Published: Sept. 7, 2018
Camp site in Antarctica

Researchers from the CU Boulder-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) set up camp in Antarctica as part of a project to monitor changing conditions on the ice. (Credit: Ted Scambos/NSIDC)

CU Boulder faculty hit a record milestone in the 2017-18 fiscal year, bringing in $511.1 million in funding for pioneering studies addressing climate change, robotics, indoor farming and more. These preliminary totals top last year’s $507.9 million in sponsored research funding across the university. 

To break this record, CU Boulder researchers secured grants from a range of government agencies, non-profit organizations and industry partners. The funded projects include ongoing efforts to monitor shrinking ice caps at the planet’s poles and research to develop a robotic small intestine. Final funding totals are expected later this year. 

Key takeaways
  • CU Boulder faculty secured $511.1 million in sponsored research funding in the 2017-18 fiscal year, beating out the previous year's totals of $507.9.
  • The CU system as a whole also saw record levels of research funding, bringing in $1.053 billion in 2017-18.
  • Among the recent grants to CU Boulder-affiliated researchers include a six-year, $50 million award to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

“We’re thrilled that our research funding has again exceeded $500 million, and represents record external investment in the important work of the university,” said Terri Fiez, vice chancellor for research and innovation. “This research reflects CU Boulder’s commitment to innovation and impact—in areas as diverse as aerospace, energy, human health and earth and environmental sciences—made possible by our exceptional researchers, faculty, staff and students.”

The CU system as a whole similarly saw record levels of research funding in 2017-18. Together, the four Colorado campuses obtained $1.053 billion in awards, the second year in a row these totals climbed above $1 billion. 

“One key way that the University of Colorado improves people’s lives is through the research conducted by our world-class faculty,” CU President Bruce D. Benson said in a statement. “Because of this impressive level of investment by federal, state and local entities, CU grows even stronger in its ability to advance knowledge that makes all of us better.”

Examples of recent sponsored research projects at CU Boulder include:

Keeping an eye on ice

The CU Boulder-based National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) received a six-year, $50 million grant from NASA to archive and disseminate data on the frozen parts of the world—including satellite and field measurements of changing ice conditions in Antarctica and Greenland. The award will support NSIDC in managing and operating NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System Snow and Ice Distributed Active Archive Center. The NSIDC is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). Learn more about the NSIDC’s work.

Imagining the future of food

Researchers from CU Boulder’s Department of Mechanical Engineering received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop the greenhouses of the future. The team is designing a new film that can split the light streaming into greenhouses into rays that plants can use more efficiently. Gardeners can also use the less efficient beams of light to purify their water supplies. The technology could help people to grow more food when resources are scarce. Read more about this research.

Detecting methane leaks

Colorado researchers turned Nobel Prize-winning technology into a rugged and portable device capable of remotely spying methane leaks from oil and gas operations—catching trace amounts of the gas from miles away. The research stems from an a $2.7 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Team members include scientists from CU Boulder, CIRES, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Read more about hunting down methane leaks

Digesting with robots

Mark Rentschler and his colleagues in CU Boulder’s Department of Mechanical Engineering are exploring the next phase of robotics: guts. Drawing on support from the National Science Foundation, the team is developing a robotic small intestine that researchers could use to test out new medical technologies and treatments without the need for human subjects. Learn more about Rentschler’s research.