With $40 million from the National Science Foundation, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine will be the hub for a centralized scientific research network aimed at innovation that will stimulate the nation’s bio-economy, officials announced Wednesday.
The $40 million is the largest research grant in the university’s history, officials said.
The funding establishes a Network for Advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) through which researchers will have “access to ultra-high field nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers to study the structure, dynamics, and interactions of biological systems and small molecules,” NSF officials announced.
The potential applications for the research extend throughout science, medicine and engineering, electronics and manufacturing, according to the organization.
“Understanding how these facets interact and how life has evolved and adapted, including under extreme conditions and environments, will advance the scientific community’s understanding of biology and may result in the development of new materials, battery components, pharmaceutical ingredients, nanomaterials, surface coatings and catalysts,” the NSF said.
NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences Joanne Tornow said in a statement that the implications of the research will extend far beyond Connecticut’s borders.
“This new infrastructure, along with the network of scientists to support it, will help advance research in biological sciences across the country through innovative experimentation and new biological insights,” said Tornow.
The network will be based at the UConn Health Center. It is led by Jeffrey C. Hoch, Ph.D. of UConn School of Medicine, in collaboration with co-principal investigators from the University of Georgia and the University of Wisconsin. Researchers can send their samples for analysis using equipment located at either of those schools, linked to a central hub at UConn Health.
Hoch told UConn Today that researchers across the country can use NMR instruments, methods and an online data bank through a laptop. “Our biggest hope is that NAN and advanced NMR technology’s expanded use will accelerate the identification of future disease biomarkers and ultimately improve the health and outcomes of patients everywhere, through future advances in diagnostics, drug discovery, treatments and especially much-needed cures.”
In addition to a range of researchers across disciplines having access to nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the network will provide access to researchers who could benefit from this technology but who don’t currently use it, according to the NSF’s statement.
“The network will also broaden participation in STEM by providing technological resources, training and access to collaborators to students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM and those at primarily undergraduate institutions and historically Black colleges and universities.”
The network will also participate in community outreach and develop online tutorials and additional technical materials. More information about the Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-2 program and the Network for Advanced Nuclear Magnetic Resonance project can be found at nsf.gov.