Numbers show a record year in research for College of Engineering

Research expenditures at the Iowa State University College of Engineering exceeded $70 million in fiscal year 2009, a record amount for the college.

The total expenditure of $70,619,785 (for the period July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009) represents an increase of 4.6 percent over the previous fiscal year.

Expenditures are considered a more direct indication of research activity because they show how much funding, often awarded through multiyear grants, is currently being spent.

The college had reported recently that 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.

“Our faculty have demonstrated strong leadership in interdisciplinary research efforts across campus,” said Balaji Narasimhan, associate dean for research and graduate studies. “Some shining examples of our faculty’s success and leadership are the creation of an $18.5 million NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals, the Center for Nondestructive Evaluation, the Bioeconomy Institute, and the CyberInnovation Institute.”

Research has been identified as part of the university’s core mission in recent analyses related to the budget, and the College of Engineering has reinforced that view in its own scenario planning. Funding, Narasimhan noted, is only one part of the equation.

“It’s important to consider the output of these expenditures,” Narasimhan said. “For example, the college awarded 90 PhD degrees last year, which is a record. And this year our graduate student enrollment, counting students in interdepartmental majors, exceeded 1,100—another record.”

Narasimhan pointed out that the college’s research strategy is driven by the 2050 Challenge: 9 billion (or more) people striving for meaningful, productive lives in the face of strained resources and difficult obstacles.

“We strongly believe that in order to address the daunting challenges of the next several decades, it is critical for us to collaborate with other disciplines and form global and cross-disciplinary teams that will develop innovative solutions to our society’s problems,” Narasimhan said.

The 2050 Challenge includes the five “signature areas” of biosciences, energy sciences, sustainability, decision sciences, and critical infrastructure. “We need to focus on solving problems, not just developing specialties within engineering,” Narasimhan said.

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