CU-Boulder consistently reaches beyond campus boundaries to form strategic research partnerships which have proven highly productive.
The university is home to three of the highly prized NSF-funded research centers:
Over the course of 50-plus years, the university has formed highly productive research partnerships with national laboratories located in the Boulder area. Collaborative efforts include large joint institutes with hundreds of scientists as well as university departmental appointments of adjoint faculty from the national laboratories. The national labs also provide numerous internships for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral traineeships and fellowships at CU-Boulder.
These cooperative relationships have contributed to the university's world-renowned research on matters of atmospheric research, science and technology, and environmental research.
Among the largest of CU-Boulder's joint institutes is CIRES (the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences), which was established in 1967 from a partnership between the university and NOAA. CIRES scientists conduct research aimed at understanding the Earth, including its atmosphere, waters, solid body, and environment in space.
In particular, NOAA's Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder has established extensive partnerships with university faculty, postdocs and graduate students. CU's National Snow and Ice Data Center also works closely with the NOAA on studies of sea ice conditions.
Including the work at CIRES, it is estimated that about 60 faculty and 240 graduate students and postdocs work closely with counterparts at NOAA.
Another major joint institute is JILA, created in 1962 as a joint institute of CU-Boulder and NIST. Scientists in JILA explore challenging questions about quantum physics, the design of precision optics and atom lasers, the fundamental nature of matter, biotechnology, nanoscience, and processes that shape the stars and galaxies. The university's partnership with NIST has been further strengthened through enhanced joint support for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs.
About 80 faculty and 160 postdocs and students are engaged in regular collaborations with NIST, including the work at JILA.
Numerous CU-Boulder faculty and students work closely with counterparts at NCAR in a wide range of studies related to atmospheric and Earth sciences. University-NCAR collaborations include large-scale computational modeling, atmospheric physics, geosciences, high-altitude observations, solar physics, weather modeling, remote sensing and balloon-satellite technology, and solar influences, to name a few.
The university also is engaged in discussions with computational science and engineering groups at both NCAR and NOAA related to possible collaborations on high-end, high-performance computing and "gateway" computing for peta-scale supercomputing centers planned in Wyoming.
Numerous CU-Boulder faculty work closely with NCAR scientists, and about 40 university postdocs and graduate students conduct a majority of their research at NCAR.
NCAR is managed by UCAR, a nonprofit consortium of 73 research universities and institutions, on behalf of the National Science Foundation and the university community. Located in Boulder, UCAR has several projects involving CU-Boulder faculty and graduate students.
The university promotes its strong interest in renewable energy through collaborations with NREL in Golden, Colorado. In fact, CU-Boulder is a major partner in the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, which was selected in 2008 as the management contractor for NREL. CU-Boulder and other members of the alliance are engaged in basic and applied science as well as translational efforts to develop third-generation solar photovoltaic's, solar photoconversion, concentrated solar technology, biofuels, biorefining, wind energy, and carbon sequestration techniques, among many others.
The closely aligned and campus-wide Energy Initiative, launched in fall 2005 culminated in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) in June 2009 which is a joint institute with NREL.
In other collaborations with national labs, the university is working with USGS to expand its presence on the East Campus, leading to as many as 80 additional USGS scientists and staff on the campus. Headquarters for the National Ecological Observation Network, an NSF center, have been moved from the Washington, DC area to Boulder, with plans for joint graduate education, high-end computing, joint faculty hires, and adjoint professor appointments at the university.