CU tops $1 billion in sponsored research; UCCS up 28 percent

Assistant Professor Michael Calvisi, left, works with a College of Engineering student. Calvisi was recognized for his National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

CU achieved a record level of research funding in the 2016-17 fiscal year, with faculty meriting $1.034 billion in federal, state and local awards, based on preliminary figures.

President Bruce Benson announced the record Aug. 17.

“Our faculty researchers are consistently contributing to the advancement of knowledge and improvement of lives in Colorado and across the country,” Benson said. “This record level of investment by federal, state and local entities ensures that the university continues to help the greater good.”

The announcement marks the first time the four-campus system has topped $1 billion in annual sponsored research funding, which climbed 12 percent over the previous year’s total.

Federal agencies award most sponsored research funding. Systemwide in 2016-17, CU received $636.6 million in federal awards and $398 million in non-federal awards.

All four CU campuses saw overall research award increases this year. Final figures are expected later this year.

Following are the year’s totals in sponsored research funding at CU campuses, along with examples of the leading-edge endeavors that are elevating life across Colorado and the United States.

UCCS: $10.2 million, up 28 percent. Michael Calvisi, assistant professor, College of Engineering, earned a $516,000 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. The five-year award supports graduate research, undergraduate projects and outreach to secondary schools to increase interest in science, technology, engineering and math. His lab researches the control of ultrasound contrast agents, which consist of microscopic bubbles that flow through the bloodstream.

CU Boulder: $507.9 million, up 16 percent. As part of a five-year, $4.5 million cooperative agreement with NASA, CU Boulder joined a virtual institute pursuing the construction of astronomical observatories on the moon. The Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences research team, known as the Network for Exploration and Space Science, will implement partnerships to advance scientific discovery and human exploration in the lunar environment. The group will conduct research in robotics, cosmology, astrophysics and the study of the sun.

CU Denver: $25.9 million, up 4 percent. Researchers in the College of Liberal Arts and Science and the School of Education & Human Development received over $3 million from the National Science Foundation to study ways to better prepare new teachers to teach math and science to elementary and secondary students. These research programs address the critical need for recruiting and preparing effective STEM teachers in high-needs school districts.

CU Anschutz Medical Campus: $490.6 million, up 8 percent. The Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at CU Anschutz received $1 million from the state to establish the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who visited the school last May to sign the legislation with co-sponsors and supporters, said he hoped it would serve as a backbone for other state partnerships working together to combat Colorado’s opioid crisis.

Sponsored research funding from federal, state and local entities targets specific projects to advance research in laboratories and in the field. Research funding also helps pay for research-related capital improvements, scientific equipment, travel and salaries for research and support staff and student assistantships. CU cannot divert this funding to non-research-related expenses such as utilities, compensation, student financial aid or grounds maintenance.

A great deal of sponsored research funding is directed to departments and researchers with unique expertise, such as biotechnology and aerospace, which stimulates industry.

— Jay Dedrick, University Relations, Office of the President

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