Montana flagships both break records for research funding

MSU hauls in $193M, UM earns $138M

By: - September 22, 2021 7:30 pm

Both of Montana’s flagship campuses announced this month record breaking research activity for the 2021 fiscal year, $138 million in awards in Missoula and $193 million in Bozeman.

“UM is quickly emerging as a regional research leader,” said Scott Whittenburg, University of Montana vice president for research and creative scholarship and dean of the Graduate School in a statement. “This continued growth is driven by students, faculty and staff, who are motivated to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing society.”

UM reported the $138 million in research awards in a news release Wednesday. UM said it represented a 38 percent increase over the previous year, also a record.

Earlier this month, Montana State University announced a record for the third year in a row, the $193 million a 16 percent bump from the previous year.

“Despite the disruptions of the pandemic, research at MSU had another remarkable year because of the commitment of our faculty, staff and students,” said Jason Carter, MSU’s vice president for research, economic development and graduate education, in a statement. “Their passion for what they do every day really shined through.”

At UM, Whittenburg said he believes the increase in research will continue, citing funding requests of $285 million last year, also a record. He said he hopes UM achieves the top Carnegie Research ranking, R1, the highest classification awarded to universities in the United States based on research activity and impact, according to the campus.

Funders include the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and private sector contracts, and projects cut across disciplines, from health sciences to natural resources to computer sciences, UM said. The campus also noted the research contributes to the state’s economy.

“On-campus research at UM also has helped spur private business spinoffs, which are located in Missoula and employ dozens of researchers at high-paying salaries,” UM said.

At MSU, already an R1 institution, research projects address community wellness, food and fuel security and environmental stewardship. A  news release noted the College of Agriculture recorded the largest research investment of $46 million, followed by the College of Letters and Sciences at $22 million, and it cited 672 new grants or contracts awarded.

Among the projects is a $750,000 NASA grant to physics researcher Amy Reines “to study the origins of supermassive black holes, the mysterious masses that consume matter at the center of large galaxies,” according to MSU.

MSU also noted the College of Agriculture received $5.1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to study food and biofuel potential of camelina, “a multi-use oilseed crop similar to canola.”

In the news release, Carter said this year’s research accomplishments have extra significance because MSU was able to continue working despite the pandemic and also studied the coronavirus.

“It was incredible to see a number of our faculty and researchers pivot their programs to study the virus,” Carter said. “This included research on wastewater, mental health, epidemiological modeling, how the virus impacted rural and tribal communities, and much more.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”