Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017
The impact of Virginia Commonwealth University researchers is wide-ranging — they have patented a canine vaccine for Lyme disease, led a nationwide effort to study concussions and aided the resurgence of sturgeon in the James River.
Those are a few of the ongoing accomplishments made with $218.9 million in VCU research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey, which outlines higher education expenditures in the U.S. for fiscal year 2015.
Nationwide funding for university research has declined the past four years. Still, VCU ranked among the top 100 institutions for the highest total expenditures dedicated to research in 2015, according to the report. The university has held this distinction three times in the past 10 years. VCU also has been ranked for five consecutive years by the NSF as a top 100 research university based on federal research expenditures. Presently, VCU is ranked No. 81 in that category, with $142.4 million in federal research expenditures for fiscal year 2015.
“It’s a fitting tribute to the community of VCU scholars who continue to propel our research enterprise upward even in times of economic adversity,” said Francis Macrina, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation at VCU.
More than test tubes
Nearly 2,000 grants to VCU researchers were considered in the report.
The NSF calculates expenditures based on the portion of awarded research grants from all entities — not only NSF — spent in a fiscal year. The remaining grant amounts carry over to future years.
The university’s portfolio of total research awards for fiscal year 2015 was a then-record $270.3 million. Total research awards for 2016 exceeded $271 million. The totals include both award expenditures, remaining award amounts, and funds from other sources.
Macrina said the increase in expenditures is a credit to faculty and other researchers, who compete to obtain awards from various institutions, initiatives, endowments and foundations. The majority of VCU research is grant funded in this way, from nonuniversity sources.
“The people who are able to get that money to VCU are smart enough, hardworking enough, clever enough and productive enough to convince people that they ought to support their research,” he said.
The NSF rankings consider expenditures not only in STEM or health fields, but also in the arts and humanities. It takes contributions from multiple disciplines to build a well-rounded research institution, Macrina said.
“When people hear research, they tend to think test tubes,” he added.
Serving the community
The School of Medicine received $138.2 million in research awards in 2016, the highest amount for any VCU school. The School of Education was awarded $24.7 million, the second highest total. Education expenditures have funded initiatives such as finding ways to more effectively teach science education, addressing the needs of students with disabilities, and creating positive approaches to classroom behavioral management.
“We are working hands-on in the community with schools and service agencies to improve the lives of children and their families,” said Deborah Speece, Ph.D., associate dean of research and faculty development in the School of Education.
Federal funding also helps the Richmond Teacher Residency program, which gives aspiring teachers full-time classroom experience. The program recruits students interested in working in urban environments who have bachelor’s degrees in disciplines outside education and are working toward master’s degrees in education.
“We want to prepare people to teach in urban environments and stay in urban schools long term,” Speece said.
Lisa Abrams, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Foundations of Education, and colleagues have been funded by the National Institutes of Health to research teaching methods to improve science education. She said her research has been bolstered by administrative resources available to the School of Education and the university.
“It’s very clear that one of the university’s primary goals is to increase externally funded research,” Abrams said. “So, along those lines, we’ve seen investments in infrastructure. One example is greater resources being allocated to Institutional Review Board operations. Internally at the School of Education, we have a highly effective office of research that supports faculty in all aspects of grant development, grant submission and post grant award management.”
The university also works through its VCU Innovation Gateway, within the Office of Research and Innovation, to ensure research findings are applied to benefit the general public. VCU Innovation Gateway works with university researchers to facilitate commercialization of their innovations, which includes new venture creation that benefits regional economic development.
In 2016, VCU Innovation Gateway assisted with the filing of a record 156 patents and VCU faculty notified the office of 133 inventions.
“If you don’t move the inventions out of the university to the marketplace, society will never benefit.”
“I am very proud to be part of the process of establishing VCU as a leading research university with a tangible impact on people in the Richmond region and beyond,” said Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., executive director, VCU Innovation Gateway. “The work we do is gratifying because if you don’t move the inventions out of the university to the marketplace, society will never benefit.”
Many innovations advanced by VCU Innovation Gateway were made possible by expenditures detailed in the NSF report.
Recently, VCU Innovation Gateway helped foster the growth of Sanyal Biotechnology, which was formed to commercialize the research of Arun Sanyal, M.D., a VCU School of Medicine professor.
Sanyal, who serves as president, chair and chief medical officer of his company, created a proprietary mouse strain to test potential therapeutics to treat NASH, or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The obesity epidemic in the United States has led to an increase of NASH, which has become a leading cause of liver-related mortality.
VCU Innovation Gateway has also worked to secure intellectual property protections and licensing of compounds that could lead to the development of therapeutics that would reduce the risk of heart failure following a heart attack. VCU researchers Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., vice-chairman, Division of Cardiology, VCU Health; Shijun Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, VCU School of Pharmacy; and Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., associate professor and research professor, Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, VCU School of Pharmacy, have created the compounds, which block overproduction of a protein in white blood cells that has been linked to heart attack.
