F&A funding crucial to success of U research

laboratory with sun shining in through the window

Indirect research costs do more than keep the lights on in labs. These necessary parts of federally funded research projects help maintain high-tech equipment, provide data storage, support administrative staff, and even cover the disposal of hazardous waste.

As noted in a New York Times article, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price recently called into question the value of funding indirect costs on grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest public funder of biomedical research. Price said paring back such funding could bring significant financial savings to the federal government next year.

Federal grants’ support of indirect research costs, often called “F&A” (facilities and administrative), plays an important role in helping universities recover a portion of the administrative and infrastructure expenses that come along with research across all academic fields. F&A helps make research spaces safe, keeps lab equipment running properly, and ensures projects comply with laws and regulations. Continue reading

Federal cuts would devastate research, innovation

U.S. flag in front of a federal building

When the Trump administration released its federal budget proposal last month, the plan’s significant cuts to research funding jolted the research community.

In a recently published op-ed, the University of Minnesota’s Interim Vice President for Research Allen Levine, Ph.D., warned of the devastating affect such cuts could have—not just for public research universities, but for US discovery and innovation across the board. Levine wrote in MinnPost that following the path laid out in the Presidential Budget Request would cut short potential discoveries, economic growth opportunities, and improvements to our quality of life.

The budget proposal includes cuts in medical, humanities, arts, energy, and environmental research. U of M researchers rely on resources distributed by nearly every federal agency that supports research—their funding made up 60 percent of the $788 million the U received last year. Continue reading

MnDRIVE program catapults undergraduate researcher to national stage

Undergraduate researcher Tamirat Ali

By Deirdre Manion-Fischer

Tamirat Ali spent last summer growing fungi in Jonathan Schilling’s lab at the University of Minnesota. He was studying ways to mitigate climate change by measuring the ability of fungi to capture methane. The technique, called biofiltration, relies on fungi to capture pollutants and bacteria to degrade them. While other research has focused on optimizing bacterial degradation, Schilling and Ali suspected they could find a more efficient fungus to optimize methane capture.

Over the course of the summer, Ali injected methane into glass vials containing tiny blocks of wood inoculated with fungi. Twenty-four hours later, he measured the decrease in methane. One type of white-rot fungus (Ganoderma lucidum) used in traditional Chinese medicine worked better at capturing methane than the species widely used in bioremediation (Pleurotus ostreatus). His success earned him a competitive travel award to attend the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference where he presented his results in Washington D.C. earlier this month.

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CTS celebrates 30 years of transportation research, innovation

Overhead view of cars passing through an intersection

In 1987, a new research center opened at the University of Minnesota that would begin a decades-long mission to catalyze innovation in all facets of transportation, from traffic flow and safety to pavements and bridges.

This year, the Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) celebrates its 30th anniversary, capping three decades of developing new tools to help agencies across the US improve transportation systems and provide objective data to inform elected officials on matters of transportation policy.

Over that time, many transportation research projects at the University have served as prime examples of how U of M research meets the practical needs of Minnesotans, in the Twin Cities area and throughout Minnesota, said Laurie McGinnis, CTS director. Continue reading

Workshops share best ethics practices around human research

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the "Research Partners with Community Members" workshop, part of the U's inaugural Research Ethics Day.

A participant asks a panel of experts a question during the “Research Partners with Community Members” workshop, part of the U’s inaugural Research Ethics Day.

Across the U.S., researchers conducting studies that involve human participants must make decisions that advance scientific progress without sacrificing the welfare or freedom of their participants.

Earlier this month, University of Minnesota researchers came together with experts from across the nation to explore a range of ethics questions related to adults, adolescents and children participating in research. For example, past studies have found some research participants do not fully understand that they are signing up for research instead of routine clinical care.

Through a series of workshops and training sessions hosted by the U’s Human Research Protection Program with support from the Office of the Vice President for Research, attendees learned practical skills to help them navigate issues of informed consent while ensuring a high level of ethical conduct. Continue reading

Capacity-building sets stage for international research partnerships

Herd of sheep near mountains

Researchers at the University of Minnesota will soon come together with their counterparts from across Latin America to improve animal, human and environmental health through collaborative research.

This international network, launched through a two-year International Capacity Building grant from the U’s Office of the Vice President for Research and matched by endowed chair funds from the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, will serve as the framework for forming new research projects around subjects that can benefit both the U.S. and Latin America. The International Capacity Building funding provides for a project manager to support the development of grants and provide administrative assistance for research projects that focus on promoting aquaculture (farming fish or shellfish for food), supporting livestock health, curbing zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases and preserving ecosystems, as well as addressing the issues that lie where these four areas intersect.

