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UM sets records in research funding as enrollment among graduate students climbs

Continued growth in research and other areas, including graduate student enrollment, has the University of Montana set to achieve a top listing as a research institution, placing it among some of the nation’s elite research universities. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

For the third year in a row, the University of Montana set a new record for external funding netted by the research institution, netting $2 million more this year than last, the school announced on Wednesday.

UM researches also set a new record for expenditures from grants and contracts, and submitted more proposals than ever before.

“Our upward trajectory indicates that the University of Montana continues to recruit and retain the best researchers from across the country and internationally,” said Scott Whittenburg, the school’s vice president for research and creative scholarship. “The productivity of our faculty is on par with elite institutions anywhere.”

Whittenburg said UM brought in nearly $88 million in new funding during the past fiscal year to support local research, entrepreneurship and outreach. The figure exceeds the previous year’s record of $86 million.

University researchers also set a record for expenditures from grants and contracts by spending around $88 million. That reflects a 12 percent increase from the prior year’s $78.5 million record and a 50 percent increase over 2014, when expenditures totaled just $58.3 million.

UM brought in nearly $88 million in new funding during the past fiscal year to support local research, entrepreneurship and outreach. The figure exceeds the previous year’s record of $86 million.

“The number of proposals submitted by faculty for research support also increased, from 684 proposals last year to 716 this year,” Whittenburg said. “These benchmarks all indicate that research at UM will continue to grow.”

Whittenburg praised faculty for securing some of this year’s stop top awards, including Andrew Whiteley. The assistant professor of fisheries and conservation received the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for junior faculty.

That achievement nets more than $800,000 over five years – funding that will help Whiteley and his graduate students study trout among isolated natural populations to understand the effects of gene exchange.

Joe Fanguy, executive director of Accelerate MT, said the research accomplishments and the growth of enrolled graduate students, which has increased by 200 since the spring semester, suggests the school is set to achieve a top listing as a research institution, placing it among some of the nation’s elite universities.

“What’s great about UM’s growing research sector is that labs employ a lot of people, which generates economic activity for Montana,” said Joe Fanguy, executive director of Accelerate MT at UM.

“UM research is also generating lots of new technology of importance to Montanans – from solutions to the pine park beetle epidemic, to advances in addressing traumatic brain injuries.”