Chancellor's Friday Letters

Research fuels future knowledge

Research fuels future knowledge

February 4, 2011

Dear Friends,

I am asked from time to time about the advantage of a research university over other types of universities and colleges in America.

The specific answer depends a bit on whether the question is posed through the lens of students, faculty, staff, or the community at large – in which case you can parse the question further depending whether the view is economic, environmental, societal, etc.

Institutions of higher education in this country exist in a number of forms, and the Carnegie Foundation established by Congress in the early 20th century is one highly-used classification scheme (http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/ ). As a university with very high research activity, UCR occupies a unique and distinguished niche:  we not only convey information in our baccalaureate, masters and doctoral programs but we develop new knowledge, which fuels the economic engine of the nation.

On the ground level, a research university like UCR hires the most accomplished and gifted faculty and staff.  In this challenging and supportive cauldron, students learn from the people whose research and creative activity has led to original discoveries and major contributions to society.

Often students engage in creating new knowledge themselves. Their work with their professors sometimes contributes to the very textbooks that others will be studying a half dozen or so years down the road. This helps students at all levels stand out in the very competitive world of finding success in graduate and professional schools, and/or the workplace.

Faculty are attracted to UCR because here they have access to world-class facilities and instrumentation. Further, they have colleagues who work in similar areas, creating a critical mass that in and of itself spurs new ideas, as well as creating opportunities to seek funding from agencies and foundations to do Big Science or develop Big Ideas… the high-risk, high-reward stuff that advances knowledge and society.

Staff employees who create the infrastructure for such intellectual creativity and accomplishment find huge rewards in knowing that their efforts contribute to the success of our students and faculty… and advance knowledge that holds promise for raising the quality of life for all.

Finally, but by no means last, is the impact on society.  A few examples:

  • Creating livable communities in an environmentally sustainable way is the principal focus of the Blakely Center. Its researchers study effective urban design, energy conservation, commuting patterns, and pollution reduction in forward-looking developments.
  • The SEARCH Family Autism and Research Center is the first UC center to serve families struggling with autism spectrum disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. It provides families of all income levels and backgrounds with support, education, advocacy and resources.
  • The Gluck Program for the Arts provides fellowships to undergraduates, graduate students, and visiting faculty, allowing them to conduct presentations, performances, and workshops in Riverside County schools and elder care facilities. The program also conducts a summer program for area youth.
  • The School of Business Administration helped develop the city of Riverside’s strategic plan, and the school has begun providing annual economic forecasts and quarterly updates as an important tool for the economic welfare of our region.

A Technology Commercialization section within UCR’s Office of Research gets good ideas to markets… and deals with the important issues of intellectual property rights, patents, licenses, and revenue distributions. Some examples:

  • UCR researchers develop new fruit and vegetable varieties, new pest controls and other agricultural aids, all of which are licensed for public use.  Our citrus variety collection also provides revenue through a relationship with a flavor and fragrance house that uses our citrus in its products.
  • Medical research that takes place at UCR includes advances in cancer therapy and treatment of traumatic brain injury.  These innovations are made available for public use and benefit.
  • The Center for Environmental Research and Technology has developed a process for turning agricultural waste, coal, tires and wood – even sewage – into clean diesel.  The process has produced more than a dozen U.S. patents and has been licensed to a local startup company, which is building a plant in Riverside.

This is the role of a research university.  And all this work and much more is happening at UCR. For a selection of videos on other exciting research take a look at http://or.ucr.edu/IP/Resources.aspx.



Tim White, Chancellor

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Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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