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Convocation offers look at future of research, honors work of today

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere presents the first KU Research Achievement Award to David VanderVelde, senior scientist and director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, at the KU research convocation, as Jim Roberts, vice provost for research, applauds. With the award, VanderVelde won $10,000 to support his research.

The future of research at KU is bright, with new facilities being built and grant funding growing each year, said Jim Roberts, vice provost for research, at the KU research convocation. There are challenges to be faced, but the success of research will be ensured by the ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty and graduate students, he said.

Roberts outlined some of the research highlights of 2006. At the top of the list was the significant addition of research space with the dedication of the Multidisciplinary Research Building in March and the finalization of plans for the Structural Biology Center Phase III. Work on the center is scheduled to begin this month and it should be completed by December 2007.

A trio of prominent KU researchers followed with overviews of their work. Joseph Steinmetz, professor of psychology and molecular biosciences and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, gave an introduction to his work in neuroscience.

Susan K. Harris, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture, spoke about her book-length project "Imperialism, American Identity, and the National Christian: the Crisis of 1899."

Joseph Evans, Deane E. Ackers Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, spoke about cyberinfrastructure, its importance and how it relates to researchers in all fields.

Roberts offered a vision of KU research in 10 years. KU will be able to compete with anyone, research expenditures will be as much as four times their current level, the west campus research complex will be complete and the National Cancer Center designation for the KU Cancer Center will have been achieved. To do so, new funding must be attained, he said.

"Existing sources won't dry up during the coming decade, but we need to cultivate alternatives, including industry partnerships, support from government – such as the Kansas Bioscience Authority – and private donors through KU Endowment," Roberts said.

Roberts encouraged researchers to continue seeking grant funding for their work, pointing out that 85 percent of National Institute of Health funding in Kansas each year goes to KU, and the success rate for National Science Foundation funding at KU is above the national average.

The convocation ended with the presentation of the first KU Research Achievement Award. David VanderVelde, senior scientist and director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory, was recognized with a plaque and $10,000 to support his research.

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