External research funding to CU Engineering remained strong in 2022 with projects totaling $131 million for the year’s funding cycle.
The newly announced total is slightly behind the record $150 million total the college posted in 2021. However, Dean Keith Molenaar said the 2022 data shows that the college has been able to sustain the rapid and impressive growth it has seen in this area over the last few years.
“Research awards in the college totaled about $82 million back in 2017. We have seen a lot of growth since then, which is exciting, but we have also shown that growth was not an accident over the course of a few years now,” he said. “A big reason for our ability to maintain that pace is the quality and persistence of the faculty, research associates, staff and — most importantly — students who do research every day.”
Research award money to the college comes from a variety of sources, the largest being federal agencies like NASA, which accounted for about 25% of the 2022 award dollars. The next largest contributors were the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and industry sponsors.
While awards were spread among the college, both the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering ($18.8 million) and the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering ($13 million) saw year-over-year growth in their portfolios. Meanwhile, the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences maintained their blistering 2021 pace, totaling just under $48 million in research funding. That tops the college among departments this cycle and is not far behind the $53 million total the department posted in 2021, which set a single-year record for them and the college.
One of the most prestigious awards from this funding cycle also comes from the aerospace department, where Professor Iain Boyd is leading a new $15 million Advanced Computational Center for Entry System Simulation (ACCESS) institute funded by NASA. That center will focus on thermal protection systems, which shield spacecraft from the aerodynamic heating experienced during hypersonic entry of the atmosphere, in which spacecraft reach speeds up to 17,000 miles per hour. The work is critical to future plans for exploration of nearby planets like Mars and beyond, which will require safe placement of large payloads on their surfaces.
Acting Associate Dean for Research Shideh Dashti said the college will continue to provide and improve internal support for research — especially for students and early career faculty — this year.
“With six NSF CAREER award winners in 2022 — and a record 12 in 2021 — there is no doubt that some of the best young engineers across all disciplines are coming to our college to conduct high impact research,” she said. “Our goal now is to foster that dynamic through interdisciplinary teaming activities backed by internal funding such as the Quantum Engineering Initiative and through support towards developing our shared instrumentation capabilities.”