Message from the Vice President

Scott Whittenburg

Welcome to this issue of Vision, the magazine that celebrates the vast range of research and creative scholarship by University of Montana faculty and students.

The research enterprise at the University continues to show strong growth. Last year we announced a record year of research awards amounting to $83 million in funding, which was significantly more than the previous high of $71 million in 2009. Indicators this year show that we will most likely exceed last year’s mark by a significant amount and that expenditures from those awards also are increasing significantly. These metrics indicate UM continues on a path to become one of the nation’s top-tier research universities – a Carnegie Foundation Research Very High Activity University – and to demonstrate the value of our research and graduate education efforts to Montana residents and the world.

In part because of the tight connection between graduate education and research, I have been asked to assume the position of graduate dean in addition to my role as the chief research officer. I look forward to working with the Graduate School, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and graduate students in general going forward.

Our cover story describes the accomplishments of chemistry faculty member Mike DeGrandpre. He and Sunburst Sensors LLC, led by CEO Jim Beck, received both $750,000 grand prizes in the XPRIZE competition. The news was featured on CBS and in Forbes magazine, Popular Science, Business Insider, The Huffington Post and Yahoo Finance, among others. Thanks to Sunburst and DeGrandpre, our world now has the technology to more accurately measure carbon dioxide acidification’s impact on marine life and ocean health – reliably and without enormous cost. These sensors have been used in waters ranging from pristine Montana lakes to Antarctic seas.

DeGrandpre’s story indicates the importance of translational research, that is, research leading to product development which in turn directly impacts the citizens of the state and beyond. At UM we have made great strides in technology transfer, entrepreneurship and economic development.

Our Blackstone LaunchPad program provides students, faculty and alumni a path from concepts to startup companies. Our business incubator, MonTEC, is full with companies primarily in biotech and information technology, creating hundreds of jobs and generating more than $30 million in venture capital in the past few years. The Montana World Trade Center, housed at UM, provides support for state and local companies wishing to do business overseas. The Procurement Technical Assistance Center helps more than 300 local companies find and secure government contracts.

Finally, we recently have started housing the Small Business Development Center for the region. Along with the UM Office of Technology Transfer, these units form the UM Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) under the direction of Joe Fanguy, providing support to more than 700 regional and state companies each year. UM BIZ demonstrates that the University’s research, creativity and innovation help drive regional economic development.

We share more of our activities and accomplishments online. Be sure to follow our Facebook page, our Twitter account and my blog. Help us spread the word about how UM enhances all our lives by increasing knowledge, economic development and regional culture. And Go Griz!

Scott Whittenburg
UM Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship

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