From the Dean
November 15, 2021
This fall, we were delighted to welcome Taylor Randall as the new president of the University of Utah. Already in his short time at the helm, President Randall has articulated a bold vision of excellence for the U. His vision fits perfectly with the long-sustained trajectory of the College of Science. Beginning with Henry Eyring’s return from Princeton in 1946, the college has been on an outstanding upward ascent.
Excellence is part of everything we do. That principle is reflected in our strong national rankings, in our outstanding faculty, in the impact that we have on our communities, and in the successful career paths that our students follow. We accomplish all of this while still keeping our tuition among the lowest of our peers.
Our educational and research missions continue to be intertwined in innovative ways. After all, the most consequential learning happens by doing, a notion at the heart of research and education alike. We launched the Science Research Initiative (SRI) last year with 50 entering freshman and transfer students participating in genuine scientific and mathematical research. This year, the program has 150 students, with projections to double that figure in three years, and triple it in six.
The SRI is made possible by the college’s exceptional faculty, world-class research facilities, and commitment to in-person experiential learning. Only a handful of institutions in the world have programs operating at a similar scale. You can learn more about the SRI in the pages that follow.
Last year, the College of Science distributed $1.3 million in scholarships and awards to our students -- a record amount in a very challenging year. I want to continue to make a degree in mathematics and science accessible to all of our students, regardless of financial need, and prepare our graduates for rewarding careers. Keep an eye out for our year-end campaign that will focus on raising scholarship funds for SRI students.
Thank you, as always, for being a part of the tradition of excellence in the College of Science.
Dean, College of Science
Research Funding Tops $640 Million
University of Utah research funding continues to grow, totaling $641 million in fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30. The total is a new record high for the U, which achieved milestones of $600 million in funding last year and $500 million three years ago.
“Despite the ongoing pandemic, U research activities continue to thrive and grow in many disciplines across campus,” says Andy Weyrich, vice president for research. “Our remarkable research community is the reason why the U is a global leader in discovery and innovation.
Research Funding Sources
According to the vice president for research office, federal funding is the largest source of research grants to the U, comprising 68% of funding. More than half of the federal funding (52%) came from the National Institutes of Health and 16% came from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Research grants were awarded to more than 1,000 principal investigators in diverse disciplines across campus. The funding supports nearly 8,000 employees and more than 4,000 trainees, including postdoctoral researchers, students and research assistants.
U research drives economic growth and development. In FY20, U research grants contributed $228 million to salaries and wages, which contributed $31 million in state and local sales taxes, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Since 2000, the U has launched 300 companies and more than 750 products, generating around 37,000 life science jobs.
U.S. News & World Report has released their 2020-2021 National University Rankings. The University of Utah is now ranked No. 1 in Utah and No. 44 nationally among public universities.
The College of Science fared even better. National rankings for public universities put Biology at No. 27, Chemistry at No. 18, Mathematics at No. 16, and Physics & Astronomy at No. 37.
There are many factors used to determine a school’s final ranking in the U.S. News & World Report but one factor that is not considered is cost. When cost is factored, there are few universities that challenge the University of Utah.
UTAH JOINS THE A.A.U.
"It is difficult to overstate the importance of AAU Membership. This elevates the U to an exceptional category of peer institutions."
- Dean Peter Trapa
The University of Utah is one of the newest members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, which for more than 100 years has recognized the most outstanding academic institutions in the nation.
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), announced Wednesday that University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins has accepted an invitation to join the association, along with the University of California, Santa Cruz and Dartmouth College. The three new members bring the number of AAU institutions to 65.
AAU invitations are infrequent; this year’s invitations are the first since 2012.
“AAU’s membership is limited to institutions at the forefront of scientific inquiry and educational excellence,” said Coleman. “These world-class institutions are a welcome addition, and we look forward to working with them as we continue to shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation.” - Mary Sue Coleman
About the AAU
The AAU formed in 1900 to promote and raise standards for university research and education. Today its mission is to “provide a forum for the development and implementation of institutional and national policies promoting strong programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate and professional education.”
A current list of member institutions can be found here. The membership criteria are based on a university’s research funding (the U reached a milestone of $547 million in research funding in FY2019); the proportion of faculty elected to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine; the impact of research and scholarship; and student outcomes. The U has 21 National Academies members, with some elected to more than one academy.
An AAU committee periodically reviews universities and recommends them to the full association for membership, where a three-fourths vote is required to confirm the invitation.
Leaders of AAU member universities meet to discuss common challenges and future directions in higher education. The U’s leaders will now join those meetings, which include the leaders of all the top 10 and 56 of the top 100 universities in the United States.
“We already knew that the U was one of the jewels of Utah and of the Intermountain West. This invitation shows that we are one of the jewels of the entire nation.” - H. David Burton
U on the rise
In FY2019 the U celebrated a historic high of $547 million in sponsored project funding, covering a wide range of research activities. These prestigious awards from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are supporting work in geothermal energy, cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches to research that challenge existing paradigms and effects of cannabinoids on pain management.
They also are funding educational research programs with significant community engagement, such as the U’s STEM Ambassador Program and the Genetic Science Learning Center’s participation in the All of Us Research Program.
“AAU is a confirmation of the quality and caliber of our faculty and the innovative work they are doing to advance knowledge and address grand societal challenges. Our students and our community will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these endeavors. " - President Ruth Watkins
On Nov. 4, 2019, the U announced a $150 million gift, the largest single-project donation in its history, to establish the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. These gifts and awards are in addition to the ongoing support of the U from the Utah State Legislature.
This fall the university welcomed its most academically prepared class of first-year students. The freshman cohort includes 4,249 students boasting an impressive 3.66 average high school GPA and an average ACT composite score of 25.8. The incoming class also brings more diversity to campus with both a 54% increase in international students and more bilingual students than the previous year’s freshman class. Among our freshmen who are U.S. citizens, 30% are students of color.
The U’s focus on student success has led to an increased six-year graduation rate, which now sits at 70%—well above the national average for four-year schools. The rate has jumped 19 percentage points over the past decade, making it one of only two public higher education research institutions to achieve this success.