Research infrastructures refer to the entity made up of pieces of equipment, devices, materials and services that enable research. The University of Eastern Finland is home to diverse and high-level research infrastructures supporting the university's research activities. Furthermore, the University of Eastern Finland is the provider or a user of several national-level infrastructures, and the university also participates in several European infrastructures representing the cutting edge of research. The university invests in the development of research infrastructures that support its strategic research areas in particular.
University of Eastern Finland in national research infrastructures
Finland's Strategy and Roadmap for Research Infrastructures for 2014-2020, published by the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Education and Culture, encompasses a total of 31 national research infrastructures. The University of Eastern Finland is involved in the provision of 12 national infrastructures, and a user of a total of 19 national research infrastructures.
Furthermore, several research infrastructures not included in the national research infrastructure strategy also play a significant role. The development of these infrastructures, too, is an integral part of the activities of the University of Eastern Finland.
University of Eastern Finland in international research infrastructures
Extensive international research infrastructures are significant enablers of top-level research, and they create opportunities for new international partnerships and research openings. The University of Eastern Finland participates in a total of nine top-level research infrastructures included in the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, ESFRI.
Significant research infrastructures at the University of Eastern Finland
Integrated Atmospheric and Earth system Science Research Infrastructure - INAR
INAR is an infrastructure cluster comprising the following components: ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System), ANAEE (Infrastructure for Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems), and ACTRIS (Aerosols, Clouds, and Trace gases Research InfraStructure Network).
The components of INAR-RI include
- atmospheric and environmental observation stations (SMEAR I-IV, Pallas-Sodankylä GAW, ACTRIS)
- experimental field exposure sites and laboratories (ANAEE, lab experiments, instruments), AnaEE In natura platform, AnaEE In vitro platform
- multi-scale modelling platform for climate/Earth system modelling
- INAR-RI database and data portal.
The key functions of the infrastructure are an aerosol reaction chamber combined with a plant chamber, a reactor chamber for the analysis of the particle formation potential of soil-derived gas-like emissions, open-field systems, and continuous monitoring of atmospheric gases and particles.
The European AnaEE (Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems) infrastructure's Finnish component, ANAEE-Finland, comprises the following plant exposure systems. ANAEE-Finland is a part of INAR infrastructure cluster.
- The only plant ecosystem level open-field exposure system in the Nordic countries, allowing the controlled modification of temperature in all eight plots (diameter approximately 9 metres) and the controlled modification of ozone concentrations in four plots. In addition to vegetation responses, the field setting can be used for studying the responses of herbivores and their natural enemies to factors associated with climate change.
- Plant exposure chambers The system comprises 12 identical chambers allowing for a precise modification of all environmental factors affecting plant and organism growth and a controlled addition of different environmental exposure factors such as carbon dioxide and ozone.
The Integrated Carbon Observation System - ICOS
The Integrated Carbon Observation System, ICOS, is a distributed European research infrastructure, i.e., a network of researchers, research stations, measurement devices and measurement equipment for the monitoring of greenhouse gas concentrations, emissions and capture. ICOS is a part of of INAR infrastructure cluster.
ICOS is formed by national measurement stations and thematic centres focused on different fields of research, as well as by ICOS-EU, the coordinating umbrella organisation. The network of measurement stations comprises approximately 40 observation stations around Europe, and one of these stations is located on the top floor of Puijo Tower. The ICOS station in Puijo Tower continuously measures air CO2, CH4 and H20 concentrations (Picarro G1301), as well as N20 and CO concentrations (Los Gatos model-23r).
Controlled Growth Environments
The Controlled Growth Environments infrastructure comprises two parts that complement one another: A) three sets of different controlled-environment growth chambers for studying the environmental responses of individuals and species, and B) two infrastructures for field experiments.
- The School of Forest Sciences is home to nine large growth chambers and a root laboratory (together with Natural Resources Institute Finland), which are used for growing plants throughout the year and for studying their responses to various environmental factors. The school's five exposure chambers for temperatures below zero and analysis equipment supplement the entity.
- The six climatic exposure chambers purchased by the Faculty of Science and Forestry for the Department of Biology in 2014 can be used for diverse experimental settings. The Department of Biology also hosts four growth chambers it has built on its own.
- The Department of Biology has an experimental site at the Botania Botanical Garden of Joensuu. This site is used for studying the effects of elevated temperatures and ultraviolet (UV) radiation on plant responses.
- Field experiments in large-scale replicated field experiment settings in mineral soil that have been on-going for the past 15 years are used for studying the effects of different forest processing methods of populations and forest carbon capture.
