PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University researchers conducted research valued at more than $100 million over the last year on projects that include a myriad of subjects.
“We are proud of this achievement,” said James N. Petersen, interim vice provost for research. “This landmark shows the accomplishment and quality of our researchers and their programs.”
During the last year, WSU researchers spent more than $100 million from research grants, a 14 percent increase over the last fiscal year.
“Our faculty have been very successful in acquiring funding for their research that also supports undergraduate and graduate education associated with it,” Petersen said. “Faculty members throughout the university are expending tremendous effort to compete for major grants.”
This research touches every aspect of our lives, from agriculture to technology to the environment, the vice provost said.
Biotechnology is one of our major research emphasis areas, with large programs that focus on the production of drugs on the front lines in the chemotherapeutic treatment of cancer and, perhaps even more exciting, in the production of naturally-occurring molecules that actually prevent cancer, Petersen said.
Other major research efforts are also focused on biotechnology. For example, under a recent $2 million grant from the USDA, Andris Kleinhofs of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and School of Molecular Biosciences will use modern biotechnology tools to develop an integrated physical and gene expression map of barley, allowing the significant improvement in this important crop that also serves as a model for wheat. Michael Skinner, with more than $1.4 million from the National Institutes of Health, is developing an understanding of the effects of endocrine disrupters on reproductive health.
Other significant efforts are also underway. Co-principal investigators Robert Richards and David Bahr of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and the Center for Materials Research, have funding from the Defense Advanced Projects Agency, to develop the world’s smallest heat engine, which will be able to provide low cost, portable power for the electronic devices that dominate modern life.
Moreover, significant funding enables us to better understand our environment and how we interact with it, Petersen said. Timothy Kohler of the Department of Anthropology recently received nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation to evaluate the coupling between humans and ecosystems that has developed over long periods in the Mesa Verda region.
Nearly 15 percent of the expenditures are from the NIH, while more than 11 percent are funded by the Department of Energy. WSU faculty members also receive major grants from the Department of Agriculture, NSF, Department of Education and the Department of Defense.
Petersen said all of the colleges contribute significantly to achieving this milestone. The College of Agriculture and Home Economics, through the Agricultural Research Center and Cooperative Extension, led the way with nearly $33 million expended last year to fund research, outreach and educational programs. Other colleges also contributed significantly to these land grant missions, with the College of Sciences at nearly $18 million and the colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Engineering and Architecture at approximately $13 million each.
Petersen said the grants also help build the infrastructure needed to conduct the research and attract future funding. Nearly $7 million worth of equipment was purchased through the grants.
Provost Robert C. Bates emphasized how vital university research is in WSU’s educational mission. “Through research projects faculty members are working face-to-face with undergraduate and graduate students to share excitement of research outcomes as they provide them the best education possible,” he said.
“Over the last three years, our faculty successes in grant competition have grown,” Petersen said. “WSU faculty members are determined to compete for grants that will provide the support necessary for world-class research and education.”
Graduate students are a critical component of the engine that drives successful research. “More often than not, graduate students are directly responsible for performing the experiments and research that yield the breakthrough findings,” said Howard Grimes, interim dean of the Graduate School. “Their creativity often leads to fresh insight into standing problems that then propels the research into novel directions.”
Petersen and Grimes also noted that significant portions of these budgets provide salaries for undergraduate students, allowing these students to interact face-to-face with our world-class faculty to accomplish significant research.