Research Infrastructure Investment Program: 2023 Awards

The following are brief descriptions of the projects (taken directly from the original proposals) selected for Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards in 2023. 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.

Equipment Request for an Isothermal Titration Calorimeter

Courtney Aldrich, Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development, College of Pharmacy
Matching funds: Pharmacy

This equipment grant is requesting funds for the purchase of an isothermal titration microcalorimeter (ITC) for the determination of ligand receptor dissociation constants and thermodynamic parameters by a group of very productive NIH and NSF-funded researchers in chemistry, medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, chemical engineering and material sciences, and medicine. These investigators are involved in NIH and NSF funded research that deals either with the design and synthesis of small molecules for potential drug targets or the utilization of small molecule ligands to study biological processes associated with various diseases. Their research addresses such diverse areas as male contraceptives, antibacterial drug resistance, heart failure, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, carcinogenesis, and HIV. This instrument will replace a 10-year instrument, which is no longer functioning and has exceeded its useful lifetime (the previous instrument logged more than 10,000 hours of service). The Institute of Therapeutics and Drug Discovery (ITDD) will maintain the instrument, provide user training of the ITC, and advertise the instrument availability to UMN users.

Purchase of an Aquilos 2 Focused Ion Beam Transmission Electron Microscope for Tomographic Applications

David Bernlohr, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, College of Biological Sciences
Matching funds: Academic Clinical Affairs

We propose acquiring an Aquilos2, a cryogenic Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscope (cryoFIB/SEM) for the analysis of materials, surfaces and biologics (cells, organoids, and tissues) by cryoelectron microscopy. This equipment will be the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota and will expand the range of samples that can be imaged at high-resolution. CryoFIB/SEM uses an ion beam to create ultra-thin slices of samples can then be examined under a cryotransmission electron microscope to study the structure and composition of samples at very high resolution. CryoFIB is particularly useful for studying biological samples as it can preserve the delicate structure of cells and tissues. This purchase will fill a statewide technological gap that restricts the study of samples in their native context and at the molecular level. This purchase will also provide training opportunities for University of Minnesota students and staff on cryoFIB/SEM imaging thereby enhancing their career trajectory. The cryoFIB will be placed into the College of Science and Engineering Characterization Facility ISO so as to provide ready access to both U of MN and external users. Overall, this purchase will enable high-quality research and scholarship activities that enables the research and teaching mission of our University.

MALDI/TOF-MS for Protein, Polymer and Microbial Characterization and Identification

Joe Dalluge PhD, Chemistry Administration, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Biological Sciences, Medical School, Pharmacy, Faculty Funds

The proposed MALDI/TOF mass spectrometer will replace a 10-year-old, increasingly unreliable Sciex 5800 MALDI/TOF instrument no longer supported by the manufacturer. MALDI/TOF-MS has existed in the CHEM Mass Spectrometry Laboratory for over 20 years and has been (until recent system failures) employed by over 150 users from UM, other academic institutions, and corporations. In addition to providing capability for rapid structural characterization of a range of chemical species from small molecules to peptides, proteins, and synthetic polymers, the proposed instrument will establish the capability for rapid microbial identification by MALDI-MS, a technology that does not currently exist at UM. The combination of high-speed, high-sensitivity MALDI/MS capability will provide protein and polymer structure confirmation, compound screening, and rapid microbial identification on an open-access platform to externally funded principal investigators representing more than 6 departments, 4 colleges, The Medical School, and 4 interdisciplinary centers at UM. Additional researchers will be recruited assuring long-term impact of the proposed instrument in advancing research at UM and beyond. The requested platform will foster interdisciplinary and intercollegiate collaboration that promises to advance our understanding of the chemical and microbial mechanisms of disease, and accelerate development of new materials and next-generation therapeutic, diagnostic, and environmental agents.

Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography to Improve Throughput for Targeted Metabolomics for UofM Investigators

Candace Guerrero, Mass Spectrometry Protemic, College of Biological Sciences
Matching funds: Biological Sciences

The Center for Metabolomics and Proteomics (CMSP), previously the Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics, is seeking funds to purchase a state-of -the-art UHPLC to update/expand our LC-MS services provided to UofM investigators. Targeted metabolomics services are a frequent request from UofM researchers investigating how metabolite dynamics play a role in biological physiology. To support demand, the CMSP is expanding the role we play in metabolomics by updating and building new sensitive, robust, reproducible, and cost-effective workflows desired by the scientific community. To do so, the CMSP would like to replace aging instrumentation, which cannot meet the demands of UofM researchers. The CMSP is requesting a UHPLC with considerable advancements in technology that will impact services critical to UMN researchers: 1) hypothesis driven targeted metabolomics; 2) providing biocrates’ metabolomic profiling technology; 3) “discovery” metabolomics acquired with targeted LC-MS. This technology will allow greater understanding of the scientific questions researchers ask by improving our understanding of basic biology and clinical studies of biomedical importance.

Investing in Growth Chambers to Foster Innovative Plant Research

Joleen Hadrich, Plant Growth Facility, College of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources Science
Matching funds: MN Agricultural Experiment Station

The MAES manages 144 growth chambers on the St. Paul campus utilized by more than 30 researchers annually from CFANS, CBS, CSE, CVM, and USDA to investigate plant growth and development of diverse plant species. The plant growth chambers are a shared resource managed by the MAES through an ISO rate, which limits MAES' ability to replace units as they age. Currently ? of the units are Conviron E15 chambers, which are no longer manufactured. Maintenance for these units is difficult due to the lack of mechanical and electrical components, including controllers, coupled with increasing repair costs. This proposal allows MAES to make an impactful investment by purchasing 5-10 plant growth chambers at one point in time to facilitate innovative research in controlled environments for meaningful and repeatable science. Additionally, replacing these units addresses environmental compliance concerns regarding R22 refrigerant used in Conviron E15 Growth Chambers, which was banned by EPA in 2020. Investing in new growth chambers will allow us to continue to recruit future faculty that otherwise may not come to UMN due to aging and outdated research capacity.

Reducing Methane Emissions in Dairy Production Systems

Bradley Heins, West Central ROC, Morris, College of Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources Science
Matching funds: Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources Science, Faculty Funds

The funds will assist with the purchase of the GreenFeed System for cows and heifers at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) dairy. The system will allow us to expand our research potential to measure greenhouse gas emissions for cows and heifers and will allow faculty at the University of Minnesota to conduct more precise research studies of individual dairy cattle. The system will also allow us to attract external funding with industry groups and federal funding. This equipment will provide accurate measures of enteric methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and oxygen emissions of individual dairy cattle. Furthermore, this system will allow us to determine measurements to reduce climate change effects of dairy cattle productions systems. The GreenFeed system will upgrade the current precision technology and feeding research for dairy cattle at the WCROC dairy. Information will be provided in real time with computer software and will provide big data for research studies. With the installation of these precision technologies, the WCROC dairy program will be able to increase research capabilities and increase collaborations with researchers within and outside of the University of Minnesota.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometer Purchase for NRRI Coleraine

George Hudak III PhD, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute Central Administration, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute
Matching funds: UMD Natural Resource Research Institute

NRRI’s inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES) is used extensively (averaging >2100 assays, annually), by UMN researchers and external clients, primarily for qualitative and quantitative analyses of major and minor elements in geological, metallurgical, and water samples. NRRI’s ICP-OES has also been used by UMN researchers and external clients in a wide variety of projects involving environmental assessment as well as coal and biomass energy production. The current ICP-OES (ICP OES Ultima, JY Horiba, purchased 2001) is outdated and no longer serviceable through the original equipment manufacturer. In addition, the current ICP-OES has limited chemical assay capabilities that do not fully meet the needs of UMN researchers or external clients. Specifically, the current device lacks the capability to conduct high sensitivity measurements of trace metals such as platinum group elements (PGEs) and rare earth elements (REEs). A modern ICP-spectrometer with lower detection limits and additional capabilities (e.g. mass spectrometry; details TBD by user group) is essential for NRRI to conduct the advanced analyses of minerals, metals, water, and biomaterials that are necessary to develop processes and markets for natural resource-based economic development and to maintain environmental sustainability.

