Penn State

Federal research funds flowing to Penn State top $500 million

Nichole Wonderling looks at a test of crystal structions at the Penn State Materials Research Institute in the Millennium Science Complex on Wednesday, January 21, 2015.
Nichole Wonderling looks at a test of crystal structions at the Penn State Materials Research Institute in the Millennium Science Complex on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. CDT photo

On Wednesday, Penn State researchers made an announcement about a new understanding on the way people remember, revealing the selective nature of memory.

Assistant professor of psychology Brad Wyble and postdoctoral fellow Hui Chen discovered an idea they call “attribute amnesia,” recently published online in Psychological Science.

The research was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.

Stories about professors and students breaking new ground with government funding happen almost daily at the university.

Mark Feinberg, a research professor in health and human development, also had an announcement this week about his studies on the impact of early parental involvement on long-term childhood outcomes. That research had the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health behind it.

Eberly College of Science is looking at mitochondrial DNA and forensics with money from the National Institute of Justice. Penn State geoscientists are exploring the Greenland Ice Sheet with funds from the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA. Mathematicians are working to understand glass better with the help of the NSF and the Energy Department.

And those are just a few of the latest releases.

At last week’s Penn State board of trustees outreach, development and community relations committee meeting, the amount of money the university gets from the federal government was in the spotlight. The numbers have been growing.

In 2010, Penn State took in $780 million in research funding, with $472 million of that coming from federal sources like the NSF, NASA and Department of Defense. In 2011, it went to $805 million, with $477 million in federal money. In 2012, it was a $808 million total with $507 million from the federal government. The most recent year with hard numbers was 2013, with $848 million in overall research funding, and the feds paid for $537 million of it.

President Eric Barron said the university was on track for its fourth consecutive year over $800 million in research.

“It’s outstanding,” he said. “Other universities don’t look like that.”

Barron came to Penn State from Florida State, where research has fallen by $100 million.

He gave credit for the continued growth to “achievement oriented” faculty.

“When federal money is down, weaker programs drop off the list,” Barron said. “It only works if you’re delivering ... you’re exceeding expectations.”

Michael DiRaimo, vice president for governmental affairs, gave credit to the diversity of the research being done.

Trustee Todd Rucci said the successes told the story “when you see that trend.”

The remaining $300 million or so in research comes from other sources, including corporations and nongovernmental agencies.

DiRaimo said that relationships with the state are not the same as the federal government.

“It’s different for Harrisburg,” he said. “It’s more transactional. They have a need to fill.”

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