1:59 p.m., July 20, 2009----The path to job creation is through leading-edge science, according to Delaware's Congressional delegation, which announced $1.2 million in federal funding to the University of Delaware on Monday, July 20, at a press conference at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.
The funding, through the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, will support research in environmental science, avian influenza, biomedicine, and substance abuse.
Specifically, the federal dollars will provide facilities upgrades for avian influenza monitoring critical to the state's poultry industry, programs and equipment for “critical zone” research on soil and environmental quality, infrastructure for cancer and neuroscience research, an expansion of the Delaware School Survey project to assess prescription drug use among teens, and a satellite receiving station at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes for accessing real-time data on the Delaware Bay corridor.
The funded programs directly involve five of the University's seven colleges and have interdisciplinary implications for all seven, according to University President Patrick Harker.
“That's important to us because this kind of collaboration isn't just the way of the future; it's how the University of Delaware is doing business today,” Harker noted.
Senator Thomas Carper, who also is a UD alumnus, talked about the genesis nearly a decade ago of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, an interdisciplinary center for life sciences research at the University, and its rapid evolution as “one of the principal economic engines in the State of Delaware.”
Nearly 12,000 new primary and secondary jobs have been created since the Delaware Biotechnology Institute opened in 2001.
“With some of the work we're doing here at the University of Delaware, we're addressing problems facing the state and the world,” Carper noted.
During his remarks, Senator Ted Kaufman noted that when he came to the state in 1966, Delaware was the nation's leader in science.
“It's really important that we get back to being the science capital again,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman, who is the only engineer in the U.S. Senate, praised the University for expanding its engineering curriculum and noted that there are “incredible opportunities” for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and fields like biotechnology that bring all of those disciplines together.
“Not all jobs are created equal,” he said. “We want to get these high-tech jobs.”
Representative Michael Castle praised Harker, noting: “The University is thriving and doing extraordinarily well under your leadership.”
He said of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the University's larger research programs, “There's a lot of scientific interest here and we need to develop it in every way we can for the benefit of our community.”
The funding supports the following UD research projects:
Avian Influenza Preparedness: $94,000 to upgrade Delmarva's avian flu diagnostic and biocontainment facilities and to foster the continued development of an integrated Delmarva Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory System, a nationwide model for interstate cooperation.
The University's avian influenza testing capability and research programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are central to the protection of Delmarva's multibillion-dollar poultry industry. The programs are led by Jack Gelb, director of UD's Avian Biosciences Center, and chairperson of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
Center for Critical Zone Research-Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality: $70,000 to support programs and acquire equipment essential to critical zone research, which focuses on the complex processes occurring between the treetops to the groundwater.
The Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality, led by Tom Sims, T. A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, is a center of excellence for research, education, and outreach programs that provide science-based solutions to soil and environmental problems.
The Center for Critical Zone Research, under the direction of Donald Sparks, S. Hallock duPont Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences, conducts leading-edge research on the Earth's life-sustaining, near-surface environment.
Center for Drug & Alcohol Studies: $65,000 to supplement the Delaware School Survey Project to provide special analyses of juvenile substance use, violence, and delinquency, with a focus on prescription drug abuse. The project is led by associate scientist Roberta Gealt and senior scientist Steve Martin.
The center conducts research on substance abuse among hard-to-reach populations of youth and adults. It provides both a national research focus, as well as service to the state of Delaware. James Inciardi and Christine Visher are co-directors of the center, which is based in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Delaware Biotechnology Institute: $190,000 to strengthen Delaware's biomedical research capabilities by building on existing programs in cancer research and bioinformatics, and building new infrastructure in cardiovascular and neuroscience research. The research includes investigators in the colleges of Health Sciences, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering.
Founded in 2001, the Delaware Biotechnology Institute is a major center for life sciences research at UD, focusing on human health, agriculture, and the environment. Kelvin Lee, Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering, serves as its director.
Real-Time Satellite Receiving Station: $750,000 for a real-time satellite receiving station at the University's Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. Such a station is important for accessing real-time data for University of Delaware researchers looking at regional issues associated with watersheds, shoreline erosion, and the land-sea interface. The project is led by Xiao-Hai Yan, Mary A. S. Lighthipe Professor of Oceanography and co-director of the Center for Remote Sensing, and Matt Oliver, assistant professor of oceanography, in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
Article by Tracey Bryant
Photos by Ambre Alexander