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CU-Boulder's Flagship 2030 strategic plan has inspired the development of five research initiatives that draw upon the knowledge and skills of people in multiple fields to address critical needs of society:
A 21st century grand challenge in science and engineering is to understand and be able to model and predict the state of the Earth as a single complex system. To meet this critical challenge, we must develop new ways to conduct research and offer educational programs that cross the traditional boundaries between science and engineering and between academia and industry.
CU-Boulder’s AeroSpace Ventures initiative brings together cutting-edge aerospace engineering and science research across campus with leading industry partners to:
Through CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, the university combines aerospace vehicle innovations and science discoveries for local and global measurements to develop:
As the home to internationally renowned research institutes including LASP and CIRES, and top-ranked departments such as Aerospace Engineering Sciences, Astrophysics and Planetary Sciences, and Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, CU-Boulder is uniquely positioned to lead the integrated study of space science and engineering systems.
The BioFrontiers Institute was founded in 2003 to foster research, teaching and technology development at the interfaces of the life sciences, physical sciences, math, computational sciences and engineering. Advances in biology are creating an explosion of new information that is redefining the understanding of life at the molecular level. BioFrontiers scientists work to harness that knowledge for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease, among other purposes.
The molecular biotech initiative is led by CU-Boulder's Nobel laureate Tom Cech, who returned to the university in April 2009 after 10 years as president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The Interdisciplinary Computational Sciences and Engineering Initiative addresses a rapidly growing field of study with long-standing historic ties between applied mathematics, computer science, engineering, and the natural and social sciences. Focused development of the initiative began in 2007 with four faculty meetings followed by a Boulder campus town hall meeting attended by more than 100 people in February 2008. An ICSE Steering Committee developed a set of recommendations for launching the new initiative in their report of October 2008.
One early benchmark manifestation of this initiative is the acquisition of a ~200 TF research 'supercomputer’ in 2010. This research computing resource, developed in close collaboration with NCAR, will facilitate research endeavors across campus and will allow CU-Boulder to provide formal training in and develop graduate level programs in high performance computer science to support this industry.
As noted in the Steering Committee report, the underpinnings of this emerging field involve numerical mathematics, algorithm development, and software and program implementation - but the implications for a broad range of scientific inquiry are significant. Current research problems often require computer modeling, complex programming and advanced visualization methodologies that demand high-performance computing power. At CU-Boulder, the potential already exists for applications of ICSE in such areas as: climate and weather prediction; geosciences and Earth system science; aerospace, manufacturing and engineering design; astrophysics and planetary sciences; bioinformatics and biology; digital arts; material sciences; renewable energy; computational chemistry and molecular dynamics; fusion energy science; and computational physics, to name a few. Computation is utilized in all these fields, fueled by rapid advances in computing power, algorithm speed and reliability, and the emergence of complex visualization software tools, according to the ICSE report.
The Energy Initiative (EI) was launched in 2005 to help find solutions for the world's urgent energy needs. With more than 180 faculty and researchers engaged in some type of energy research, the initiative builds on existing strengths in climate and environmental science, behavioral studies, policy analysis, and entrepreneurship to seek answers to a growing global crisis.
The Energy Initiative acts as a catalyst to bring researchers from multiple fields together to address key problems and opportunities. Research efforts range from energy-efficient construction to energy storage, from solar and wind energy to hydrogen production. By 2008, the initiative had 43 funded research projects in renewable and sustainable energy. In 2009, the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) was formed. RASEI is a joint institute between the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
CU-Boulder's Geosciences Initiative (GI), still in the early stages of development, addresses one of society's greatest challenges: environmental sustainability. The initiative reflects a general recognition that Earth is not limitless - that there are observable and accelerating changes in climate, the health of ecosystems, and the purity of air, water, and land. The effort builds upon a tradition of excellence in earth and atmospheric research in order to meet the challenges of sustainability and environmental change. Nearly 800 faculty and more than 1,000 graduate students are involved in related projects reaching beyond traditional academic boundaries.
By taking an interdisciplinary approach, the Geosciences Initiative intends to bring the best minds to bear on complex problems. The initiative combines natural sciences research, which describes how Earth systems function, with social sciences, humanities, law, journalism, and business research and education - which describe how human societies function. It also seeks to form partnerships that draw upon federal and private-sector expertise to help solve the great environmental challenges.
These initiatives are bringing together faculty and students, from CU-Boulder and other campuses, to join in intellectual inquiry and discovery as they confront issues affecting humankind. Three of the five strategic initiatives (aerospace, biotechnology, and energy) mirror key priorities set by the Colorado governor for economic development in Colorado. Other key initiatives across campus address societal needs at the state, national, and global levels.
Other Key Initiatives
Beyond the five strategic initiatives described above, CU-Boulder's schools and colleges also have launched a number of key initiatives that are both discipline-specific and interdisciplinary. These strategies address societal needs at the state, national and global levels in areas such as materials, health care, security, communications, energy, natural resources, and education. Examples include:
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