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Monday, September 25, 2023

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Undergraduate Kaylin Sabado performs an energy efficiency assessment with the SDSU Industrial Assessment Center. Undergraduate Kaylin Sabado performs an energy efficiency assessment with the SDSU Industrial Assessment Center.

SDSU Researchers Secure $141M in Funding for 2020-21

More than 300 principal investigators received 723 awards from 289 sponsors.
By Kellie Woodhouse

San Diego State University researchers secured $140.6 million in grant funding for 2020-21, maintaining the institution’s research enterprise in the midst of a global pandemic.

Nearly 320 principal investigators received 723 awards, including strong support in such crucial areas as boosting COVID-19 vaccine uptake, developing better batteries for electric cars, reducing disease among Hispanics, combating climate change and improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“SDSU has a tremendous research legacy, and this past year showed our research enterprise was also resilient,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre. “Our researchers led their projects during a year that required adaptability as the pandemic surged and shifted.” 

“Now, with Mission Valley closer than ever and the unprecedented opportunity for industry partnerships and growth, and the capacity of Imperial Valley to amplify access, we are at a pivotal inflection point for the growth of our research enterprise,” de la Torre said. 

Many research leaders also played the dual role of mentor, and hundreds of students participated in high-impact research projects last year. 

More than 570 graduate students and 380 undergraduates participated in on-campus research in 2020-21, and the Division of Research and Innovation (DRI) financially supported more than 170 student researchers with grants. Roughly 300 students participated in the 2021 Student Research Symposium.

“This was an excellent year for a wide range of crucial research,” said Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation Hala Madanat. “SDSU faculty were ambitious in their efforts. From climate change to racial justice to artificial intelligence, their work addressed issues that are critical to our future.”

“Faculty were especially adept at pivoting during the pandemic,” she said. “They conducted critical research on COVID-19 and developed interventions for vulnerable populations here in California. The impact our researchers had on curbing the spread of COVID-19 and increasing vaccine uptake is remarkable.”  

Faculty across disciplines received $7.6 million in funding for 20 COVID-19 related projects. SDSU’s largest project, Communities Fighting COVID!, impacted roughly 32,000 San Diego County residents through contact tracing, testing and vaccine outreach. 

Researchers also made a concerted effort to increase funding for programs that support Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) like SDSU, securing $1.6 million to support programs that encourage underrepresented student involvement in research and strengthen SDSU’s research, scholarship and creative activities. 

Funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reached $32.3 million and $9 million from the NSF.

Several early career faculty members secured prestigious awards to further promising research. Three engineering faculty members — Sung-Yong (Sean) Park, Junfei Xie and Reza Akhavian — received CAREER awards from NSF, and NIH awarded K Awards to Kelsey Dickson and Teresa Lind in the College of Education, Amanda McClain and Humberto Parada in the College of Health and Human Services and psychologist Ruth Keehn in the College of Sciences.

SDSU launched several new initiatives supporting faculty research last year, including a grant program for approved centers and institutes, assigned time programs sponsored by DRI that support both individual researchers and collaborative research teams and an emergency funding program that supported student research. DRI also launched Pilot Innovation, a grant program that helps faculty transition their research-based innovations toward commercial readiness.