College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Collaboration, large awards boost research funding in College of Engineering

Despite the national economy, there has been no recession in research support at the Iowa State University College of Engineering.

Funding for grants and contracts during the first quarter of fiscal year 2010 (July 1 to September 30, 2009) totaled $35 million, which is more than double the amount for the same time last year. The funding comes from 152 awards to faculty from numerous government agencies and industry sponsors. The first quarter had not been as high as even $18 million since 2006.

“This success points directly to the quality and insightfulness of our faculty,” said Jonathan Wickert, dean of the College of Engineering. “We are all the beneficiaries of their collective accomplishment, hard work, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.”

Research funding is crucial to the college’s mission because it increases opportunities for graduate students, allows faculty to pursue important innovations and advance engineering knowledge, leads to the development of premier laboratories, and contributes to the application of technology that enhances our quality of life.

A 13 percent increase in the number of proposals submitted has contributed to the funding increase, but clearly other factors are at play.

Balaji Narasimhan, associate dean for research and graduate studies, said that in the first quarter of FY10 the college more than doubled the number of grants of $500,000 or more. He cited this unprecedented increase in so-called large awards as a major factor in the overall increase in funding. Since July 1, 17 of those grants have been awarded from sources such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and National Academy of Sciences.

But a significant rise in industry grants has also contributed, Narasimhan noted, with a 73 percent increase in the number of grants from that sector.

Federal efforts to stimulate the economy have also made an impact. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided the National Institutes of Health with $8.2 billion and NSF with $3 billion to help stimulate the country’s economy by supporting scientific research. Jackie Shanks, a professor of chemical and biological engineering, is one of three Iowa State researchers on a team that was recently awarded $2 million in ARRA funds from NSF’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program.

“We have seen a 37 percent increase in the numbers of grants that have multiple investigators from different departments,” Narasimhan said. “This reflects the collaborative culture that we have in the college. And the diversified research portfolio, in terms of funding sources, is clearly helping our faculty and students succeed in highly impactful ways.”


Balaji Narasimhan, College of Engineering, 515 294-8019,
Eric Dieterle, College of Engineering, 515 294-4881,