Past Awards: 2014

The following are brief descriptions of the projects selected for Research Infrastructure Reinvestment awards in 2014. 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 are required for funding eligibility.

X-ray Computed Tomography Facility Improvement

Brian Bagley, Department of Earth Sciences, College of Science and Engineering (CSE)
Co-Investigator: Donna Whitney, Department of Earth Sciences, CSE
Matching Funds: Department of Earth Sciences, CSE

Funding will be used to acquire and maintain hardware for the X-ray Computed Tomography lab located in the Department of Earth Sciences. The large datasets generated by the high-resolution micro-CT machine require hardware and software that are not readily available to most lab users. These facility upgrades will allow us to accommodate more users and reduce the current wait time to use the facility.

Equipment Upgrades for Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratories

Brian Barber, Department of Soil, Water and Climate (SWAC), College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)
Co-Investigator: Carl Rosen, SWAC, CFANS
Matching Funds: Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, SWAC

The Soil Testing and Research Analytical Laboratories (STRAL) will use the $180,000 award for new equipment that expands and improves its laboratory services. Right now, STRAL offers over 100 distinct analytical tests and assists over 28 departments with research needs. These additional tools will help the lab service university and cooperative research goals for the greatest number of clients possible. New test services will include forage grain nutritional analysis such as PROXIMATEs, sugars, amino acids and Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAMES). The lab will also improve routine measurements of carbon/nitrogen/sulfur with a simultaneous analysis and increased sensitivity.

STRAL is committed to forming new alliances and encourages the university community to explore its services. These relations will continue to position STRAL and the University of Minnesota at the forefront of collaborative and multi-disciplinary research, with the goal of being a world leader in solution-driven science in food, agriculture and natural resources.

Lithography and Thin Film Deposition Equipment for the Minnesota Nano Center

Stephen Campbell, Minnesota Nano Center, CSE
Matching Funds: CSE

The Minnesota Nano Center (MNC) provides access to equipment to make micro and nano scale devices and structures. This award provides a Karl Suss optical lithography system, crucial to almost all MNC users, to replace an outdated, frequently unusable system incapable of handling current sample sizes. The award also provides a system that deposits thin films on top of temperature-sensitive substrates such as plastics, providing better films and a wider variety of materials than the existing system, which is more than 20 years old and runs Windows 3.

These tools will help MNC, which enables $10 to $15 million of university research annually, become a premier lab for micro and nano research. The new equipment increases competitiveness in nontraditional areas like nanomedicine and supports proposals in biosensing, medical devices and deep brain or electrocorticography sensing/stimulation. Companies also use MNC equipment to develop new products, creating jobs and revenue for Minnesota.

Two 400 MHz NMR Spectrometers for Routine Chemical Analysis to Replace Four Aging NMR Spectrometers

Christopher Douglas, Department of Chemistry, CSE
Matching Funds: Department of Chemistry, CSE

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is invaluable to studying structure and dynamics of organic and inorganic matter. This award will replace four aging and/or nonfunctional NMR spectrometers and consolidate their workload onto two new instruments. The university will achieve operational excellence in terms of eliminating the instruments’ frequent repairs (along with the associated labor and replacement parts costs) and lower Minnesota’s use of non-renewable consumables like liquid helium.

Consolidating the sample load onto two modern instruments will serve the university’s research mission. Modern NMR instruments quickly acquire data that will allow university scientists to study new molecules, medicines and materials at both lower and higher temperatures than previously possible. The expanded temperature ranges will help researchers studying both fleetingly stable and particularly dynamic samples to characterize new states of matter. Modern instrumentation will keep Minnesota competitive in acquiring external research funding, as infrastructure is a review criteria for most granting agencies.

Reinvestment in capabilities of scanning electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction infrastructure at the UMD Research Instrumentation Laboratory

John Goodge, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD)

Matching Funds: UMD Natural Resources Research Institute, UMD Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering, John Goodge, Large Lakes Observatory, UMD Department of Geological Sciences, UMD Department of Biology

Funding will upgrade two instrumentation platforms at UMD’s Research Instrumentation Laboratory (RIL): the scanning electron microscope (SEM) and the powder x-ray diffractometer (XRD). The SEM and XRD instruments, originally purchased with National Science Foundation funds and used in teaching and research for physical characterization and analysis of materials, now lack capability for new research applications.

This project upgrades the SEM to enable mineral liberation analysis, automation of image collection and processing, and improving image quality through the addition of a vibration isolation system and replacement of a degraded backscattered electron detector. It also improves the XRD system through the acquisition of advanced software allowing for quantitative modal and crystal structural analysis of data. This upgrade will be a significant step forward for the RIL, which serves as an interdisciplinary lab used by a wide variety of science and engineering programs at UMD along with outside non-profit and commercial users.

College of Design Digital Fabrication Laboratory

Kevin Groenke, Digital Fabrication Laboratory, College of Design
Co-Investigator: Brad Hokanson, College of Design
Matching Funds: College of Design

A $240,000 RIO grant to the College of Design's Digital Fabrication Lab will leverage the college’s investment in infrastructure, equipment and personnel to provide facility access and output support to the university's research community. The grant monies will be used to upgrade and increase laser cutting, 3D printing and CNC machining capabilities and to provide dedicated support personnel for intercollegiate users. Support of intercollegiate use of the Digital Fabrication Lab will be further facilitated by the establishment of an ISO, development of research specific web content and project submission portals.

