Shared Facilities Recognized for Role in Breakthrough Science

More than half of Northwestern Cores honored in 2018

With support from Northwestern’s Peptide Synthesis Core — and with nature as a guide — a multidisciplinary research team led by Samuel Stupp recently developed a novel material with the ability to reversibly change properties.

“The Core played an important role in this major research publication,” says Mark Karver, director of the Peptide Synthesis Core Facility housed at the Simpson Querrey Institute (SQI). The manuscript was published October 4 in Science with Stupp, SQI’s director and the Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science, Chemistry, Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, and Erik Luijten, chair of Materials Science and Engineering, as corresponding authors.

“Researchers with a variety of backgrounds — including materials science, chemistry, neurobiology, molecular biology, biomedical engineering, surgery, and urology — all use our facility,” says Karver. “In general, users are biologically and/or medically focused, but there are also projects dealing with materials for sustainable energy.” The Peptide Synthesis Core is also a member of the National Science Foundation-supported SHyNE Resource.

In February, Karver will be honored alongside staff from 22 University cores for their ability to deliver outstanding customer support while improving faculty governance, staff development, financial stability, and outreach.

Northwestern Research’s 9th Annual Core Facilities Colloquium and Awards Luncheon is scheduled for February 8. Among other honors bestowed will be those recognizing Gold Star and Outstanding facilities (see sidebar). Northwestern is a global leader in the professionalization of cores as well as the promotion of core science as a profession.

“Core Facilities are a physical manifestation of the collaborative spirit of Northwestern faculty, reflecting the ongoing commitment to research excellence,” says Andy Ott, director of Core Facilities. “Because of the Northwestern research ecosystem, we are able to recruit talented scientists who can make a career using their expertise in a technical area to advance projects in a wide variety of fields.”

Selection of award recipients was based upon 2018 facility metrics, as well as other considerations pertaining to operations during the past year.

"We’ve specifically focused on actions suggested from our prior year’s assessment and were able to add several new instruments, while also upgrading existing systems,” says Joshua Rappoport, research professor and director of the award-winning Center for Advanced Microscopy (CAM) and Nikon Imaging Center.

“During the past five years, we have greatly expanded our physical space, nearly doubled our staff, and increased the instruments and services we support by about 40 percent, all while striving to improve customer service and ensure access and support for the best imaging technologies available.”

While CAM and the Peptide Synthesis Core are established entities at Northwestern, newer facilities were also recognized for their achievements in 2018. Frequently used by undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students from materials science, chemistry, and physics — as well as external users — the Pulsed Laser Deposition Core Facility (PLD) is just two years old but it has already increased capacity for breakthrough discoveries.

“Being able to benefit from the experience and infrastructure that Northwestern Research provides has been a great asset in bringing this core online,” says Bruce Buchholz, research associate and PLD manager. “From the beginning, we emphasized making sure that the time spent by users in the facility was productive. Staff expertise in pulsed laser deposition is freely offered and the addition of a second deposition chamber has increased the number and types of materials that can be deposited in the facility.”

The past fiscal year continued a long trend of expanding support for research at Northwestern.

“During the past five years, Cores have nearly doubled revenue while central support for these facilities has stayed nominally constant,” says Ott. “Today, more than half of all sponsored research projects at Northwestern (as measured in dollars) make use of core facilities in some way.”

By Roger AndersonDecember 14, 2018