac to reduce downtime from equipment failure due to age and allow us to reduce our associated costs including maintenance contracts (one replacing two). Its various state-of-art features will also improve training and provide several other enhancements long overdue in a"routine usage" SEM in the CharFac.

ArTeS [Art+Technology+Science] Collaborative Research Studio

Diane Willow, Art, College of Liberal Arts
Matching funds: Academic Affairs, College of Biological Sciences, College of Design, Equity & Diversity, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science & Engineering

ArTeS is an intercollegiate initiative that centers the arts in Art+Technology+Science collaborations. Our collaborative vision for ArTeS began with and will be sustainable with an equitable, inclusive network and exchange, among people, communities, and disciplines. To further our goal of realizing ArTeS as a catalyst for creative interdependence, we have received generous departmental approval to transform a space in Regis Center for Art into the ArTeS Collaborative Research Studio. This space will provide an intercollegiate context in which creativity, culture, equity, and justice are integral to research at the nexus of art, technology, and science. Designed to support a broad range of interdisciplinary research methodologies and modalities, this reconfigurable space will be reimagined to reflect each new research endeavor. The research infrastructure will consist of a versatile, electrified, and networked second-skin, seeded with technologies that support spatialized video, projection mapping, marker-less motion capture, responsive sensing, spatialized audio, immersive telepresence, virtual and augmented reality. While modelling an ecosystems research approach that engages faculty, community collaborators, graduate students, staff, and undergraduate research assistants, the research catalyzed by this space will shape a distinctive national ArTeS model, specific to UMN, that will guide our process of seeking significant national funding.