Grants and Contracts: The Return on Investment in University-based Research
The University of Southern Maine invested $2.8 million in state MEIF funding to leverage $7.2 million in R&D awards from federal and private sector sources, a strong showing in a difficult economy and the highest R&D activity level to date for the campus. Total grant and contract activity at USM gained 6 percent over the past year, reaching $45 million in awards for 2009 and rebounding from two years of declining federal support.
In FY09, MEIF dollars and the R&D grants and contracts those funds generated supported 95 full-time equivalency positions, including faculty, technical staff, and students. Once again for this year’s MEIF report, USM has focused attention on faculty-student collaborations in research.
USM stories showcase the work of scientists in action, and the development of Maine’s workforce and its economy through university-based research and the productive engagement of students at all levels in Maine’s research enterprise.
Spotlight on Student Research
Building resumes, advancing careers
A combination of MEIF support, fellowships, and grant funding has added up to career-building successes for many USM students.
In USM’s graduate program of Biological Sciences, Associate Professor Lisa Moore mentors students in her lab, in remote corners of Maine, and beyond.
Karoline Perry started as an undergraduate in the Moore lab, first volunteering, then getting independent research credit, then getting paid on an NSF grant. With Moore’s guidance, Perry is now completing a M.S. degree in Biology and has been accepted to be a Science Corps fellow in USM’s National Science Foundation GK-12 program. As a Mainer, Karoline has a special connection with the high school students she interacts with, and her enthusiasm for microbiology generates enthusiasm among the students. An active researcher, her NASA-funded project is also Maine- based: studying the physiology and phylogeny of novel microbes she isolated from a unique copper/zinc mining site along the coast of Maine.
Also in the Moore lab, graduate students Kate Callnan and Heather Anne Wright were able to go on an oceanographic research trip to the Patagonia Shelf region in the southern Atlantic Ocean off the coast South America in Dec 2008. On this cruise, they collected samples to examine the picoplankton population distributions as well as the response of picoplankton to ocean acidification in on-deck incubation studies. Their work was part of a larger project led by chief scientist William “Barney” Balch of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, which looked at ocean acidification, one of the symptoms of global climate change. The trip was funded by an NSF Small Grant for Exploratory Research.
Seventh Annual Student Research Symposium
The prevalence of cancer in East Poland, Maine, the use of music to improve the memory of those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the toxicity of lunar dust were among the more than 225 projects presented at “Thinking Matters,” USM’s annual showcase of original student research.
The daylong celebration of research included a two-hour display of research projects on the main floor of USM’s Sullivan Gym, Portland. USM faculty and research staff founded Thinking Matters in 2003 to promote opportunities for USM students to participate in student-faculty research collaborations and to hold an annual event showcasing the results of these efforts. Since then, students and faculty from Southern Maine Community College also have participated.
Summer Undergrad Research Fellowship
‘SURF’s up’ at USM each summer, when eight students and their faculty mentors take part in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.
Competitively awarded, each fellowship offers the student-faculty pair a $2,600 award, enabling them to take a more in-depth look at a subject that interests them and to share their findings with others in group presentations.
2009 fellowship recipients included students in Biology, Physics, Political Science, Geography-Anthropology, Chemistry, and Psychology. Jefferson Gaynor completed his project “GCharacterization and Analysis of an Extremophile Community by Polymerase Chain Reaction Denaturing Gradient GelElectrophoresis” under the guidance of Associate Professor Monroe Duboise. An undergraduate student in Biology, Jefferson found the SURF program experience provided a unique and valuableopportunity to develop research interests, acquire new skills, and build professional relationships. He noted that the design and completion of a supported, independent project has been an extremely rewarding experience that will greatly aid his future career decisions.
Building Maine’s Biomed Work Force
USM students in the Applied Medical Sciences Department are receiving rare opportunities to collaborate with professors and researchers on groundbreaking research that is providing the region’s biotech industry and biomedical community with valuable knowledge, commercial products, and an experienced workforce.
Many of the students in Dr. Ah-Kau Ng’s laboratory have held internships or part-time employment at IDEXX Laboratories, MBS, Binax, and other organizations where they have conducted their theses and often found long-term employment. Since the beginning of the applied immunology graduate program in 1987 the focus has been on work force development for the biotech industry and biomedical community in Maine.
Examples of projects that students have worked on include finding a biomarker for cancer. With support from the National Institutes of Health, the Maine Cancer Foundation, and USM Faculty Senate Research Award, Ng’s lab, together with collaborators at Maine Medical Center, has already developed several antibodies to osteopontin—all commercially available via MBS in Portland—which have potential in cancer diagnosis and therapy.
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