Office of the President

Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.

Delaware EPSCoR Grant Kickoff
August 29, 2013

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Thank you, Don, for that introduction and for your steady hand at Delaware EPSCoR and the Delaware Environmental Institute.

Thank you, Gov. Markell, for your leadership at the state level. One of the main reasons Delaware EPSCoR has been so successful is the powerful support it gets from your administration. Thank you.

I extend thanks, as well, to Rep. Carney for his efforts to make Delaware a locus for groundbreaking environmental innovation.

I’m thrilled to be joined today by the leadership of our EPSCoR partners—Pres. Williams, Pres. Johnston, Exec. Vice President Brainard. It’s terrific to have you all here.

And I thank all of you for joining us this morning.

So how do you like our brand-new building?

This Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Lab is the single largest academic building project UD has ever undertaken, and we couldn’t be happier to finally have it filled with students and faculty.

We’ll have an official dedication ceremony in a few weeks’ time, and everyone’s invited back for it. But for now I want to draw your attention to the first word in the lab’s name: Interdisciplinary. Interdisciplinary describes the kind of learning and scholarship that happens here in this building. And interdisciplinary describes the kind of research and engagement that EPSCoR has enabled here in Delaware. So this is a fitting venue for our kickoff.

And EPSCoR is a fitting program for UD. Five years ago, we outlined a bold vision for the future of this University—our Path to Prominence. One of the goals on this Path resonates strongly today. Our Initiative for the Planet obligates UD to develop solutions to significant, time-critical issues in energy, the environment and resource sustainability.

We know the urgent environmental challenges facing Delaware and the nation—the issues that Don has already mentioned. We must meet those challenges with workable, sustainable solutions. And Delaware EPSCoR has been an unparalleled asset in advancing our efforts in this regard. It’s elevated the quality and expanded the breadth of our research across the University. It’s added faculty and facilities to our environmental enterprise. Many of the brightest minds and most sophisticated equipment at UD are wholly dedicated to solving our most pressing environmental problems.

I want to tell you a little more about some of the initiatives that Don has already mentioned.

I’ll start with the three major collaborative centers that we’ve established under EPSCoR.

First, there’s the Delaware Environmental Institute, or DENIN. DENIN works with our EPSCoR partners to initiate large, interdisciplinary research projects and academic programs; to leverage our combined talents and join our work with government, nonprofits, industry and advocates; to develop solutions that work only if we all come together around them. DENIN engages the public in these conversations with symposia on critical issues like climate change, water sustainability and food security.

And it was instrumental in creating our graduate program that trains scholars in the science and policies underpinning issues of water quality, quantity and distribution. This one academic program involves more than 30 faculty members from four of our colleges, and in the next round of funding, EPSCoR will help support enrolled students.

EPSCoR supports our Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships. Over the past five years, the Office has helped students, faculty and researchers get their ideas, inventions and innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace—where they can actually do some good.

It’s helped EPSCoR researchers secure six patents, with about three dozen more patents pending. And it’s helped launch three environmental tech companies that are now part of Delaware’s economic backbone.

EPSCoR helped us launch the Center for Science, Ethics and Public Policy.

Research doesn’t happen in a social or political vacuum. Our greatest advances—like nanotechnology and bioinformatics—have ethical by-products. There are implications attending climate change, sea-level rise, resource use and abuse. The center tackles these issues with clear science and clear
thinking—engaging the academy, industry, policymakers and the public in these complex questions of intent and consequences.

EPSCoR is also helping us explore the economic implications of environmental action—and inaction.

Kent Messer is a behavioral economist who works at the intersection of environmental issues and human behavior. Supported by EPSCoR, Kent and his team surveyed Delaware beachgoers about offshore energy. They asked: “How close to shore could we put wind turbines and oil-drilling platforms before visitors wouldn’t come back to the beach?” The threshold, it turns out, is 2½ miles for wind turbines, and 6 miles for oil rigs. That’s important information for policymakers to know.

Of course, EPSCoR’s support of faculty is much more prolific than that. EPSCoR has funded 13 faculty hires in four UD colleges. One of them is hydrogeologist Holly Michael. She’s studying how salt water moves between land and sea, helping us understand the potential impact of sea-level rise. Her work will be a big part of EPSCoR’s major research focus over the next five years.

And she’s building our pipeline of environmental advocates and professionals, engaging high school students in her work through the DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington.

EPSCoR has helped us expand our core facilities.

As Don mentioned, the new Materials Characterization Lab in this building is one of those facilities. It features a state-of-the-art machine—an X-ray diffractometer, if you want to get technical—that our EPSCoR partners and fellow scientists can use to analyze minerals, soils and other materials.

EPSCoR’s work to build Delaware’s cyber-infrastructure has supported the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, and the Delaware Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Center.

They’re all based here at UD, but they benefit researchers and educators statewide.


All of this is scholarship in action, and it is making a difference.

In a minute, you’ll hear Pres. Williams, Pres. Johnston and Exec. Vice Pres. Brainard talk about the exciting and important things that EPSCoR has enabled at their institutions.

But what’s truly special about the program is that it provides a platform for our collaboration. It helps us lay in the people, the programs—the equipment and infrastructure—that effect more research, closer partnership, deeper engagement and broader impact. It brings our four institutions together in a singular mission: to protect Delaware’s natural resources, and ensure a safer, cleaner future for the state and its people.

I’m excited to get started on the next project. Thank you.

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