Penn State Intercom......January
University reports continued
in research programs, continued benefits
By Barbara Hale
The University's research expenditures increased once again in fiscal 2001 for major programs in nanotechnology, materials engineering, defense, transportation, children, youth, families and other research areas which promise to make life better.
Robert Killoren, assistant vice president for research and director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, said that if spending for research and creative activity from all sources of support are considered, including federal and Commonwealth funding, private industry, foundations, University infrastructure support and institutional cost sharing, total expenditures for organized research at Penn State reached $472 million in fiscal 2001. The comparable figure for fiscal year 2000 was
"Penn State faculty members continue to conduct significant research that not only advances knowledge but also serves the nation in important ways and helps improve the quality of life for all Americans," said Eva J. Pell, vice president for research and dean of The Graduate School. "Our faculty members are contributing new ideas and new technologies across a very wide spectrum of disciplines. This is the power of a major research university -- creating an environment where people from many disciplines can work together to solve major problems. Our scientists and scholars also are recognized nationally and internationally as some of the best in their fields. This leads to some very exciting and productive research collaborations."
One such collaboration helped inaugurate the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Regional Center for Manufacturing Education in Nanotechnology. This unique educational partnership provides students from all of the Pennsylvania community colleges and the State System of Higher Education Universities access to specialized course offerings and hands-on laboratory training within Penn State's $25 million Nanofabrication Facility.
"This educational partnership opens new job opportunities to students and provides the Commonwealth with a uniquely skilled workforce to support existing industry and attract additional high-tech companies to our region," said Robert McGrath, associate vice president for research.
Penn State's excellence in nanoscience research, which forms the basis of pioneering innovations in ultra-small electronic components and medical sensors, is nationally recognized. Last year Penn State was the only university in the nation to win three different nanoscale interdisciplinary research team NSF grants each in excess of $1 million.
Killoren notes that in the fiscal 2000 rankings compiled by the National Science Foundation, the most recent rankings available, Penn State was 11th among all universities and eighth among public research universities in total research expenditures. The same analysis of all U.S. research universities ranked Penn State first in materials and metallurgical expenditures, third in psychology, third in engineering, fifth in chemistry and eighth in agricultural sciences.
The University's interdisciplinary materials and metallurgical research program includes engineers, chemists, physicists and materials scientists. Their research programs range from studies of the use of single molecules as computer components to developing porous materials that have potential for use in filters, lasers and as integral parts of the next generation of communication and network systems. With annual expenditures in excess of $42 million this past year, the University's materials research community is, by far, the largest in the nation.
Third in expenditures in the nation, the University's psychology research program includes a study now in its ninth year designed to prevent conduct problems in adolescents by involving schools and parents working together to promote youth academic and social-emotional competencies. This theme is echoed in related programs in the Children, Youth and Families Consortium. The new Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) provides an administrative home for a study on marital instability over the life course that is one of the longest running national studies of marriage and the only such study containing detailed information on marital quality and interaction.
A major new study of child well-being and family functioning, Welfare, Children and Families: A Three City Study, also is housed in SSRI as is the new Survey Research Center, formed this year, which provides state-of-the-art survey services to support social science research.
Among other programs that experienced high percentage increases in fiscal 2001 is the Bus Testing and Research Center, the only bus-testing facility approved for federal bus-testing in the United States. By identifying serious design problems early, the program has averted both costly failures and safety hazards within bus fleets around the nation. Testing of the first 157 new bus models resulted in the diagnosis of more than 5,000 failures. Of these failures, 31 had the potential for serious accidents, possibly resulting in severe injury or death.
The University's Marine Corps Research University (MCRU) continues to grow rapidly. One of MCRU's activities is the Human Effects Advisory Panel which acts as an independent adviser to the Department of Defense and Department of Justice on the human effects of non-lethal weapons. Another major project, co-funded by the Army and the Marines under MCRU, is the Protective Technology Center that helps design buildings that can better withstand terrorist and other attacks.
NASA expenditures were up 78 percent at Penn State in fiscal 2001 to just over $20 million. A team of Penn State researchers was selected to collaborate on building a satellite called the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer. Scheduled to be launched in 2003, the satellite will consist of three coaligned telescopes, designed to make images of the sky in gamma rays, X-rays and optical/ultraviolet light. Swift is expected to expand knowledge of the universe by discovering a new gamma ray source every day during its three-year mission.
According to a study released in 1998 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pennsylvania is a national leader in attracting federal research and development funding, ranking ninth among the 50 states. More than half of the federal research funds coming into Pennsylvania goes to industrial firms but almost one third is brought in by the Commonwealth's colleges and universities -- with Penn State among the leaders.
Science Foundation report on fiscal 2000 data can be seen at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/srs02402/start.htm.