Anniversaries recollect locations we’ve reached, and this fall, UNLV celebrates reaching its 60th year. While we can be happy with all the turning points and successes we have actually attained together over six decades, I ‘d likewise want to look more carefully at the journey that’s brought us here, as it lights the way towards the next terrific destination we seek before our 70th.
We are on an outstanding trajectory toward joining the ranks of the country’s leading research universities– exactly what you’ll frequently hear those of us at UNLV refer to as the Top Tier. I believe we’ve really been on the path to becoming this kind of research study university the whole time, even if we didn’t have this objective in mind from the start.
Among the most specifying attributes of a top research university is the quantity of research study financing it generates from external sources each year. In general, leading research study institutions garner a minimum of $100-120 million in research study financing yearly.
At about $60 million this year, UNLV admittedly will have to around double its funding to end up being one of the country’s top research study universities. But considering UNLV got in between $10-15 million in research funding in the 1990s, we have actually already come a long method.
Research funding was even lower than that when I showed up in 1985. At that time, the biology department had two research study “stars” who went on to become recognized professors: animal physiologist Mohamed Yousef, who studied animals’ reaction to heat and water tension, consisting of how heat and dehydration could impact Flying force pilots; and biologist/activist Jim Deacon, who was responsible for the Devils Hole pupfish making its way onto the endangered species list. Most of the remaining biology faculty didn’t conduct funded research study. However by the time I was hired, every person we hired was anticipated to be an active scientist with grant support.
We also didn’t have actually devoted research study laboratories at that time, carrying out research study in our mentor labs rather. This meant that there were times during the academic year when I couldn’t keep my research equipment on the lab benches since my students were utilizing the area to deal with their projects and experiments. However, as soon as devoted research study laboratories that might house devices and sustain continuous experiments were carved out across school, UNLV’s research performance really removed. This is how we received from $15 million in research financing in the mid-1990s to around $60 million in between 2005 and 2010– a quadrupling in just 15 years.
Then the recession hit. UNLV’s financing dropped to $40 million by 2012. Nevertheless, what is often ignored this time duration is that about 40 percent of UNLV’s research study funding came from direct congressional appropriations (i.e., earmarks) then; our recession was straight tied to the elimination of those earmarks in 2012.
Despite this, UNLV actually saw a constant increase in competitive grant funding through the recession years– versus noncompetitive funding such as the abovementioned earmarks, typically handed over without rigorous peer review. In university-ranking circles, competitive grant financing is the main signifier of quality. And now that we’re post-recession, these type of annual boosts are becoming more pronounced at UNLV.
The Experimental Program to Promote Competitive Research study (EPSCoR), which enhances research abilities in underfunded states, was an essential driver in my research study profession. Large, multiyear grants like this supply crucial facilities in crucial research focus areas, with the goal of helping interdisciplinary teams sustain the original investment through competitive grants beyond the preliminary assistance. After a preliminary $2 million Department of Energy (DOE) EPSCoR grant that built a free-air CO2 enrichment website at the Nevada Test Website, we were able to acquire another $10 million in competitive grants from the DOE and National Science Structure over the next years to continue the long-lasting experiment.
Certainly, UNLV has to continue to leverage EPSCoR and similar programs, and our new School of Medicine will increase our research study portfolio ultimately, but I think the genuine key to ending up being a leading research university by 70 is to continue a hybrid method of leading faculty-driven efforts from our departments and performing on a campuswide, tactical plan in which we determine essential focus areas and make targeted, midcareer hires in those areas. Works with like Malcolm Nicol, whom UNLV hired from UCLA to form the High Pressure Science and Engineering Center (HiPSEC)— an interdisciplinary lab that studies nuclear testing, stockpiles, and their alternatives– led to what is now among the most efficient and well-funded centers on campus.
We likewise require more research study space. The Science and Engineering Building significantly increased UNLV’s collective capability to do innovative, interdisciplinary research study; at least another building like this is essential to keep us on the up and up.
Where there is a will and a great hybrid technique, there is a way. And if how far we have actually already been available in our journey is any indicator, UNLV is speeding its method to the top.
Stan Smith has served UNLV for 32 years and counting– first as a research-active faculty member in the School of Life Sciences, then as associate vice president for research study for Ten Years, and next as the acting dean of the College of Sciences before becoming teacher emeritus this summer.
To celebrate the many research, scholarly, and innovative activities occurring on our campus, join us at UNLV’s third annual Research study Week Oct. 9-13, 2017.