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Utah State University Reports Record Research Funding

Thursday, Aug. 05, 2010

USU researchers at Logan Wastewater Lagoon

USU researchers conduct research to determine if high oil-producing algae can be used to remove phosphorous and produce biofuels. The $500,000 USTAR-funded project has projected revenues of more than $4 million in the first year.

Utah State University received a record $187 million in research awards during the 2010 fiscal year, a 29 percent increase over funding received in 2009.

Total sponsored programs funding in 2010 was $42 million more than the 2009 figure. That is the largest increase — both dollars and percentage-wise — on record.

“This is a notable increase because we are bringing in more federal money to the university and the state than ever before and also because the numbers indicate that faculty are dramatically boosting their research productivity at Utah State,” said Brent Miller, vice president for research at Utah State. “A good portion of the increase can be attributed to a major increase in proposals submitted in key disciplines.”

Major funding growth occurred in USU’s colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Natural Resources and Science, as well as in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services and the USU Research Foundation. 

Thanks to research contracts at USURF’s Space Dynamics Laboratory and the newly created Energy Dynamics Laboratory, USURF research awards increased $10 million from last year to more than $62 million.

“These numbers are encouraging because they reverse the modest downturn USU experienced last year due to the economic recession,” said USU President Stan Albrecht. “This additional external funding is creating jobs in northern Utah and providing top-notch learning opportunities for our students. This increase, along with the maturing of our forward-looking research programs, including the Utah Science, Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, gives us great hope for strong growth in the future.”

According to Miller, new mechanisms at USU are encouraging faculty to be more successful at submitting proposals and procuring funding. USU’s office of proposal development, for example, was started in 2008 to help faculty identify and apply for external contracts and grants. 

“The ultimate goal of the OPD is to expand revenue created by externally funded research at USU,” said Jeri Hansen, director of the OPD. “We get there by helping faculty researchers, and we focus on projects that are of strategic interest to USU and its units.”

Staffed by five highly experienced grant writers with special technical knowledge needed for different research disciplines, the OPD aids in grant writing and proposal development. This relieves researchers of the logistics of procuring a grant, allowing them more time to focus on their specialties. The OPD also holds intensive workshops on strategic proposal writing.

“Since the establishment of the OPD, USU faculty are submitting more proposals and are getting more of their projects funded,” said Jeff Broadbent, associate vice president for research at USU.

Thus far, results have been impressive; the OPD has helped USU researchers send 1,446 proposals in 2010, more proposals than ever before and a full 22 percent more than 2009.

Approximately $12 million of the increase in USU’s research funding came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and those funds were obtained to support several large projects designed to positively influence businesses and residents in the state.

“Our largest projects supported by stimulus funding are already having tangible impacts on the state of Utah,” said Miller. “ARRA-supported projects are improving the performance of hearing aids in noisy environments, determining factors that influence the progression of dementia, generating geothermal energy opportunities on the Snake River Plain and creating biofuels from algae in wastewater lagoons.”

Another major component of federal stimulus funding received by Utah State came in the form of Pell grants that provide financial aid for income-eligible students.

“Stimulus funding has been helpful for Utah State, but a great deal of the credit should go to our faculty, who are producing, submitting and winning more high-quality, cutting-edge research proposals from federal sources,” said Miller.
Contact: Brent Miller, 435-797-1180,
Writer: Anna McEntire, 435-797-7680,

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