by Peggy Harrison
Research goals on track,
By Fariss Samarrai
U.Va. is to advance to the highest ranks nationally in the coming
decades, education and research must be viewed as two parts of
the same process, says Ariel Gomez, interim vice president for
research and public service.
researcher is a student who passes on discoveries to others,
he said. We need to invest in both. These are not separate
the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia released a
report that faulted the Commonwealths emphasis on undergraduate
education at the expense of graduate education and research. The
report noted that Virginia universities are falling behind universities
in states where more resources are put into research.
only U.Va. and Virginia Tech are ranked among the top 100 universities
nationally in research spending. With continuing budget cuts,
space shortages and inadequate equipment, Virginia universities
could fall further behind. This also could slow economic development.
we have a supportive governor who has expressed great interest
in moving academic research forward, Gomez said. He
knows the essential role of research for improving education,
generating jobs, attracting industry and enhancing quality of
Mark R. Warner plans to hold a summit on research this fall.
Gomez said that despite a tight budget, U.Va.s 2020 strategic
plan will be instrumental for achieving excellence and higher
2020 plan is closely aligned with federal research priorities,
he said. The federal government is prioritizing genetics
and proteomics research, for instance. We are prioritizing those
and developmental biology through the new Institute for Morphogenesis
and Regenerative Medicine. We have the opportunity to be the best
in these fields because we have the expertise and organizational
structures. Its now a matter of dedicating the resources.
in these areas involves developing understanding of how tissues
and organs develop and applying this knowledge to repairing or
regenerating organs and tissues.
federal government also is prioritizing information technology
research and nanoscale science and engineering, Gomez said.
Again, we are emphasizing research in these areas and have
excellent faculty already on board. We are ahead of the curve
and poised to capitalize on federal funding priorities. We will
synergise efforts, increase the level of the science and continually
improve the quality of our graduate students. Everybody will benefit.
roadblocks, however, are space and equipment shortages, and budget
cuts at the state level. The SCHEV report notes that Virginia
institutions should have at least 800 square feet of space per
$100,000 of research spending.
on that, U.Va. needs about an additional 1 million square feet
of new research space, Gomez said. Weve determined
that we need at least 500,000 square feet of new space to function
of this additional space will be Medical Research Building 6,
renovations and new space in the College, and in future biodifferentiation
and nanotechnology buildings. A bond referendum that will be on
the ballot Nov. 5 includes funding for some of these projects.
University is very efficient in its use of resources, but we are
operating at maximum capacity for space and instrumentation,
also cited a need for sophisticated research equipment despite
new budget restrictions for the equipment trust fund, Gomez said.
We are doing our best to retain and attract the best scholars
and scientists. We are trying to be creative to assure that those
individuals add strength to our programs.
takes issue with one part of the SCHEV report, which states that,
Virginias faculty are not generating as much research
support as their peers nationally, based on research expenditures
per full-time faculty.
U.Va.s case, this is based on the National Science Foundations
ranking of the University at 58 nationally for research and development
expenditures from federal, state, local, industry and institutional
said the rankings are somewhat misleading because they average
a universitys research funding by total number of faculty
without noting that universities with large and outstanding humanities
departments, such as U.Va.s, tend to appear less well funded
than schools with large scientific and engineering faculties.
we were to look only at the funding of our scientific and engineering
faculty, compared to similar faculty at other universities, we
would be ranked at about 27 nationally, he said.
the University also has increased its sponsored research funding
by 94 percent during the past five years.
be competitive nationally, Virginia universities will have to
cooperate more in areas of shared strength, Gomez said. And his
office is in the process of hiring a director of industry relations
to develop new initiatives for teaming up U.Va. faculty research
projects with the needs of industry. The University also is engaged
in other projects to enhance research such as the Ivy Biomedical
Foundation, the research parks, the Commonwealth Technology Research
Fund, Virginia Gateway, and a program called Funding Excellence
in Science and Technology, an internal grant program to support
the most innovative research ideas of the faculty.
is an excellent example of an economical use of University resources,
Gomez said. A recent $100,000 FEST grant to biomedical engineering
helped leverage a $3.6 million NIH award to study the growth of
blood vessels and kidney development. This is a 36 to 1 return
on our investment. Endowing FEST is a maximum priority.
said U.Va. likely is on track to becoming a top research institution
in coming years.
get there, he said, because we have great faculty
and students, a very supportive administration, a solid strategic
plan and a history of economical use of our resources.