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USF ascends nine spots among research colleges

USF is among the fastest-growing research universities in the nation, according to The Chronicle For Higher Education. The list, which covers the fiscal year for 2003, shows the 100 research universities that spent the most in federal research grants during that term. USF raised research spending by 26.1 percent from $84,108,000 to $106,102,000. Vanderbilt University’s spending increased by 28.4 percent, and Oregon Health and Science University’s research budget also rose 26.1 percent.

USF climbed nine spots in the publication’s ranking of the top 100 research institutions for expenditures. The only other school to rise by nine spaces was Vanderbilt.

Robert Chang, the vice president for research at USF, said the University’s ranking on the list reflects the quality of the faculty and its growing prestige as a research university.

He also said that while the 2003-04 fiscal year hasn’t been computed, USF did indeed grow in expenditures.

With each recognition from outside scholarly and research groups, USF moves closer to becoming a top research institution.

“The president always sets the goal for us to be in the top 50 research universities,” Chang said. “In terms of spending, we’re pretty close. We still have a lot of work to do.”

“I think USF is moving very rapidly toward being a top-tier research university,” said Daniel Lim, who is currently conducting research in biodefense. “In the last 10 years, (USF) has become very well known in different areas of research.”

Lim said that while the resources could be better, USF is making strides to provide researchers with what they need. He said it continues to improve the infrastructure for research and interdisciplinary collaborations.

In the ranking, USF came in below the University of Florida, which was 41st, but above Florida State University, which was 89th. USF, at 71st, ranks above Rutgers, Dartmouth and Princeton.

“How money is given out, this gives us a certain prestige,” said Chang. “There are a lot of universities on this list that you wouldn’t think would be lower than us on federal expenditures.”

Chang also said that the ranking is a sign that federal agencies are willing to take a chance on the research provided by USF.

“It takes a lot of money to conduct research,” Chang said. “It’s not a trivial amount of money. It takes a lot of investment, and of course, the federal agencies are looking for a return on that investment.”

Between 2002 and 2003, USF’s federal expenditures rose by almost $22 million, according to the list. For every grant that USF received that year, a researcher had to submit a proposal to be considered for the money.

“When you want to get funding for research, you write a proposal that describes what you want to do and how much it would cost, then submit it to agencies that have funding for the research,” Lim said. “Proposals from all over the country are reviewed, and the best ones are funded.”

Chang likened the proposal process to the competition many students go through to receive scholarships.

Lim said that he has received grants from both the National Institute of Health and the Army, along with other organizations, for his research in improved bacteria detection and recently attended a conference on wastewater security.

“Protection of the nation’s water supply is a very high priority for the U.S. government and Homeland Security,” Lim said. “Development of new, innovative methods to rapidly detect dangerous microorganisms in water is important not only in biodefense, but also in protecting the public health.

“One example is the tragedy that just happened in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast as a result of Hurricane Katrina. With the potential for infectious disease from contaminated water in flooded areas, it becomes critically important that we have accurate tests to rapidly detect and identify pathogens and toxic chemicals in water.”

While Chang does admit that USF’s ranking is a sign it’s becoming a more prestigious university, he does try to keep the information in perspective.

“It’s no different than any kind of survey that you do,” Chang said. “It’s important to see that USF is right up there with these universities, and we’re growing, we’re moving up. This is the work of our faculty. This is their accomplishment that put us here on the map.”