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University's Research Strategic Plan is Generating Results

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

Nearly two years in, Old Dominion University's first Research Strategic Plan, "Innovating Locally/Transforming Globally," implemented by the Office of Research, is well underway.

Areas of emphasis include engaging partners outside the University and academia; providing resources to enhance faculty success in research and student mentorship; building and maintaining shared facilities and research equipment; and pursuing regional opportunities with national and international significance. Recent successes across the University include new partnerships with NASA and the Port of Virginia, and new opportunities for research funding from mission-oriented federal agencies such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Strategic areas of investment include cybersecurity, STEM-H, resilience, data science and port logistics and marine engineering.

"Even in a period of declining federal research funding, ODU has unique opportunities to advance its research enterprise because of where we're located and the regional partners we're engaging," said Morris Foster, vice president for research.

Renewed focus on building critical mass in targeted areas has also helped lead to external funding success. The University now has more active National Institutes of Health grants than ever before, including $4.8 million in awards in fiscal year 2016, and 10 active Research Project Grants (R01), a benchmark in health-related research awards for for the University. Additionally, faculty have received more than $5 million in new awards overall in the last fiscal year, said Karen Eck, assistant vice president for research.

With representatives from across the University's colleges and enterprise centers, the Faculty Research Advisory Committee meets monthly during the academic year to advise the vice president for research on policy and initiatives. Faculty also have formed a facilities working group who are developing a sustainable research facilities and equipment plan.

Sharing highly specialized, and often costly, laboratory equipment across departments, colleges and research centers allows the University to access more resources by dispersing the costs of maintenance and technicians across departments and colleges, Foster said.

Through broadening participation in the STEM-H faculty group, researchers from across the University created a forum to network and communicate about research and intervention programs in sciences, technology, engineering, math and health sciences.

Two new intramural funding programs help to provide research resources, including mentoring programs that pair a junior and senior faculty memberfor tenure-track faculty and that provide research experiences for undergraduate studentsencourage undergraduate student mentorship, respectfully. The Program for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship is sponsored by the Office of Research and the Honors College to support one-year pilot projects in research and scholarly activities for undergraduate students.

A second intramural grant supports research in resilience, another area of emphasis spearheaded by the Old Dominion University Resilience Collaborative. ODURC Faculty Research Seed Funds nurture research efforts in multidisciplinary resilience research.

In the area of port logistics, a comprehensive research study for the Norfolk International Terminals is underway as part of the port's quest to modernize, said Paul Olsen, director of federal, commonwealth and municipal programs and partnerships.

"It's perfect in the sense that we leverage our research expertise existent in ODU with the real world applications and requirements at the port," Olsen said.

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