Core facilities are self-contained labs within the University stocked with state-of-the-art research equipment and run by highly trained experts. They provide access to world-class services and technology for those interested in conducting advanced research.
The University of Ottawa currently has 26 core facilities across the faculties of Engineering, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences. Led by the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (OVPRI), since 2011, the core facilities program is recognized as a national leader and is currently the longest running program of its kind in the country.
“The development of an oversight framework to support and sustain our cores required a paradigm shift, a cultural change in terms of accessing and sharing essential research infrastructure,” says Nasser-Eddine. “And that’s mission critical, because it has to benefit a broad range of researchers.”
Cores offer a cost-effective solution to many of the equipment and infrastructure challenges that researchers face, particularly early career researchers. They allow government, industry and not-for-profits to conduct research without having to purchase specialized equipment or hire highly qualified staff.
“Core facilities open the door to fruitful collaborations and partnerships that are bidirectional, because we end up learning from others as much as they learn from us,” says Katey Rayner, assistant dean of research and special projects at the Faculty of Medicine, who is also a strong ambassador for the OVPRI’s core facilities program. “It’s not a coincidence that the top-ranking research universities are also the ones that invest heavily in their core facilities. Research moves at a fast pace, and the approaches we use to conduct it are constantly evolving. That’s why core facilities are critical to the research enterprise.”
On core facility managers: ‘They really get things done’
Core facilities are run by PhD scientists with high-level expertise. It’s their job to find the latest technologies and the most advanced methods to conduct research. “It really is an exciting career because you genuinely get to be at the absolute cutting edge of technology,” says Rayner. “As a researcher, when I approach a core facility manager with my research question, they’ll say, ‘Ok, I’ve got three ways we can answer that. Not only that, but I also know how to execute them, and I’ll teach you and your team how to do it.’ They really get things done. And they’ll get it done ten times faster than if I had to do it all on my own.”
Providing analytical services and advising users on their research projects is central to a core facility’s value proposition, says Nasser-Eddine. “Attracting and retaining high-performing core managers and technicians is vital to the success of core facilities and our research mission at uOttawa.”