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Governor and lawmakers visit UConn Health to celebrate university’s record research funding

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Governor Ned Lamont and state lawmakers visited UConn Health on Monday, November 1 to tour its state-of-the-art research facilities and to celebrate the record funding for UConn researchers in the past fiscal year, with 375 millions of dollars in federal, state and industry grants and awards. Following the tour, Lamont held a press conference in the Academic Hall, which was joined by leaders and researchers from UConn and UConn Health.

Lamont and his guests toured the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) facility, where they met Jeffrey Hoch, director of the Gregory P. Mullen NMR structural biology facility, and Mark Maciejewski, assistant professor of molecular biology and biophysics , which manages the installation. Hoch and his team recently received a $ 40 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the largest grant in UConn’s history.

Governor Ned Lamont and Jeffrey Hoch, director of the Gregory P. Mullen RMN Structural Biology Facility at UConn Health, during a tour of the research facilities at the Farmington campus (Stephanie Reitz / UConn Photo).

Hoch and Maciejewski showed the governor and lawmakers the facility’s powerful research magnets and new liquid helium recycling technology. The $ 40 million grant helps create a national network for advanced NMR, a powerful research method for analyzing molecules.

The area housing the helium liquefaction plant also includes superconducting magnets. Magnets, which are the “heart” of NMR instruments, require liquid helium to cool them to 4 ° Kelvin, or 4 degrees above absolute zero, Hoch explains.

“Until recently, helium, which is increasingly expensive and in limited supply, was lost in the atmosphere,” says Hoch. “With this liquefaction plant, we are now capturing the gaseous helium as it evaporates from each of the four instruments in the facility. It is compressed then treated by a purifier and compressed again to liquefy it before being reused. We hope to be able to recycle over 95% of the helium we need, which will significantly reduce costs and make the installation much more sustainable. “

The group that joined the tour included Dr Andrew Agwunobi, CEO of UConn Health and interim president of UConn; Michelle williams, UConn’s associate vice-president for research; Dr George Kuchel, director of the UConn Center on Aging and the new Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at UConn, Travelers Chair in Geriatrics and Gerontology at the UConn School of Medicine; and Leslie Loew, UConn Board of Directors Emeritus Professor, Boehringer Ingelheim Chair in Cellular Sciences and Professor in the Department of Cell Biology, UConn Faculty of Medicine.

Dr. Bruce Liang, Dean of UConn School of Medicine, and Anthony Vella, Senior Associate Dean for Research Planning and Development at UConn School of Medicine, also participated in the visit. They were joined by two state lawmakers, Representatives Mike Demicco and Tammy Exum, both representing Farmington.

After the tour, Lamont congratulated UConn and UConn Health.

“We save lives right here at UConn Health, every day in your healthcare facilities and because of the important research you conduct,” said Lamont. “People see the incredible progress and momentum you’ve had, and they want to be a part of and support it. The significant research funding you receive is a testament to the great work being done here. “

Agwunobi said UConn’s primary mission as the state’s flagship public university is to create knowledge that will transform healthcare and other fields, as well as lead to sustainable economic development in Connecticut.

“Today, we are developing research faster than ever,” said Agwunobi. “During the past fiscal year, our faculty at Storrs, UConn Health and regional campuses successfully received $ 375 million in new awards from external sponsors such as federal agencies, the government of State and industry. A total of 746 proposals submitted by UConn faculty were selected for one-time or multi-year funding. This is the highest level of research funding ever at UConn, and we hope to double that level in the future to make an even bigger contribution.

Kuchel spoke about the recent federal funding received by the UConn Center on Aging to advance geroscience research, while Williams reiterated the importance of funding research across the University and how research investments are priorities. absolute.

“Our record growth is also the result of investment,” said Williams, “particularly investment in infrastructure and research support. We have invested in cutting-edge research equipment and facilities; we have invested in nationally and internationally recognized multidisciplinary centers and institutes; and we have invested in outstanding faculty, students, research professionals and staff, who are at the forefront of research, scholarship and creativity.