Research Arm Continues to Grow at UC Merced

Research expenditures increase again, reaching new high of $14.1 million in 2009-10;
Awards received hold steady near $22 million despite uncertain economy

Quick Facts
  • Research expenditures at UC Merced surpassed $14.1 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year, a new record for the campus and a 10 percent increase over the prior year.
  • Research awards received totaled around $22 million for the second consecutive year.
  • Among the notable awards received by UC Merced professors were two CAREER Awards — the National Science Foundation's faculty early career development award — given to Elliott Campbell and Lin Tian.

MERCED — Last week, the University of California, Merced, began its sixth academic year by welcoming some 4,000 students, a new record for the UC's newest campus.

The bustling, vibrant student body is perhaps the most visual sign of UC Merced's continued growth. Just as indicative of that growth is the continued expansion of the campus' researcharm, which saw expenditures increase for the fifth consecutive year despite a challenging economic landscape.

According to numbers released by the campus' Business and Financial Services, research expenditures — the amount of money spent on UC Merced research, including graduate student salaries and benefits along with supplies and equipment for research projects — surpassed $14.1 million in the 2009-10 fiscal year, the highest total in the campus' history and nearly a 10 percent increase over the $12.9 million in expenditures in 2008-09.

Expenditures are the most relevant measurement of a research university's production, said UC Merced Vice Chancellor for Research Sam Traina, as they represent money being spent on current projects and being fed back into the economy.

"A major aspect of UC Merced's mission is research, and these numbers are concrete proof of the vast amount of groundbreaking research being done by our faculty and students," Traina said. "That our operation was able to grow despite these economic challenges is a testament to the staying power of the University of California system and the bright future of the Merced campus."

The amount of research awards received also held steady in 2009-10, ensuring that expenditures will remain strong in the coming years. UC Merced faculty pulled in nearly $22 million in awards, a decrease of less than 4 percent from 2008-09's $22.8 million. And the 2010-11 fiscal year got off to a rousing start, with more than $4.5 million in research awards received by UC Merced researchers in July alone.

The $22 million received in 2009-10 included some notable awards:

  • Two CAREER Awards — the National Science Foundation's faculty early career development award — received by UC Merced professors Elliott Campbell and Lin Tian.
  • A grant of $1.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to create the Center of Excellence for the Study of Health Disparities in Rural and Ethnic Underserved Populations.
  • A three-year, $1.3 million grant awarded to Professor David Kelley for his research into finding a less expensive method to harness and use solar energy.
  • A $1 million Renewable Energy Secure Communities program grant from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program to implement renewable energy applications on campus that can also used by professors in their research.
  • A $974,523 grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded to Professor William Shadish to develop new statistics for measuring the effects of educational interventions on individual students.

The money spent on research at UC Merced benefits society on many levels. It feeds money into the local economy by way of graduate student salaries; it funds outreach programs designed to improve health and education in the San Joaquin Valley; and it leads to new innovations that address many of our greatest societal challenges on the local, state and global level.

For example, UC Merced's Stem Cell Instrumentation Foundry — funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine — is expected to be a catalyst for the formation and growth of the biotech industry in the Merced area. The state-of-the-art facility will also be a tool shared with researchers across the state.

"From helping underserved young students make healthy choices and fulfill their utmost potential, to helping understand and solve the state's water crisis, to finding new and more efficient ways to harness solar energy, the research done at UC Merced has been invaluable," Traina said. "As the campus continues to grow over the next several years, the impact of our faculty and student research will only increase."

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