West Virginia University broke records this past fiscal year after receiving $181.4 million in research funding.
The University’s emphasis on the importance of research has allowed it to not only obtain and maintain R1 status, but also draw in hundreds of research grants each year.
Fred King, vice president for research at WVU, said for departments to continue receiving funding, they must undergo a vigorous and competitive application process.
“Faculty will write a proposal to [the National Institutes of Health,] which is reviewed by a panel of peers,” King said. “That panel of peers picks which proposals they recommend for funding.”
King said proposals are typically sent to federal sources, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, NIH, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Justice.
“Last year, we submitted about 1,000 proposals,” King said. “Of that, about 488 were successful, which is a really good rate. Most of the agencies are 15% or below in terms of success rates.”
This push for advancing research has allowed the University to build multi-million dollar world-class facilities, such as the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, make breakthroughs in astrophysics and even contribute to the state through gas research and utilization.
The astrophysics department has been growing for the last 10 to 12 years and is now recognized not only nationally, but internationally.
“We have two large projects that, together, account for a lot of the funding,” said Loren Anderson, WVU associate professor of physics and astronomy. “Both of them have to do with gravitational waves.”
While the projects are still underway, Anderson said this research will lend a hand in answering many of the questions of our universe’s history.
Anderson said while the project has not yet been able to detect gravitational waves, he believes they are on the brink of doing so.
“When it does, that will be a huge result,” Anderson said. “The gravitational waves they are detecting are from massive cores of galaxies that are colliding. They can learn a lot about the history of the universe and galaxy formation from the gravitational waves they know they can detect.”
Beyond the work done in the lab, Anderson said the biggest impact the astrophysics department has had is on the local community.
“Physics as a department does contribute a lot to the overall research in the University, and our funding matches that,” Anderson said. “I believe our largest impact is locally because we really do try to raise up STEM and science in general.”
While research developments on campus have left an impact on the University, on the country and throughout the world, King said every finding has left an impact on the state.
“All the research we do in one way or another is tied back to West Virginia,” King said. “Either through the unique facilities we have here, whether it is the Green Bank Astronomy Observatory, the National Energy Technology Laboratory or the Health Sciences Center, [or] really thinking about what are the impacts on day to day life in West Virginia.”