Montana State University serves as the state’s land-grant university, with the mission to integrate education, creation of knowledge, and art and service to communities. Core facilities provide an important nexus across these foundational values. Core facilities have a mission to facilitate high-impact research and scholarship, and to provide distinctive, high-quality educational opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students. Moreover, many also provide service and outreach to state-wide industries and communities.

The Vice President for Research and Economic Development (VP-RED) tasked Research Council with a review of core facility practices in the fall of 2019. Several recommendations were made, including 1) process for becoming a core facility, 2) regular assessment process, 3) clarity around operational and fiscal expectations, and 4) creative and sustainable models of fiscal support.  In 2020-21, the VP-RED leadership worked with several core facility directors and staff to put more structure around these recommendations, and below are the outcomes and practices that began Jan. 1, 2022.

To be a VP-RED core facility requires an application that will be reviewed by an ad-hoc review committee composed of members from Research Council and existing core facility directors. The committee size will be approximately 5-7 individuals selected by the VP-RED with input from Research Council and deans of Colleges that are represented in the proposed core facility. The committee will review applications and provide a recommendation to the VP-RED.

The application should consist of the following:

  • Introduction. A brief introduction detailing how the proposed core facility 1) meets the definition of a core facility and 2) aligns with the strategic plan and interdisciplinary research goals. (2 page maximum)
  • Core Facility Structure and Governance. This section will vary in length based on size and scope of the proposed core facility, but will include the following sections/descriptions.
    • Facility leadership, staffing, faculty/affiliated faculty, and external partners
    • Facility description, including location(s), equipment, services, etc.
    • Safety requirements and expectations, including site visit and letters of support from Office of Research Compliance and Office of Safety and Risk Management.
    • Other unique structure and/or governance items
  • Fiscal Plan. This section will include detailed analysis of fiscal process, needs, and expectations, including the following sections/descriptions.
    • Fiscal management approach, including all sources of revenue and expense
    • Proposed budget for following fiscal year, including any F&A reinvestment request
  • Scholarship Impact Report. A brief (3 page maximum) report that highlights proposed core facility impact on research and scholarship. Areas of emphasis to consider include 1) grants and contracts, 2) publications, 3) patents/licensures/other economic development activities, 4) graduate and undergraduate courses that will benefit, 5) outreach activities, 6) data management support, and 7) other anticipated impact.

Applicants will receive formal feedback within 4-6 weeks of the application.  Applications that are recommended for further consideration will be expected to make a presentation to Research Council. Please use this PowerPoint template to prepare your presentation.  Following input from Research Council and applicable deans, the VP-RED will make a final decision.

VP-RED core facilities will undergo periodic and comprehensive evaluations to ensure mission relevance, and to ensure investments are having intended impact on research, scholarship, educational, and outreach goals. This is important as the VP-RED office aims to limit the number of core facilities (i.e., 8-12 facilities) to ensure adequate support.  Regular assessment processes will include the following:

Quarterly Meetings.  Each core facility director (and applicable supervisor) will meet with the VP-RED office for quarterly updates on the facility, with an emphasis if projected goals and budget are on-track. A template for these quarterly meetings will be provided to all VP-RED core facility directors.

Annual Report and Review. Each core facility director will provide an annual report by August 15 of each year. This date is selected to allow end of fiscal year reports to be incorporated.  The first quarterly meeting of the new fiscal year will be used to discuss the annual report.  A template for these annual reports will be provided to all VP-RED core facility directors.

Five-Year Renewal Review.  A core facility will undergo a comprehensive review every five years. This will include review with Research Council, applicable deans, and VP-RED leadership. A template for these five-year renewals will be provided to all VP-RED core facility directors.

The VP-RED office acknowledges that there will be some heterogeneity among core facilities, as each has a unique mission that supports specific research, scholarship, educational, and outreach goals. However, there should be some common operational and fiscal expectations that aid each core facility in their unique goals.

During the 2020-21 academic year, several core facility directors worked with the VP-RED office and Huron Consulting to establish clear guidelines on some basic operational and fiscal expectations. That report is currently being finalized, but is expected to lead to a new policy and set of procedures that will be vetted through typical university processes.  Once a final policy is available, it will be posted here.

The VP-RED office acknowledges that some central investments are necessary to support core facilities. Each core facility has unique strengths, needs, and challenges that will be assessed when determining the level of central investment. However, recognition as a VP-RED core facility allows access to the following opportunities and programs.

  • One-time reserve index for emergency repairs/needs. Upon being established as a VP-RED core facility, directors will have an opportunity to submit for a one-time VP-RED reserve index. This is to not only to address emergency repairs/needs, but also to ensure there is flexibility in the fiscal process so that sales and service indexes are not used inappropriately for a reserve.
  • Annual F&A reinvestment request. Each VP-RED core facility director will have an opportunity to make an annual F&A reinvestment request. This process will parallel what is done with college deans and center/institute directors, and will occur each spring (i.e., March/April).
  • Core facilities grant program. Similar to the other internal grant programs (i.e., REF, S&C, etc.), there will be an annual core facilities grant program that is specifically designed to address a major repair, new instrumentation or process, etc. The overarching goal of this targeted grant program is to 1) advance fiscal sustainability and/or 2) develop a new service or process that aligns with user needs. For FY22, this program will be supported by not only the VP-RED office, but also the President’s office through the annual Strategic Investment Process.  Each VP-RED core facility will be able to submit one proposal per year. Deadline Jan. 15, 2022.

