September 24, 2020

SIU faculty have record year winning outside funding

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The complex-looking machinery in Arash Komaee’s engineering laboratory at Southern Illinois University Carbondale may someday lead to, among other things, equipment that uses natural magnets to manipulate medical devices inside a patient’s body in a non-invasive manner.

Komaee’s work, funded by a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation, is part of a broader, longtime effort by faculty at SIU to obtain funding that pays for the people and equipment needed to perform cutting-edge research, creative activities and regional service, as well as other scholarly projects.

It turns out, SIU faculty pursuing these goals just finished yet another very good run.

Outside funding grows at SIU

SIU Carbondale faculty brought in $64.7 million in outside funding during the last fiscal year, an 18% increase over the previous fiscal year, leading to a $121,380 yield per faculty member.
The amount includes money from outside agencies for all scholarly activities, including research, contract work, services and creative activities, as processed through the university’s Office of Sponsored Projects Administration, said Gary Kinsel, vice chancellor for research at SIU.  The numbers show that the scholarly work conducted by SIU faculty is valued at the national and international level, as well as locally and regionally.

“The work that goes on at SIU is highly valued by the agencies that provide the funding,” Kinsel said. “This is a trend that I hope to see continue as we hire more faculty who seek support for their scholarly activities.”

Faculty efforts key to increase

The per-faculty member yield is the highest in at least seven years, Kinsel said, another encouraging trend within the data.

“The faculty efforts are being recognized with larger awards,” he said.

In fiscal year 2018, faculty brought in $56.1 million in outside funding. It slipped a bit to $54.8 million in fiscal year 2019 before rebounding strongly in fiscal year 2020. That outside funding in fiscal year 2020 is even greater – a total of $69.1 million – when the $4.4 million SIU received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is included. This money was earmarked to address budget shortfalls that resulted from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on university operations.

 Including the CARES Act money, outside funding grew more than 25% from fiscal year 2019 to 2020.

Outside funding supports more than university

The majority of the money brought into the university in this way is used to support faculty, staff and student (graduate and undergraduate) salaries, Kinsel said. That means much of it eventually finds its way into the Southern Illinois economy by way of housing, services and goods purchases.

“The impact of these funded, faculty-driven efforts on the regional economy is significant,” Kinsel said.

And faculty are hard at work on bringing that money in. In fiscal year 2020, faculty members filed 444 funding proposals with various agencies, with a total value of $145.2 million. That total value was $11 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $24.4 million more than fiscal year 2018, Kinsel said.

Of the 444 proposals, agencies funded 307.

“The data show that, even though there were fewer proposals submitted in fiscal year 2020, the faculty had greater success in obtaining larger value grants,” Kinsel said.

Some examples of funded projects

  • $2.54 million from the National Science Foundation, including two new NSF CAREER Awards (Arash Komaee, of what was formerly the College of Engineering and Pravas Deria, of what was formerly the College of Science) and one Major Research Instrumentation Award.
  • $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health.
  • $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to Don Caspary, pharmacology research professor in the SIU School of Medicine to study “Nicotinic Receptor Pathology in Tinnitus.”
  • $3.5 million and $3.8 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, and the U.S. Department of Education to Lea Maue, director of the Head Start program at SIU.

With the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the funding success is a welcome bright spot, Kinsel said.

“This level of success is remarkable given the various challenges posed to higher education during the last fiscal year,” Kinsel said. “There is much to be proud of in these numbers.”