A woman in lab coat and face mask works in a lab.

UA Research Enterprise Enjoys Remarkable Year

The portion of faculty members engaged in externally funded research was the most in the history of The University of Alabama during the last academic year.

Also, the faculty members honored for their careers in research and scholarly activities reached a historic high last year.

Faculty achievements are part of the highlights of an advancing research enterprise at UA in the annual report of the Office for Research and Economic Development. This August’s report is the third annual update to the office’s five-year strategic plan.

ORED’s goals within the plan are meant to facilitate the growth and impact of the UA research enterprise toward the overarching goal of becoming one of the premier comprehensive research institutions in the Southeast over the next few years, while translating research productivity and innovation into economic and societal development and opening more opportunities for student experiences and success.

“The forward-thinking research endeavors at The University of Alabama continue to support our ranking among the top doctoral research universities in the United States,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “Our focus on water, transportation, life science and rural health — among many other research concentrations — matters for the people of Alabama and beyond.”

In fiscal year 2021, 38% of the 2,025 members of UA’s faculty engaged in externally funded research, the eighth straight year of increased externally sponsored awards. In the same time period, UA faculty received a record 553 lifetime honorific awards from national and international award granting associations or agencies.

“Faculty members engaged in research and scholarship enhances the University’s education mission in and out the classroom as they remain on the cutting-edge of their field and involve their students in broadening our understanding of the world and tackling tomorrow’s challenges,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, UA vice president for research and economic development.

In all, sponsored awards brought $171 million to the University in fiscal year 2021, and research and development expenditures, a measure of output on previously funded awards, jumped 36% to $129.5 million.

Also, submissions of grant proposals to funding organizations were up during the year with proposals seeking nearly 37% more in funding than requested in 2020.

Behind the numbers, though, are projects that bring transformative change and economic diversification opportunities related to the new water economy and the new electric vehicle economy, including:

  • The Alabama Water Institute led a consortium to win a competitive five-year $360 million Cooperative Institute award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration titled, Cooperative Institute for Research to Operations in Hydrology, or CIROH. This was the largest external sponsored award in UA’s history.
  • The Alabama Transportation Institute led UA’s effort to execute a major partnership among UA, Alabama Power Company and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International to establish the Alabama Mobility and Power Center, announced by Gov. Kay Ivey on July 23, 2021, with a $16.5 million investment by the state to complete the Smart Communities and Innovation Building on UA’s campus.
  • The Alabama Life Research Institute, in partnership with a multidisciplinary team of researchers at UA and UAB, was awarded a five-year $7.1 million NIH grant to take part in the HEALthy Brain and Child Development Study to conduct a comprehensive study of risk and protective factors for healthy brain development in children.
  • UA’s Center for Economic Development received a two-year, $4 million award from the Alabama Department of Public Health to lead the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative.

To see more highlights from the past year, read the ORED annual report on its website.