Research Infrastructure Investment Program: 2024 Awards

The following are brief descriptions of the projects (taken directly from the original proposals) selected for Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards in 2024. 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.

Comprehensive Lab Animal Monitor System (CLAMS)-HC for the Study of Mouse Metabolism

Alessandro Bartolomucci, IBP Physiology Administration, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School; Medical School; Medical School

The Oxymax/CLAMS-HC: Metabolic Monitor for Home Cages (Columbus Instruments) requested is the newest generation whole animal indirect calorimetry system. The instrument provides high throughput, high sensitivity, and a physiological platform that provide free movement to the animals while enabling measures of food intake and activity. The system is completed by environmental enclosures to regulate illumination and temperature in a wide and physiological range. This instrument will replace an 12-year-old system whose components are made of older technology and is no longer fully supported by the vendor. Additionally, in comparison to the existing system the new system offers: Higher speed sampling to generate higher resolution of O2 and CO2 reading; internal feeding monitoring. The indirect calorimetry system is a service offered by the Physiology Core. More than 20 laboratories depend on the current instrument, and their research would be catastrophically affected if the instrument failed. Among those laboratories, over 80% are NIH funded investigators that are the major or minor users in this proposal. Being able to provide these investigators with the newest Oxymax/CLAMS-HC would protect their current capabilities of metabolic phenotyping and expand the range of experiments they can perform including measures of eating behavior, cardiovascular functions, and many others.

Replacement of Greenhouse Lighting with Energy Efficient LEDs

Benjamin Clasen, AES Administration Operations, Ag Experiment Station
Matching funds: Ag Experiment Station; NON-UMN

The MAES manages 85 shared greenhouse zones which support Research, Teaching, Extension, and Outreach from at least 10 college departments representing three University colleges. Greenhouses require “grow lighting” to extend day length and provide light quantities which mimic ambient summer light levels. The plant growth lighting in these spaces is comprised of 1,578 conventional HID (High Pressure Sodium / Metal Halide) lamps. This outdated technology consumes 35-80% more electricity and provides approximately 12 percent less light quantity than newer LED technology. Moreover, LED lights have lifespans of 50,000 hours compared to 18,000 hours for conventional HID lamps. Installation of LED lighting would result in disposal of fewer lamps, reduced labor costs for replacing lamps in addition to reduced recurring (electric) utility expenses and reduced down-time due to frequently failing lamps. The University of Minnesota Climate Action Plan (2023) states its goal to “reduce site energy use intensity (kbtu/ft2-yr) from existing buildings by 35% by 2033 from 2019 baseline.” Energy emissions account for 74% of total University emissions. Funding this proposal would enable the MAES to significantly reduce energy emissions while providing greenhouse users equal or greater light quantity/quality to support their plant growth work.

Ultra-high-throughput sequencing of microbial diversity and ecology: averting the next pandemic

Peter Crawford, MS Research/Facilities, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

The University of Minnesota needs a production-scale sequencer, as prior technologies have become obsolete. Drs. Peter Crawford and Michael Gale (incoming director of the University of Minnesota Institute on Infectious Disease, UMIID) seek funds for the Ultima Genomics UG 100, a next-generation sequencer offering affordable, rapid, and accurate genome sequencing. This instrument will revolutionize research, enabling high-quality human genome sequencing at $100 and other genomes at under $10, matching the needs for single-cell and spatialomics technologies. It's backed by silicon-based technologies and AI, field-validated by leading genomics centers. Our proposal unites various UMN departments and collegiate units, and will place the instrument in the UMN Genomics Center (UMGC), ensuring broad utilization and technology exchange. The UG 100 drops sequencing costs and increases speed without the need for large sample runs, unlike the costly and slower turnaround of previous models. This sequencer aligns with the UMGC's university-wide mission, underpinning studies from clinical applications to public health responses, and would position UMN at the cutting edge of genomics, aiding in competitive research and rapid pathogen outbreak management. Matching funds and structured oversight guarantee the efficient use and sustainability of this essential infrastructure.

