When Congress enacted the economic stimulus package, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), universities around the country cheered the government’s reinvestment in science and the opportunities it presented to advance human knowledge.
USC faculty moved quickly to submit proposals and have been spectacularly successful: The university and its affiliates already have received more than $100 million in grants.
Reaching this milestone involved more than 100 faculty members from eight different schools. The largest award went to professors P. Daniel Dapkus of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and Mark Thompson of USC College, who received $12.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to establish an Energy Frontier Research Center at USC.
Another significant grant went to Keck School of Medicine of USC professors James A. Knowles and Pat Levitt. The National Institutes of Mental Health awarded them nearly $9 million to create an atlas for genes, showing when and where genes are expressed in the brain as humans experience development.
Their award is a Grand Opportunity grant, which is notable for its competitiveness. USC College chemistry professor Nicos Petasis also received one of these grants, as well as a prestigious Challenge Grant.
Other faculty also received more than one American Recovery and Reinvestment Act award. Professor Ewa Deelman of the USC Viterbi School and the Information Sciences Institute is the principal investigator on two National Science Foundation grants.
“The first grant will be used to develop new technologies that will allow scientists to easily monitor the progress of their workflow-based computations and will automatically detect anomalies in the execution,” she said. “The second grant will provide capabilities to automatically provision distributed computational resources and make them available to scientific applications, including workflows, on demand.”
“These ARRA grants give a huge boost to the work USC’s researchers do every day,” said C. L. Max Nikias, USC executive vice president and provost. “Not only will they bolster our economy, they will take us to the next frontiers of medicine to a more energy-efficient America and even help train the future leaders of science.”
Professor Yang Chai of the USC School of Dentistry received a grant that assists in hiring faculty.
“This is a tremendous endorsement from the National Institutes of Health,” Chai said. “It will help us recruit research faculty and continue to develop our craniofacial developmental biology and tissue regeneration program.”
The grant also will strengthen collaborations between dentistry and the Keck School through the joint hiring of faculty.
Three faculty members in the USC School of Social Work received grants, including professor Suzanne Wenzel, who studies the health-related needs of vulnerable populations.
“HIV/AIDS is among the leading causes of death for younger men and women in the United States and disproportionately affects impoverished communities,” she said. “We will investigate the social context of risky and protective sexual behaviors, as well as gender ideologies that may influence such behaviors, among men experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.”
When Congress passed the bill in February, USC responded promptly, preparing templates and tip sheets for researchers. “The Department of Contracts and Grants, the principal investigators, and the research administrators out in the schools really came together in a short period of time,” said Jeri Muniz, executive director of contracts and grants. “The staff in my office put in a lot of extra time to ensure USC’s success.”
In exceeding the $100 million mark, USC also draws on the success of its affiliates: Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, the House Ear Institute and the Doheny Eye Institute.
Childrens Hospital received more than $10 million in awards, with professor Timothy Triche receiving a grant to support his research on the genetic aspects of cancer biology. The House Ear Institute received 15 awards totaling nearly $5.5 million; its single largest award was a P30 grant. The Doheny Eye Institute received three awards totaling $1.2 million.