University spends $374.9 million on research expenditures, reaches record amount

Julia Trowbridge

Everything seems to be growing at Colorado State University.

CSU spent $374.9 million on research expenditures in the 2018 fiscal year, a 10.8 percent increase from last years research expenditures of $338.4 million, according to SOURCE. This is the 11th year in a row where research expenditures have increased for CSU. 

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“It gets exciting when we see research expenditures go up because that means we’re seeing research funded pretty much across campus, and the impact is broader across the different disciplines,” said Melissa Reynolds, research associate dean for the College of Natural Sciences.

One of the causes for the increase in research expenditures comes from the CSU Research and Scholarship Success Initiative, said Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research at CSU.

The RSSI was started two years ago, focusing on strategically investing indirect costs funds into university research through funding parts of core facilities.

“Research is really the creation of ideas … for a variety of purposes in society,” Rudolph said. “This is important to the component of the land grant mission because the practice of research, in terms of field research, has a strong ethos on our campus to make an impact. Research is an important component of that society fabric I think in many ways, so I think that’s a really important part of the mission of CSU.”

Research expenditures include hiring professors and the day-to-day activities and instruments that it takes to run a laboratory, Reynolds said. This includes anything from chemicals to glassware to people needed to conduct the research.

“I like to think about it like if you’re going to do a yard project,” Reynolds said. “Before you take on this massive ‘I’m going to build a patio’ project, you’re have to go buy the lumber and you have to go find the people, buy the nails, get the plants together. So all of that is the expenditures for that project.”

The main source of research funding comes from federal grants, like the National Science Foundation and from US Department of Defense, Reynolds said. Out of these expenditures, $268.7 million was from federal sources in the fiscal year of 2018, which is a 12.3 percent increase from last year’s federal funding of $239.2 million.

Part of that 10 percent increase is actually really good news for the future, far beyond what you’re seeing today because some of it is going into resources that will have an impact that lives long beyond when those dollars are actually spent. And not just in the project itself but also in the students who get to participate and the impact that it has on their future.”– Kristen Buchanan, CSU physics associate professor and recent Keck Foundation grant recipient

Other sources of research funding include private grants, industrial sponsors, state funding and foundations. CSU has been excelling at receiving money from the Keck Foundation in particular, Rudolph said.

The Keck Foundation grants money to research projects that are ambitious and other research funding sources might find risky, said Kristen Buchanan, associate professor in physics who won the most recent Keck Foundation grant. The Keck Foundation’s mission is to try to push what’s possible, Buchanan said.

“The Keck grant is really an opportunity for us to try and do something that nobody else has tried to do before,” Buchanan said. “And they really look for things that are high risk but have the potential to be transformative in terms of their research impact. They want to fund things nobody else wants to fund.”

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Buchanan, along with other research scientists, was awarded $1 million to build a soft X-ray microscope to study individual electrons in magnetic materials and how they spin. This microscope would be on the frontier of laser development, Buchanan said, by using a laser with a much smaller wavelength in order to image the spin waves occurring in magnetic materials at small size scales and fast time scales.

“The Keck grant is about trying to push those limits, and trying to push those limits using experimental techniques we can do on a tabletop,” Buchanan said. “So being able to walk across the hallway and do something as opposed to fly across to the other side of the country is a big deal in terms of how quickly your science can progress.”

There’s a lot of positive things that come out of the increase in research expenditures, both for the scientific advancements and the impact research has on students, Buchanan said.

“Part of that 10 percent increase is actually really good news for the future, far beyond what you’re seeing today because some of it is going into resources that will have an impact that lives long beyond when those dollars are actually spent,” Buchanan said. “And not just in the project itself, but also in the students who get to participate and the impact that it has on their future.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.