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Research Funds Help Scientists, Students and Society

July 24, 2009

UC Merced has a lot to crow about this summer. Despite the shaky state of the economy, the UC system’s newest campus received its highest amount of research funding – $22.8 million – during fiscal year 2008-09.

Research funding is usually a mix of grants and gifts from federal, state and private sources. UC Merced’s sources last year included the National Science Foundation (NSF), the United States Department of Agriculture and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM).

Those funds, received between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009, are being used in a number of innovative projects to benefit the state, national and global community. Examples include:

• School of Natural Sciences Professor Michael Cleary and School of Engineering Professor Kara McCloskey are developing a new tool to analyze cells and determine how to create heart cells from stem cells, respectively.

• A multidisciplinary research team of professors from the Schools of Engineering and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts purchased state-of-the-art robotics equipment – including a humanoid robot and two three-fingered robotic arms – to study how humans interact with robots and how the devices execute complex tasks.

• Professor Lara Kueppers investigates how plant populations in the Sierra Nevada could be affected by climate change. Will they adapt, migrate or face extinction?

The university received 85 awards amounting to $22,827,488. The amount marked a 39 percent increase in research funds compared to the $16.3 million received in 2007-2008.

Research “is the cornerstone of the University of California, and we are pleased that UC Merced continues to garner strong funding,” said Samuel Traina, vice chancellor for research and dean of graduate studies. “We are proud of our faculty’s growing success in obtaining grants that are vital to UC Merced’s core mission as a research university.”

Grant and award monies allow faculty and students to conduct cutting-edge research that can lead to new scientific discoveries and help find potentially transformative solutions to issues society will face in the 21st century. UC Merced’s primary strengths include solar and renewable energy, water resources, climate change and stem cell research.