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Quarterly Research Report: July 1, 2017—September 30, 2017

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 (Q1 FY18), proposal submissions look strong. The total amount requested was $130 million, an increase of 13% over the first quarter of fiscal year 2017 (table 1, fig. 1). The College of Nursing, Haslam College of Business, UT Space Institute, Research Centers and Institutes, and the Tickle College of Engineering, have all contributed to this increase (table 1, fig. 9).

Q1 FY18 Research Activity Report

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The total award amount received this quarter is down 19% compared to the first quarter of the FY17 (table 1, fig. 3). It is an across-the-board decrease affecting almost all colleges, centers, and institutes (table 1, fig. 10). Most of the reduction comes from federal agencies, with the biggest drop being from the National Science Foundation (fig. 5). However, it is reassuring that the total award amount this quarter was only $4.5 million less than the five-year average for the first quarter in the last five fiscal years of FY14-FY18.

Also encouraging is the increase of $8.6 million in the amount awarded by the Tennessee local and state government—$10 million in Q1 FY18 compared to the $1.4 million in Q1 FY17. The award amount received from the state represents 20% of the total awarded amount received this quarter (fig. 7).

Looking at the total research expenditures, most of our colleges, centers and institutes have displayed slight to significant increases in the total amount expended on Research and Development (R&D) this quarter compared to the Q1 FY17. The Tickle College of Engineering and UT Space Institute both exhibit a growing trend in their total R&D expenditures in the last five fiscal years (table 1, fig. 11).

Notable Achievements

Much of the growth in state funding comes from two projects totaling $8 million received by Jerry Everett, associate director of the Tickle College of Engineering’s Center for Transportation Research. One project, “Law Enforcement Liaison Administration,” seeks to plan, develop and implement a statewide initiative to promote education and enforcement of the current laws designed to increase occupant protection usage and reduce the number of impaired driving crashes. The other project, “UT Program Admin Grant,” supports the mission of the Tennessee Highway Safety Office by supplying UT staff and and maintenance of the THSO office in Nashville (table 2).

John Wodarski, professor in the College of Social Work and the Center for Behavioral Health Research, anticipates $2.5 million from the Department of Health and Human Services’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. His project, “Tennessee HIV/AIDS, Related Substance Use Disorders, and Mental Disorders Services Program,” expands and enhances culturally competent services in minority communities for those with a greater risk for HIV/AIDS and unmet mental health needs (table 2).

Also noteworthy is the $1.3 million project led by Thomas Papenbrock, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The “Nuclear Computational Low Energy Initiative (NUCLEI)” will use advanced applied mathematics, computer science, and physics to accurately describe nuclear structure and reactions across the whole nuclear chart as well as the properties of bulk nucleonic matter (table 2).

New Program

The Office of Research and Engagement launched a research seed grant program in September, which offers internal funding awards ranging between $15–$75 thousand for faculty to conduct research over a one-year period. The goal of the program is to generate research data and results that will lead to additional and more substantial external grant submissions, new intellectual directions for our faculty, and new relationships across colleges, departments, and centers.

As part of this program, the winners of these awards will not only receive funding, but will have the opportunity to work with our research development experts to create customized research strategy plans. The seed program has funding opportunities in four thematic areas: community engagement, interdisciplinary research, mission agency research, and health and human services research. It is our expectation that this program will have significant impact on proposal submissions and awards in FY19-20.

Finally, you will see that we have made some changes to the quarterly report this year. We included some new charts and redesigned some old ones hoping that these charts will be more useful and revealing. We welcome and appreciate your feedback on this new version of the report. Please let us know what you think or if you would like to see additional information in this report in the future.

Bruce LaMattina
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Development