Year In Review. Technology Development. Sponsored Research. Instruction & Public Service. MU Research.

MU Investigators Tally Nearly $180 Million in External Support

Jim Coleman.During the previous fiscal year, scientists and scholars at the University of Missouri-Columbia achieved record levels of external sponsorship, with total expenditures falling just short of the $180 million mark. This new figure, a 10 percent increase over last year's total, is a welcome indication of the continued growth of the University's research enterprise and a confirmation of MU's place among the nation's elite research institutions. As this report will show, FY 2005 saw faculty investigators in every MU school and college make important contributions to the intellectual capital of our state and nation.

Not only have these contributions advanced human knowledge and made the world a better place, they have also yielded significant financial dividends. Studies have indicated, for example, that the University's $220 million of total research and development spending has generated some $440 million in economic activity and supported close to 9,000 jobs for Missouri citizens. And our researchers' impact doesn't stop there. In recent years MU investigators have received some 60 patents that have generated nearly $18 million in licensing revenue, while more than 20 start-up companies have been incorporated. In addition, construction of a new Technology Business Incubator and Research Park will soon bring more innovations from our faculty to the public.

R. Michael Roberts.Many of the most promising of these will likely emerge from the life sciences, where investigations into human health, food production and environmental protection are already improving the lives of millions. At the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, our year-old, world-class research facility, some of the nation's best investigators and their research teams are using advanced tools to probe the very foundations of life in people, plants and animals. Of particular note, R. Michael Roberts, Curators' Professor of Animal Science, was honored by Scientific American for achieving one of the world's "top fifty scientific accomplishments" for his discovery of a novel way to regulate stem cell differentiation.

Meanwhile, life scientists working at other campus facilities are also making significant scientific advances. Examples include the work of Gabor Forgacs and his team in creating technologies for "tissue printing," a process by which layers of cells "self-assemble" into functional tissues; Judy Miles' development of diagnostic tools to classify differing forms of autism; and a new center led by Kattesh Katti dedicated to using next-generation nanoparticles to combat breast and prostate cancers.

Important as they are, however, life sciences researchers have not cornered the market on MU's scientific success stories. Take, for instance, Douglas Grouws, a professor of mathematics education at MU and one of a group of scholars in MU's College of Education who have long championed math education reforms. Late last year Grouws received a $2 million NSF grant to fund Comparing Options in Secondary Mathematics: Investigating Curriculum, or COSMIC, which will help scholars find better ways of teaching math in America's schools.

Or Sheryl Tucker, associate professor of chemistry, who last year received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in recognition of her innovative Magic in Chemistry program. Over the years Magic in Chemistry has inspired hundreds of girls to consider advanced studies in science and math. Or John Foley, a professor of classical studies and English at MU who was honored by the Modern Language Association for bringing a recorded oral performance of an important Yugoslavian epic to the attention of scholars.

And then there is Curt Davis, a professor of engineering, who last year published an analysis of NASA satellite data showing that areas of Antarctica are gaining ice mass -- a circumstance that, somewhat counterintuitively, may illustrate yet another example of how our global climate is warming. Davis' finding, first reported in the journal Science, made headlines around the world.

And finally, last year the University celebrated two new recipients of the National Science Foundation's CAREER award. One went to physicist Carsten Ullrich, an assistant professor of physics, who will receive $400,000 over five years to study electronic processes used in cell phones and computers. The other went to Chi-Ren Shyu, a professor of computer science, who will receive $500,000 over five years to continue his work in advanced data mining and new forms of information management tools.

As important as these achievements are, they mean little if researchers don't share what they've learned with next-generation scholars. I am proud to say that each year more and more of our faculty are doing just that. In FY 2005 a record number of MU undergraduates became research assistants and interns, completing meaningful projects with faculty mentors in hundreds of areas of inquiry. MU graduate students, meanwhile, also continue to distinguish themselves. A dissertation by nursing doctoral candidate Teeranut Harnisattisai, for example, was named the "world's best" last year by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau, while poems from husband and wife doctoral candidates Steve Gehrke and Nadine Meyer were selected as 2005 National Poetry Series finalists, one of the nation's top honors.

All of these investigators and students, as well as many others whom we could not include here, share a common passion for discovery, a sense that creativity and innovation are the engines of human progress. As this report clearly shows, our researchers' commitment to scientific excellence ensures that in the next fiscal year, and for years to come, MU will continue to advance its standing among the world's most vital institutions of higher learning.

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Related Links:

Scientific American

National Science Foundation

Modern Language Association

National Aeronautics & Space Administration

Science