UO Research’s Impact on Community Continues to Grow

A person in a white lab coat and personal protective equipment in a laboratory works with samples in the Monitoring and Assessment Program, part of the UO's COVID-response.
The University of Oregon's Monitoring and Assessment Program (MAP), which was established in spring 2020, can process up to 4,000 COVID-19 tests per week.

The University of Oregon continued its multiyear streak of increasing grant funding in fiscal year 2021-22 (FY22). Numerous faculty members received recognition for their contributions to research, as well as the number of research awards with direct positive effects on local and regional communities.

“The university’s research excellence not only impacts the institution itself and our students, but important facets of our society including health care and education as well,” said Anshuman “AR” Razdan, vice president for research and innovation. “The UO’s research prowess also helps power the state’s economic and innovation engines.”

The University of Oregon was awarded $221.4 million in sponsored projects in FY22. Excluding Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and COVID-19 related projects, $180 million was awarded — an increase of 4.4% ($7.5 million) over fiscal year 2020-21. Faculty submitted 1,024 proposals, 671 of which were funded.

Most funding (73%) came from federal sources. Approximately 44% of federal funds are from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 19% are from the National Science Foundation (NSF), 17% are from the Department of Education, and the remaining 20% are from other agencies. Seventy-one percent of the awarded funds were for research projects, 2% for instruction, and the remaining 27% were designated for other uses, such as public service.  

Faculty Research Impact

Numerous UO early-career researchers secured prestigious awards. This includes NSF CAREER Awards to physicists Jayson Paulose and Ben Farr for work on behavior of materials and gravitational waves, to linguist Don Daniels for his work documenting underdocumented languages on Papua New Guinea, and to computer scientist Ramakrishnan Durairajan for his research on computer networks that use multiple cloud computing services.

Biologists Daniel Grimes and David Garcia received NIH Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards to study questions of embryo development and abnormal proteins. Bioengineer Marian Hettiaratchi received the NIH Trailblazer Award for research focused on protein delivery for healing and the treatment of severe injuries that can result in impaired tissue regeneration.

Two Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact faculty, Parisa Hosseinzadeh and Calin Plesa, received NIH Director’s New Innovator’s Awards for their work on generating peptides as powerful therapeutics to aid in the fight against disease and addressing the growing need for antibodies for both basic research and therapeutics, respectively.

Other notable awards went to Isabel Millán (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies), who was awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship​, to Stilianos Louca (Biology) for a Simons Foundation Early-Career Investigator Award, and to Julia Widom (Chemistry and Biochemistry), who received an American Heart Association Career Development Award​.

Other faculty were recognized for their contributions to research over the course of their careers. Chuck Kimmel was elected to National Academy of Sciences​​ for his work with zebrafish and establishing new lines of genetic research. Paul Slovic received the Bower Award for Achievement in Science​​, an honor he shares with Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, for his research on risk perception and psychic numbing. Susan Sokolowski, who has played an integral role in making sportswear more inclusive, became the first woman in Oregon to be elected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors​​. Finally, Brendan Bohannan, Jon Erlandson, Mike Pluth, and Lynn Stephen were elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Student Impact

Physicist and Professor Emeritus Dean Livelybrooks, was awarded a $4.3 million NSF award for “Oregon Pathways to Industrial Research Careers: Diversifying STEM Research Talent with Community College, 4-Year, and Knight Campus Graduate Internship Scholarships.” Livelybrooks is the co-director (alongside Juliet Baxter) of the UO STEM CORE, which seeks to produce a broader and deeper pool of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent in Oregon through the development of efficient and effective models for student learning and engagement and by forging new collaborations between educators, researchers, and administrators.

Psychologists Jennifer Pfeifer and Cris Niell were awarded $260,000 by NIH for “Navigating Educational Trajectories in Neuroscience,” which will establish new mentor networks and training opportunities to support underrepresented scholars in neuroscience, targeting key transitions in graduate and postdoctoral training to increase persistence and retention.

Institutional Impact

The UO’s core facilities support faculty and industry research by providing access to advanced instrumentation, some of which serves the entire West Coast. A $575,000 grant secured by evolutionary biologist Andrew Kern for a new “High Performance Computing Cluster for Research and Innovation,” from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust will support the needs of the diverse computational research community at the UO, which includes machine learning approaches to population genetics and genomic variation.

Chemist Shannon Boettcher received a $122,000 NSF grant for “MRI: Acquisition of an Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer for Quantitative Elemental Analysis of Natural and Engineered Materials.” The Boettcher solar materials and electrochemistry laboratory is focused on designing, synthesizing, and understanding materials for applications in energy conversion and storage.

Local Impact

In the past year, the university has continued to provide crucial support to local communities as the pandemic continues. More than $20 million has been awarded to support COVID-19 testing for the university, Lane County (including a grant to support Latinx community members, which tripled testing), and K-12 schools.

Looking ahead

The University of Oregon is poised to grow the research enterprise in the coming years. Federal funding for research continues to grow under the Biden administration. Recent legislation, including the Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act offer immense new opportunities for significant research investment that align with UO research strengths.  

By Kelley Christensen, Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation