Universities in the United States conduct 31% of the basic and applied research in the nation, and, thus, these institutions are vital in national development. Furthermore, at 56% of the national total, their contributions to basic research emphasize their importance in the nation’s knowledge buildup.
University-led research is important because the federal government provides financial and technical support for about 60% of it! In the COVID-19 pandemic, federal government support for research universities has remained the one constant that can be relied on, too.
While federal support may have decreased since its peak in the 1960s – when it reached as much as 73% – many research universities still get the bulk of their funding from the federal government.
Are research universities worth the money? Yes, of course, they are! In a study, universities contributed 74% of the groundbreaking inventions in the world!
Their researchers were considered as either “most important or very important” actors in four out of 10 cases, too. These discoveries included MRI scans and polio vaccinations, both of which have revolutionized the medical industry.
Indeed, research universities play vital roles in society by addressing urgent challenges with research and development in particular and science in general. Academic researchers are confronting the challenges and finding solutions to world issues like climate change, fresh water, safe food, and diseases!
Here are the biggest research university breakthroughs:
- The University of Delaware invented touch screens through funding from the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Science Foundation in the early 1990s.
- Indiana University developed the FDA-approved fluoridated toothpaste that we use today. Procter & Gamble, the licensee for the patented product, made Crest from the formula.
- Cornell University researchers proposed and developed the modern seat belt.
- Harvard Business School, particularly Dan Bricklin, invented the spreadsheet students, businesses, and organizations used.
- Boston University developed a quick diagnostic system to identify malaria, Ebola, and other fevers with similar symptoms.
In the pandemic, many research universities are also hard at work in the development of solutions. These include antiviral treatments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coronavirus screening test at Johns Hopkins University, and vaccine for older adults at Harvard University Medical School.
Despite their crucial importance in national development in diverse fields, research universities belong to a small club. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reveals that only 266 universities can be considered research universities. Of this number, 131 universities are in the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” category and 135 belong to the “R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity” class.
History of Research Universities in the U.S.
In the 19th century, Wilhelm von Humboldt advocated for the union of teaching and research (Einheit von Lehre und Forschung in German). This was the precursor of the modern research university where education focused on accumulating knowledge in social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.
In the United States, Johns Hopkins is considered the first research university. For over 140 years, the university has maintained its standing as a world leader in research and education. Today, it has nine academic divisions dedicated to research and education and a non-academic division, the Applied Physics Laboratory, for civilian R&D.
Roger L. Geiger has also proposed that the model for research universities in the U.S. was established by:
- Five colonial colleges (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Pennsylvania)
- Five state universities (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, California, and Minnesota)
- Five private institutions were established as research universities (Cornell, MIT, Stanford, Chicago, and Johns Hopkins)
Each of these universities played vital roles in different fields in the 20th century. Hollywood, for example, was strengthened through the works of Harvard and Columbia. Silicon Valley owes its existence partly to Stanford and Berkeley research, while Stanford and MIT were instrumental in creating the American military-industrial complex.
Nowadays, most of the best research universities belong to the Association of American Universities (AAU) with a 64-strong membership in the U.S. These are a select group of research universities dedicated to advancing robust academic education and research. Membership is in itself a badge of distinction among research universities.
Characteristics of Research Universities
In a Hefei statement issued by the AAU, the ten characteristics of modern research universities were defined. These included the pursuit of excellence, major research efforts, and a commitment to teaching and research training. In a National Academies report, research universities are defined as possessing values of excellence, initiative and creativity, and intellectual freedom. The conduct of research, faculty engagement in research and education, and the emphasis on the undergraduate residency experience is also emphasized.
From these definitions, we can also surmise the following characteristics of the quintessential American research university.
- The university has state-of-the-art facilities from which researchers produce new and exciting research. Keep in mind that basic and applied research is the main goal of research universities. Undergraduate and graduate education is also a priority, but research comes first, although it must also be said that both work hand in hand.
- The faculty members possess professional credentials that make them experts in their field. Most, if not all, of them have made significant contributions to their fields, too, including published research. The professorial positions are also highly coveted because of the opportunities for career advancement and research funding. Many professors are also Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics, and medicine, among other internationally renowned achievements.
- The students can choose from a wide range of areas of study, including the arts and sciences, STEM, and business and accounting, to name a few. The research areas are then just as diverse as the degree programs offered by the university, which means higher productivity levels.
- The undergraduate students have more opportunities for professional interactions with graduate students, a symbiotic relationship in knowledge sharing and research collaborations. The graduate students also have viable opportunities to participate in and contribute to possibly breakthrough research. Take note, too, that graduate students may teach the undergraduates resulting in the professors having more time for research activities.
Research universities are also recognized worldwide for their academic excellence and breakthrough discoveries in science and technology, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities. Indeed, the best of them are considered the elites of the academic world with names that are as familiar as brands like Coca-Cola and Nestle!
Where does the funding for research go in these universities? The research expenditures cover costs related to the salaries of the researchers, the operations and maintenance of the facilities, and the supplies and equipment. The funding may also be used in securing and maintaining patents, copyrights, and trademarks in line with intellectual property laws. There are also expenses for scholarships and grants, and incentives to attract and retain exceptional talent.
While there are issues about research universities favoring research over education, it may not seem as big a deal considering their symbiotic relationship. With faculty members engaged in research, their works expand and enhance the foundations of knowledge taught at their institutions. Their work enriches the breadth and depth of teaching and learning in all institutions outside of their universities, too.
Graduate students who participate in research projects become more knowledgeable and skilled in their areas of study, thanks partly to working alongside field experts. Graduate education also becomes enriched through basic and applied research. In turn, research becomes more invigorated because graduate students bring their energy, enthusiasm, and creativity.
These benefits are true, albeit to a more limited extent to undergraduate students. Many research universities provide undergraduate students with opportunities to contribute to the research process. As a result, their education becomes enriched through a first-hand understanding of the rewards and demands of a research career.
Aside from their roles in breakthrough research in diverse fields, research universities also perform other equally crucial roles in society. First, researchers in social sciences, sociology, and political sciences, among other fields, provide new insights and analyses into issues and their possible solutions. With a greater understanding of our society and its ills comes the opportunity to undertake new endeavors, move in new directions, and hope for new peace.
Many of our current issues and solutions result from research conducted by social scientists, economists, and psychologists. Climate change, for example, may not seem like the realm of social scientists, but it will affect human migrations. This, in turn, can profoundly impact the political, social, and economic spheres of human life worldwide. Social scientists research so that humanity will have a deeper understanding of these issues and develop viable solutions to current and emerging issues.
Second, research universities enrich human existence and experience through their contributions to the arts and humanities. Indeed, research isn’t just about science and technology because man cannot live by STEM alone. Humanists work towards better interpretation and preservation of the world’s cultures, and their research enhances our appreciation of disparate cultures. Their work is a valuable tool in countering the religious and national extremism that hinders worldwide cooperation.
Research in the humanities also enriches the American experience! We have a greater understanding of the origins and experiences that influenced our own American identity. We can then act in appropriate ways toward using our nation’s prominence in world affairs.
Third, research universities have made and continue to make profound contributions to civic life, including economics and politics. By protruding well-educated graduates in diverse fields, these institutions are instrumental in creating new industries and maintaining existing ones. While a college education isn’t a precursor to success, studies have proven the most successful individuals in current standards have a college degree.
And with the U.S. being a bastion of freedom and democracy in the modern world, research universities are also doing their part in this aspect! These institutions are considered agents of a free society through their academic independence, particularly from government control, despite receiving federal funding. Their self-governance was just a manifestation of their broad autonomy gained partly from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Dartmouth College case.
With that being said, however, not every undergraduate and graduate student will benefit from being in a research university, not even if it’s among the best. While individual circumstances will vary, you may be a good fit in a research university if you have these characteristics:
- You plan to pursue graduate and post-graduate studies, which have a substantial focus on research (i.e., dissertations).
- You have a keen interest in pursuing research in STEM, arts and humanities, and the social sciences, whether basic or applied. You will find exceptional resources and support in research universities for this purpose.
- You want to gain insights from the experts in the field, perhaps even work alongside them starting in your undergraduate years.
- You have the academic ability and willingness to undertake a rigorous curriculum and undergo extensive training in your field.
Keep in mind that the best research universities are among the world’s top universities for a reason! These are highly selective institutions that only accept the cream of the crop – and then boot out the ones who can’t keep up.
M E T H O D O L O G Y
The research universities featured on this list are classified as doctorate-granting universities in the R1 category of the Carnegie Classification. These institutions are characterized by their:
- Gives research the highest priority
- Full range of undergraduate programs
- Proven commitment to excellence in graduate education
- Awards 50 or more doctorate degrees every year
- Receives at least $40 million in federal funding every year
These universities were also chosen based on these aspects:
- The institution has at least one research institute or center with broad autonomy from the university but still under its general jurisdiction.
- The undergraduates and graduates have the opportunity to observe, participate in and contribute to research projects done by the university and its attached institute.
The overall prestige and the number and quality of breakthrough research were also considered in the listing.
Top 25 Research Universities
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
No other name is as resounding as MIT when it comes to research in universities! For 160 years, MIT has adopted a research-heavy approach with equal importance to basic and applied science. Furthermore, academic excellence is of crucial importance with emphasis on learning by doing.
While tenured professors, professional researchers, and graduate students engage the most in research, undergraduates are also provided with opportunities to participate. Through its Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), most undergraduates enjoy an enriched education through frontline research.
MIT’s long list of distinguished individuals is only rivaled by its equally long list of notable innovations and inventions in diverse fields. With 97 Nobel laureates and the Turing Award, National Medals of Technology and Innovation, and National Medal of Science and recipients, the AAUmember’s record is astounding! MIT’s alumni have founded trailblazing companies like Koch Industries, Raytheon, and Intel, even in the business world.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Defense (DOD), and NASA grant federal funds for MIT-led research. In 2019, MIT spent $773.9 million in research costs from various sponsors. Cash income and royalties also beef up its research funds, and MIT faculty and researchers can use their research for profitable means.
MIT has 30 departments that conduct their research projects, along with dozens of laboratories, centers, and programs dedicated to research. The interdisciplinary approach magnifies their research projects’ intellectual and practical applications, many of which address urgent societal issues.
Aside from the on-campus research resources, MIT has allied organizations like the MIT Lincoln Library, Center for Computational Engineering, and Clinical Research Center. MIT researchers are also known for their successful collaborations with leading organizations like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, and Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
As an institution and in partnership with numerous organizations, MIT’s list of accomplishments makes it the best research university globally, hands down! A few of the most notable due to their profound impact on modern society are:
- High-speed photography
- Genetic bases for Huntington’s disease, ALS, and cancer
- Thermal death time used in canning food, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices
- Content delivery network, an invention responsible for at least 15% of modern web traffic
- Flight recorder with applications in NASA’s guidance computer systems
STEM may be MIT’s strength, but its contributions to the arts and humanities cannot be undermined either! Morris Halle and Noam Chomsky are known for their work on phonology and generative grammar.
As an AAU founding member, Harvard is known worldwide for its comprehensive programs in STEM, arts and humanities, and health sciences. The basic and applied research conducted here ranges from archival research to laboratory studies in basic and applied research. Funding sources come from the federal government, industry organizations, and even private endowments that enable researchers to pursue their specific interests.
Harvard Medical School (HMS) conducts groundbreaking biomedical research that results in the advancement of human life and stimulates the regional economy. The federal government is funding a majority of the research conducted here. In 2019, about 70% of the $800 million-plus research funding came from the federal government. In the same year, the NIH or National Institutes of Health) awarded $1.65 billion in grants to HMS and its 15 affiliate hospitals and research centers.
Undergraduates can participate in research projects by inquiring for opportunities at three main offices:
- The Harvard College Research Program (HCRP) provides the professors and departments with ongoing or planned projects. Summer grants and term-time are available for students collaborating with faculty mentors on independent research.
- The MMUF or The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides about 20 juniors and seniors with a term-time stipend in the spring term. Summer research funds are also available.
- The Faculty Aide Program, which connects undergraduates who want to work as research assistants and professors looking for them (The Student Employment Office runs the program).
Students may also research credit, but the policies are different between programs. Summer research can encompass diverse subjects from science and engineering to humanities and arts.
Harvard has over two dozen buildings within its sprawling campus exclusively dedicated to scientific research. Their interconnected design allows several laboratories and offices to engage in collaborations across disciplines. Research projects are characterized by multidisciplinary approaches in chemical, physical, and biological engineering, even computational sciences. Researchers may even be working on the same topic but with different perspectives, such as neuroscience research.
The university’s research centers include the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology. Harvard also has affiliated hospitals in and out of the country, such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Harvard’s list of research-borne accomplishments is impressive, too, and contributes to its rightful reputation as among the world’s top research universities. These include the first transgenic mouse in cancer research, the decoding of gene structure now used in medical diagnoses, and the pacemaker development.
Johns Hopkins University
With its reputation as America’s first research university, Johns Hopkins continues to exceed expectations! Since 1876, JHU has remained true to its mission of sharing what it has learned through research and, thus, make the world better. With more than 1,300 research sites worldwide, the JHU name is a leader in global research across disciplines.
The list of innovations brought about by JHU-led research is awe-inspiring, considering their profound impact on the betterment of humanity. These include creating a modern water purification process, the launch of genetic engineering, and the invention of CPR, rubber surgical gloves, and saccharine.
Such is JHU’s commitment to research that it spent a record $2.917 billion on research and development in 2019, the highest spending for 41 consecutive years! This amount was an increase of 9.6% from 2018. More than $2.48 billion was funded by federal government agencies like NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF).
JHU has nine academic divisions that conduct research programs, both as independent entities and as collaborators. These include the School of Medicine, the School of Engineering, and the School of Advanced International Studies. The Applied Physics Laboratory is noteworthy for its accomplishments, too. The interdisciplinary approach ensures that research studies are worth every cent poured into them.
Researchers also work in collaboration with JHU-affiliated organizations resulting in a diverse range of projects. These organizations are well-recognized on their own, too, such as the Berman Institute of Bioethics, Space Telescope Science Institute, and Center for a Livable Future.
JHU considers its faculty members as its greatest asset for good reasons! Many of its past and present faculty members have made significant contributions to the betterment of humanity through their research projects. Their roster includes winners of the Nobel Prize, the National Medal of Science, and the Berlin Prize, a testament toJHU’s leadership across disciplines.
Undergraduates have ample opportunities to engage in independent research, and about 80% of them take the opportunity multiple times during their stay. The early training has resulted in JHU boasting of several faculty and alumni with memberships in the Howard National Academy of Engineering, Hughes Medical Institute Investigators, and National Academy of Sciences.
JHU is also among the world’s most-cited institutions in the global research industry, aside from publishing more than 54,000 papers – and counting. The number of utility patents held by JHU and its researchers was also among the world’s top five in 2020. The university’s Signature Initiatives for the Rising to the Challenge campaign, launched in 2013, is also making significant changes in global health, space exploration, and the science of learning.
University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
UCLA is a top research university partly because of its huge research funding at $1.4 billion (2019-2020), a 38% increase since 2015 and the third consecutive year of increase. Such is its research spending that it’s #3 in total research expenditures among all American universities. The funding came from federal agencies (60%) and industries, nonprofits and charitable organizations, higher education institutions, and the state government.
Such strong funding support isn’t surprising considering that UCLA’s research projects range from arts and humanities to engineering, medicine, and technology. With more than 330 degree programs, undergraduate and graduate students also have diverse topics for research. UCLA’s faculty and alumni have the “who’s who” of elite individuals, too, with Nobel laureates, Turing Award winners, and members of national academies in sciences, engineering, and medicine.
UCLA is also home to more than 350 organizations dedicated to research and its allied disciplines! Of these research labs and centers, there are 280 medical centers with more than 1,800 inventions. In 2020 alone, 394 inventions were recorded by the entire UCLA machinery.
Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have also been made at UCLA. These include being the internet’s birthplace, making the first AIDS diagnosis, and pioneering PET scanning in brain function. Many of its alumni and faculty members have also made their mark in American society, from space exploration to biochemistry.
Undergraduates have ample opportunities to become research assistants In such a research-friendly environment. The opportunities come in varied forms, too, including conference presentations, faculty assistantships, and authorship of works published in the Undergraduate Science Journal.
The Summer Programs for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) are an excellent introduction to the graduate school experience. Graduate students are also provided with similar opportunities, not to mention that many research projects welcome visiting students.
The range of research projects undertaken by students is a testament to UCLA’s open-minded approach. Students in digital humanities may work on African-American silent films while students in environmental science study oil drilling. Such wide-ranging studies are made possible through two Undergraduate Research Centers – first, in sciences; and second, in humanities, arts, and social sciences.
UCLA also provides resources through its comprehensive library collections, including books and ebooks to clay tablets, scrolls, and data sets. With more than 13 million books – and counting – the UCLA Library is a researcher’s dream! Research support is also available.
Georgia Institute of Technology
In recent years, Georgia Tech received more than $1 billion in annual research funding, launched 300 startups, and received 74 patents. Nine research institutes report to the Executive Vice President for Research, whose responsibilities include direct reporting to the University President.
