FY18 research funding sees 26 percent spike

Research funding awarded to faculty and staff saw a healthy spike in Fiscal Year 2018, according to the new annual report from NIU’s Sponsored Programs Administration.

Funding for NIU research surged 26 percent over the previous year to $12.2 million.

Federal agencies provided 90 percent of NIU’s research funding, supporting work across a wide array of disciplines that included art and design, the study of family violence, the humanities and various STEM fields. The top research funder was the National Science Foundation.

Dara Little

“Overall, FY18 was a very good year for NIU,” said Dara Little, assistant vice president for research and sponsored programs.

“The increase is largely due to the hard work of our faculty and staff who serve as principal investigators on these awards. There is a pattern between NIU’s research growth and our ability to compete for federal funds. Despite tremendous competition, our investigators are doing well.”

STEM fields have traditionally accounted for a large portion of the university’s research funding. “While still the case, it’s exciting that we’re also seeing growth in research funding in non-STEM fields,” Little added.

Here are just a few examples of the breadth and variety of FY18 awards:

  • $124,000 from the National Science Foundation to art and design professor Mary Quinlan for her research into the roles of vision and visual psychology in 16th-century iconoclasms;
  • More than $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to chemistry and biochemistry professor Tao Xu to further develop perovskite solar cells in collaboration with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory;
  • $628,000 from the National Institute of Justice to Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Oliver Hofstetter for leading an international collaboration that is developing new methods of lifting fingerprints;
  • And more than $400,000 from the National Science Foundation to meteorology professors Walker Ashley and Victor Gensini to track historically large thunderstorm complexes and try to understand how storms may change in the future under potential climate-change scenarios.

The externally funded awards facilitate cutting-edge research and development activities; provide training to doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students; help the university continue to attract and retain star faculty and students; and enhance NIU’s capacity as a research university.

“The increase in research funding is a credit to our faculty and staff, and their strong external relationships with other institutions, including universities and the nearby national laboratories,” said Jerry Blazey, NIU’s vice president for Research and Innovation Partnerships. “Our student and faculty collaborations with these world-class partners help us compete for federal research dollars.”

Competitive research represents just one key component of NIU’s total external funding portfolio, which also saw a significant hike in FY18.

During that time, more than 100 NIU faculty and staff secured 262 awards totaling $30.4 million in external funding from various federal, state, non-profit, industry and foreign sponsors. That tally represents a 17 percent increase over the previous year. In addition to research, it includes funding for instruction, public service and other sponsored activities.

Public service projects, which bring various resources and capabilities of NIU to the community in response to local needs, attracted $14 million in external funding. Read more about these and other research projects in the Sponsored Programs Administration annual report.

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