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Quarterly Research Report Q4 FY19: July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019

Report cover: FY19Q4 summary

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The University of Tennessee research community had much to celebrate in fiscal year 2019, including seven National Science Foundation CAREER awards. The preliminary data for the fourth quarter of FY19 shows that the amount expended on research has remained the same year-over-year. We will continue to recognize and celebrate the research excellence of our talented faculty.

Proposal Submissions

Researchers at the University of Tennessee and the UT Space Institute submitted fewer proposals in fiscal year (FY) 2019 than in FY18. This 4% decrease in proposals submitted partially contributed to a 10% decrease in the dollar amount requested compared to last fiscal year.

Four colleges exhibited growth in proposals submitted and total dollar value requested in FY19. The College of Social Work submitted more proposals in FY19 than in the previous 10 fiscal years, resulting in a 76% increase in total amount requested over FY18. Similar dollar value increases were recorded for the College of Education, Health and Human Science with a 77% increase, and the College of Communication and Information with a 76% increase. The College of Law also increased their total requested amount to $298,946, the most it has requested in the last eight fiscal years.

Tickle College of Engineering requested the largest share—38%—of the total amount requested by UT. TCE was followed by the College of Arts and Sciences and UT Research Centers and Institutes requesting 26% and 15% of the total proposal amount respectively.

Awards Received

UT researchers received $140 million in external award obligations in FY19. This amount represents a 12% decrease when compared to FY18 and a 9% decrease when compared to the five-year average award amount received FY15-FY19. The overall 12% decrease in the FY19 award amount received was due to the 32%, or $7 million, drop in funds received from private profit funders and a 53%, or $12 million,  drop in funds received from Tennessee local and state government. The award amount received from federal agencies remained stable compared to FY18 at $95 million. Award amount received from private non-profit sponsors increased by 57%, or $3 million.

Consistent with previous years, federal agencies continued to be the largest source of total award dollars, bringing in 68% of all obligations for FY19. Federal agencies were followed by private profit with 10%, Tennessee government with 7%, higher education institutions with 7%, and private non-profit with 6% of total award dollars.

Of the $95 million received from federal agencies, the largest award amount came from the Department of Energy at $49 million. It is worth noting that this is the largest award amount received from DOE in a given fiscal year. DOE was followed by funding from the NSF, which contributed $19.9 million to the total award amount received. It is critical to note that NSF funding has continued to decline with FY19 being the smallest award amount received from NSF in the last 10 fiscal years, a 3% decrease from FY18, and 24% and 40% decrease from the five and 10 year averages respectively.

In terms of the award amount composition by college, center, or institute, TCE represents 42%——the largest portion—of the total award amount in FY19. The next two units were A&S and RCI with 20% and 14% respectively. Nursing saw the largest growth among the colleges, with a 282% increase in FY19 compared to FY18. Social Work, EHHS, and RCI also increased funding in FY19 of 16% , 13%, and 13% respectively.


The current estimate of the FY19 total research expenditures indicates that they remained stable when compared to FY18. Most colleges and units saw slight to significant increases with the exception of RCIs (20% decrease) and Social Work (8% decrease). TCE accounted for 38% of expenditures, followed by A&S with 30%.

Federal research expenditures for FY19 were estimated at $119 million, increasing by 1% compared to FY18. Examining FREs further, the research expenditures funded by the Department of Defense were at their highest in FY19, or $13 million, compared to the previous five fiscal years. Along with DOD, UT expended 23% more in expenditures funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration compared to FY18. Of the $119 million in estimated FREs, expenditures funded by DOE represented 48% of the total FREs.

Notable Achievements

Researchers Hollie Raynor, professor of nutrition, and Scott Crouter, associate professor of exercise physiology, were awarded $2.8 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine a potential precision medical treatment for obesity. In their project, “Translating basic habituation research to childhood obesity treatment,” Raynor and Crouter will explore if a behavior phenotype of slower habituation rates to food, can be utilized to identify people who benefit most from a limited variety prescription of food to treat obesity.

Mark Dean, Fisher Distinguished Professor; James Plank, professor; and Garrett Rose, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, received $1.5 million from the Air Force Research Laboratory for the project entitled “Design Approaches for Efficient Reconfigurable Neuromorphic Systems.” This project seeks to develop and explore approaches to apply reconfigurable computing fabrics specifically tailored for neuromorphic computing.

Lisa Lindley, associate professor of nursing, secured $1.5 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research for her project “Effectiveness of concurrent care to improve pediatric and family outcomes at end of life.” Lindley’s project aims to create a nationally represented data set providing insight on children and adolescents with serious illnesses opting in to life-prolonging therapies while enrolled in hospice care or standard pediatric hospice care.

Seven UT faculty members received NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards in FY19. Four of the seven were from A&S and three from TCE:

Steven Abel, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, “Modeling the Physical Regulation of Immune Cell Activation”—$510,242

Tessa Burch-Smith, assistant professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, “The role of chloroplast signaling in regulating plasmodesmata”—$818,867

Steven Johnston, assistant professor of physics, “Advancing theory of Resonant Inelastic X-ray Scattering for materials in- and out-of-equilibrium”—$436,898

Jian Liu, assistant professor of physics, “Engineering artificial oxide layers with hidden spin symmetry for drivable 2D quantum magnetism”—$708,299

Eric Wade, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, “A Closed-Loop Control Framework for the Treatment of Chronic Stroke”—$547,202

Sarah Werner, assistant professor of microbiology, “Defining colonization mechanisms and functions of Streptomyces strains in root microbiomes”—$699,380

Mariya Zhuravleva, assistant professor of materials science and engineering,” Opening the Door to Emerging Functional Multicomponent Oxides via a Novel Crystal Growth Approach”—$601,369