The oldest and most prominent research institute is the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), a nonprofit organization involved in applied research. Its research includes several disciplines, including homeland security, mobile, and wireless technologies, and public health, with the Department of Defense and Georgia as its major customers. Its funding comes largely from defense agencies, but it’s also involved in economics and policy research.
The other research institutions are Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience, and Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems. Each institute works as a fairly autonomous unit with the capacity for collaborative work with the others.
Georgia Tech is at the forefront of many current issues affecting the public, either independently or in collaboration with others. In 2019, it received $21.9 million for the development of new techniques in flu pandemic control. It has also received $13.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reinvent the toilet. Its frugal science approach has also resulted in many practical innovations, including a 3D-printed wheel made for just one dollar.
While Georgia Tech evokes images of STEM innovations, it’s actually among the best universities for entrepreneurship! The Yellow Jackets have them covered, from researching the best business practices to contract and technology licensing. These are done through various entities, including the VentureLab, Advanced Technology Development Center, and Georgia Tech Research Corporation.
Undergraduates are encouraged to join faculty-led research, too, usually alongside graduate students. The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program is a scholarship program for undergraduates involved in research. The package includes salaries, travel expenses, credits, and the opportunity to be a published author in the undergraduate research journal.
Georgia Tech also has strong partnerships for research purposes with other educational institutions. Examples include the Emory-Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering with Emory University and Peking University, and The Centre for Next Generation Logistics with the National University of Singapore.
Princeton, New Jersey
Seeking knowledge and solutions is the motto by which Princeton researchers perform basic and applied research. The comprehensive scope of its research areas includes social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, and engineering. Undergraduate and graduate students have numerous research opportunities, from their capstone projects and dissertations to institutional research.
Princeton is home to Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). These are national laboratories managed in partnership with DOE and NOAA, respectively. PPPL is engaged in plasma physics and fusion energy research, while GFDL is known for its climate research.
Funding for PPPL represents a substantial part of Princeton’s research funding – in 2020, it was $120 million for the total research funding of $370 million. More than 81% of its research funding comes from the federal government. The rest comes from foundations (12%), industry (5%), and private sources (1%).
With more than 120 members in the National Academy, Princeton is in the nation’s top 10 for most members. The Ivy League institution also holds the distinction of membership in the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium.
The AAU member has several research facilities in its campus, too, each with its specific areas of interest, including:
- The Confocal Microscopy Facility has outstanding light-microscope resolution equipment with medical and non-medical applications.
- The Genomics Core Facility has state-of-the-art high-throughput sequencing technologies used in data analysis, microarray labeling, and experimental-design consultation.
- The Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials specializes in materials science and photonics, with its particular strength being in the marriage of “hard” and “soft” materials.
Such is the huge impact of Princeton-led discoveries. These are evident not just among the R&D community but also in supermarkets and stores!
Undergraduates can ask for the assistance of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) in finding programs, getting started with projects, and accessing evidence. Funding for research is available, too, via the office. The Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research acts as a support group for undergraduates looking for first-hand research experiences.
The Princeton Research Day celebrates researchers through campus-wide presentations and other activities. The ReMatch program matches first-year students and sophomores with graduate students who act as mentors in academic research. There’s a nine-week paid summer research project for qualified undergraduates, too, under the ReMatch+ program.
The Student Initiated Internship Program, an OUR-managed program, provides grants to undergraduates (non-seniors only) with the opportunity to present their projects at a mini-academic conference. Princeton also has several paid research assistant positions and fellowship opportunities, as well as research-focused student organizations.
Stanford’s body of research rests on its underlying principle of ” inquiry, investigation, and discovery.” Faculty members and students are encouraged to participate in original research and scholarship through funding and technical support. With 20 libraries filled with more than 9.5 volumes, research materials and subjects are abundant, too.
The 2020 sponsored research budget of $1.93 billion proves that Stanford’s reputation for financial integrity and breakthrough innovations are well-deserved. With 18 institutes committed to life-changing innovations, Stanford researchers have made several discoveries and inventions, too!
The research institutes include:
- The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, a DOE-owned national lab managed by Stanford, is known for its materials and energy sciences, chemistry, and high-energy physics.
- The Hoover Institution engages in studies of national and international affairs.
- The Stanford Humanities Center expands humanity’s understanding of its earthly experience in the realms of history, literature, and philosophy.
Other notable institutes are the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford Bio-X, and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). Stanford is also part of the Biohub in partnership with UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley; Biohub is a medical science research center funded by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
Stanford’s robust research support has resulted in numerous notable inventions, including antibody therapies, artificial facet joints, and data analytics. Many of today’s technologies are also the product of its researchers’ work, including digital music, digital subscriber lines (DSL), and Google. The university’s best medical inventions are the tuberculosis test, recombinant DNA, and the 293T cell line used in cell and gene therapy.
Stanford offers undergraduate research opportunities and provides intensive support in different ways. Students can develop professional mentor relationships with faculty members and gather their research toolbox. Undergraduates have several grants for pursuing their research, such as the Chappell Lougee for arts and humanities.
There are small and major grants, conference grants, and Beagle II grants for voyages of discovery. Departmental funding is also available with areas of study covered, including bioengineering, economics, and linguistics.
University of Wisconsin – Madison
UW–Madison, an AAU founding member, is a Public Ivy institution known as much for its academic excellence and its prestigious accomplishments in the world of research. While the university’s ranking in terms of research spending has taken a hit recently, it’s still in the top 10 of NSF rankings.
The 2020 research spending reached nearly $1.3 billion, still a staggering amount and an increase of 7.6% from 2019 figures. Since 2010, UW-Madison has increased its R&D spending by 26%. The university’s standing as a leader in research and innovation in the Badger State and the country is intact and growing stronger.
The Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (VCRGE) is the oversight organization charged with addressing the challenges faced by researchers. Aside from overseeing the research budget and expenditures, it also manages the 17 research centers across Purdue’s campuses. With its army of master’s and doctorate students who perform independent research, the Graduate School is also under its watch.
