By Keila Szpaller (Daily Montanan)September 23, 2021

A technician is conducting research at the University of Montana. (Current file Martin Kidston / Missoula)

(Daily Montanan) Montana’s two flagship campuses this month announced record research activity for fiscal 2021, $ 138 million in awards in Missoula and $ 193 million in Bozeman.

“UM is rapidly becoming a regional research leader,” Scott Whittenburg, University of Montana vice president for research and creative scholarship and dean of the Graduate School said in a statement. “This continued growth is driven by students, faculty and staff, who are motivated to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing society.”

UM reported the $ 138 million in research grants in a press release Wednesday. UM said this was a 38% increase over the previous year, also a record.

Earlier this month, Montana State University announced a record for the third year in a row of $ 193 million, a 16% increase from the previous year.

“Despite the disruption of the pandemic, research at MSU has had another remarkable year due to the commitment of our faculty, staff and students,” said Jason Carter, MSU vice president for research. research, economic development and higher education, in a statement. “Their passion for what they do every day really shone.”

At UM, Whittenburg said he believed the increase in research would continue, citing funding requests of $ 285 million last year, also a record. He said he hopes UM will achieve Carnegie Research’s top ranking, R1, the highest ranking given to universities in the United States based on research activity and impact, according to the campus.

Funders include the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the US Department of Agriculture, and private sector contracts, as well as transdisciplinary projects, from health sciences to natural resources to IT, a declared UM. The campus also noted that research contributes to the state’s economy.

“The on-campus research at UM has also helped boost private spin-off companies, which are located in Missoula and employ dozens of researchers at high salaries,” UM said.

At MSU, already an R1 institution, research projects focus on community well-being, food and energy security, and environmental stewardship. A press release noted that the College of Agriculture recorded the largest research investment of $ 46 million, followed by the College of Letters and Sciences with $ 22 million, and it cited 672 new grants or contracts awarded.

Among the projects is a $ 750,000 grant from NASA to physics researcher Amy Reines “to study the origins of supermassive black holes, the mysterious masses that consume matter at the center of large galaxies,” according to MSU.

MSU also noted that the College of Agriculture has received $ 5.1 million from the US Department of Energy to study the food and biofuel potential of camelina, “a multipurpose oil crop similar to canola.”

In the press release, Carter said this year’s research achievements have added significance because MSU was able to continue working despite the pandemic and also studied the coronavirus.

“It was amazing to see a number of our professors and researchers rotate their programs to study the virus,” Carter said. “This included research on sewage, mental health, epidemiological modeling, the impact of the virus on rural and tribal communities, and much more.”

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