Building a state-of-the-art research facility from scratch that will house top-of-line equipment and instruments and be the centerpiece of an institution’s growing research ecosystem is no easy task.
But Manikandan Santhanaraman is certainly up to the task. After working for more than 20 years in life sciences and research in the pharmaceutical industry and academia, Santhanaraman said he was ready to focus more on research operations. Now as the first manager of Merrimack College’s Shared Instrumentation and Research Facility (SIRF), he is working to ensure all the instruments are in place for groundbreaking life sciences discoveries to begin later this semester.
“It takes a lot of planning,” said Santhanaraman, who has his doctorate in organic chemistry and master’s in business administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “This isn’t a house that you buy and move right into. Because we are bringing in all different types of instruments and equipment, not every outlet is the same, not every vent is the same.”
Located on the first floor of Palmisano Hall, the 7,000-square-foot SIRF will be a hub for Merrimack faculty and students, as well as industry partners, to conduct research in biology, chemistry and other life sciences. Many of the instruments housed in the SIRF are the same ones used at top-level research facilities in both academia and industry.
In addition to the research work, Santhanaraman said he is also excited for the learning opportunities in lab management and operation that will be available to students.
“(Students) don’t have to use the instruments solely for research work,” Santhanaraman said. “They can learn about machine collaboration, laboratory quality control and safety, data analysis and understanding the logistics to ensure successful research to take place.”
While much of the initial research that will take place in the SIRF will be in the biological and chemical sciences, Santhanaraman noted plans are already in motion to collaborate with faculty researchers in the School of Engineering and Computational Sciences and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Additionally, future external partnerships have the potential for the SIRF to be a go-to lab for the private sector, non-profits, government agencies, municipalities and other organizations.
“We want to bring everyone under one roof and showcase this space to incoming students to spark interest in their research,” said Santhanaraman. “We have everything here to conduct research and this is the place where you have even more opportunities.”
The Merrimack community will be invited to an opening celebration for the SIRF later this semester.