Researchers at the University of Central Florida set a new record in funded research in FY14, receiving $145.6 million, 30 percent more than the previous year.
The funding totals reflect successful collaborations with industry, a record total for federal defense grants and continued growth in commercialization and innovation activity.
“This is, of course, the trajectory we like to see and shows the continued promise of our commitment to work in partnership to meet the economic needs of our community,” said MJ Soileau, vice president for research & commercialization.
The highest funded unit, Student Development and Enrollment Services, received $29 million from Lockheed Martin Corp. to fund workplace training for graduate and undergraduate students. The program, which began in 1986, has grown to include 300-400 students semester who work part-time at Lockheed while maintaining grade point averages of 3.0 or higher in their classes at UCF. The funding allows for expansion of the program into 2016.
The College of Engineering & Computer Science received $19.3 million for projects including the use of agricultural robotics, aerial imaging and sensors that is helping detect disease in citrus and strawberries earlier than previously possible. Yunjun Xu, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is leading the $1.2 million grant and is working together with a University of Florida team to expand the research from strawberries to citrus crops.
The Institute for Simulation & Training received $15.2 million, including more than $1 million to researcher Stephanie Lackey for multiple projects to advance the state-of-the-art in use of robots in the military. Her team’s research explores in-depth the interactions between humans and robots and drives development of simulation systems of the future.
Federal awards totaled $72.2 million and included Florida’s only Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative award received by Zenghu Chang in the College of Sciences and the College of Optics & Photonics. Chang is the lead investigator on a $7.5 million project to generate ever-shorter laser pulses and is a co-investigator on a $6.5 million program led by the University of California, Berkeley. UCF also received five awards worth nearly $2 million from the Defense University Research Program. UCF, the University of Illinois and Rutgers University were the only universities in the nation that received five grants.
Funding for industry and other sources including professional and non-profit organizations was $59.4 million while state and local funding combined was $14 million.
The National Center for Optics and Photonics Education (OP-TEC), was funded by National Science Foundation for $3.4 million. The Center, overseen by UCF, is helping more than 50 colleges throughout the U.S. initiate and improve associate degree programs to prepare technicians in optics, lasers and photonics. OP-TEC, through a series of NSF grants, has been developing teaching materials, training new faculty and providing them professional development since 2006.
In community engagement activity, College of Health and Public Affairs researcher Eugene Paoline III received $486,500 from the National Institute of Justice to study police early intervention systems.
UCF’s commercialization activity also continues to grow. UCF ranked 9th in the nation among U.S. public universities for patents produced in 2012 in a survey by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. The university reported 57 U.S. patents and 23 licenses and options executed in 2014.
Three UCF professors with an accumulated 110 patents, Michael Bass and Peter Delfyett from CREOL – the College of Optics & Photonics (CREOL-COP) and Sudipta Seal, engineering professor and director of the NanoScience Technology Center and the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center were inducted into the National Academy of Inventors as Fellows.
And S.T. Wu, a professor at CREOL-COP whose work has significantly advanced liquid crystal displays and the screens we use every day on smartphones, televisions and computers , was inducted into the new Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. Wu was joined in the inaugural class of six by such innovation icons as Thomas Edison, Gatorade inventor Robert Cade, and John Gorrie, the air conditioning pioneer.
The fiscal year produced Millionaire Club or researchers who have received $1 million or more in funding during the year. The millionaires were recognized during a gathering on campus last week where Provost Dale Whittaker lauded the group and their contributions toward improving lives and livelihoods.