UI tops list for NSF funding
It doesn’t take much research to discover the UI is near the top of the list when it comes to securing federal science funding.
Administrators announced last month that the UI ranked second in 2010 among national institutions receiving National Science Foundation funding, trailing only AURA/the National Optical Astronomy Observatories. When compared to universities alone, the UI ranks first.
The UI received nearly $185 million from NSF in 2010 through more than 400 grants ranging from $3,000 to $90 million.
“Because of great strengths in engineering and the physical sciences. Illinois has long been an exceptionally strong NSF university,” said Richard Wheeler, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost.
He said the higher funding level this year was because of additional dollars available through the federal recovery program.
“Our faculty members intensified their already effective efforts,” Wheeler said.
Ravishankar Iyer, UI interim vice chancellor for research, agreed.
“We have been very successful in hiring talented, creative, hard-working faculty members across our colleges,” he said. “Their success in receiving NSF funding reflects the high quality of our faculty and
research staff members and students. We have been fortunate in receiving quite a number of NSF Career Awards in recent years and we received notification of several new career awards in the last two weeks.”
The bulk of this year’s NSF grant money, more than $90 million, went toward the $205 million Blue Waters petascale computing project at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. That project aims to produce a computer four times more powerful than any that currently exist.
The next largest UI line item was $3.3 million for the NSF Science and Technology Center water-purification program.
“Federally funded research is essential to our mission as a public research university,” Wheeler said. “It increases our capacity to contribute to basic science and to find real-world solutions to pressing social and technical problems.”
But even without the Blue Waters funds, UI would have ranked fourth in NSF funding among national research universities, Wheeler noted.
Although the largest amount of grant funding went to research, another $4.4 million was used for undergraduate education programs and nearly $2 million went to graduate education programs, he said.
Iyer said the grant money makes a lot of things possible that wouldn’t be otherwise.
“Faculty members in nearly every college receive NSF support for projects in their area of expertise,” he said, “or for collaborative, interdisciplinary projects with colleagues in other units. The money pays for support for undergraduate and graduate students, salaries for postdoctoral research associates and technical staff members, equipment, state-of-the-art instrumentation and computing resources.
“It enables education of students for the 21st century.”