Restoring Leadership in Nanopatterning at the Minnesota Nano Center

Steven Koester, Nano Center, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Science & Engineering

The Minnesota Nano Center (MNC) supports over 400 users each year, including about 260 from the University. The MNC users extensively rely upon our lithography systems, which consist of optical contact aligners (with resolution down to 1 um) and electron-beam lithography (EBL) (with resolution down to 20 nm). However, the contact aligners do not have sufficient resolution for some users, and electron-beam lithography is very slow can so cannot pattern large areas. In addition, neither system is capable of so-called “grey-scale” lithography, which allows the creation of novel three-dimensional (3D) structures for advanced applications such as meta-optics. In this proposal, we intend to acquire a system that will enable us to improve our lithographic capabilities and pattern transfer capabilities. The main system requested is a direct-write laser (DWL) lithography system, with resolution down to 300 nm. This system is maskless, would improve the write speed compared to EBL, and also provides precision grey-scale lithography capability. We also propose several other related system upgrades to ensure the system can be fully utilized, including an add-on to our LayoutBeamer software, and upgrades to the control software for reactive ion etching systems, which are critical for pattern transfer.

University of Minnesota Healthy Weight Research Center Equipment Lending Library

Melissa Laska, Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health
Matching funds: Public Health

Since 2005, the University of Minnesota Healthy Weight Research Center (formally the Obesity Prevention Center) has maintained a successful, cost-effective equipment loan program through the purchase and distribution of research quality digital scales, stadiometers, activity monitors, and licensing of the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDS-R), a dietary analysis program designed for collection and analyses of 24-hour dietary recalls, food records, menus, and recipes. In addition to providing equipment, the HWRC has disseminated standardized measurement protocols. This cost and time-saving resource is available to support healthy weight research being conducted by faculty across the University of Minnesota. To date, the equipment has been available on a first come, first serve basis and provided free of charge to investigators. During the past year, the HWRC equipment has been used on research projects spanning several departments, including Epidemiology and Community Health, Family Medicine, Endocrinology, Pediatrics, and Nursing. The HWRC is seeking support to expand and enhance the activity monitor equipment in the HWRC library based on usage history and the results of a recent member survey identifying this equipment need.

Acquisition of a Confocal Raman Microscope for Institutional Usership

Bing Luo, Characterization Faculty Administration, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Faculty Funds

We are requesting funds to replace a 17-year-old confocal Raman microscope (CRM) in the Characterization Facility (CharFac) at Shepherd Lab’s site. Confocal Raman microscopy is a chemical-imaging technique that provides submicrometer spatial resolution for characterizing a variety of organic, biological and inorganic samples. The CRM is a core instrument in CharFac and has been used by hundreds of researchers across multiple colleges and schools of the University of Minnesota. Research activities conducted with this instrument have contributed to hundreds of publications. However, for the past year, these research activities have been disrupted by a failed scan stage, a critical component in Raman imaging. As the CRM is approaching the end of its lifetime, the risk of other component failures and further downtime is very high. A new CRM is urgently needed to restore our Raman capability. Additionally, there have been considerable advancements in confocal Raman instrumentation over the past 17 years. A new, state-of-the-art CRM will enable these modern capabilities.

Upgrading the University of Minnesota XRCT facility

Peter Makovicky, Earth Sciences, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: Biological Sciences, Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources Sciences, Liberal Arts, Science & Engineering

The University of Minnesota XRCT facility in Tate Hall houses a North Star XM5000 micro-computed tomography scanner for imaging of objects, including their internal structure, at micron scale. The facility, established in 2012 with funding from RIO, has been used for numerous geological, paleontological, zoological, and anthropological projects, as well as projects in engineering and medicine, supported by numerous grants and resulting in many papers and conference presentations. It continues to be actively used by faculty and students in ESCI, EEB, FWCB, ANTHRO who have come together to contribute toward the cost share. This is a facility that is crucial to many research programs across the university, and one that our institution cannot do without. Research conducted at the XRCT facility has significant societal impacts, as well as fostering fruitful collaborations across the university. The scanner has been offline since November due to critical parts needing replacement. Software and hardware upgrades are also needed to work with the new parts. We are therefore applying for an RIO research infrastructure grant to bring the instrument back online and allow active research projects to resume, as well as allowing new users to develop projects.

