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With One of the Fastest-Growing Research Programs in the United States, UVA Engineering Addresses Grand Societal Challenges

1274 Days ago

New, Strategic Approach Sparks Double-Digit Increases in Sponsored Research Funding

Charlottesville, Va., Sept. 07, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science has made a commitment to support bold research that will benefit society. Now, that focus has led to critical results. According to new data, UVA Engineering’s sponsored research funding increased by nearly 28 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, jumping from $60 million to $76.5 million. That's on top of a 36 percent increase from FY2016 to FY2017.

Nationally, UVA Engineering is outpacing many other top engineering graduate schools in the country in another important metric: compound annual growth rate for research expenditures. UVA’s compound growth is well above the average for U.S. News & World Report’s list of top-10 graduate engineering schools. One important factor in driving the research growth is increased attention on UVA Engineering’s graduate program; the number of Ph.D. students has increased by 48 percent since 2015.

“This outstanding growth is a direct result of UVA Engineering faculty’s determination to lead the nation in research that is relevant and valuable to society,” said Dean Craig H. Benson. “Our strategy is to focus in thematic areas where we can bring unique, interdisciplinary strengths to bear on complex engineering challenges, such as medicine, cyber and sustainability.

“In a highly competitive research environment, our strategy is paying off.”

Executive Dean Pamela M. Norris laid the foundation for this significant growth in UVA Engineering’s research program by building a research infrastructure that could support faculty in leading large, cutting-edge initiatives. Currently, for example, UVA Engineering researchers are partnering with institutes across the country to develop technologies that could lead to the manufacture of human tissue and organs; to create multifunctional materials with built-in energy harvesting; to reinvent computing and unlock the potential of big data by removing the separation between memories that store data and processors that operate on the data; and to advance autonomous systems such as driverless vehicles.

“We’ve taken a strategic approach to building a strong research program, supported by excellent collaboration and focus among our faculty, staff and leadership,” said Norris. “I am exceptionally proud of our faculty, who are dreaming big with highly effective and increasingly bold proposals to funding agencies.

“The research awards we’re pursuing will allow UVA Engineering to lead the way in addressing grand challenges in such areas as healthcare, the environment, advanced materials and the cyber future.”

UVA Engineering now focuses its research program around three general areas:

  • Engineering for Health : UVA Engineering faculty are closely collaborating with physicians and other medical personnel at UVA’s top-ranked School of Medicine and Health System to create knowledge that is leading to major breakthroughs, including innovations in diabetes treatment, wireless health, injury prevention and tissue regeneration.
  • Engineering for the Cyber Future : UVA Engineering researchers are determined to catalyze the cyber age, developing the technologies essential to next-generation projects such as the Internet of Things and 100 Gbps Ethernet. The School of Engineering is leading the way globally through innovations in cyber-physical systems, big data, cybersecurity, machine learning, avalanche photodiodes and ultra-low-power chips
  • Engineering Technologies for a Sustainable and Connected World :  To engineer a better future, UVA Engineering researchers are working at the micro- and nano-scale in fields such as heat transfer, catalysis and 2-D materials to identify fundamental properties of matter. At the systems level, the school’s faculty are harnessing these insights to create more durable, sustainable platforms in areas like energy, stormwater management and transportation. 

The University of Virginia has also committed to building on this foundation for research growth with a Strategic Investment Fund, supporting several multi-disciplinary and multi-school research initiatives and infrastructure housed at the School of Engineering:

“By careful strategic planning, evaluation of resources, and thoughtful discussions across schools, we are able to come together to promote outstanding, collaborative efforts that will provide significant return on investment from the UVA Strategic Investment Fund,” said Susan Barker, associate dean for research.

Norris said UVA Engineering’s strategic approach to its research program has attracted the attention of funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services, all of which are looking to support high-impact, collaborative research. 

“We have come together as a research community to tackle complex societal challenges that defy traditional solutions,” she said. “Our researchers look for opportunities to work collaboratively at the intersections of their disciplines, discovering, innovating and creating new knowledge. And we are well positioned to continue leading the way.” 

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About UVA Engineering: As part of the top-ranked, comprehensive University of Virginia, UVA Engineering is one of the nation’s oldest and most respected engineering schools. Outstanding students and faculty from around the world choose UVA Engineering because of our growing and internationally recognized education and research programs, focused on developing interdisciplinary solutions to global challenges. Our mission is to make the world a better place by creating and disseminating knowledge and by preparing future engineering leaders. Learn more at engineering.virginia.edu.

Elizabeth Thiel Mather
University of Virginia School of Engineering

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