We have a range of excellent research facilities at the University of Reading, many of which are available for use by both staff and external collaborators.
Our Atmospheric Observatory is a teaching and research facility. It began making and recording meteorological observations in 1901. Manual observations continue to be made 365 days per year and the facility boasts an almost complete daily record from January 1908 to date of a wide range of atmospheric elements including air, surface and earth temperatures, precipitation, barometric pressure and wind speed/direction.
Cardiovascular Imaging Facility
Purpose-built to support our biomedical research, the centre includes human imaging facilities and specialist microscopic technology. Imaging facilities comprise a DXA scanner for measuring bone mineral density and tissue mass/distribution, and ultrasonography which can be used to see internal structures of the body. Our advanced microscopy facilities include intravital microscopes, high-frequency ultrasound, confocal microscopes and flow cytometry, allowing scientists and engineers to look at structures from atomic to macroscopic levels.
Chemical Analysis Facility
Our Chemical Analysis Facility supports our research in chemistry, pharmacy, food biosciences, soil sciences and agriculture. Facilities include nuclear magnetic resonance, thermal analysis, molecular spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and scattering, optical spectroscopy and mass spectrometry equipment and an electron microscopy laboratory. Access to the facility’s expertise and instruments is available to external collaborators as well as staff.
Crop and Environment Laboratory (CEL)
This is a dedicated laboratory for research in plant and environmental science. It plays a critical role in the University’s research on food security and resilience to climate change. The lab allows for control of environmental variables including: temperature, light intensity and quality, day length, humidity, and CO2 concentration. It includes cabinets, growth rooms, glasshouses, 5.5 hectares of experimental grounds and associated working areas. Researchers can grow any plant at any time of the year, mimicking environments anywhere from the Arctic regions to the tropics. Although primarily for university use, the facilities can also be hired on a commercial basis.
Crops Research Unit (Sonning Farm)
Based at our farm in Sonning, this 12 hectare unit carries out research on all aspects of arable, soft fruit and forage crop production. The unit is equipped to grow, monitor and harvest arable crops at plot to field scale, with over 2,000 trial plots drilled annually. Automated measurements of plant establishment, light interception, leaf area, height and other factors can be carried out remotely and facilities for post-harvest analyses are also available. There are also long term field facilities, rain-out shelters for inducing drought treatments and covers for inducing heat stress in the field.
A modern scientific facility for applied and strategic large animal research, including studies on milk composition and human health, dairy cow nutrition, and the environmental impacts of meat and milk production. The centre accommodates up to 200 cows fed individually for applied research projects. Since 2017 it has been a LEAF Innovation Centre, the aims of which are to provide robust scientific data on how to minimise the environmental impact of both livestock and arable farming while maintaining high levels of quality food production.
The Flavour Centre provides the food industry with an understanding of the fundamental chemistry behind the flavours in the products it creates. This helps business to develop new products and improve food flavour. The centre provides consultancy from scientists, contract research, analytical services and access to scientific consultancy.
Food Processing Centre
This centre offers consultancy, food processing and lab facilities to the food industry. It comprises the UK’s largest food processing pilot plant, with dedicated dairy and bakery areas, and a wide range of lab facilities and equipment for food analysis. Companies can also access expertise from the University of Reading’s school of Food and Nutritional Sciences - one of the UK’s largest university departments specialising in food science and technology.
The University of Reading Herbarium contains around 300,000 specimens. It includes flowering plants, conifers, cycads, ferns, lycophytes and non-vascular plants from across the globe. The centre is a major research resource, receiving visitors and requests for identification help from all over the world. It is listed on the Index Herbariorum, the global directory for public herbaria. For researchers, the herbarium provides specimens, a specialist library and a secure repository for research voucher specimens, and responds to international loan requests.
Hugh Sinclair Nutrition Unit
The Hugh Sinclair Human Nutrition Unit carries out research into the relationship between diet and the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. It has strong links with food companies and other nutrition research institutes throughout the world. Facilities include a human intervention study unit to study effects of nutrition and diet on the body, and facilities for the study of cellular and molecular nutrition and food analysis and nutrient bioavailability.
International Cocoa Quarantine Centre (ICQC)
The only facility of its kind in the world, the ICQC exists to make global cocoa production more sustainable in the face of increasing pressures from pests, diseases, low yields and climate change. It holds a large collection of distinct genetic types of cocoa for use in crop-breeding or research programmes, and handles their international movement while minimising the risk of spreading potentially devastating infections and parasites. Requests can be made for plant material from the collection for research and breeding purposes.
Our Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Facility is an independent part of the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN). It is closely linked with CINN’s expertise and research but can also be closed off for industry research. Our 3T MRI scanner allows whole-body imaging with Tim 4G technology. The facility also has a large selection of coils, stimulus response pads and joysticks and pre- and post-scan behavioural testing cubicles.
Museums and Special Collections
The University is home to the Museum of English Rural Life, the Ure Museum of Classical Archaeology and the Cole Museum of Zoology as well as a range of special collections of rare books, archives and manuscripts. The latter include collections in typography, the letters of Nancy Astor, the world’s largest collection of resources relating to the playwright Samuel Beckett, letters and papers relating to Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press, and a large archive of Ladybird and Mills and Boon books and papers.
National Fruit Collection
The University curates and maintains the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm, Kent, on behalf of DEFRA, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and in partnership with the Fruit Advisory Services Team. With over 3,500 named apple, pear, plum, cherry, bush fruit, vine and cob nut cultivars, it is one of the largest fruit collections in the world. The collection is part of an international programme to protect plant genetic resources for the future, part of which is a database of 21,000 European apple and pear samples.