UC Merced research spending jumps 9 percent to $17.3 million

UC Merced spent a record $17.3 million on research in the last fiscal year.

Research spending increased more than 9percent in the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to data released Tuesday by the university’s Office of Business and Financial Services.

The expenditures supported faculty research into a wide range of issues vital to the San Joaquin Valley, the state and society as a whole. Cutting-edge research is a hallmark of the University of California system, which conducts more research than any other university system in the world and has been a major component of UC Merced’s mission since its founding 11 years ago.

Cumulative research expenses since 2003 now total more than $103.5 million, the university reported.

“UC Merced is rapidly emerging as an important new source of discovery and learning on issues that matter greatly to the region and the state and that often have global reach,” Sam Traina, vice chancellor for research, said in a press release. “Last year’s healthy increase in expenditures is one of the best measures of UC Merced’s growing contribution – both in terms of dollars circulating throughout the economy as well as in long-term societal benefits.”

Research funds come primarily in grants from federal and state agencies or from private donors. They are used to purchase equipment, supplies and services and as aid to graduate students who conduct much of the research under faculty direction.

Professor Alberto Cerpa was awarded a five-year, $550,000 CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation to recognize and sustain his work in the field of wireless sensor networks.

A founding faculty member, Cerpa said wireless sensors are very small devices that can be embedded into walls, trees or other surfaces. They have small microprocessors, sensors and batteries and can be used to measure temperature, humidity and other conditions.

The main problem is that these devices consume a considerable amount of energy, and the goal is to minimize energy consumption, Cerpa said.

In the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended June30, funding to UC Merced, including faculty research and training awards, totaled more than $13.7 million. Among the specific awards were:

• A $1.4 million grant over five years from the National Science Foundation for a team of researchers to study the effects of climate change on marine life.

• A $192,000, two-year grant from Amylin Pharmaceuticals LLC, a subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., to Professor Rudy Ortiz for diabetes research.

• A $1.5 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute to examine the effects of climate change on snowmelt in the Sierra and the resulting water flow in the San Joaquin River.

Total research and training awards since the university’s founding now total more than $131 million, the university reported.

“Engaging students at all levels in multidisciplinary research creates a deeper understanding of the knowledge they are acquiring and its application in the real world,” Traina said. “In that sense, our research mission greatly enriches the learning experience for our students while pushing the envelope of discovery and innovation. That’s a very compelling combination – one that puts UC Merced squarely on track to become the world’s next great research university.”