The transdisciplinary effort will bring together U of M researchers from the colleges of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Public Health; and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the corresponding experts from these fields in Central and South American research institutions.

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The sound of music

Orchestra

Suppose a flute player and a bass player are playing a tune where they must hit notes simultaneously. A new University of Minnesota study suggests that if a high flute note comes a tad earlier than its bass counterpart, the audience probably won’t notice. But if the bass note comes early, they will.

Also, the ability to detect a lack of synchrony between a low note and a high note had nothing to do with whether either note came on the beat; all that mattered was the order in which the notes were played.

The study revealed quirks in how humans process and perceive musical sounds that have evolutionary significance. And because it concerns how the inner ear and brain work together, it could aid in the design of better hearing aids or cochlear implants.

“These surprising results have given us more insight into the complex interactions that occur between the ear and brain when we perceive sound,” says Andrew Oxenham, a psychology professor and study author.

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Meet Allen Levine, interim VP for research

University of Minnesota flag outside of a building

Allen Levine, Ph.D., has more than a passing familiarity with the University of Minnesota’s research enterprise — in one capacity or another, he has been connected to the U for more than 45 years.

Levine, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and adjunct in the Department of Psychiatry, began his role as the U’s new interim vice president for research this week. He previously served as vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, as well as dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. As head of the Office of the Vice President for Research, Levine will oversee the University’s $900 million research enterprise across all its campuses and facilities, including the administration of sponsored projects, research compliance and regulatory offices, and offices dedicated to economic development and technology commercialization.

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“In my new position, I look forward to keeping the University’s research enterprise moving forward and preparing the office for its next permanent director,” he said. “Since arriving, I have found the staff at OVPR to be knowledgeable and well suited to the important work they do for the U.” Continue reading

Forty years with tigers

Tiger in tall grass

Tiger at night, caught in a camera trap in Nepal. Photo credit: David Smith.

Few tiger biologists venture into dens to photograph and collect data on cubs. But University of Minnesota tiger researcher David Smith has done it twice, once with the mother just 200 yards away.

Using radio and GPS collars, Smith has tracked tigers for 40 years with one goal in mind: to achieve larger and more secure tiger populations by keeping their prey abundant and their habitat connected rather than patchy. This matters because top predators are critical to ecosystem health.

So are Smith’s graduate students. Most come from Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Taiwan or the Philippines. Degrees completed, they return home and mobilize local people for conservation efforts.

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Spring 2017 Grant-in-Aid competition

The University of Minnesota’s Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship Program promotes the research, scholarly and artistic activities of faculty and supports academic excellence throughout the University. Administered through the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Grant-in-Aid program provides seed funding for a wide range of projects in five funding categories.

Timeline to apply:

Jan. 3, 2017     Start accepting applications
Feb. 6, 2017    Deadline for applications to be routed to approvers
Feb. 9, 2017    Deadline for approvers to submit final applications to OVPR

Visit Grant-in-Aid to learn more about the funding categories, eligibility requirements, how to apply and see samples of some exemplary proposals.

Questions? Contact the Research Advancement office: facgrant@umn.edu or 612-625-2356.

Top 10 Inquiry stories of 2016

Block numbers 2016

For the University of Minnesota, the completion of 2016 marks another year of advancing knowledge, forming new partnerships and making groundbreaking discoveries.

The Inquiry blog, led by the Office of the Vice President for Research, set out to explore such strides in research and innovation when it launched more than two years ago. Its path has since woven across departments and disciplines, delving into everything from varieties of wine grapes that withstand the cold to the microscopic communities of bacteria that live inside of us.

Before we bid farewell to 2016, here’s a look back at the year’s 10 most-read Inquiry stories. Continue reading

The future of research universities: Q&A with departing VP Brian Herman

Vice President Brian Herman

In 2013, Brian Herman, Ph.D., joined the University of Minnesota as its vice president for research.

During his tenure, Herman helped the U’s research enterprise continue to grow by diversifying funding sources, increasing public-private partnership and enhancing protections for human research participants. His recent report to the Board of Regents highlighted, among other accomplishments, research funding at record levels and thriving technology commercialization and economic development efforts.

Now, four years later, Herman is preparing to transition out of the Office of the Vice President for Research and join the College of Science and Engineering faculty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. In the Q&A below, Herman discusses the progress of the U’s research enterprise and the future of public research universities. Continue reading