This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) award funds the acquisition of an Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (Ion PGM) sequencer to enable next-generation sequencing at the Molecular Research Core Facility of Idaho State University (ISU). Next-generation sequencing technology enables experiments that were, until recently, virtually impossible to perform at institutions the size of ISU, and provides a way for the researcher to determine the exact sequence of all the DNA and RNAs in an organism at a given time. Understanding how organisms function and interact with their environment in normal and perturbed states is a major goal of biological and medical researchers. The Ion PGM at ISU will enable researchers to explore physiology and genomics of individual microbes and complex communities, with emphasis on bioenergy and bioremediation; reconstruct human colonization and adaptation in Pacific Island environments using phylogeographic and demographic models; identify variation in genes for fiber, antioxidants and fatty acids in crop plants; identify genetic components of plant ecophysiological responses to climate change; identify genes associated with microbial radiation resistance; and profile gene expression patterns in model organisms exposed to psychoactive pharmaceutical contamination in aquatic systems.

The results from these studies will be presented at scientific conferences, published in peer-reviewed journals and deposited in public databases for the benefit of the biological research community. Furthermore, through their research activities and mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students, the co-PIs are deeply committed to providing training opportunities for Idahoans. The ISU Molecular Research Core Facility has a long history of reaching out to regional educational K-12 institutions, undergraduate institutions, Federal research labs and biotechnology companies, to encourage broader participation in science and promote the training and development of the next generation of research scientists.

Project Report

The MRI award to Idaho State University provided ISU’s Molecular Research Core Facility (MRF) with next-generation DNA sequencing capabilities. The award was intended to serve the needs of regional researchers by expanding the scope of investigations to genome-scale analyses, to tightly integrate MRCF operations with ISU’s existing bioinformatics facilities, and to provide researching-training opportunities for underserved regional populations. The award transformed the MRCF into an essential regional resource with dozens of clients (both from within ISU and throughout the region), proving access to key resources for projects driving innovative discoveries in basic organismal research, environmental sciences, human health, agricultural sciences, and other fields. By the third and final year of the grant, the MRI instrumentation was fully integrated into MRCF workflows, and was an essential resource for ISU researchers reporting over $3.5M of competitive research grant funding depending on the MRCF and over $6.5M in newly submitted competitive grant applications. For researchers outside ISU, current and pending funding that relied on MRCF resources (including the MRI instrumentation) exceeded those of ISU researchers. Each of the ISU research grants using MRCF resources had tight integration of research with training programs. These grant-centered training opportunities were often tightly linked to larger ISU undergraduate training programs that were structured to increase the participation by underserved groups. Within the MRCF, the MRI instrumentation became the centerpiece of a new undergraduate training initiative. MRCF undergraduate interns spent 6-12 months working in the MRCF and learning how to operate molecular and imaging research instrumentation, after which they were transferred to research labs at ISU and around the region (into the research labs of MRCF clients). In these ways, the MRCF has become a key research-training focal point at ISU, building an exceptional well-trained workforce and preparing young Idahoans for research careers in the life sciences. In addition, the MRCF continues to expand its regional role as a research resource serving ISU, other regional institutions, government research labs, and private industry.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Robert Fleischmann
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Idaho State University
United States
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