Research funding will soon lead to Tier 1 status

UTSA has released their research spending statistics for 2010 revealing a 4.6 percent increase to 48,651,962 in total research for fiscal year 2010 (Sept. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010). This marks an increase from fiscal year 2009 ($46,521,487) and a 50.5 percent increase since fiscal year 2006 ($32,316,849).

One of the highlights of the UTSA Research program is the addition of Helenita, the world’s most powerful electron microscope. The addition of this research tool has made UTSA a global destination for many of the brightest physics researchers in the world. UTSA also received a 10-year, $50 million grant that will help UTSA move closer to Tier 1 research in energy.

UTSA has identified five areas of research focus: (a) Health, (b) Energy, (c) Cyber Security, (d) Sustainability and (e) Human and Social Development.

UTSA already has Tier 1 health research being conducted for their health research. In fiscal year 2010, The College of Sciences spent $29,936,532, the College of Engineering spent $8,192,317 and the College of Education and Human Development spent $2,255,789 on total sponsored programs, respectively.

The increase in research spending is a part of the grander UTSA vision of becoming a Tier 1 research institute. According to Robert Gracy, vice president of research, UTSA has only recently begun to develop its graduate and research programs, due mainly to the leadership of UTSA President, Dr. Richard Romo. “UTSA is blessed with arguably the best environment for research collaboration in the country” said Gracy.

“Success is shared by all of our faculty who have over doubled research expenditures and publication output in the past 5 years,” said Dr. George Perry dean of the college of sciences. “Notably, programs in infectious disease, nanotechnology, neurobiology, health disparities, medicinal chemistry and cyber security have led the way.”

“In addition to the current success of the College of Sciences, UTSA continues to build on areas of success in water and stem cell research.

UTSA’s College of Engineering has made great strides in research and currently is getting ready to open their Simulation, Visualization and Real-Time Prediction (SiViRT) Center that will feature a visualization wall (Vis-Wall), a one-picture compellation of many high-resolution computer screens. The SiViRT Center was funded by a $482,600, three year National Science Foundation grant. The Vis-Wall will allow simulation of certain cancer treatments, underwater robotics performance in an interactive graphical environment and many other innovative simulation research projects.

While there are no official requirements for becoming a Tier 1 research university, generally many schools considered Tier 1 have greater numbers of research grants and contracts that attract world-class faculty like Nobel Laureates. However, research money spent does not necessarily determine if a school is a Tier 1 university. Other factors are also considered, such as recognition of accomplishments and the impact of research from faculty and students including Tier one publications, awards and peer recognition.

Despite being the second largest state in population, Texas has lagged behind California (nine Tier 1 schools) and New York (seven Tier 1 schools) with only three Tier 1 universities (University of Texas Austin, Texas A&M, and Rice). California and New York have made significant investments in their higher education in past years. Only recently has Texas begun to take an interest in creating more Tier one research universities.

Many of the research programs at UTSA are already at Tier one status. “UTSA is something you don’t have to be proud of in the future. You can be proud of it today” said Dr. Mauli Agrawal, dean of the School of Engineering.