Improving large scale iPSC line banking and distribution infrastructure to support intercollegiate multi-user programs

James Dutton, GCD MS Stem Cell Institute, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

Funding to improve infrastructure at the Stem Cell Institute that supports cross-collegiate projects generating or utilizing large cell banks of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These initiatives rely on resources and technical expertise to receive, expand and store the iPSC banks, and to distribute cells or assist with differentiation for cross-departmental research groups. The scale of the inventories and activities has outgrown the current Stem Cell Institute infrastructure devoted to these projects. We request RIO funds to purchase new cryopreservation and cell banking equipment, and to support technical effort for improved institutional support for large-scale iPSC projects enabling new competitive research programs. iPSC reprogramming generates pluripotent stem cells that retain the donor genotype and can be differentiated into cell types for disease modeling, drug testing, making organoids and microtissues, and for developing new cell therapies. Example UMN projects: 1) Population level studies using iPSC libraries from very large donor cohorts for studying risk and diseases across diverse populations. 2) Generating large biobanks of iPSC lines for disease research eg: Childhood cancer patients, iPSC-RPE biobank. 3) Research grade iPSC banks made from UMN cGMP-compliant iPSC lines for distribution to groups intending to transition to our clinical grade cell lines.

Consolidation of the Center for Metabolomics and Proteomics (CMSP)

Timothy Griffin, BMBB Med Regulatory Biochem, Medical School
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences; College of Food, Ag & Natural Resource Sciences; Medical School

The Center for Metabolomics and Proteomics (CMSP) seeks consolidation to the Cargill building. Since 2002, the CMSP has occupied space in Minneapolis (Molecular Cellular Biology) and St. Paul (Gortner). CMSP now annually serves ~90 faculty from 68 departments across seven colleges, supporting research sponsored by the NIH, NSF and other sources. The current CMSP space is full, unable to add new cutting-edge instrumentation without costly structural upgrades. Furthermore, lost staff time and effort due to cross-campus transit decreases operational efficiency, and delivery of services suffers. As a solution, CMSP seeks consolidation to Cargill 140, unoccupied instrumentation lab space, along with available second floor wet lab space. We request funding for infrastructure upgrades in Cargill 140 required to meet CMSP instrumentation specifications and accommodate addition of new technology platforms. Overall, CMSP consolidation will improve delivery of research services to UMN investigators, make operations more cost-effective, thereby maintaining low user-fees, and enable long-term availability of cutting-edge metabolomics and proteomics technologies critical to advancing diverse research projects. This request directly falls within the scope of the Research Infrastructure Investment Program, supporting efforts to “consolidate…service centers” with the objective of “improving research infrastructure services, equipment, or cost effectiveness” for the UMN community.

Addressing a University-wide Capability Gap in Profiling and Imaging with Two 3D Laser Scanning Microscopes

Shaul Hanany, CSENG School of Physics & Astronomy, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

State of the art research by University investigators is impeded by an institutional capability gap: the absence of a fast, non-destructive imaging of samples with lateral sizes between 1 micrometer and ~50 cm with a planar resolution of 0.25 micrometer and with a vertical resolution of 0.1 nanometer. Two populations of researchers will benefit from closing this gap, those who fabricate devices inside the Minnesota Nano Center’s (MNC) cleanroom, and others in many disciplines for whom accessing the cleanroom would be a hindrance. We are proposing to purchase and operate two Keyence VK-X3050 3D Laser Scanning Microscopes. They will each be installed in and managed by MNC and CSE’s Characterization Facility (CharFac). For the microscope at CharFac we will build a custom stage capable of handling samples up to ~50 cm in diameter. With its fast, non-destructive imaging spanning lengths scales and resolutions not available by any other instrument on campus, the VK-X3050s will accelerate current projects and will enable new directions of advancement for researchers in five colleges and schools. The unique large sample stage, the like of which does not exist in neighboring states, would strengthen UMN’s stature as a regional center of expertise and capabilities.

