Fueled by a huge increase in funding for its Space Dynamics Laboratory, Utah State University took in a record $220 million from government, corporate and foundation sources during the 2014 budget year.
The $220 million was an increase of nearly 19 percent from the $185.4 million the Logan-based university received in fiscal 2013.
“This is a big turnaround for us,” Mark McLellan, vice president for research, said after a news conference announcing the record. “This is a home run, out of the park.”
McLellan is also dean of USU’s School of Graduate Studies.
Research from two colleges — education and agriculture — was showcased during the news conference.
Victor Lee, an assistant professor of education, said he has been placing physical activity trackers on schoolchildren, and then encouraging them to use their science and math skills to do research projects based on the data.
So far, his research has involved 120 fifth-graders at the Edith Bowen Laboratory School on campus, and in Cache and Box Elder counties. Soon, 60 more students will be involved in the research.
One group of students, for instance, determined that playing football and soccer requires about the same physical effort, overall, and another group found that identical twins’ bodies responded differently to an obstacle course.
Abby Benninghoff, an assistant professor in the agriculture college, said she recently got a grant of nearly $500,000 to research the effects of the typical Western diet on colon cancer over several generations and whether green tea can cut the risk. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The university’s Genomics Core Laboratory, equipped to do complete genetic sequencing, is important for that work, which, like much of the research in the new Center for Human Nutrition Research, centers on “gut health.”
More than a third of the external money flowing into the USU went to its Space Dynamics Laboratory, which is part of the USU Research Foundation.
Its funding jumped from $56.2 million to $76.8 million, an increase of nearly 37 percent in 2014. Much of that comes from the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services was the second biggest recipient, amassing $27.2 million in outside research funding, up 13.2 percent from the year before.
The College of Agriculture and Applied Science had $19 million in outside funding last year, up nearly 49 percent.
The College of Science saw a 128 percent boost in outside funding, for a total of nearly $15 million.
The increase comes at a time when federal dollars for research are getting tighter and tighter, McLellan said.
The 800 faculty members, he said, “have really sharpened the saw. They have aggressively gone after those dollars and are competing better than they ever have.
“That’s a wow.”
The University of Utah’s research and sponsored projects brought in $388.5 million in the fiscal year that ended July 1, up nearly 8 percent from the $361 million the year before.