CSU Sees Another Record-Breaking Year in Research Spending

Francisco Ortega, an assistant professor of computer science, researches virtual and augmented reality in the Natural User Interface lab in the Computer Science Department at Colorado State University. March 2, 2022. Photo by John Eisele.

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Story by Jeff Dodge and Gary Polakovic | Colorado State University

Colorado State University achieved another record-breaking year in sponsored projects expenditures, topping last year’s record by nearly $10 million as it invested in research areas such as climate solutions, public health, and agriculture. 

In the past fiscal year, CSU’s sponsored projects expenditures totaled $456.9 million. That’s up about $10 million from the previous record of $447.2 million, which had eclipsed the year before (2019-20) by 10%. 

Of this past year’s expenditures, 73% was funded by U.S. government agencies. The rest comes from state and local government, non-profit groups, industry, and other universities.   

“Our research training, discovery, and innovation enterprise continues to expand its reach based on our collaborative spirit and passion to make a difference in our region and our world.  I am proud of all the amazing researchers, scholars, students, faculty, and expert staff that make CSU dreams possible,” said Alan Rudolph, CSU vice president for research. 

“The breadth and scale of these research achievements speak directly to the creativity, curiosity, and skill of our faculty, staff, and students,” said CSU Interim President Rick Miranda. “What’s particularly significant is the way CSU’s research is focused on solving the pressing challenges facing our state, the country, and the world.”

The College of Liberal Arts saw the largest percentage growth in funded research among all of CSU’s eight colleges, up 53.7 percent over 2020-21. The CLA departments of Political Science, English and Languages, Literatures, and Cultures saw the biggest gains over last year.

Overall, the Warner College of Natural Resources spends the most of any college in sponsored research, largely because it is home to the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, which accounted for $101.5 million of the college’s $145.9 million total. Second is the Walter Scott Jr., College of Engineering, at $87.2 million, followed by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, which had $75 million in sponsored research last year.

Highlights of the year 

Research highlights from 2021-22 include: 

  • Leading a $177 million NASA mission to study thunderstorm activity in the tropics. It consists of three satellites that will look top-down at storms to better understand storm physics and related climate processes.
  • A $12.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation to study microbes in the air. It’s an interdisciplinary project examining how changes across land, air, plants and animals shape the air we breathe.
  • Washington D.C.-based, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission identified by CSU and other land-grant universities as the first line of defense to protect public health, economic and national security and farm communities from disease outbreaks. The Hill carried a related op-ed by Chancellor Tony Frank and former Sen. Tom Daschle.
  • Joining a $15 million NSF research network created to enhance sustainability, equity and resilience in the intermountain West. It will focus on regions impacted by catastrophic wildfires, declining water supplies and rapid urban population growth. It’s a joint project with the University of New Mexico, University of Arizona and Washington State University.

A study that measured respiratory particles produced from people singing or playing instruments, informing communities on risks in performance during the COVID pandemic. The research resulted in national news coverage by CBS News and late-night TV shows.

Other recent successes 

Successes in CSU research impact areas include: 

Energy. As Colorado transitions from fossil fuels to climate-friendly energy, a newly installed jumbo 3.5-megawatt industrial turbine generator at the Powerhouse Energy campus will advance research on low-carbon power generation. CSU researchers showed how improved wind forecasts save consumers $150 million in annual energy costs through better use of renewable energy. CSU is part of a consortium vying for a Western interstate hydrogen energy hub with funds from the Biden administration. And the Department of Energy is funding a program to support research to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Sustainable agriculture. CSU launched a new Soil Carbon Solutions Center to find ways to store carbon in earth to benefit agriculture and climate. An international coalition co-led by CSU announced a $19 million project to study how rangeland management affects soil health. The College of Agricultural Sciences launched six new research projects under the Nutrien-funded Solutions to Colorado Commodity Challenges program. And AgNEXT, now in its third year, added more researchers to study ways to make animal agriculture safe for consumers and ecosystems.  

Climate. CSU is pursuing a first-of-its-kind National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engine, a public-private partnership. The DOE gave CSU researchers a $3 million grant to study how algae can protect water quality and make biofuel. The One Health Institute launched six new research endeavors, spanning 12 departments and six colleges, to prepare people, animals and the environment for climate change. And CSU engineers developed a model to help property owners protect foundations of buildings from sea level rise.  

Health. CSU researchers are part of a $12.5 million, NSF-supported institute that will advance research and education to prevent viruses transmitting from animals to humans. CSU experts developed a machine, VacciRAPTOR, that can test vaccines faster than previous systems, carving a better path toward clinical trials. The National Institutes of Health awarded $6.7 million to CSU for a new facility to study bats, known coronavirus vectors. The Columbine Health Systems Center for Healthy Aging launched the Colorado Longitudinal Study, which will create a unique biobank to predict health outcomes from 1 million Coloradans over the next 10 years.

Recognition for scholars 

CSU scholars continue to gain recognition for their contributions to science that serves society. 

For example, Craig Partridge, chair of the Department of Computer Science, was appointed by President Biden to the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, which evaluates nominees for the prestigious presidential award for outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, engineering, social and behavioral sciences. 

Rebecca Moritz, CSU’s biosafety director, was installed as president of the Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity International.  

Professors Steve Simske, Susan James and V. Chandraseker were named to the National Academy of Inventors.  

The American Meteorological Society recognized three CSU researchers for their outstanding contributions to weather, water and climate science. They are: Professor Eric Maloney, research scientists Mark DeMaria and V. Chandrasekar, who received the prestigious Verner E. Suomi Technology Medal.

Additional honors 

 Dr. Robert Lee, distinguished service award from Colorado Veterinary Medicine Association for 30 years of service to students.  

Professor Jennifer DeLuca of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology was named Fellow to the American Society for Cell Biology in part for her work on biomolecular underpinnings of disease, including cancer. 

Professor Lorann Stallones was recognized for her outstanding contribution to agricultural health and safety research by the International Society for Agricultural Safety and Health.  

And professors Edwin Chong and Tony Maciejewski of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department were named fellows of the Asia-Pacific Artificial Intelligence Association. 

Last year, 30 studies by CSU researchers were among the top 1% of most cited research in the United States, garnering 689 mentions in scientific literature, according to the Office of the Vice President for Research.