Short Takes from the Grounds
George Bloom, Ph.D., on why more research is needed to combat the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic. George S. Bloom is a University of Virginia professor of biology and cell biology.
The University seeks to encourage a research culture that nurtures interdisciplinary collaboration and new kinds of scholarship. U.Va. is also expanding research teamwork that leads to translating discoveries into new products and services.
Traditionally the preserve of faculty members and their graduate assistants, research is now an integral part of undergraduate education at U.Va. The Center for Undergraduate Excellence advises students regarding undergraduate research opportunities and national scholarships and fellowships. More funding for student efforts helps students compete and gain hands-on research training. The University seeks to increase the number of research opportunities available to undergraduates so that more students may participate and gain this valuable research experience.
Graduate students make a significant contribution to the research mission of the University through their creativity, enthusiasm, and dedication. Their research also drives innovation and economic development in the Commonwealth. U.Va. recognizes the need to invest in graduate students, who work alongside professors as intellectual partners testing the boundaries of knowledge in the course of their scholarly pursuits. Private support benefits graduate student research in the form of fellowships, grants, and funds to help cover student expenses.
Many new pan-University research initiatives focus on sustainability, both in the sense of environmental conservation, and clean technology and energy. A recent example of new sustainability initiatives is the U.Va. Bay Game, a computer simulation of the interaction of stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Other examples include the following:
A project known as ESPRIT (Energy Systems Prototyping, Research, Innovation and Translation), led by Phil Pharrish, director of the University’s Intelligent Processing of Materials Laboratory, brings together faculty from engineering, architecture, arts and sciences, and business to address major energy issues. The ESPRIT team is applying systems approaches to develop energy-conservation solutions, including low-loss energy transmission and energy-efficient buildings and communities. Funding opportunities include matching funds of $51,000 to support a project focused on storing advanced fuels emitted from CO2 sources such as seawater and flue gases from coal and natural gas power plants.
The U.Va. Food Collaborative works to promote research, teaching, and community engagement in pursuit of more sustainable and place-based food systems. Made up of faculty, staff, and students from numerous disciplines across the Grounds, the collaborative provides a focal point for University and community efforts to study and improve sustainable and place-based food systems.
Initiative reCOVER focuses on designing and building transitional architectural structures for disaster relief and humanitarian purposes. The initiative takes on projects such as the award-winning “Breathe House,” housing designed to reduce disease transmission in Haiti, where tuberculosis is the second-leading infectious disease killer after HIV/AIDS. The goal for reCOVER is to contribute to the emerging network of open-source humanitarian-design. Those involved seek to provide solutions for problems of designing for emergency situations in unstable environments and share this knowledge with disaster relief agencies, the global design community, and those in need.
Biosciences and Public Health
Research in biosciences and public health accounts for about two-thirds of U.Va.’s research portfolio. Building additional capacity through investments in faculty, graduate students, laboratories, and research will increase the University’s ability to produce scientists and fuel discoveries in areas such as biosciences and public health. New research strategies and educational programs are an important part of this effort.
With the Walter H. Coulter Foundation, U.Va. has created a $20 million endowment to foster research collaboration between biomedical engineers and clinicians, with the goal of developing new technologies to improve patient care and human health. The U.Va. Coulter Translational Research Partnership in biomedical engineering is being funded by a $10 million grant from the Coulter Foundation and $10 million from other University endowments. The University seeks an additional $10 million from other foundation, corporate, and individual partners to provide permanent annual funding for ten to twelve projects per year, at $100,000 to $150,000 each.
The OpenGrounds Initiative offers a forum and programs to stimulate cross-disciplinary collaboration and creative research connections. Along with topical forums and open tables to bring together U.Va. community members across Grounds and across disciplines, OpenGrounds is inviting sponsors to challenge the University community to collaborate in developing new approaches to solve complex social and technological issues. Sponsorships are being developed with corporations, foundations, and government agencies that are facing questions that require the expertise of multiple disciplines. The outcomes will range from new multi-disciplinary funded research collaborations to intellectual property, new product concepts, exhibitions, and performances.
Building on the Science & Art Research Collaboration launched in 2008, OpenGrounds has participated in the sponsorship of a series of partnerships within the University and with other institutions, including The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Tony Award-winning dancer and Kennedy Center honoree Bill T. Jones and his company. OpenGrounds is collaborating with the Vice Provost for the Arts and the School of Architecture’s Center for Design and Health to develop an art program for patients at the Emily Couric Cancer Center. Art & Innovation Design Gatherings may be sponsored to bring together artists, engineers, designers, scientists, writers, business leaders, health professionals and others to collaborate and connect across diverse modes of inquiries.
Read about an Art & Innovation Design Gathering produced with the Phillips Collection in May 2010.
Bringing together partners, investors, and leaders in research spurs innovation at the University. The U.Va. Venture Summit involves University leaders, scientists, and investors representing more than $20 billion under active management. Together, they explore the potential of areas such as personalized medicine, biotechnology, microelectronics, and alternative energy.
Mark Crowell, executive director and associate vice president for innovation partnerships and commercialization, is also guiding faculty and students to new and expanded partnerships. He is building U.Va.’s corporate, private, and government partnerships and enhancing licensing, entrepreneurship, and commercialization activities, assuming primary responsibility for the University’s commercial alliances.
Mr. Crowell’s area also focuses on promoting technology transfer at the University and in encouraging investment in early-stage proof-of-concept research funds modeled on the Coulter endowment. Opportunities for new innovation funds are available in the biosciences, physical sciences, IT, arts and architecture, and social sciences and education.
The University is at the forefront of efforts to build these partnerships that make the latest research discoveries available for the public good and promote economic development. During the spring of 2011, Mr. Crowell and Vice President for Research Tom Skalak testified before Congress about aspects of the U.Va. Coulter Translational Research Partnership. And, on June 10, 2011, Mr. Crowell presented testimony before the U.S. House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education regarding the enhancement of technology transfer in order to more effectively translate research discoveries from the lab to the market. Mr. Crowell attended the September 16, 2011, signing of the America Invents Act by President Obama. The legislation to reform the U.S. patent system is expected to spur innovation-based economic development.
Vice President for Research website
Research at U.Va. website