Tuition does not pay for everything, though some students would like to believe otherwise. As a research institution, most of the University’s funding comes from outside sponsors. Over the past year, research funding and expenditures increased 14.3 percent to $749 million, the largest increase since 1987.
Funding for the life sciences, financed primarily through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, increased by $47 million for the 2003 fiscal year, accounting for about 50 percent of the total increase in federal spending.
“The two agencies that have the largest increases in federal allocation have been the DHHS and National Science Foundation. We get a fair amount of money from the Department of Defense, but overall, it hasn’t been growing as much,” said Lee Katterman, an assistant at the Office of the Vice President for Research.
The largest proportional increase in spending did not come from DHHS, which funds clinical, biological and genetic studies, but from the state of Michigan. The state’s funding to the University more than tripled, while funding from trade and professional organizations doubled.
The University measures its research in terms of expenditures, or the amount spent on research. Federal and state sponsors, trade and professional organizations and the University fund these research projects. Fiscal reports are based on the money spent from these funds.
In total expenditures, money spent from federal funds in support of life science, defense and energy research greatly outweighed money spent supporting research from other sponsors – federal, state and otherwise.
The Medical School received the majority of federal funds for this fiscal year, totaling about $55 million. The Institute for Social Research, the Transportation Research Institute and the School of Education received the largest awards.
Internal medicine Prof. James Baker, who received one of the largest awards last year, is conducting research for the Medical School on cancer. His grant, given by the National Cancer Institute – part of the NIH – is a $6.8 million renewal of a $4.4 million grant issued in 1999.
“Dr. Baker’s team is building dendrimers, synthetic polymers or man-made molecules. They are built in a biochemical process and designed to do all these interesting things related to cancer. Baker puts a cancer-cell killing agent inside these molecules, uses a laser to open up the molecule and then the molecule kills the cancer cell,” said Sally Pobojewski, senior science writer for the Medical School.
Bill Herman, interim director of the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center, received a five-year, $9.2 million grant from the NIH for his interdisciplinary study.
“It really spans the spectrum from basic molecular and cellular biology research to clinical, epidemiologic and health services research. The investigators mostly come from the Medical School, but also from the schools of Pharmacy, Social Work, Public Health and Nursing,” Herman said.
According to OVPR, research expenditures in areas funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice declined slightly last year. But this decline, totaling about $2 million, is paltry when compared to the total expenditures, Katterman said.
Katterman added that the increase in research funding and expenditures comes from both the quality of our research and an increase in the government’s appropriation to its agencies.
“It’s a combination. Congress has given the National Institutes of Health a lot more money to spend this year. Our faculty has also been very successful in winning the grants that have been proposed. The University’s funding is growing faster than overall spending of the federal government,” Katterman said.
Over the last three fiscal years, the University has proportionately spent less on research than the federal government. The percentage of funding from the University has consistently declined over the past three years, a total of 1.5 percent, while federal funding has increased 2 percent. In this fiscal year, University funding increased 9.3 percent, while federal spending increased 15.9 percent.
In the future, the University hopes to focus on obtaining funds supporting Great Lakes research, nanotechnology and nano-science.
“We’ve been responding to a number of solicitations from the NSF for nanotechnology research. Half the department is working in an area related to nanotechnology. In fiscal year 2003, we won some awards pertinent to nanotechnology, such as one for research on DNA-protein interactions,” said James MacBain, research relations director for the College of Engineering.
Fawwaz Ulaby, vice president for research, praised the University’s faculty and students for the increased quality of research performed over the past few years.
“Every university in the country is trying to compete for the same available research dollars provided by the federal government. The reason we have been so successful is because of the creativity of our faculty, the outstanding support provided by our staff, and the imagination and perseverance of our students,” Ulaby said.