Brian Foy, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, in the lab with former student Jasmine Donkoh. 

By Anne Manning

It was another record year for Colorado State University’s prodigious research enterprise, which generated $374.9 million in research expenditures in fiscal year 2018 – a 10.8 percent increase over the previous year. The university’s technology licensing office, CSU Ventures, also issued 53 patents in fiscal year 2018.

It was the 11th year running that research expenditures, which account for research dollars spent within that period, exceeded $300 million. Last year’s total was $338.4 million. Fiscal year 2018 ended June 30.

“We have made significant strides investing in our research enterprise at CSU,” said Alan Rudolph, vice president for research. “With our Research and Scholarship Success Initiative, we have enhanced support to our research infrastructure. We have increased support to our faculty, students and staff who are pursuing their research ideas with passion, and translating discoveries into societal impact. Our annual productivity numbers are an outcome of these infrastructure and other investments.”

At CSU, research dollars come from public sources such as federal funding agencies and state and local agencies, as well as private foundations or nonprofits. In fiscal year 2018, the largest share of federal expenditures at CSU came from the Department of Defense, which totaled $79.4 million, compared with $58.8 million in the previous year.

Total federal expenditures in fiscal year 2018 was $268.7 million, up from $239.2 million, a 12.3 percent increase. Non-federal dollars came in at $53 million, up from $50.2 million over fiscal year 2017.

One of CSU’s most prolific centers of research is the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands. Housed in the Warner College of Natural Resources, the multidisciplinary center partners closely with the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other grant-making entities to study issues ranging from climate-led vulnerabilities on military bases, to threatened plant and animal species on military-owned lands. Other center activities include: managing prehistoric archaeological sites within Vandenberg Air Force Base’s boundaries; assessing wildfire risk for Army National Guard installations; and evaluating gaps in the Air Force’s digital spatial data related to natural and cultural resources, hazardous waste, storage tanks, integrated solid waste, air and water quality, and environmental restoration.

In fiscal year 2018, Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands projects generated $74.8 million in sponsored research expenditures from both federal and non-federal sources. That compares with $52 million in the previous year.

Breadth and depth

The breadth and depth of CSU’s research enterprise is illustrated by steady growth and continued confidence in the university’s faculty, who are making game-changing breakthroughs in their labs and through interdisciplinary collaborations. CSU researchers work in a dizzying array of disciplines: infectious diseases, advanced weather satellites, translational cancer medicine, and fundamental chemistry and physics among them.

A few highlights of recently funded CSU research:

  • Kristen Buchanan, associate professor in the Department of Physics, in collaboration with professors Carmen Menoni, Jorge Rocca and Mario Marconi in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for advancing nanoscale electronics. Using the phenomenon of spin waves to transmit signals, this work could lay the groundwork for low-power, non-volatile storage of electronic information, or for applications like quantum computers and nanoscale oscillators.
  • Amy Charkowski, professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, received $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture over four years to study the spread of pathogens in U.S. potato crops.
  • Manfred Diehl, professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for AgingPLUS. The program is designed to help older adults make physical activity a lasting part of their daily routine.
  • Brian Foy, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, received a National Institutes of Health grant in the amount of $3.6 million for a randomized clinical trial in Burkina Faso. Foy will test whether a new kind of drug administration can reduce incidence of childhood malaria and limit resistance in mosquitoes and parasites.
  • Steven Reising and V. Chandrasekar, both professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, are supported by an $8.2 million NASA award for a small-satellite project called TEMPEST-D. The satellite is designed to demonstrate the capabilities of CubeSat technology for observing storms, like Hurricane Florence, in real time.

Technology transfer

In addition to research expenditures, CSU Ventures reported continued success in the area of research commercialization.

In fiscal year 2018, CSU Ventures launched five new startup companies, and negotiated 36 licensing agreements with companies for CSU technologies. Researchers also filed 112 invention disclosures, and were issued 53 patents.

Total licensing revenue for fiscal year 2018 was $1.82 million. Presently, CSU Ventures’ active portfolio includes 715 inventions, 315 licenses, 625 patents and 45 startup companies.

One such startup that exemplifies CSU’s technology transfer prowess is SiVEC Biotechnologies, a CSU spinoff company that develops antiviral products for the rapid prevention of avian flu in poultry. The company was founded by Lyndsey Linke, who developed the technology while a Ph.D. student at CSU.