Full Spectrum Cell Sorters for the UMN Flow Cytometry Resource

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

Funds are requested to purchase two full spectrum cell sorters to replace two conventional cell sorters that have reached the end of their reliable life spans. These new devices will provide state of the art cell sorting based on the new concept of full spectrum flow cytometry. The devices will be housed in University of Minnesota (UMN) Flow Cytometry Resource (UFCR) facilities for use on a first come first served basis by trained users. Many of the UMN papers published in the most prestigious scientific journals have relied on cell sorting to isolate specific cell subsets from complex mixtures. Investment by RIO in this technology will help keep UMN biological research at the cutting edge for years to come.

Automated Near-Infrared and Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy with the Mt. Lemmon Observing Facility (MLOF) Telescope

Patrick Kelly, CSENG School of Physics & Astronomy, College of Science & Engineering

Each second, a luminous, fatal explosion of a star, or the merger of neutron stars occurs somewhere across the observable Universe. Without these, many of the elements in the periodic table, and life as we know it, would not exist. Fundamental questions about the synthesis of elements in these explosions, and what powers these explosions, particularly at their early stages, have persisted partly because of the difficulty of observing them shortly after eruption. We propose to upgrade the University of Minnesota's 60-inch telescope near the summit of Mt. Lemmon, AZ to enable automated multi-wavelength imaging and spectroscopy of supernova explosions and mergers of neutron stars within seconds of detection. Robotic operation, and always mounted optical and near-infrared cameras will support interdisciplinary collaborations initiated by the Data Science in Multi-Messenger Astrophysics (DSMMA) program which brings together astrophysics, data science, statistics, and machine learning faculty across four departments and two colleges. A new ability to acquire rapid, simultaneous optical and near-infrared imaging and spectroscopy will yield unique data on young explosions, identified using machine learning from gravitational-wave signals and upcoming national wide-field optical telescope surveys as well as the UMN-led Total-Coverage Ultrafast Response to Binary-Mergers Observatory (TURBO) facility.

An Advanced Nanoparticle Analysis Tool for the Minnesota Nano Center

Steven Koester, CSENG ECE Admin, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

The Minnesota Nano Center (MNC) is proposing to acquire a new instrument for the analysis of nanoparticles, i.e., those particles smaller in size than one micrometer. Such particles are of interest to a wide range of fields, from material science and chemical engineering to medicine and the life sciences to the environmental sciences and agriculture, The requested instrument uses nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA), an advanced technique that can quickly determine particle size distribution and concentration in an automated, reliable process. The NTA tools under consideration also provide measurements of other key particle properties and will allow researchers to use particle labeling techniques similar to those used with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. The MNC has a ten-year-old previous generation NTA instrument that is currently the most heavily used tool in MNC’s Nanomaterials Lab. Its age and heavy use are contributing to more frequent failures and instrument downtime, suggesting that the tool may soon be irreparable. Hence, the MNC is requesting funds to replace and upgrade this lab workhorse instrument. The new NTA will be housed in a core lab and available for use by all qualified users from across the University.

Advancing the capabilities of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory Main Channel Facility

Jeffrey Marr, CSENG St Anthony Falls Lab - SAFL, College of Science & Engineering
Matching funds: College of Science & Engineering

This project will focus on rehabilitation and updates to SAFL’s most utilized indoor research channel - The Main Channel. The Channel is one of the largest hydraulic research channels in the nation with a width of 2.8 m, depth of 1.8 m, and length of 100 m. The Channel sources water directly from the Mississippi and can operate around-the-clock with volumetric flow rates up to 8.5m3/s. This investment in SAFL’s Main Channel will add advanced control and monitoring systems to provide researchers precision control on flow rates, depth, and other hydraulic variables. The current control systems are original to the inception of this laboratory in 1938, and limit researchers’ ability to reliably operate the facility. In addition to the control and monitoring updates, this project will provide rehabilitation to the sediment recirculation system, which is in need of repair. By making these investments, the Main Channel will improve usability and expand the range of collaborative research that can be supported within the facility. The updated Main Channel facility will support the following research areas: hydropower and marine energy; open-channel hydraulics; fluvial sediment transport; deterrence/barriers of aquatic invasive species; fluvial transport, sorting, and burial of bones in the fossil record; as well as other areas.

