Science Faculty Research Funds
It has been a banner year for researchers in the University of Idaho’s College of Science. College faculty members have collectively been awarded nearly $18 million in new competitive grant funding for the 2018 fiscal year. Research dollars brought in through these grants will be used over the next 2-5 years by dozens of faculty to support a wide variety of projects. This comes despite a difficult and uncertain national environment for science funding. Dean Ginger Carney attributes the success to an attitude of cooperation and teamwork across disciplinary boundaries, a hallmark of UI’s research strength. “Science is better when it is collaborative,” Carney states. “At Idaho, we encourage interactions among faculty across all areas of the university, which leads to groups coming together in unexpected ways. This makes for stronger grant proposals and new and exciting research possibilities.”
“Science is better when it is collaborative,”Dean Ginger Carney
Another contributing factor to the recent success is the college’s concerted effort to mentor junior faculty. U of I Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek encourages faculty development and peer mentoring campus-wide. “People are the most valuable resource we have,” he said. “Making sure that we help guide them toward successful tenure and promotion is just a fundamental investment.”
Grant funding is essential to accomplishing the university’s mission. Research dollars such as those recently secured by College of Science faculty will advance the university’s national profile as a leader in innovative thinking as well as enrich the educational opportunities for both graduate students and undergraduate students. In fact, in addition to more than 60 graduate students and a dozen or so post-doctoral researchers whose work will be directly impacted by this funding, nearly 200 undergraduate students will also receive support for research experiences. “We believe our emphasis on research opportunities for undergraduate students really sets us apart,” says Dean Carney. “It’s one of the things that make this such a great place to study science.” Provost Wiencek agrees. “It’s vital that those students are in our labs and participating in research. We’re here to integrate learning with the extension of new knowledge. And not only are U of I students learning while in the lab, they are helping push the boundaries of science and becoming major contributors themselves.”
“It’s a great time to be associated with the College of Science.”Dean Ginger Carney
The recently funded research projects are varied in nature and span the disciplines represented by the College of Science. But each has significant potential to improve the world we live in. Some projects are specifically aimed at crucial public health issues such as furthering our understanding of the spread of infectious disease, developing safe vaccines and anti-viral medications, reducing antibiotic resistance, and investigating the causes of some types of cancer. There are also projects that examine scientific applications crucial to our environment: human impacts on forest health, water policy, energy usage, and disaster readiness. And of course, there are projects that focus on more fundamental scientific issues such as the forces that shape Earth’s surface, the mechanics of evolution, and the nature of our solar system.
While 2018 has been an incredible year so far for the College of Science, in many ways it’s business as usual. The continual hum of day-to-day learning in the form of lectures, lab exercises, seminars, writing, and problem-solving continues as scientists and students work together. The $17 million in research revenue awarded within this fiscal year is just one glimpse of the bigger picture. “Everyone seems to agree,” said Carney. “It’s a great time to be associated with the College of Science.”