Abbate said VCU Innovation Gateway worked to secure licensing of the invention by a startup biotechnology firm in Virginia.
“The ability to license it to a company involves also the marketing value of the product, in addition to the science,” he said. “These are concepts that we as scientists are not very familiar with, and Innovation Gateway help us navigate.”
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Organized by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and part of VCU Student Research Weeks, the annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium is a wonderful opportunity for students to present their research endeavors to their academic peers, members of the VCU faculty, community members, and friends and family. All undergrads from every discipline are encouraged to present and attend. Presentations may be for completed research projects, completed papers, or research in progress.
Projects involving creative work such as prose or poetry, performances, and artwork will be considered for acceptance if they are part of a scholarly project undertaken by the student. We are currently accepting poster abstracts up until the deadline of March 22nd, 2017. All abstracts should be submitted to http://go.vcu.edu/uroppostersubmit
After students are notified of their acceptance, we will accept electronic file submission of their posters. Note: We hold poster workshops Jan. – Mar. and we are now able to print research posters free of cost to our students!
Abstracts should include: Name/Major of student, Name/Dept. of Faculty Mentor, Title of research Project, Brief description of research project. All inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
VCU School of Education’s
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee
Call for Papers
Racial Disproportionality, School Discipline, & Future Directions:
A Community Conversation
Monday, February 6th
VCU Student Commons
Reception: 2nd Floor Terrace
Description of Event:
Research shows that an estimated 19,000 students are suspended out of school every day, translating to approximately 12 million days of lost instruction each year (Losen, 2015). Today, the vast majority of students being suspended and expelled are Black, with districts in the South responsible for 50% of all Black student expulsions (Smith & Harper, 2015). With such high numbers of students forced out of school, students are more likely to fall behind and face a higher likelihood of entering the juvenile justice system, resulting in what is widely known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Please join us for an important discussion with local youth, artists, organizers, and scholars who will discuss racial disproportionality and the school to prison pipeline. Light refreshments will be served at a reception following the event.
Call for Abstracts:
The DEI committee invites individuals to submit abstracts in the area of Racial Disproportionality and School Discipline for poster presentations during the reception. The research can be empirical or conceptual. It can also be fully completed or in-progress. If accepted, the committee will cover the cost of printing a poster. Abstracts must be received no later than January 24th (11:59pm, EDT) to email@example.com.
- Up to 500 words (8.5 x 11 inch paper with 1-inch margins) using a 12-point Times New Roman font;
- Presentation title;
- Abstract should include text only. Figures and tables are not acceptable.
- Author name(s) and contact information.
It is time again to announce our funded fellowship opportunities for undergraduates interested in conducting research during the summer of 2017! In addition to the UROP Fellowship we are again pleased to offer fellowships funded by the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the Global Education Office, and the Division for Inclusive Excellence! As always, many thanks to these units for their support!
Below you will find a brief description for each fellowship opportunity with a link to the full description. Check out profiles of some of our previous Summer Research Fellows HERE. Deadline for proposals is March 1st, 2017. Feel free to direct any questions to Herb Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Global Education Undergraduate Research Fellowships
The Global Education Office will fund three unique undergraduate fellowship awards for research projects, mentored by VCU faculty. Research proposals should show evidence of significant engagement with a culture originating from outside of the US that is different from the applicant’s native culture. Successful proposals should exhibit how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience to demonstrate successfully functioning across a variety of borders, such as national, linguistic, cultural, religious, and/or others. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor. For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/geo_fellowship.htm
Undergraduate Fellowships for Clinical and Translational Research
The VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research will fund one undergraduate research fellowship award for a clinical translational research project focused on human health and mentored by a VCU faculty member. A clinical translational research project is one that aims to translate scientific discoveries into improved human health and wellness. Successful proposals must discuss how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience while simultaneously attempting to advance human health through clinical research. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor. For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/cctr_urop_fellowship.htm
The VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence will fund one undergraduate research fellowship award for a faculty-mentored research project focused on “diversity” as it relates to ideas, cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Successful proposals must discuss how the project will increase the student researcher’s knowledge, skills and experience related to the social, economic, political and historical significance of particular differences. This project may investigate diversity through the lens of gender, race/ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status, disabilities and/or international issues. Each fellowship award includes $1500 in funding for the student and $500 for the faculty mentor. For details and to apply : http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/ie_fellowship.htm
VCU Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowships
The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) will fund a limited number of undergraduate student fellowship awards for projects mentored by VCU faculty. Successful student applicants will receive a cash stipend of $1,500 and $500 for the faculty mentor. Applicants must submit an online application no later than March 1st, 2017 for review. For details and to apply visit: http://research.vcu.edu/ugresources/fellowship-instructions.htm