Research funding for faculty-led research is also under the VCRGE. The annual Fall Research Competition, a cross-campus event, provides researchers with the opportunity to secure funding for travel and other expenses. Assistance for transfer technologies is also done through VCRGE funding programs.
Undergraduates have opportunities to gain research skills through assistantships and self-directed projects. There are plenty of projects designed specifically for them, too:
- Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowships
- Holstrom Environmental Research Fellowship
- Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program (Open for low-income students and other underrepresented or disadvantaged groups)
- Summer Research Opportunity Program
- Undergraduate Research Scholars (Open for first-year students and sophomores)
- Wisconsin Idea Undergraduate Fellowships (Project length varies from one semester to one academic year. Areas of study include health, community development, and the arts)
UW researchers have made numerous scientific discoveries that changed the world in many ways. These include the discovery of Vitamin A, the revolutionary technique in canned vegetable production, and the mass production of penicillin. The university has also earned millions in income from patents on a blood-thinning agent, the synthetic forms of dicumarol.
California Institute of Technology
CalTech, an AAU member, is best known for its STEM research and its commitment to excellence in instruction in basic and applied sciences. Even without a medical school, its innovations and inventions influence the health sciences, partly because of its more than $270 million annual research expenditure. NASA, NSF, DHHS, and DOE are its largest federal funding sources for physical sciences, life sciences, and engineering, among other areas.
National laboratories are among the research institutions that CalTech operates in partnership with the federal government. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the most famous, but the Palomar Observatory, W. M. Keck Observatory, and Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory perform vital work, too. The Kavli Nanoscience Institute and Einstein Papers Project call CalTech their home, and it has an on-campus TCCON station, too.
With over 50 research institutes and centers, graduate and undergraduate students have abundant opportunities for research work. About 90% of undergraduates are engaged in research during their stay. A worthwhile endeavor made easier with brilliant mentorship from its distinguished faculty. CalTech is affiliated with Nobel laureates, Turing Award recipients, and members of national academies and ranked first among universities with the highest percentage of doctoral graduates.
CalTech has several dedicated undergraduate research programs that have been externally recognized for their exceptional performance. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program welcomes CalTech and visiting students to work with experienced mentors throughout the research process. The [email protected] is intended for aspiring engineers and scientists in space explorations, and it lasts for ten exciting weeks during the summer.
The WAVE Fellows Program promotes diversity in the research community by welcoming underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged students, and first-generation college students. The Amgen Scholars Program is for visiting students interested in chemistry, biology, and other biotechnical fields. The exchange programs are for CalTech students who will participate in research projects at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Iceland.
Summer isn’t the only term for great research opportunities as Caltech has a wide range of academic year projects. Independent research is encouraged, while collaborative researchers can rely on strong university support.
The Office of Technology Transfer is in charge of the licensing and technology transfer of CalTech’s innovations and inventions. The protection and management of intellectual property aren’t just for pride but also profitability (i.e., royalties). From 1969 to the present, more than 1,800 patents have been granted to its researchers.
New York, New York
Columbia University has an AAU founding member with a $1 billion-plus annual research funding from federal government agencies and other sources. Its researchers discover 350 inventions across diverse disciplines every year, while its distinguished roster of faculty and alumni includes 84 Nobel laureates.
There are more than 200 research centers and institutes under the Columbia umbrella. Their researchers and scholars have led or contributed to scientific breakthroughs, among them many firsts, including the first nuclear fission reaction, nuclear pile, and evidence for the continental drift theory. Other Columbia-led innovations are the laser and maser, brain-computer interface, and nuclear magnetic resonance.
Ordinary consumers have also benefited from Columbia’s inventions or innovations made from its discoveries through consumer products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets. Examples include pharmaceutical products used to treat arthritis, glaucoma, blood clot complications, and cancer therapy.
Columbia Technology Ventures is the management arm for the active license agreements and patents held by the university and its researchers. The university earns more than $1.75 billion in annual gross revenue from these intellectual property rights, too, while also making significant contributions to humanity’s welfare.
There are several research centers and institutions under the Columbia brand, too, such as:
- The Center for Climate Systems Research engaged in cutting-edge climate change studies collaborating with academic and government partners, including NASA.
- The Seymour, Paul, and Gloria Milstein Division of Cardiology have more than 180 active clinical trials and research studies collaborating with other Columbia schools.
- The Celiac Disease Center is dedicated to finding treatments for celiac disease.
- The Columbia Quantum Initiative promotes quantum technology for mass applications in health, information science, and meteorology.
Columbia has several on-campus and online resources for its researchers. The Columbia University Library has more than 14.5 million volumes, the third largest of its kind in the country.
Undergraduates have diverse research opportunities in arts and humanities, engineering and science, and social sciences. Fellowships are available in these three areas of study, of which the most notable are the John W. Kluge Research Fellowship and Weatherhead Undergraduate Training Grant. Engineering students have about 400 research opportunities exclusively available for them.
Publications of undergraduate research are also an honored tradition at Columbia. The student publications, such as the Columbia Science Review and Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism, have high standards for research papers.
Ithaca, New York
Cornell’s founding mission hasn’t changed much in its 156-year history! Then and now, it’s known for its excellence in education and research in diverse fields of knowledge, from the humanities to the sciences, as well as the theoretical and applied. Its researchers, including graduate and undergraduate students, work toward practical research applications, particularly in measurable ways.
An AAU member, Cornell is also known for being among the world’s largest producers of graduates who have pursued doctoral degrees in natural sciences, engineering, and other fields. Indeed, research is an integral part of its culture that it has a $1.19 billion total research spending in 2020, ranked first in the State of New York. The DHHS, NFS, and DOD are the top three federal government sources, while the top non-federal sources are foundations, New York State, and corporations.