- Field experiments in peat soil are used for studying the effects of natural succession and climate change of the populations and ecosystems of marshes, incl. climatic feedback.
Infrastructure for materials research
The infrastructure for materials research extensively brings together the Faculty of Science and Forestry's materials research devices from the Joensuu and Kuopio campuses. The infrastructure comprises research equipment in the fields of photonics, spectral colour research, materials chemistry and technology, and biomaterials and biorefining.
As a whole, the infrastructure is an enabler of photonics research and multidisciplinary materials research, ranging from the planning and manufacturing of new components and materials to the characterisation and understanding of their structures and properties.
The research infrastructure plays an important role in the university's research and education, as well as in its national and international cooperation and key roles. The infrastructure also makes services relating to its methods and expertise available to external research groups and industrial partners.
The infrastructure's nearly 20-million-euro set of equipment is accessible directly via the participating units, as well as via SIB-Labs, which carries out more extensive marketing of the infrastructure.
Structural Biology Centre
The infrastructure of the Structural Biology Centre offers extremely versatile opportunities for high-level research in the fields of biotechnology, bioeconomy and biomedicine. The key equipment of the Structural Biology Centre comprises a high-resolution FTICR mass spectrometer, and there are only a few similar equipment in the whole of Europe. The spectrometer enables the compositional analysis of complex mixtures such as bio-oils. The spectrometer is used for atom-level structural analysis of large biomolecules and for the measurement of interaction between biomolecules. Another key equipment of the Structural Biology Centre is a protein diffractometer enabling the measurement of three-dimensional protein structures. These structures are of key importance when developing new drugs, vaccines or enzymes for biotechnology applications.
The Spectromics Laboratory is the first research environment in Finland to focus on spectral imaging of plants and other biological materials. The infrastructure's key equipment comprises four next-generation spectral cameras covering the wavelength areas of UV light, visible light and short and long wavelength infrared light (250-5000 nm), enabling sample imaging in an exceptionally wide wavelength range.
The Spectromics Laboratory studies and develops non-invasive optical methods especially for the study of plant stress responses both in laboratory and field conditions. In addition to biological research, the equipment is used for teaching. Furthermore, it can be extensively used in, for example, remote sensing, optical research and materials research.
The infrastructure caters for the following strategic areas of strength of the University of Eastern Finland: Forests, global change and bioeconomy and Photonics: theory, materials and applications. Furthermore, the infrastructure constitutes part of the Academy of Finland's infrastructure roadmap, together with the plant phenotyping laboratory of the University of Helsinki (National Plant Phenotyping Infrastructure, NaPPI).
The infrastructure comprises in vivo imaging and cell and tissue imaging. In vivo imaging of small animals is located in the Biomedical Imaging Unit at the A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences. The infrastructure for in vivo imaging is nationally unique and of a high international level, consisting of three MRI devices and a hyperpolarisation device (to be purchased in 2015–2016). The infrastructure also includes PET and CT/SPECT scanners, optoacoustic and 3D angiography, optical imaging (IVIS) and ultrasound devices, as well as a multiphoton microscope.
The cell and tissue imaging unit is located in the Institute of Biomedicine. The imaging equipment of the unit's infrastructure comprises a confocal microscope (Zeiss LSM 700), a superresolution confocal microscope (Zeiss LSM 800 Airyscan), a light microscope equipped with polarization technology and a fluorescence microscope equipped with a microinjection device and relief contrast technology. Moreover, the infrastructure also comprises a histology laboratory equipped with modern devices.
The Bioimaging infrastructure caters for the needs of several UEF researchers across faculty boundaries, and parts of it are on the national roadmap for research infrastructures as well as in several national and European infrastructure networks.
Biobank of Eastern Finland
The mission of the Biobank of Eastern Finland is to collect and store human biological samples and related data, and to make them available for research purposes. The objective of research relying on biobanks is to promote health, to understand disease mechanisms and to develop products and practices for health and clinical care.
The Biobank of Eastern Finland is owned by the University of Eastern Finland, the hospital district of North Savo, The South Savo Social and Health Care Authority, the hospital district of Eastern Savo and Siun sote - Joint municipal authority for North Karelia social and health services. The biobank's field of research covers the speciality fields in health and clinical care of the owner organisations and stakeholders. The Biobank of Eastern Finland supports research addressing metabolic disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, neurological disorders, cancer and mental health in particular.