Advancing Research Infrastructure Core in the School of Dentistry

Louis Mansky, Dental Molecular Virology Program, School of Dentistry
Matching funds: Dentistry

This 2023 RIO Research Infrastructure application is requesting a 50% match of funds to support the core research infrastructure of the School of Dentistry (SoD). The SoD is seeking to replace a flow cytometer that has reached the end of its lifespan with a new instrument. In September 2022, BD Biosciences announced it will no longer provide service contract coverage for the LSR II flow cytometer (discontinued manufacturing the unit and parts), which led to the SoD seeking to address this issue with the current instrument and position itself to purchase a new flow cytometer to meet SoD user needs. The current flow cytometer remains fully functional and has been a workhorse instrument for many SoD researchers who have strong needs for daily access to this instrument to support their externally funded research projects. The instrument being requested will help ensure continuity of service to all SoD researchers. This instrumentation would be available to researchers outside of the SoD, particularly if they are engaged in active collaborations with SoD researchers, if they are in relative proximity to the SoD research core (i.e., Moos Tower or adjoining buildings), or are in need of emergency access for time-sensitive data collection.

Re-Engineering Current LIMS Infrastructure to Support Biomedical Research

Laura Niedernhofer, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics Deptartment Administration, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

MouseCloud Database is a unique Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). It consists of 5 components: Colony, Data, Study, Specimen, and Necropsy Managers. One advantage of this all-in-one system is less manual data entry, improving productivity and accuracy. The interconnected components enable: managing animal breedings, tracking genetic pedigrees, assigning subjects to study arms, creating a biospecimen collection plan and labels for the specimen, track specimen location, search content and create inventories based on any data category. Metadata collected is modifiable. Mouse Cloud is currently used to support two NIH P grants and five U grants covering mice, rat, and human samples. As we explore new functionality and other researchers’ requests to access the system, we find the current support model and technology are limiting. To simultaneously enhance system accessibility, stability, security, and cross-lab collaboration, it is imperative that we leverage appropriate expertise and technology. In partnership with Health Science Technology, we will securely expedite system improvement and adoption by re-engineering our homemade Microsoft Access database as a web application managed by UMN IT. The product will be available to the UMN research community at a nominal cost. We will copyright it with UMN Technology Commercialization Office and license it to external users as a source of revenue for the University.

FujiFilm/VisualSonics F2 Preclinical Ultrasound Imaging System for Shared Use

Timothy O'Connell, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology Administration, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

We are requesting funds from the Research Infrastructure Investment Program to purchase a new VisualSonics F2 Preclinical Imaging System to upgrade our obsolete, 10-year-old small-animal imaging system that will no longer be serviced by VisualSonics after June 30, 2023. The new F2 System will support at least 15 primary investigators from 6 departments/institutes in the Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, funded by 25 NIH grants. Fields of study include cardiovascular, immunology, aging, drug delivery, and metabolism. The new F2 System will also help UMN recruit and retain top investigators. Functionally, the new F2 provides significant upgrades to our imaging capability including: 1. New 4D-imaging (3D imaging through time), which acquires images equivalent to MRI (the clinical gold standard) at a fraction of the time and cost; 2. HD resolution for better image capture; 3. Hands-free operation; and 4. Improved, smaller, ergonomic high-frequency probes. The University Imaging Centers (UIC) director Dr. Mark Sanders and staff will manage the new F2 System, which will be located in the UIC labs in CCRB. In summary, the new F2 System represents a significant upgrade of the now obsolete UMN small-animal imaging capabilities and will support multiple NIH-funded investigators across several departments.

Proposal for Funding to Sustain and Enhance Advanced Imaging for the University of Minnesota

Samantha Porter, Liberal Arts Technologies & Innovation Services, College of Liberal Arts
Matching funds: Liberal Arts, Medical School

AISOS was established in 2016 partially through an RIIP grant and funded again in 2018 to provide support for nascent imaging technologies such as 3D scanning, gigapixel scale photography, and mixed reality to a wide range of users at the University of Minnesota. The mission of AISOS is both to support extant needs for advanced imaging in research, as well as to promote the possibilities for these methodologies in disciplines that have not yet considered them. AISOS has supported projects across many colleges and disciplines, in the social and natural sciences, humanities, arts, and beyond. Salary support for Dr. Samantha Porter and operating funding are already provided by CLA. We propose another round of investment in AISOS both to refresh and expand equipment to address emergent needs of 2023, and to facilitate growth in capacity and functionality of the service to meet a growing and broader group of users across the lifecycle of their work. It is our goal to pivot the service to rely more upon sponsored funds in future years, and so we also propose funding for specialized staffing to handle anticipated increases in usage while sponsored funding opportunities are developed.

