17, No. 6 November 2, 2000 Issue
Taking research to a higher level
By Joe Kleinsasser
WSU faculty and staff arent resting on their laurels. After setting a record in research funding in fiscal year 2000, WSU is on a blistering pace to establish a much higher mark.
For the first quarter of FY 01 (July-September), Wichita State faculty and staff generated 320 percent more external funding than the same period a year ago. The grant and contract award total for the first three months is $12,136,000. The fast start raises expectations that last fiscal years record of $21.25 million will be surpassed.
"These are absolutely fantastic numbers for the first three months," said Skip Loper, associate vice president for research at WSU. "Its not realistic to think we will maintain this pace, but we should top last years total. Our faculty are marvelously productive."
Loper credits the boom in research funding to a combination of new research funding, ongoing funding through multi-year projects and significant grants from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We anticipate receiving many additional grants this year, and we expect that many of our new proposals that are still pending will be funded as well," he said.
"The success in securing research funding is a direct tribute to our faculty, especially the maturing of our younger faculty in the last five to 10 years. They have learned that they can be competitive with faculty from other institutions in obtaining funding."
The benefits of faculty research are many, according to Loper. Students in the classroom learn from professors who conduct cutting-edge research. Many graduate and undergraduate students also gain practical experience by working alongside faculty who are involved in research projects.
Loper says another benefit is that many of the projects that are being sponsored by external agencies are extremely practical and have outcomes that benefit the health, safety and economic well-being of residents of the Wichita area, the state and the nation.
Examples include a study of the formation of fuel clouds in the fuel tanks of commercial aircraft, which may lead to the prevention of explosions and fires similar to the one that occurred in the TWA flight 800 disaster; training for police officers in towns and cities in Kansas to develop community policing skills; a project to reduce the risk of disease among minority youth in Wichita; development of anti-icing and de-icing techniques to improve the safety of flight during inclement weather; the design of interventions to help families with child conduct and socialization problems; and a study of the range of motion and exercise programs to improve body function and mobility of the elderly.
Loper said, "This is but a brief list from more than 200 research, training, and service projects currently under way at WSU, almost all of which have an impact on local life and work.
"The research success also has a positive impact on the Wichita economy. I would estimate that 75 percent or more of our research dollars are spent in the community through salaries, benefits, supplies and travel."
To add to these efforts, Loper said that President Beggs will soon announce a new initiative for forming partnerships between community organizations and WSU faculty for the purpose of solving societal problems through research, training and service projects. The initiative will match community needs with the research passions and expertise of faculty by facilitating contact between these groups and assisting in the pursuit of grant funding.
Results of the initiative will include greater support for community organizations and closer collaboration with the university.
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