Samples for the biobank (for example tissue, blood and DNA samples) can be taken in connection with treatment-related sample-taking or in connection with a research project, with the sample giver's informed consent. Sample collections gathered before the entry into force of the Biobank Act on 1 September 2013 can also be transferred into biobanks. These collections include decades of tissue samples collected by hospital pathology departments, for example. Samples contain information about the sample giver's health and factors affecting it. The data obtained from studies using biobanks is linked samples, thus enhancing the usability and value of the collections, as more and more studies are carried out.
A centralised way of collecting and managing samples and related data ensures sample collection quality as well as reliable privacy protection. As a rule, researchers have access to samples that have been coded anonymous. At the national level, biobanks cooperate with one another by creating uniform ways of collecting, storing and analysing their sample collections.
The Biobank of Eastern Finland is one of the key infrastructures of the University of Eastern Finland, and it constitutes part of the national BBMRI.fi and the international BBMRI-ERIC infrastructure networks. The Biobank of Eastern Finland is on the Academy of Finland's roadmap for research infrastructures, and it constitutes part of the Translational cancer research strategic research area of the University of Eastern Finland.
National Virus Vector Laboratory
The National Virus Vector Laboratory at the A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences produces quality-assured adeno, lenti, bakulo and AAV virus vectors not only on laboratory but also on a wider scale comprising two GMP level and three BSL2/BSL3 level laboratories with their bioreactors (10–100 L), incubators and laminars, vector concentration equipment, cell banks and measurement devices needed for characterisation. The National Virus Vector Laboratory is part of the EU's ESFRI infrastructure, and it has produced GMP level vectors for phase I-II clinical studies for European multicentre studies. Furthermore, over the past decade, the National Virus Vector Laboratory has also produced clinical grade vectors for preclinical purposes for dozens of customers in Finland, the EU and outside the EU.
Lab Animal Centre
The infrastructure of the Lab Animal Centre provides laboratory animal services for the needs of UEF and develops, monitors and supervises the university's activities involving laboratory animals, as well as participates in the field's training, education and teaching at the national and international levels. The centre's research is mainly focused on the welfare of laboratory animals (the 2R's principle*: Refinement, Reduction), and the centre promotes the quality of research involving the use of laboratory animals, as well as safeguards and enhances the welfare of laboratory animals. In addition to open animal premises, the centre has specific pathogen free (SPF) barrier units for the breeding of rodents, an embryo transfer laboratory, operating rooms for small and large animals, and access to the imaging devices of the A. I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences. The set of equipment includes autoclaves, washers for animal cages and racks, cages (also IVC), a HPV sterilizer, anaesthesia equipment, isolators for animal isolation, other laboratory instruments and a browser-based animal information system.
The infrastructure plays a major role in research and teaching at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The centre offers statutory qualification training related to the use of animals in biomedical research at the national level. The centre has its own staff and it offers its services also outside UEF.
* W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch 1959.
GMB Omics Center
The GMB Omics Center brings together UEF's high-capacity research infrastructures in the field of biomedicine. The devices administered by the GMB Omics Center and the services it offers enable state-of-the-art research in the fields of genetics, epigenetics, genomics and metabolomics, and the centre also offers related bioinformatics and data management services. The infrastructure of the GMB Omics Centre comprises thee entities that are further administered by the Genome Center of Eastern Finland, the Metabolomics Center and the Bioinformatics Center.
The Genome Center of Eastern Finland offers genetic diagnostics for the most important monogenic diseases, as well as pharmacogenomics for the assessment of the effectiveness and side effects of different drug therapies. The Genome Center of Eastern Finland carries out genotyping, gene expression studies and DNA sequencing of data cohorts. The centre's equipment includes a next-generation Illumina MiSeq platform for targeted sequencing and three processing robots to support sample processing.
The Metabolomics Center constitutes part of the infrastructure network of Biocenter Finland. The unit is in charge of national-level metabolomics services especially in the field of non-targeted metabolite profiling, and it offers training for diverse metabolomics applications in the fields of bioscience and medicine. The key equipment includes various mass spectrometers (incl. LC-qTOF-MS) and other bioanalytics devices, including NMR and HPLC machines, an element analyser and an atom absorption spectrometer.
The Bioinformatics Center offers expert services and training in the fields of bioinformatics, data analysis and data management, and the centre maintains a computational server infrastructure in the field of bioinformatics. The server infrastructure comprises a private cloud service and a related high-capacity storage space. The server infrastructure is used for scientific computing, storing extensive research materials, managing research projects, and training.
Genome Center of Eastern Finland: http://www.uef.fi/en/genediagnostics/etusivu
Metabolomics Center: http://www.uef.fi/bck/metabolomics-center
Bioinformatics Center: http://www.uef.fi/bioinformatics