Such huge research spending is manifested in the number of patents in its name and the number of startup companies it has formed through the years. In the 2004-2005 period alone, Cornell filed more than 200 patent applications, received 200 disclosures for inventions, and made 77 license agreements. Of course, its inventors and research units benefit from these license agreements through royalties in the millions!
Cornell’s research-related achievements are grounded on Earth and in space, too. These include its long-term participation in the Mars mission, the discovery of Uranus” rings, and contributions to nuclear physics.
Cornell’s campus has two national research centers – the Cornell NanoScale Facility and the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, serving several scientific companies. The R&D community here is invigorated by research centers and institutes engaged in diverse fields, many unique. The Duck Research Laboratory, Virtual Embodiment Lab, and Equine Drug Testing Laboratory are a few examples.
Undergraduates work with the Office of Undergraduate Research in taking advantage of the wide range of research programs and projects throughout the year. The scope and duration of research projects vary, but the typical ones welcome juniors and seniors willing to spend 10-15 hours every week on faculty-led projects.
The Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, a foremost cross-cultural initiative, adopts a multidisciplinary approach in research of development, international and thematic studies. Undergraduates may earn credits for research during the academic year as well as during the summer term. The Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internships, Cornell Agri-Tech Summer Research Scholars Program, and Cornell Center for Materials Research offer 8-week to 10-week programs.
Durham, North Carolina
Duke has a highly selective admissions process, with only 5.7% of applicants accepted for the Class of 2025. Such selectivity also applies to its research programs where the cream of the crop vies for spots. Duke faculty includes Nobel laureates, Turing Award recipients, and Rhodes Scholars! With distinguished faculty members and researchers, undergraduate and graduate students have exceptional mentoring opportunities.
In the fiscal year 2019, Duke’s total R&D spending reached $1.226 billion, the tenth among all universities in the country. The university made it to the top 10 federally funded institutions and ranked fourth for funding for life sciences research. Business research funding isn’t far behind with $236 million spendings; corporate sources are amongDuke’s largest contributors. The Duke Clinical Research Institute receives a large bulk of the funds for its clinical trials.
Duke’s track record in scientific breakthroughs is just as impressive! Its biomedical engineering department created the first engineered stents and blood vessels and the first real-time 3D ultrasound diagnostic system. The mapping of the final human chromosome completed the Human Genome Project. Its pioneering studies on chaos, nonlinear dynamics, and complex systems are recognized in the scientific community.
The Office for Research & Innovation (OR&I) is responsible for overseeing the university’s research enterprises. The promotion and protection, including licensing of Duke’s intellectual property, also falls on its shoulders.
The Undergraduate Research Support Office (URS) facilitates undergraduate research, including workshops, funding sources, and research assistantships. The yearly Visible Thinking Symposium showcases undergraduate research and an opportunity to forge connections in research.
There are several undergraduate research programs administered by the URS, including:
- URS Conference Grants are for expenses related to the attendance and presentation of research at regional and national meetings.
- URS Assistantships are intended for research assistants needing financial aid.
- Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Fellowship (B-SURF) is for sophomores interested in biological and biomedical sciences research. Students spend eight weeks in the summer at Duke’s science laboratories and participate in faculty-led research.
Undergraduates have also made their mark on the international stage! In July 2019, the Duke Electric Vehicles (DEV) club broke its world record when it traveled at 797 mph. The record was for electric vehicle efficiency.
University of California – Berkeley
UC Berkeley’s R&D operations are supported by external sponsorships as well as internal funding, including royalties. As of June 30, 2021, it received more than $1 billion in new research funding. More than 61% came from the federal government, while the rest came from California state agencies, industry, and nonprofits. The NIH, NSF, and NASA were the largest donors, and many of their research projects cover multiple years.
As a Public Ivy and an AAU founding member, UC Berkeley has several research centers and institutes performing vital work in diverse fields. These include the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, Space Sciences Lab, Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is also its partner in several major research projects like the Joint BioEnergy Institute.
UC Berkeley’s researchers have made numerous innovations and inventions that have changed society and individual lives. While a few have debatable benefits, such as the atomic bomb, most have positive impacts that have lasted into present times. Among these is the immunotherapy of cancer, the discovery of 16 chemical elements, and the launch of the open-source revolution.
Many Golden Bears alumni have also started their business revolutions! The Berkeley SkyDeck is a startup incubator that assists entrepreneurs in establishing their business through groundbreaking research, among other services. The most famous companies founded by alumni are Apple (Steve Wozniak), eBay (Pierre Omidyar), Intel (Gordon Moore and Andy Grove), and Tesla (Marc Tarpenning).
Faculty members carry on the tradition of R&D excellence in over 80 multidisciplinary research units and 130 academic departments. Many of the faculty members are Nobel laureates, American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellows, members of national academies, and Guggenheim Fellows, among other distinguished titles.
Undergraduate research is also a staple of university life, and it’s just as diverse as the professional R&D programs. STEM topics are popular, but the same can also be said for music, language, and history. Law, politics, and literature are also favorite subject matters, and it’s proof of UCBerkeley’s love for knowledge in all areas.
With three main libraries, expert faculty, and large budgets, undergraduate research is a rewarding experience for un undergraduates. The first-hand experiences enhance not only R&D skillsets but also open doors of opportunities for paid research positions in the future. The Haas Scholars Program, Berkeley Summer Bioengineering Program, and Townsend Center Research Apprenticeship are a few undergraduate programs.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
UMich, a founding AAU member, offers graduate programs in social sciences, STEM, and humanities, of which 102 programs are in the nation’s top 10. Indeed, its graduate students are among the pillars of R&D, and it’s thanks to the academic rigor and high standards of research integrity!
With $1.62 billion in annual research expenditures, UMich is among the big spenders of research universities. The Medical School takes the largest share, followed by the College of Engineering, as UMich’s strongest suits. Among their notable accomplishments are the development of the gastroscope and EKG and the virtual memory architectural model.
