I am thrilled to announce that in FY 2020 Miami University set a new record for extramural funding: $26,951,278.
Although it is my privilege, as Interim Vice President of Research & Innovation, to announce this wonderful news, credit for the achievement is due in large part to the leadership of former VPRI Jim Oris, who retired on the last day of FY 2020. The year’s unprecedented level of funding is a culmination of Jim’s nine years of service to Miami’s research community, as a strategic thinker, an advocate, and a builder of relationships.
Even more directly responsible for the year’s success are the faculty and staff who applied for funding. They poured countless hours into gathering preliminary data, writing proposals, and developing relationships with sponsors. As a principal investigator myself, I know that each award of funding can represent five or ten – sometimes even more – proposals that were submitted but not funded. I also know that these low funding rates can make the proposal development process seem thankless. So, I will take this opportunity to extend a sincere thank you to the researchers, scholars, and artists behind every one of the 314 proposals Miami submitted in FY 2020.
Breaking down our record year
Total funding in FY 2020 increased by nearly $3 million over FY 2019, a gain of more than 10%. Most of our divisions also saw increases. The College of Engineering & Computing led the way, more than doubling last year’s funding to achieve a total of $3.1 million. Significant gains were also seen by the College of Education, Health, & Society (up 70%), Research & Innovation + the Graduate School (up 20%), and the Middletown Campus (up 13%).
Although federal funding has been declining nationwide, our direct federal funding held fairly steady over the past year. Where the decline in federal funding may be more evident is in the 42% reduction in funds received from colleges, universities, and research institutions. This funding often comes in the form of subcontracts for work on projects sponsored by federal agencies. Fortunately, these losses were offset by increases in other sources of funding, including a tripling of funding from governments other than the federal government and the State of Ohio.
In keeping with a historical trend, the overwhelming majority of FY2020 external funds were awarded in support of research activities. Funding for research, public service, and student financial aid all increased, but the biggest percentage gain — 92% — was in funding for fellowships.
Why we do what we do
Miamians are so dedicated to securing external funding because that funding enables work that couldn’t happen without it. Each proposal represents a potential intellectual breakthrough, transformative learning experience, or consequential service. These things are at the heart of our mission as a university. Directly or indirectly, they make lives better, and unparalleled extramural funding means unparalleled accomplishments on behalf of the citizens of Ohio, our nation, and the world. Following are some examples.
DeBiasio received a grant from NSF for research that leads to better understanding the mathematical structures at the heart of combinatorial problems with implications for computer science and network design.
Dell’Aria received funding from the non-profit arts organization FotoFocus to curate a public art exhibition featuring moving images projected onto buildings at Miami University. The exhibition engages the concept of “shedding light” onto a topic of conceptual, political, or social importance.
Computer Science & Software Engineering
Femiani was engaged by In-Depth Engineering Corp. to design algorithms that can be used in the development of a mine-detection system. Femiani’s approach augments conventional machine learning with novel techniques.
Chemical, Paper, & Biomedical Engineering
Jones received funding from PsyBio Therapeutics to enhance and evaluate the commercial viability of a cost-effective psilocybin production method. Matt McMurray, of Psychology, is a co-investigator. Psilocybin is perhaps best known as the compound responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of so-called “magic” mushrooms. But it is also increasingly recognized as a clinical treatment for substance abuse and addiction, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as reported in the following media outlets:
- 60 Minutes
- The Atlantic
- Business Insider
- Fresh Air
- The New York Times
- NPR News
- Psychology Today
- Scientific American*
- Yahoo! Finance*
* Jones lab’s work mentioned
The expense of conventional production methods — including cultivation of Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms — has been a barrier to more widespread clinical use of psilocybin. The Jones lab’s cost-effective technique promises to increase access to this treatment option by enabling the development of affordable pharmaceutical drugs.
Lipsitz received funding from Duke University to contribute to analysis of the effect of non-compete agreement (NCA) enforcement on labor markets, workers’ earnings, and mobility. The analysis includes effects on workers bound and not bound by NCAs and disparate effects on men and women workers.
McCarty received a grant from NASA to map changes and model the future trajectory of land-coverage and land-use in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. McCarty’s departmental colleague Stanley Toops is a co-investigator.
Perkins received funding from the State Library of Ohio to host a three-day pre-conference workshop on digital storytelling for social change in conjunction with the 18th Annual Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality Symposium to be hosted by Miami University.
Scripps Gerontology Center
Subedi received funding from from UTHealth to contribute to research on the links between telomere biology and obesity, aging, and cardiometabolic disease risk. Results of the study will inform the assessment of risk, prevention, and treatment of accelerated aging and chronic disease. This funded research is part of the Fels Longitudinal Study, which was begun in Ohio in 1929. Now managed by UTHealth at the University of Texas, it is one of the longest and largest human health studies in the world, and has been the foundation of over 1,000 publications.
Williamson, an Ohio Eminent Scholar, was one of just seven scientists nationwide to receive an NSF Opportunities for Promoting Understanding Through Synthesis (OPUS) award. Williamson’s project will provide new insights into how dissolved organic matter influences long-term changes in water clarity, and the resulting consequences for lake ecosystems.
The Discovery Center
Woodruff received funding from SUNY Buffalo to evaluate perceptions and experiences of graduate students and postdoctoral associates involved in an NSF-funded interdisciplinary program involving 10 universities, three research institutes, three national laboratories, and an industry partner.
Saxton received funding from The Ohio State University to contribute to research on how microbes metabolize the herbicide glyphosate. Insight into this process is critical to understanding how herbicide use may contribute to harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and other bodies of water.
This is both my first and last reflection on Miami’s external funding success. Provost Jason Osborne recently named Alicia Knoedler as Vice President for Research & Innovation, effective November 1, 2020, and it will be her perspective you read in our next annual report. But even if I never have another chance to offer the people behind the numbers official thanks and congratulations, I want them to know that I will always be grateful for and proud of their contributions.
Photos by Miami University Photo Services.