Core Facilities Drive Research Forward


An ultra-powerful supercomputer that works 3,864 times faster than a typical laptop? Check. One of the world’s largest magnetic resonance imaging magnets, operating at 10.5 Tesla? Check. A high-resolution transmission electron microscope that collects elemental composition maps 10 times faster than previous systems? Check.

At the University of Minnesota, core research facilities provide the resources faculty, staff and students need to accelerate their research. These facilities’ state-of-the-art equipment, training and expertise are open to all qualified users within the University community, with projects that span a wide range of disciplines, from food safety to cancer research to computational chemistry. Many of them are also available to industry partners, giving companies of all sizes a way to access infrastructure that can boost their research and development efforts.

Here is a list of the U’s core research facilities, with links to more information.

Core Research Facilities

Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR)
The Center for Magnetic Resonance Research is home to some of the most advanced magnetic resonance instrumentation in the world, complemented by human expertise in imaging physics, engineering and signal processing. CMRR provides unique magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy for gathering structural, functional and biochemical information in humans. CMRR also assists researchers from across campus, as well as nationally and internationally, with animal pre-clinical research. Collectively, the approaches and instrumentation developed in CMRR constitute some of the most important tools used today to study system-level organ function and physiology for basic and translational research. The center facilitates interdisciplinary biomedical research interactions and provides centralized support for them.

Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics (CMSP)
The Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics facility supports the University’s life sciences research community by providing expertise, equipment and training for analyzing all types of biological molecules, with a focus on proteomic and metabolomic applications. With years of experience serving the entire biological science area of the University, CMSP staff are experienced in analytical methods for characterizing a broad range of molecule types. In addition to large-scale discovery studies, targeted mass spectrometry methods can validate proteins, metabolites or other molecules of interest. The center can also help with complex protein separation and differential expression of protein between two samples.

“For the type of discovery-driven research that we’re doing to explore new and innovative hypotheses, systems approaches are invaluable. Using comprehensive proteomics tools allows us to uncover novel mechanisms for maintaining genome stability in DNA replication and helps us stay competitive in our field. Our recent study would not have been possible without the Center for Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute.”

— Anja Bielinsky, Ph.D., co-leader of the Masonic Cancer Center Genetic Mechanisms of Cancer Program and professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics in the College of Biological Sciences

Characterization Facility (CharFac)
The Characterization Facility is a multi-user, shared instrumentation facility for materials research spanning from nanotechnology to biology and medicine. CharFac’s analytical capabilities include microscopy via electron beams, force probes and visible light; elemental and chemical imaging; elemental and chemical spectroscopy; atomic and molecular structure analysis; nanomechanical and nanotribological probes; and other tools for surface and thin-film metrology. The facility features an FEI Titan transmission electron microscope, which allows for a new degree of high-resolution characterization, both in imaging and compositional analysis.

Flow Cytometry Resource (UFCR)
The University Flow Cytometry Resource provides comprehensive services and training to the institutional research and educational community. Flow cytometry uses fluorescent probes to identify and characterize cells or particles. Data from the fluorescent signal feeds into a computer workstation that also records information about the size and granularity of a cell. The result is an electronic file containing the measured information, which may be represented in a graphical format using specific software to interpret the file. This same process may be performed on a cell-sorting cytometer which additionally allows for the capture of subsets of the cells or particles to be reused in a subsequent procedure. 

Minnesota Nano Center (MNC)
The Minnesota Nano Center is a state-of-the-art facility for interdisciplinary research in nanoscience and applied nanotechnology. The center offers a comprehensive set of tools to help researchers develop new micro- and nanoscale devices, such as integrated circuits, advanced sensors, microelectromechanical systems and microfluidic systems. The MNC also supports nanotechnology research that spans many science and engineering fields, allowing advances in areas as diverse as cell biology, high performance materials and biomedical device engineering, as well as interdisciplinary research in bio-nanotechnology and nano- and micrometer-scale materials. Its labs and tools are open to all qualified users, including researchers from industry and other academic institutions.

Minnesota Supercomputing Institute (MSI)
The Minnesota Supercomputing Institute provides software, hardware and expertise to meet the advanced research computing needs of the University research and scholarly community, along with the needs of external partners. MSI staff offer consulting services for project planning, data analysis, data management, pipeline or application development, tutorials and workshops, and more. The high-performance computing systems at MSI are designed with high-speed networks, high-performance storage, graphics processing units and large amounts of memory to support some of the most compute and memory intensive programs developed today. MSI also offers secure, high-performance storage that is integrated across all of its systems.

Research Animal Resources (RAR)
Research Animal Resources provides for the care, health and well-being of animals used for research and education at the University. The office ensures animal use across the U meets all legal and ethical standards, and also provides knowledge and resources for researchers. Through RAR, researchers can learn who to contact for questions about animal care and use protocol forms, animal ordering, animal husbandry, veterinary care, and occupational health programs and policies. They can also learn the various laws and guidelines pertaining to animal use at the University.

University Imaging Centers (UIC)
The University Imaging Centers comprise a network of core imaging facilities for advanced optical imaging and basic electron microscopy with state-of-the-art instrumentation. The UIC provides more than two dozen advanced imaging systems to serve internal and external researchers in designing imaging experiments, choosing and training on suitable imaging systems, and processing, visualizing and analyzing images. UIC staff educate the University community about new imaging technologies, provide consulting and hands-on training for research projects, assist with grant or publication writing, and bring expertise in new imaging technologies to UIC users. The facilities’ capabilities continue to expand in the areas of automated image acquisition, live-cell and live-animal imaging, and super-resolution microscopy.

“The University of Minnesota’s core facilities have a unique, research-based culture and are willing to work with their customers to help troubleshoot protocols related to new products. Working with the University Imaging Centers and the Flow Cytometry Core at the U has enabled BRTI Life Sciences to have access to state-of-the-art equipment as well as excellent training and technical support that have helped us develop new products and product applications, increasing our customer base.”

— Beth Lindborg, Director of Research and Marketing, BRTI Life Sciences

University of Minnesota Genomics Center (UMGC)
The University of Minnesota Genomics Center acquires and maintains state-of-the-art instrumentation and offers an array of services including sequencing, expression, genotyping, nucleic acid extraction and related support. UMGC strives to keep pace with the ever-broadening world of genomics, epigenomics and metabolomics technologies for use by University researchers and the wider biotech community. The center assesses and acquires emerging technologies to drive the expansion of biomedical and agricultural research, keeping pace with the rapid evolution of genomics technologies and maintaining a competitive advantage for both U researchers and external clients.