San Diego State University researchers secured $164.5 million in grant funding in 2022, marking a record-breaking year for university research as faculty sought to improve human health, confront injustice and develop solutions to major societal issues like climate change.
With 17% growth over the previous year, SDSU’s upward trajectory in research-related funding affirms the university is making progress in its goal – outlined in its five-year strategic plan – of becoming a premier public research university.
“This is a groundbreaking year for research at SDSU,” said Hala Madanat, interim vice president for research and innovation. “This incredible research activity is a testament to our faculty and how committed they are to improving society through their work.”
Some 350 principal investigators received 761 awards from 323 funding agencies, and researchers were busy working to secure further support – submitting 1,237 proposals for research-related funding.
Funding during the 2021-22 fiscal year supported research into combatting COVID-19 transmission in schools, developing better pharmaceuticals, protecting water resources, furthering materials processing and development, improving conservation practices, curbing tobacco use, addressing the equity gap in public education, enhancing business education and much more.
Funding was up in several key areas.
Support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) reached $13 million, a 43 percent increase from the previous year. Funding in the areas of COVID-19 and Hispanic Serving Institution-specific initiatives increased, to $9.7 million and $2.3 million respectively. Funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reached $32.8 million.
Research-related funding at SDSU Imperial Valley more than doubled from the previous year, surpassing $1 million. Investments include an NSF award to develop a Summer Bridge Math Experience to support student success and funding from the California Department of Health Care Access and Information to support expanded nursing programs.
Investing in Research Excellence
The record-setting research activity represents an important step toward SDSU’s goal of becoming a premier public research university and achieving “R1” status in the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This status recognizes “very high research activity” and is shared by only 4% of U.S. universities. SDSU is currently classified as “R2” for “high research activity,” putting it among the top 8 percent of universities for research activity nationally.
Earning R1 status could bring access to new sources of public and private funding for the university while driving regional economic and workforce development.
SDSU’s growth in research funding comes at a time of marked institutional investment in research.
The SDSU Division of Research and Innovation has awarded $5 million in support of university researchers since July 2021, offering funding for assigned time, team research, critical equipment, rapid response proposals, summer research for students and more.
“SDSU is committed to investing in our researchers and continuing to grow our research enterprise. Through discovery and innovation, we provide a richer education for students while improving our community,” Madanat said. “SDSU is already well on its way to becoming a premier, border-adjacent public research university where access and excellence converge.”
In the fall, SDSU received one of its largest-ever awards: a five-year, $15 million grant from NIH to establish SDSU FUERTE (Faculty Unified towards Excellence in Research and Transformational Engagement) and strengthen the pipeline of health disparities research at SDSU.
Also this year, SDSU faculty received five National Endowment for the Humanities awards for projects ranging from comic studies to developing equitable rhetoric and writing teaching practices. A National Endowment for the Arts grant supported the Prison Arts Collective, an SDSU-run initiative that provides arts workshops for incarcerated individuals.
It was a good year for early career researchers at SDSU. Eight faculty received NSF CAREER awards – a prestigious award given to highly competitive early career faculty. Their work touches on a wide range of research: from exploring bioelectrotechnical systems that allow energy recovery from wastewater to studying how soil microbes produce and absorb greenhouse gasses.