UM External Funding for Research Surpasses $150 Million

Largest total in nine years funds projects to improve life in the state, nation, world

A researcher at the UM National Center for Natural Products Research studies a botanical dietary supplement to help determine whether popular supplements can help ward off viral infections. The project is among hundreds of research programs across the university that draw external funding. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – University of Mississippi researchers secured $153.7 million in external funding for research in fiscal year 2020, the largest university total in nine years.

A total of $153,715,187 in external funding was awarded to the Oxford campus and the University of Mississippi Medical Center – a nearly 15% increase from the previous fiscal year.

The funds support research, creative achievement and other sponsored projects that transform the lives of Mississippians and people around the world, boost economic development and success, and help educate students whose work as leaders and innovators will change society for the better.

“I commend our dedicated faculty, researchers, staff and students for the energy and passion they bring to our research mission,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “As an R1 institution, research is an essential foundation of our university’s success.

“The creative research being achieved at every corner of our university advances the future of our state and the nation, and has global impacts.”

Dr. Ritesh Tandon (right), associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and doctoral student Poonam Sharma study the effects of space radiation on human cytomegalovirus in an effort to help NASA better protest astronauts on long space missions. Their project is among the research efforts that garnered more than $153 million in external support for the university in fiscal year 2020. Photo by Joe Ellis/UM Medical Center

Researchers at UMMC received $82,340,623 in external funding in fiscal year 2020, a more than $7.5 million increase from the previous year and its largest total since 2011. Researchers on the Oxford campus were awarded $71,374,564 in external funding for the fiscal year, which also was the campus’ largest total since 2011.

These research dollars fund an array of projects, such as creating a food prescription program to improve access to fresh food for Mississippians, further examining tornado detection and tracking research, ensuring the safety of astronauts on future missions to the moon and Mars, and exploring the impacts of freshwater in Mississippi’s oysters.

The Oxford campus increased its external funding from the previous year by 21% – from $58.9 million in fiscal year 2019.

“We continue to advance and expand the impact of our research at UM, and that is reflected in our steady growth of externally funded programs,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs on the Oxford campus. “Through the support of our traditional areas of strength, our expansion of interdisciplinary programs and our recruitment of highly talented faculty and staff, we have been able to grow our external funding by almost 35% in the last five years.

Brian Carpenter (left) and Hank Buchanan, two research and development engineers at the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics, work on an infrasound array sensor that is part of a project to help better detect and track oncoming tornadoes. Photo by Shea Stewart/University of Mississippi

“It is thrilling to see the hard work and creativity on the Oxford campus and at UMMC moving the needle in both our communities and our nation.”

Three new interdisciplinary initiatives on the Oxford campus aim to expand the university’s research efforts. The UM Community First Research Center for Wellbeing and Creative Achievement empowers communities to take charge of their community development, policy change and resilience building while the Institute for Data Science instructs students and others to become the next generation of data scientists and provides technical support to internal research projects and external organizations. And the university’s Center for Diagnostics, Design, Devices and Biomechanics connects science, medicine and engineering to advance the development of modern medical technology and devices, as well as new surgical approaches and practices.

The $82.3 million in external research funding for the Medical Center was the second-highest total in UMMC history.

“Aside from the amount of funding, I am most proud of the record number of faculty who are engaged with grant funding,” said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research. “This indicates a robust research mission and bodes well for the academic health of the university well into the future.”

Ole Miss environmental toxicology master’s program graduates James Gledhill (left) Ann Fairly Barnett examine dead oysters they pulled from the Mississippi Sound with an oyster dredge. Their project is investigating how freshwater dumping in the sound affects oyster mortality. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Faculty and staff on the Oxford campus obtained 273 awards, and UMMC researchers received 347 awards, more than any previous year in its history. While the last three-and-a-half months of the fiscal year were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers on both campuses still submitted 1,050 proposals for the year.

“As evidenced by our numbers, even during these uncertain times, our researchers are pushing forward and continuing to discover new knowledge in hopes of making the world a better place for us all,” Boyce said.

The latest fiscal year numbers – collected July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020 – include $18.3 million awarded to the university from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The money includes the student portion and the institution portion of the higher education emergency relief fund, and external funding awarded to the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, headquartered on the Oxford campus.

The center has used some of the funds to assist Mississippi small businesses with their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.