The technology transfer office, in turn, ensures that the university’s inventions will have commercial value and lawful protection. With 502 invention disclosures in 2019 alone, UMich scientists are among the most prolific in the state, if not the country.
UMich has 227 research institutes and centers on its main campus. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, National Election Studies, Life Sciences Institute, and Institute for Social Research are examples. Major research centers are on wireless integrated microsystems, reconfigurable manufacturing systems, optics, and the social sciences.
The interdisciplinary research initiatives are as diverse as the degree programs offered at UMich, too. The current ones are in precision health, biosciences, sport science, poverty solutions, and global CO2. The humanities collaboratory provides generous grants for scholars engaged in the humanities and whose research will positively impact the human experience.
Researchers and scholars have an extensive UMich library system to count on for their sources. There are 24 separate collections and 19 separate libraries within the system resulting in about 13.3 volumes. The JSTOR database called UMich is the original home, too, while the University of Michigan Press continues to produce old and new editions.
The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) is committed to creating effective research collaborations between UMich researchers and undergraduates. The latter learn from the mentors whose expertise in their fields is respected by their peers.
First-year students, sophomores, and transfer students have opportunities to develop their research skills, too, during the academic year. The reasonable requirements include attendance in research seminars where skillsets and ethics are emphasized. The Summer Research Fellowship programs are 10-week programs where students engage in full-time independent research. Funding support is available for supplies and travel expenses related to presentations or performances.
University of Washington
Washington is a consistent presence in lists of the best universities and most innovative universities globally for good reasons. In 2019, for example, Reuters ranked the public university #1 among public institutions for its innovations and #5 worldwide.
Such a brilliant performance in R&D isn’t surprising considering the amount of funding Washington receives from external sources. In 2020, the total amount in sponsored grants and contracts amounted to $1.63 billion. Of this amount, $1.23 billion came from federal government agencies and over $399 million from non-federal sources.
Washington, an AAU member and the flagship institution in Washington’s public university system, has contributed major innovations in engineering and medical sciences. Many of these have a significant impact on the quality of life among humans, including:
- Professor Ben Hall led a research team that was successful in the genetic engineering of protein production. The process was used in Hepatitis B vaccine production that UW licensed to several biotechnical and pharmaceutical companies.
- Professor R. Palmer Beasley advocated newborn inoculation against Hepatitis B and proved that Hepatitis B is the underlying cause for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer.
- William Foege developed an innovative technique in smallpox vaccinations that resulted in eliminating the disease by 1979.
- Don Baker came up with the concept of using pulse Doppler ultrasound that resulted in its use as a cost-effective diagnostic today.
- Belding Scribner proposed Teflon shunt implantation in patients with chronic kidney failure, and Professor Albert Babb aided in inventing a home dialysis machine.
Washington has also been instrumental in launching successful business ventures through its computer labs and other research facilities. Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen are among the best examples. Washington also has long-standing partnerships with corporate titans like Amazon, Microsoft, and Boeing.
Undergraduate research is as much a part of Washington’s success, research-wise, as its professional researchers, faculty, and graduate students. Summer research opportunities abound, and these have fixed terms with full-time demands. These can last for 9-10 weeks and require 30 to 40 hours per week of research-related time.
Undergraduates also cover most areas of research undertaken by Washington’s professional researchers. In the arts and humanities, the programs include UW-Exploration Seminars and Travel and Study Programs at UW Tacoma. The medicine and health programs are at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, and Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
New Haven, Connecticut
The 320-year old Ivy League university has academic and research ventures across numerous departments, schools and colleges, and affiliated institutions. The cross-disciplinary collaborative research projects can be overwhelming due to the myriad of people, policies, and funding involved. But Yale is Yale, and its army of researchers have made and continues to make advances in the diverse fields of the arts and sciences.
Yale also has its alumni and faculty as Nobel laureates, Abel Prize laureates, and Turing Award recipients. Yale is among the nation’s largest producers of bachelor’s degree holders who have achieved doctorate degrees. Many faculty members are also national academies in the sciences, engineering, and arts and sciences.
The AAU member is also prolific in its research work, with many of the world’s greatest inventions made by its researchers within its historical halls. These include the invention of the first submarine (1775), the first cotton gin patent (1792), and the first Ph.D. in engineering (1852).
In the art department, Yale isn’t a slouch either! Faculty at the English and Comparative Literature departments were behind the New Criticism and deconstruction movements. The Music School and Department nurtured music theory and established the Journal of Music Theory, the oldest and among the most influential of its kind.
Yale’s enormous R&D spending – approximately $1.07 billion in 2019 – is evident in its researchers’ consistent stream of inventions, innovations, and discoveries. The amount is also a huge jump from its 2006 spending at about $462.08 million.
Undergraduate research is as robust as its professional research part, too! First-year students can even apply for the 100-plus summer research fellowships for the sciences and engineering. The research experience rewards 95% of undergraduates with science majors participate in faculty-led research. There’s also more than $1 million in annual funding for undergraduate science research too.
There’s no shortage of research laboratories at Yale, too, thanks to its 800 math, science, and engineering labs. These labs are in addition to the professional and graduate schools facilities used for research purposes. Yale’s libraries are a goldmine of information, too, with a staggering 15 million volumes.
Yale has its Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS) Program, a nationally recognized initiative established to promote diversity in research. Study groups, faculty mentoring, and assistance for original research are among the services provided to its freshmen and sophomore scholars. Juniors and seniors can participate in the STARS II program for the continuation of their research.
University of California – Davis
UC Davis is also a strong magnet for research funding from external sources! The 2020-2021 fiscal year received $968 million in sponsored funds, increasing $27 million from the previous fiscal year. With its $514 million fund transfer, the federal government is the largest source, followed by $164 million from California. Industry sources contributed $116 million to the overall award amount.