List of VP-RED Core Facilities

The Animal Resources Center (ARC) provides healthy animals for use in IACUC-approved research, educational and testing protocols at Montana State University (MSU). Through the provision of modern, well maintained facilities, trained personnel, technical support, and veterinary care, the ARC ensures that MSU research animals are cared for in a humane manner and upholds ethical standards and federal regulations pertaining to the care and use of animals for research, education and testing.

The Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE) has two Core facilities to support research and research education for faculty, staff, and students:

The Analytical Core contains five fully equipped research laboratories for shared use that include an analytical instrument lab with liquid and gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, spectrophotometers and carbon analyzer; a microbiology lab with media preparation area and autoclaves; a molecular biology space with thermocyclers, gel running and imaging station, sequencing and nucleic acid quantification capability, and an isolated radioactive isotope lab.  Contact:  Dr. Kristen Brileya; [email protected]

The Imaging Core facilities maintains equipment and trains/assists users in imaging and analyses of bio-systems via optical microscopy and fluorescent/Raman confocal microscopy.  The Imaging Core has a newly acquired Leica Epifluorescent microscope (Thunder system)  and will be acquiring new multi-photon/multi-modality/digital light sheet capabilities in early 2022. The microscopy facilities include four separate laboratories—the Optical Microscopy Lab, the Confocal Microscopy Lab, the Chemical Imaging Lab, and the Microscope Resource Room/Digital Imaging Lab.  Contact: Dr. Heidi Smith; [email protected]

Director: Matthew Fields; [email protected]

The Cryo-EM core facility at Montana State University is a regional facility that brings state of the art cryo-EM capabilities, including single particle analysis and cryo-electron tomography, to the Northern Rocky Mountains. Instrumentation includes a 200 kV Talos Arctica with a Gatan K3 camera, 120 kV Tecnai Spirit, and a Vitrobot Mark IV. Collectively, these instruments allow imaging of biological structures at single nanometer to subnanometer resolutions, and thus enable 3D modeling of cells, viruses, proteins, nucleic acid and other soft matter at the atomic level.

Director: Martin Lawrence; [email protected]

The Geospatial Core Facility (GCF) is a collaborative space for geospatial research and education across MSU and beyond. Equally adept in the field or lab, the GCF integrates expert knowledge with cutting-edge technologies, advanced sensors, drones, high-performance computing, and software to capture geospatial data that enables new and insightful research, teaching, and outreach. The goals of the GCF are to expand interdisciplinary research, support external funding, grow educational and outreach opportunities, and develop partnerships in Montana and beyond. The GCF welcomes ideas, questions, and collaborations from all research and teaching disciplines, community partners, and stakeholders.

Director: Eric Sproles

ICAL is a mid-sized, user-oriented core facility that supports basic and applied research in all science and engineering disciplines at MSU, collaborating universities, and industrial partners. This facility co-locates all electron-, X-ray-, and particle-beam instruments within a single core facility, allowing for economies of scale through centralized scheduling, training, maintenance, expertise and operation of these instruments, and provides greater visibility and access to instruments by students and faculty across the STEM disciplines.

Director: Recep Avci; [email protected]

The mission of the Proteomics, Metabolomics and Mass Spectrometry Facility is to seed methods, technology, and training to students and research labs at Montana State University and affiliated programs. The facility offers a full range of services from small molecule identification to the complete characterization of complex biological mixtures such as soil and serum.

Director: Brian Bothner; [email protected]

The Montana Microfabrication Facility (MMF) is an open-access micro and nanofabrication facility located at Montana State University. The MMF offers a range of processing and packaging capabilities, including photo and electron beam lithography, wet and dry etching, sputter deposition, thermal and electron beam evaporation, chemical vapor deposition, metrology, and inspection. University and industry clients leverage nanotechnology to pursue basic and applied research spanning the sciences and engineering fields, developing sensors for the environment and human health, exploring new two-dimensional materials for quantum information science, and creating new technologies for the optics and telecommunications industries. The MMF trains dozens of students each year to use the tools and techniques of nanotechnology, and engages with the broader community through programs for K-12 students, teachers and Montana 4-H.

Director: David Dickensheets; [email protected]

MSU’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Core Facility houses four high-field solution NMR spectrometers that are employed to characterize the molecular arrangements and dynamic properties of small molecules, natural products, chemical synthesis intermediates, polymers, and biomolecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and small molecule metabolites. The NMR Core provides diverse services and access to state-of-the-art NMR instrumentation, and serves the needs of a diverse group of users, including on-campus and off-campus academic researchers, industrial partners. The core is actively engaged in the training and education of both undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral trainees. The NMR Core Facility works closely with MSU’s Mass spectrometry Proteomics and Metabolomics Core Facility to offer an extensive and integrated approach for solving complex chemical, biological, and biochemical scientific problems and for training students in interdisciplinary life science research.

Director: Valerie Copie;