MU Faculty Investigators Reach Another All-Time High in Research Funding
Scientists and scholars at the University of Missouri received more than $189 million in external sponsorship during the previous fiscal year, the highest total in the University's history. This robust level of funding affirms that MU's faculty investigators continue to occupy a place among the nation's leaders in research, scholarship and higher learning.
Much of MU's external sponsorship, as in previous years, was generated through competitive grants awarded by federal agencies, most notably the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Awards from NSF, for example, reached an all-time high of $21.3 million in FY 2007, a nine percent increase over the previous year's total of $19.5 million.
Totals from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH's parent agency, showed even more dramatic gains, jumping from an FY 2006 total of $56.5 million to more than $65.5 million in FY 2007.
As we have pointed out in previous reports, an increased level of funding from these sources is significant in more than just dollar terms: Because competition for NSF and NIH funding is particularly keen, projects selected for support from these agencies tend to represent the very best of contemporary research.
Among the notable investigations that received NSF support in FY 2007 was that of biological sciences professor James Birchler, who was awarded a five-year, $1.9 million grant to create engineered "minichromosomes" in maize. Birchler's work could lead to the development of crops that are multiply resistant to viruses, insects, fungi, bacteria and herbicides, and of proteins and metabolites used to treat human illnesses.
In addition, Mian Liu, professor of geophysics in the College of Arts and Science, received a $2.1-million grant from NSF to lead a multi-institutional study with Associate Professor Eric Sandvol and Assistant Professors Francisco (Paco) Gomez and Milene Cormier of MU's Department of Geological Sciences. The researchers will work with a team of U.S. and Chinese researchers to explore the fundamental physics that control intraplate earthquakes. Their findings will not only help earth scientists' better understand quakes in China, but will lead to a advances in knowledge for U.S. seismology as well.
In September, meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health announced the creation of a $20 million, five-year program to fund a national team of scientists investigating issues related to "fertility preservation" for women. The project's aim is to provide conception options to women whose reproductive health may have been compromised by cancer treatments. Led by Teresa Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, it includes more than 15 different institutions across the country. At MU, John Critser will receive approximately $1.25 million over five years to study cryopreservation methods of human eggs. "The long-term goal is to allow people to have children who otherwise might not be able to do so," says Critser, the Gilbreath McLorn Professor of Comparative Medicine.
Such projects, as well as hundreds of additional ongoing University investigations, are making significant contributions to the advancement of science and higher learning at MU. They are also boosting Missouri's economic development. The previous fiscal year, for instance, saw the University's research enterprise generate more than $248 million in annual research and development spending, expenditures that supported some $450 million in economic activity and 9,000 jobs.
Before he left MU to lead the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at Rice University in Houston, MU's Vice Chancellor for Research Jim Coleman succinctly summed up the accomplishments of FY 2007. "These results truly speak to the excellence of our faculty," said Coleman. "Our faculty shares a common passion for discovery, creativity and innovation that generates the support of federal agencies. We have come a long way in 10 years, but we know that we still have a lot of work to do."
Part of that work will involve selecting a new research division leader who can help our faculty scientists and scholars maintain the momentum they have built during the past decade. In the meantime, new and ongoing projects ensure that our new vice chancellor for research will inherit a healthy and vibrant research enterprise.
In August, for example, Chancellor Brady Deaton and Research Reactor Director Ralph Butler teamed up with Mid-America Cyclotron CEO Scott Brower to announce a public-private partnership that will supply area medical centers with much-needed isotopes for diagnosing illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. At the center of the partnership is the installation of a new cyclotron -- an apparatus that produces the isotopes -- housed in a recently completed addition to the MU Research Reactor.
The addition is part of a major expansion of Research Park, one that includes construction of the $10-million International Institute for Nano and Molecular Medicine. Construction also continues on the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, a 30,000-square-foot facility that will enhance teaching and scholarship at the already world-renowned MU School of Journalism.
Work on MU's new $18.4-million Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, one of only nine such facilities in the nation, is also nearing completion. And technicians working with MU's Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Core recently installed a new, 800 MHz NMR instrument in the recently completed, $10-million Schweitzer Hall Addition. These developments represent just a few of the initiatives and programs that are laying the foundation for many years of discovery, innovation and scholarly achievement. As this report will show, we are making exciting strides forward, developments indicative of MU's commitment to a future in which research and higher learning inform all aspects of our rapidly changing world.