2010 in Review – The Research Funding

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KINGSTON, R.I. – January 5, 2011 – At a time when state funding continues to decrease, the University of Rhode Island has been extremely resourceful in finding other means of revenue.

The University set a new school record for research funding during the 2010 fiscal year, marking the second consecutive year URI has set a new school mark for research funding. In fact, external funding given to URI has increased by an astronomical 60 percent over the last three years.

From strengthening corporate partnerships ($1 million from Toray Plastics) to garnering continued support for groundbreaking medical research (Annie De Groot), URI received significant funding in a number of areas. Here’s a look at some of the largest sources of funding the University received in 2010.

$20 million for marine life science: In September, the National Science Foundation awarded URI a massive grant designed to stimulate research in marine life science at nine of the state’s institutions of higher education. Called a “landmark grant” by Gov. Donald Carcieri, the funding builds on previous NSF support and is intended to strengthen the state’s research competitiveness and productivity, fund outreach and workforce development initiatives, and increase career pathways in science, technology, engineering and math.

U.S. Navy partners with College of Engineering through $5.3 million grant: A year ago today, URI’s College of Engineering received a $5.3 million contract by the U.S. Navy to fund the national Student Services Program that links undergraduate and graduate science and engineering students from across the country with paid internship opportunities at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport. The program provides students majoring in engineering, computer science, mathematics, chemistry and physics with the opportunity to work on research and development projects with professional scientists and engineers at NUWC.

Toray Plastics Making a Difference with $1 million gift: In October, URI President David M. Dooley announced that Toray Plastics (America), located in North Kingstown had made a $1 million gift to the University. The Toray gift is part of the University’s Making a Difference campaign. In presenting the gift, Richard Schloesser, president and CEO of Toray, noted that the Toray-URI relationship began over 20 years ago. “We at Toray enjoy this partnership by providing some 47 scholarships each year to the very best undergraduate engineering students at URI as well as internships at our plant in North Kingstown and Lyon, France, along with other programs to promote our learning together,” he said.

URI takes leadership role in Crisis preparedness: At the start of 2010, URI continued to prove itself as the leader in crisis preparedness with a $704,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education grant to update and improve its crisis preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery. The grant came on the heels of $1.9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2008 that led to the establishment of the National Institute for Public Safety Research and Training at URI. The focus of the Department of Education grant is to involve every aspect of the University in crisis planning and response and to become compliant with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management System.

Driving the research for improved car batteries: One of the chief obstacles to the development and commercialization of the next generation of electric vehicles is the short lifespan of the present generation of batteries. In September, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded URI chemistry professor Brett Lucht a $600,000 grant to study why batteries degrade so quickly and how to extend their life.

Annie De Groot continues to pull in funding: Less than a year after securing a $13 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Professor Annie De Groot received an additional $511,121 from the group in September to accelerate the application of her integrated gene-to-vaccine computer tools to develop vaccines for neglected tropical diseases. The research is being conducted at URI’s Institute of Immunology and Informatics (I’Cubed), and the money is being issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. De Groot was also awarded a $256,000 grant to make the tools available to researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Emory, University of Maryland, University of Oklahoma, Baylor Research Institute in Dallas and University of Massachusetts.

Not stopping there, De Groot also received a $212,000 grant in July from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that allowed 14 students and recent graduates to be hired as summer research fellows to be trained to help conduct infectious disease vaccine research. De Groot was awarded the grant as a supplement to the $13 million TRIAD grant she received last year to collaborate with researchers from URI, Brown University and Lifespan on the development of vaccines against Lyme disease, Hepatitis C and other diseases.