Core to Discovery and Innovation
Facilitating Trailblazing Research
Clustered in the south wing of the Life Science Laboratories (LSL) building and sprinkled throughout campus are some of UMass Amherst’s most valuable, often hidden, resources for applied science and technology research. The Core Facilities are a collection of 30 labs featuring state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment, each with a dedicated expert to support researchers—whether they are part of a UMass Amherst research group, another research institution, or a business.
The 30 core facilities each offer advanced technologies and expertise in the areas of life sciences; cellular, molecular, and animal sciences; manufacturing, engineering, and material sciences; and human health. They were established in 2015 as part of the Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) with a grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), and a mission to serve the broader research community in Massachusetts and beyond.
Unique Core Facilities, Housing State-of-the-Art Instrumentation and Equipment
Faculty Labs Served Across Campus
External Users of the Core Facilities over Past 2 Years
Offering Access and Expertise
“What makes us special is the access we provide to researchers,” said Andrew Vinard, Core Facilities director, who has over a decade of experience in administrative management of shared resources at the University of Miami. “At other research institutions, the types of technologies we offer are usually locked behind closed doors for use only by a particular lab or institution. Our facilities can be accessed by anyone at competitive rates.”
In this way, UMass is at the leading edge of a new trend among research universities, he said, noting that there are over 90 core facilities across all five UMass campuses.
Centralizing the core facilities has many advantages, including ensuring the labs stay up to date with the latest equipment and instrumentation and proper maintenance. The physical proximity of so many different facilities in the LSL also promotes collaboration and offers researchers easy access to multiple facilities at once. The LSL houses Collaboratories, incubator spaces adjacent to labs that can be rented by industry researchers. “Having everything in one ecosystem makes such a big difference. It allows a researcher to come in and get so much more done,” said Vinard.
The core facilities experts are key to the success of researchers using the facilities. As facilitators, consultants, and collaborators, they work directly with PIs and graduate students, helping them to problem solve and explore the best ways to use the facilities for their research, said Vinard. They bring deep and diverse research experience, ranging from academia to Boston biotech start-ups.
For faculty researchers, having access to the facilities improves their chances of recruiting students, getting grant funding, and attracting industry partnerships. New faculty recruits have commented on the strength of the Core Facilities in their decision to accept a position with UMass Amherst. For small businesses, especially start-ups, the facilities offer use of sophisticated and expensive equipment that they may not be able to afford or want to test out before purchasing.
“I know of no other company, including the largest drug companies in the world, that have resources like the these,” said Peter Reinhart, founding director of IALS.
The Massachusetts Innovation Voucher Program (MIVP) helps small- and medium-sized businesses access core facilities across the five-campus University of Massachusetts system at reduced rates. Since its inception, the program has awarded vouchers to approximately 200 businesses in a variety of industries across the Commonwealth. A recent study administered by the UMass Donahue Institute found that Massachusetts generates more than $3 in state tax revenue for every dollar of state reimbursement in the MIVP program. Of voucher recipients responding to the survey, 91 percent said they planned to increase staff in Massachusetts in the future; 59 percent reported receiving additional funding from other sources; and 77 percent indicate they plan to return to the core facilities for other projects in the future.
Take a virtual tour of IALS and the core facilities.
Explore the Cores
Learn more in these stories highlighting select core facilities.
From batteries to bulletproof vests to personalized health monitoring sensors integrated into clothing, the Roll-to-Roll core enables a range of advanced manufacturing applications.
From studying heavy metal contamination in water to illuminating how drugs are metabolized by the body, the MassSpec core enables a wide breadth of research with its state-of-the-art instrumentation.
Home to five industrial-grade, state-of-the art 3D printers that can produce a limitless array of objects in a variety of polymer and metal materials, the ADDFab core serves researchers and local businesses alike.
The Flow Cytometry core serves over 30 labs across three schools and colleges on the UMass campus, with research applications such as studying cancer as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.
With the only dedicated research MRI in western Massachusetts, the hMRC core enables researchers at UMass Amherst and beyond to investigate questions related to changes in the human brain and body.
This story was originally published in May 2022.
Partner with the Cores
Learn more about the centralized Core Facilities and the Institute for Applied Life Sciences.