Compositional microscopy for materials and biomedicine research

Greg Haugstad, Characterization Facility, CSE
Matching Funds: CSE

Key microscopic and spectroscopic methods in the Characterization Facility (CharFac) include scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and confocal Raman microscopy (CRM). The CharFac maintains four high-resolution SEMs with various special capabilities. Current systems are decades old, require frequent maintenance and have limited capabilities. This award will replace two very old pieces of equipment with a modern workhorse coater and a latest-generation ion beam coater/etcher. These additions will enable the discernment of finer nanoscale structures, improve facility throughput, allow hands-on operation by users and remove the burden of maintaining aged equipment. This award will provide a 785-nanometer semiconductor solid-state laser and a newly designed commercial coupler that enables quick and easy connection and extends chemical sensitivity. These additions and replacements of CharFac instrumentation will make the university more competitive in the quantity, diversity and cutting-edge character of its research, and thus more competitive for research grants, faculty, staff and students.

Acquisition of an EDS SDD System: Solid-State Detector (SDD) Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Spectrometer (EDS)

Marc Hirschmann, Department of Earth Sciences, CSE
Matching Funds: Department of Earth Sciences, CSE

This award will be used to acquire a state-of-the-art solid-state detector (SDD) energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS) to replace a heavily used but aging EDS system in the Department of Earth Sciences’ Electron Microprobe Lab.

The lab houses the newest and most advanced electron microprobe in Minnesota and provides high precision, non-destructive chemical characterization of solid materials at high spatial resolution, including quantitative analysis and mapping capabilities. It serves the entire university and beyond, and is crucial to the research of many internal and external academic and industrial users.

The new EDS system will increase productivity, facilitate new interdisciplinary synergies with other departments and attract new users through its ability to provide an even wider spectrum of analytical solutions, including light elements and sample types that allow characterization of biopolymers, advanced ceramics and alloys to a range of earth, physical, and bioscience and engineering research groups across the university and beyond.

Introducing Researchers at the University of Minnesota to Mass Cytometry

Dan Kaufman, Medical School
Matching Funds: Medical School, CSE, Stem Cell Institute, Center for Immunology

Funding will train and assist new UMN users of mass cytometry, which enables detailed, high-throughput analysis of single cells and represents the next generation of flow cytometry. Mass cytometry can measure more than 30 molecular targets per cell via labeling with elemental tags. This technology can identify different cell subtypes, changes in status during maturation, differentiation, cellular senescence or degradation, as well as different responses to drug treatments. This technology is highly complementary to proteomic technologies that can only measure average protein abundance and are unable to characterize the properties of specific coexisting cell subtypes and subpopulations. The mass cytometry core facility is a collaboration between the Medical School and CSE. These funds support training, reagents, software and technical support to early adopters of this technology. Already, over 40 research groups at the university show interest in mass cytometry for diverse applications.

Social and Behavioral Sciences Laboratory: Precision-Timing Optimization

Thomas Lindsay, College of Liberal Arts (CLA)
Matching Funds: CLA, Carlson School of Management

CLA Research Support Services aims to be a hub for social and behavioral sciences research at the University of Minnesota. To meet the rapidly growing demand for precision timing research methodologies, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Lab will leverage this grant to upgrade the current infrastructure and related services that allow high levels of control over presentation of human subjects research stimuli. The lab will upgrade to present and control behavioral stimuli and interactions to up to 36 simultaneous research participants in real time with 8.33 millisecond granularity.

The lab will remove significant bottlenecks to availability for researchers conducting precision timing experiments online and provide additional staff to develop, program and implement these research experiments. With this investment, the lab will increase the availability of cost-intensive technology and the expertise necessary to assist researchers, improving the environment for social and behavioral science research at the university.

Upgrade of an Ion Chromatography System in Earth Sciences

William Seyfried Jr., Department of Earth Sciences, CSE
Matching Funds: Donna Whitney, Rick Knurr, William Seyfried

The Department of Earth Sciences’ Geochemistry Lab, managed by Rick Knurr and supervised by Professor William Seyfried, will use funding to upgrade its ion chromatography system. The current system, a Dionex ICS-2000, was installed in 2004. The system is used to perform anion analyses of liquid samples provided by investigators in earth sciences; civil engineering; soil, water, and climate; veterinary sciences; the Masonic Cancer Center; the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and the Minnesota Geological Survey. The funds will purchase a Dionex ICS-2100, bringing the lab’s anion analytical capabilities to a state-of-the-art level. Thermo Dionex, the manufacturer of the current system, will no longer support the ICS-2000 model with replacement parts beginning in 2015, making this upgrade essential to keeping the system functioning and repairable in the future. The new instrument will greatly enhance the quality of analytical data for aqueous fluids needed for both basic and applied science research.

High-Throughput Mouse Behavioral Testing in the Neurosciences

Mark Thomas, Department of Neuroscience, Medical School
Matching Funds: Department of Neuroscience

The University of Minnesota’s Mouse Behavioral Phenotyping Core, directed by Dr. Mark J. Thomas of the Department of Neuroscience, was established three years ago with National Institutes of Health funds. The core provides high-quality, high-throughput testing for university researchers studying mouse models of neurological or psychiatric disorders and new treatments for these disorders. Demand for core services increased sharply in the past year, especially in cognitive testing (for example, in models of Alzheimer’s, HIV encephalitis, schizophrenia and autism). Research in this area is a growing interest among neuroscience graduate students.

The award funds will provide new, state-of-the-art mouse cognitive testing equipment that enables the core to maintain a high-throughput approach integral to serving the university’s research community and drawing new users from colleges across campus. In addition to benefiting current research, the grant is expected to contribute to training the next generation of biomedical researchers at the university.