NSF: Michigan Tech Research Up 12 Percent

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

The National Science Foundation's report on research expenditures shows Michigan Technological University's research program grew 12 percent from FY2004 to FY2005, Provost and Vice President for Research David Reed told the Board of Trustees Aug. 2.

Among institutions without a medical school, Michigan Tech ranks 79th in the nation and the highest in the state. Industrial funding makes up 10.6 percent of the university's research dollars, placing Michigan Tech 17th in the nation.

The NSF reports on research spending at hundreds of universities nationwide. At $40.2 million, Michigan Tech remained in 179th place among all US universities and moved up two places, to 127th, among public institutions.

The university's 12 percent increase is higher than that of the state's other major research universities, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, which all saw growth in the single digits.

The growth is due largely to excellence among the research faculty and staff, Reed said. In addition, the increase can be linked with an alignment of the university's strengths with national priorities. More federal funding is becoming available in the areas of defense, the environment and energy, areas in which the university has vigorous, longstanding programs.

Among Michigan Tech's various disciplines, the NSF report lists seven in the top 100 nationwide, with mechanical engineering ranked 23rd, chemical engineering, 45th, metallurgy and materials science, 48th, civil engineering, 49th, biomedical engineering, 53rd, environmental sciences, 74th, and electrical and computer engineering, 90th. The university ranked 79th overall in engineering. Next year, Michigan Tech's math research should also make the top 100, Reed said.

The National Science Foundation bases its report on two-year-old statistics. In the years since 2005, the university's research expenditures have continued to increase substantially and now total an estimated $56 million for FY2007.

Reed also unveiled a new Faculty Hiring Initiative. The goal will be to hire three new senior-level faculty and up to seven entry-level faculty in fields related to sustainability. This will be in addition to the usual hiring process, and no replacement positions will be contributed to the initiative.

This initiative is part of the university's effort to support the Strategic Plan, which calls for building a world-class faculty and similarly world-class research. It also meshes with the creation of the Robbins Chairs of Sustainability, including a Chair in Sustainable Manufacturing and Design, a Chair in Sustainable Use of Materials, and a Chair in Sustainable Management of the Environment.

"We have stabilized our financial situation, and we are making good progress toward achieving the goals of our Strategic Plan, but to make more than incremental progress, we have to address the most limiting factors," Reed said. "Our single most limiting factor is really faculty capacity."

The provost, the academic deans and the Sustainable Futures Institute will collaborate in the new hiring effort, along with the academic units.

In other business, the Board
* heard from CFO Dan Greenlee that preliminary figures show the university's general fund ending the 2006-07 fiscal year about $286,000 in the black, with the current fund (which combines all university funds) showing a net income of $1.3 million.

* agreed to grant tenure and the rank of professor in the Department of Biological Sciences to incoming provost Lesley Lovett-Doust effective Aug. 20.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.