Rutgers VP of Research on the Impact of the Recovery Act
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) headlined a Capitol Hill press conference on November 17 at which AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and The Science Coalition announced the launch of ScienceWorksForUS, their joint initiative to inform the public of the benefits of the Recovery Act research investment. The focus of the project is a website (www.ScienceWorksForUS.org) that highlights Recovery Act-sponsored research in all 50 states.
Speaker Pelosi was joined at the press event by Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), and Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Bill Foster (D-IL), as well as University of Arizona President Robert Shelton. Also participating were University of Pennsylvania Vice Provost for Research Steven Fluharty, Rutgers Vice President for Research Michael Pazzani, Ohio State Vice President for Research Caroline C. Whitacre, and researchers from Princeton and Johns Hopkins.
Dr. Pazzani's remarks on the impact of the Recovery Act research investment are below:
I’d like to thank Speaker Pelosi, Rush Holt, other representatives and congress for making the recovery act possible.
The website Recovery.rutgers.edu lists all grants and cumulative dollars, stories, but I want to highlight a few projects and their impacts, starting with one of our smallest.
- Professor Mark Gluck received a supplement to his existing NIH grant on Parkinson’s disease. This allowed him to hire two undergraduate honors students. In previous years, Rutgers students might have found part-time employments at Circuit City a company that was affected by economic downturn. In the short term, this grant provides students some funds for living expenses. The long-term impact may be more significant. Both students have decided to pursue graduate degrees adding to the talent base of the US. One of these students may very well find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
- Piotr Piotrowiak received an NSF instrumentation grant to develop an Ultrafast Fluorescence Microscope. This grant requires purchase of a state-of-the-art laser from a small company in Boulder, Colorado.
- Danielle McCarthy, who received her Ph.D. in 2006, was awarded an NIH Challenge grant “Phenotypic Markers for Smoking Cessation: Impulsive Choice and Impulsive Action.” Over 20,000 proposals were submitted for this and fewer than 1000 have funded after a rigorous and very competitive review process. This competition in US system of funding research builds excellence and is the model being adopted by other countries. Rather than giving a block grant to Rutgers, funds were given to federal agencies where a merit review system selects the proposals with the greatest potential. We are grateful to the employees of NIH and NSF who had to lead the review of tens of thousands of additional proposals this year. I am pleased that the review process found merit in the proposal of an assistant professor rather than simply providing additional funds to already established senior researchers.
- Professor Tamara Minko received a NIH award for “Targeted Proapoptotic Anticancer Drug Delivery System.” Today’s Anticancer Drugs are effective at killing cancer cells but also kill other cells in the body, resulting in side effects such as loss of hair and suppressed immune systems. With targeted delivery systems potent drugs can have an effect where needed with fewer side effects. Dr. Minko’s proposal was submitted last year to NIH as a five-year project, judged to be meritorious, but declined due to a lack of funds. The ARRA funds made it possible to get started on a two-year project on this important topic.
- An NIH supplement was received by Dr. Richard Ebright of Rutgers Waksman institute, named after Selman Waksmans, the Rutgers faculty member that discovered streptomycin, the cure for tuberculosis. Dr. Ebright is working on new antibiotics that are effective against bacteria that have developed resistance to streptomycin and other antibiotics. He already has several promising leads.
In the short-term, the over 100 recovery act grants that Rutgers received are providing jobs on Rutgers campus for researchers and technicians and indirectly to companies that supply equipment and services to Rutgers. In the long-term, these grants are increasing the scientific and engineering talent and creating innovations that will lead to a robust economy in future decades.
Photo Credit: V. Hume, The Science Coalition