Research grants provide hope
By David Easa, M.D.
Hawai'i has had its share of gloomy economic forecasts. As we struggle to overcome the sometimes devastating effects of the current global recession, we are faced, almost weekly, by yet another piece of dismal economic news. No doubt almost everyone in every area of public and private life has felt the strain.
It is therefore with pleasure and pride that we report some positive economic news — namely, the most recent research grant funding at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Research and education are both vital to the mission of our state's only research-intensive university, and these two elements are integrally linked.
UH ranks in the top 2 percent of all colleges and universities in North America in terms of extramural funding from grants and contracts. Our faculty members excel in their work. The Office of Research Services at UH reports that in the first six months of fiscal year 2010, the university has been awarded $220.7 million in research and training grants and contracts.
This translates to more than $1.2 million a day, with 84 percent of these dollars coming from out-of-state sponsors. Most of the funds generated from research grants pay salaries for researchers, technicians and students who, in turn, reinvest their earnings in our community in a multitude of ways. These dollars, obtained through diligent applications to a range of federal and private sponsors, are critical to supporting Hawai'i's economy.
Furthermore, funded research produces the domino effect of generating additional support and resources. Grants contribute to new discoveries and lead to additional funding opportunities, commercialization of intellectual property, meaningful partnerships with local, national and international community organizations, novel approaches to age-old problems and culturally appropriate avenues for serving the needs of our diverse communities.
Some recent accomplishments of UH faculty and their community partners include:
• Dr. Ralph Shohet of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, who has secured more than $20 million of National Institutes of Health funding over the past four years. Dr. Shohet leads the Center for Cardiovascular Research, which trains young investigators, students and high school teachers in modern molecular techniques.
• Dr. Tomoaki Miura in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, who has developed new sensing methods to determine the electromagnetic signature of invasive fireweed in Hawai'i pastureland and the seasonal variation in cloud cover in our tropical forests, and to evaluate remotely changes in vegetation. Grants totaling $600,000 have been awarded to support this program.
• Dr. Jillian Inouye of the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, who has obtained more than $3.5 million in grant support, in part to develop self-, family- and community-focused management interventions in ethnically diverse populations with chronic illnesses.
• Dr. Paul Lucey of the School of Oceanography, Earth Sciences and Technology, a planetary scientist, whose work in remote sensing has led to important discoveries about the moon, asteroids, and planets. This work recently has resulted in a patent and license agreement for UH, and to the incorporation of a new Hawai'i-based company, Spectrum Photonics.
Among the first employees hired were three UH engineering graduates, two of whom chose to remain in Hawai'i rather than pursue offers on the Mainland. Spectrum Photonics is an example of the type of spinoff created through the university's research mission.
These are a few examples of the many successes of our UH faculty, who work tirelessly in seeking grant awards that enable them to pursue knowledge and enhance the well-being of our state. Excellence in teaching and research is the hallmark of a great research university.