U. aims to invest in economic reform with research


In a year since the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the University claimed more than $28 million in federal stimulus funds for research projects that government officials hope will help jumpstart the economy.

A majority of the funds go to hiring graduate students, undergraduate students and technicians, which will help secure the short and long-term future of the economy, said Michael Pazzani, vice president for Research and Graduate and Professional Education.

"Each of the grants have a short-term effect of hiring an extra graduate student or lab technician and a long-term effect of enhancing science which will hopefully stimulate the economy for generations to come," Pazzani said. "One of things we've been pushing particularly hard is making sure our faculty is hiring undergrads particularly over the summer."

The federal funding, provided through such agencies as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, awarded the funds, which were also used for purchasing materials and other approved purposes, he said.

Pazzani said concerns that Gov. Chris Christie's midyear higher education budget cut would place the state below benchmarks required by the act for funding are almost resolved.

About $15 million of the state financial support being given to the University is provided through the recovery act's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

"We've explored making sure that the governor has fulfilled the terms of that particular allocation," Pazzani said. "We do not believe the state will lose stimulus funds due to the governor's recent cut to higher education."

States can get exceptions, and there are a variety of reasons that make it look like the cut, although very much unwanted, will not affect stimulus funds, he said.

Although the application process for stimulus funds is winding down, new grants are still being awarded over the next six months, Pazzani said.

He said the University would likely receive a fairly large grant for buildings and infrastructure in the next few months.

Stimulus funds constitute about 10 to 15 percent of total federal funding and the University's federal funding, Pazzani said.

But the University is aware of the instable nature of the funds and has planned accordingly, he said.

"If these funds go away, we may have to hire less in 2011 and 2012, but fortunately Rutgers federal funding has been increasing substantially," Pazzani said.

University professors across several disciplines have received federal stimulus funding to help complete their research.

Molecular biology and biochemistry Professor Eileen White received a $500,000 grant to examine the "Role of Tumor and Stromal Cell Metabolism in Stress Adaptation and Progression," according to a University Web site on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Assistant Professor of psychology Danielle McCarthy received $369,404 to study "Phenotypic Markers for Smoking Cessation: Impulsive Choice and Impulsive Action."

Environmental sciences Professor Alan Robock received a $342,401 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for his project entitled "Regional Climate Modeling of Volcanic Eruptions and the Arctic Climate System."

With the funds, Robock hired a graduate student who will help him study how volcanic eruptions have blacked out the sun and cooled the planet in the past.

"In order to understand climate change today, we have to understand what's caused it to change in the past and how strong each of these causes is so we can add up the total," he said.

Robock said the grant is very similar to most research grants, and he is required to file reports about his progress every three months or so.

School of Arts and Sciences junior Avery Foote said students learn the most when they are working with professors on research and believes federal funding like this will help provide students with the opportunity.

"You want to have as much funding as you can have towards that," Foote said.


Greg Flynn

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