Upgrades for the University of Minnesota Zebrafish Core Facility

Mark Masino, NSCI Neuroscience Admin, Medical School
Matching funds: College of Biological Sciences; School of Dentistry; Medical School; College of Science & Engineering

The University of Minnesota Zebrafish Core Facility (UMNZCF) is integral component of the research and teaching missions of the university. The UMNZCF houses approximately 10,000 zebrafish and the staff ensures daily feedings of adult and larval zebrafish, mating/breeding, collections of embryos, provides husbandry services and maintains microscopy resources for investigators who use zebrafish as a model organism. In 2018, Dr. Masino was awarded an NIH Supplemental award (3R01NS094176-03S1, $65,000) and a Research Infrastructure Investment Proposal award (#182747, $60,000) from the Office of the Vice President for Research, which were used to replace the outdated Reverse Osmosis and Recirculating Water systems. These systems provide clean water free of salts or impurities, which is essential in maintaining a healthy fish colony. The purpose of this RIIP application is to request funds to purchase new tanks (housing and breeding) and pressure injector systems (x2), which will directly benefit the facility users and the university by enhancing research productivity and will be reflected in the numbers of manuscripts published, federal grants awarded, and an increase in the number of trainees (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) in the user’s labs.

LHI Confocal Imaging System

Jop van Berlo, MED Cardiology Division, Medical School
Matching funds: Medical School

We are requesting the aid of the RIO towards the purchase of a new confocal imaging system. The Lillehei Heart Institute (LHI) owns an obsolete, >15-year-old confocal imaging system that is no longer operational. Imaging technology has dramatically improved in the past 2 decades. After considering the current availability of equipment within the UIC, we selected a confocal imaging system that would fulfill the imaging needs of LHI researchers. We selected the Leica MICA imaging system to replace the obsolete Zeiss LSM510 metaconfocal system. The Leica MICA is an advanced imaging system that requires minimal training and does not allow for system modifications, such as swapping out objectives or changing filter cubes. This guarantees relative ease of use, which is in contrast to the high-end imaging equipment operated by the UIC. The system comes with both widefield and confocal microscopy. The Leica MICA imaging system has a major advantage in its light-path design, using a white laser to illuminate the sample, followed by separating the light into 4 paths and 4 separate detectors. This eliminates the requirement of splitters and mechanical shutters and accelerates imaging by a factor 2-3. The new Leica MICA will accelerate research in the Lillehei Heart Institute and provide a long-term confocal imaging solution.

Modernizing data infrastructure of the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research

Scott Vrieze, Psychology, College of Liberal Arts
Matching funds: Office of Academic Clinical Affairs; College of Education & Human Development; College of Liberal Arts

The MCTFR is a 30-year research program involving multiple large longitudinal cohorts of nuclear families with twins and adoptees (total N > 20,000) and psychological assessments including interviews, questionnaires, physiology, genetics, and brain imaging. The MCTFR has engaged investigators across departments, colleges, and even universities, supported almost entirely by R01-level grants from NIH, totalling over $120,000,000. As the scale and scope of the Center have expanded, the original data infrastructure is no longer sufficient or readily conducive to efficient analysis. Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students alike have a steep learning curve in their use of the data, affecting research output and increased difficulty in managing ongoing data collections or generating preliminary data to support new extramural funding. The work proposed herein represents a crucial first step in the modernization of current data infrastructure, and will lay the foundation for subsequent external funding not only for continued data collection and knowledge generation, but for continued infrastructure development.