Building a Spatial Maker Space in the GeoCommons

Eric Shook, Geography, Environment & Society, College of Liberal Arts
Matching funds: Liberal Arts

The GeoCommons is a new facility on campus serving as a collaborative hub for geospatial research, education, and public engagement. This award will support building a ""Spatial Maker Space"" in the GeoCommons, providing cutting-edge infrastructure for geospatial discovery at every stage of the research pipeline, from data collection to geovisualization. The Spatial Maker Space will have advanced technologies, including an array of data sensors such as Global Positioning System (GPS), weather, motion, audio, and video; powerful computational capabilities including accelerators and software such as Tensor Processing Units, Field Programmable Gate Arrays, and Geospatial Artificial Intelligence models (GeoAI), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS); interactive and collaboration capabilities including touchscreen monitors, Tangible Landscapes, and Extended Reality (XR) devices; and geovisualization capabilities including a 98"" high-definition screen. This unique infrastructure supported by a specialized staff member will enable scholars and stakeholders to collaborate around the geovisualization screen, experience a digital twin using XR, or advance GeoAI models. The UofM spatial community spans hundreds of researchers from the humanities to data science. The Spatial Maker Space will enable research and foster serendipitous discovery by allowing the interdisciplinary spatial community to measure, examine, map, analyze, model, and visualize geospatial phenomena in situ.

Biodegradation Screening and Test Facility

Eric Singsaas, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute Forest Products, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute
Matching funds: Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources; Non U of MN, UMD Natural Resource Research Institute

We request funds to create a biodegradation laboratory to screen new bio-based or sustainable materials. Several University of Minnesota research programs from across the system are developing the next generation of renewable and biodegradable materials to replace nondegradable petrochemical materials in several sectors. These programs interact with Industry clients, who have told us that internal biodegradation testing would increase their likelihood of sponsoring materials development research. Internal university labs and external industry clients have indicated that this service is an unmet need. This project will establish a biodegradation test laboratory to develop the necessary early-stage screening testing for new degradable materials. The funds will allow us to obtain equipment such as incubators, biosafety cabinets, and analytical instruments to provide industry-standard biodegradation tests (ASTM D5988, D5338, OECD301B/C, and related) and develop screening tests for early-stage bio-based and sustainable materials development. This laboratory will provide services to research groups within the University of Minnesota engaged in sustainable material development. It will also interact with industry partners seeking to sponsor research and license university inventions.

Upgrade CMRR’s Core Computing Infrastructure to Align with University Security Policies

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

We are requesting funds to enhance the core computing infrastructure supporting the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research. As the Center's research continues to expand, there is a corresponding increase in computing capacity, data storage and performance required to support this research. New challenges emerge in tandem with the growth, including identifying essential healthcare data challenges and security issues. In particular, in order to meet university PHI computing standards, the Center is required to update and expand the our current data center computing infrastructure that securely generates, stores, and processes the human dicom data pipeline. Along with the recently announced NIH data sharing requirements, the Center's computing infrastructure must be reorganized to support the multiple compliance and security mandates that we are being asked to meet.

Clinical Research 360 - Governed Interconnected Data

Daniel Weisdorf, Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, Medical School
Matching funds: Academic Clinical Affairs

The Clinical Research 360 (CR360) initiative, led by CTSI, addresses gaps in integrated operational data availability for senior leaders, PIs, departments, and centers. The resulting data repository will provide the capability to deliver institutionally accepted and defined ""source of truth"" reports and data sets for a wide range of uses. The outcome will support measuring performance goals, the impact of service areas, and the effect of structural/policy/procedure changes on research operations. It can identify groups demonstrating efficient and successful study initiation practices and areas needing added help for research success. It will enable scientific advancement using predictive analytics for clinical research success. It will also fuel the tools requiring re-use of the same data. Health Sciences Technology (HST) has already developed study portfolio dashboards and startup turnaround time metrics; these have identified bottlenecks in study startup. To date, HST has integrated initial data sets from ETHOS, OnCore,, SPA, and Fairview Research Administration. The next portion of the project requires dedicated HST expertise and domain-specific subject matter expert effort to build out new governance processes, data integrations, and analytics. Data deliverables based on a broad needs assessment include study enrollment performance, participant demographics, ancillary reviews, and enrollment success predictive analytics.