UC Davis can engage in R&D projects to advance human and animal health, food security, and environmental sustainability with such enormous funding. Of these research areas, public health and medicine received the highest increase in funding, with The School of Medicine receiving $368 million. COVID-19-related research, including testing, vaccination, and treatment, received $42 million. UC Davis’ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Engineering, and the College of Biological Sciences also received their fair share.
UC Davis” status as a Public Ivy and an AAU member partly contributed to its R&D funding success. It also has several members of national academies, the Institute of Medicine, and Nobel laureates are also instrumental. In university research, the quality of faculty members has a profound influence on the quality of research.
UC Davis also supports several research laboratories and centers. The California National Primate Research Center, Center for Poverty Research, and CalEPR Center are examples. Research with possible impact on humanity is also being done at the John Muir Institute of the Environment, UC Solar Energy Center, and Western Institute for Food Safety and Security.
Undergraduate research at UC Davis is filled with viable opportunities, not barriers that often characterize undergraduate research in many universities. The course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) are classes where undergraduates and faculty collaborate on original research. This is aimed at newcomers and transfer students so that their UC Davis experience will be more meaningful.
With numerous undergraduate research programs, it isn’t surprising that nearly 50% of undergraduates have participated in faculty-led research, including creative projects. The combination of research, mentoring and advisement, and academic enrichment is a major draw, too.
The Mentorships for Undergraduate Research in Agriculture, Letters and Science (MURALS) are intended for students with plans to achieve a doctorate. The Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program (BUSP) is for students interested in research biology, and it involves a year-long seminar course. The NSF-CAMP or California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation includes a 40-hour week of research work during the summer term and a 10-hour week at other terms.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
MSU, an AAU member, has consistently increased its R&D spending in the past decade, a testament to its enduring commitment to world-class research. For 2019, its total research spending was $725.7 million, of which $331 million was spent on federally-funded research. The DOE, NSF, and DHHS are among the largest federal contributors, followed by the Department of Agriculture (DA), USAID, DOD, and Department of Education (DoEd).
According to Nature Index, in terms of its contributions to the world’s prestigious scientific journals, MSU is one of the five leading U.S. universities. The number of primary articles is proof of its researchers’ prolific productivity in diverse fields including life sciences, Earth and environmental science, and the physical sciences.
MSU is also a hub for scientific research within its sprawling 5,300-acre campus. The cutting-edge facilities include the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, and the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory. The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, Wharton Center for Performing Arts, and Abrams Planetarium are also notable structures on campus.
The Public Ivy is also a member of consortiums with other institutions of higher education and government agencies. The Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR) was built with the Brazilian government and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The Michigan Life Sciences Corridor is a partnership with the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Van Andel Institute, and Wayne State University.
The MSU Innovation Center is in charge of the university’s tech transfers and innovation stewardships. In 2020 alone, it received 69 applications for new patents and received 62 issued patents. The innovations are a source of pride and profit for the university for this reason. The prolific productivity attracted $20.3 million in corporate funding and generated $4.3 million in licensing income, including royalties.
MSU is also known for its support of entrepreneurship ventures that have earned it several accolades. The Outstanding Contributions to Venture Creation from the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers is a great example.
The list of MSU innovations in its 166-year history is as impressive as it comes, too! The creation of hybrid corn, the improvement in milk homogenization, and the development of cisplatin and carboplatin (cancer-fighting drugs) are notable.
MSU’s research programs are overseen by the Office of Research and Innovation, particularly research fund administration. Other services include licensing inventions, providing support services, and ensuring regulatory compliance and integrity.
As for undergraduate research, the two main avenues are the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum and the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences.
Emory University, an AAU member, values independent and collaborative research in its students, faculty, and professional researchers. With ample opportunities for research, including consistent financial support, Emory’s research community is among the most productive in the country.
In 2020, Emory received over $831 million in research funding for its diverse projects. Of its research initiatives, its health programs get the largest share of funding at $507 million from the NIH alone. About 20% of the NIH funding was poured into COVID-19 research in line with Emory’s thrust toward addressing the most pressing issues.
And its health researchers are among the most successful, too, in terms of getting value for the money! Baricitinib, which Emory researchers first tested, has huge potential to become a COVID-19 treatment option. Its efficacy among hospitalized patients with a high need for respiratory support is promising.
Emory scientists are also on the heels of finding solutions to the mosquito menace through big data and exploring the genetic lineage of modern populations. Through documentation of slave voyages, researchers also provide useful information about the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Americas.
Many research centers on diseases and vaccines affiliated with Emory, including the Winship Career Institute, the National Ebola Training, and Education Center, and Tuberculosis Research Units Program. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also works with the university through funding the Emory Center for Injury Control and Emory University Prevention Research Center.
Emory’s Office of Research Administration and Woodruff Health Sciences Center is collaborative research projects’ frontline. These partnerships with educational and medical institutions like Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Tech, and Atlanta’s Children’s Healthcare. The Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium, Translational Science Alliance, and the Center for Nanobiology of the Macromolecular Assembly Disorders are prime examples.
The Undergraduate Research Programs complement the faculty, graduate, and professional research projects, partly by strengthening the talent pool. There are more Kirschstein-National Research Service Award pre-doctoral fellowship awardees in Emory than most research universities, too. The best ones are:
- The SURE or Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program is intended for full-time summer researchers.
- The Scholarly Inquiry and Research Experience (SIRE) Program connects undergraduates with faculty researchers looking for assistants. Undergraduates improve their skillsets through weekly classes, hands-on experiences, and professional interactions with faculty mentors.
Graduate fellows work with undergraduate researchers, too, on diverse programs in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Ohio State University
Ohio State’s enviable reputation among the world’s top research universities is cast in stone with its long list of inventions and innovations. Many of these inventions positively impact our daily lives, including freon for refrigeration, a vaccine for cancer prevention in cats, and processes for clean energy conversion.
With $968.3 million in total R&D spending in 2020, it isn’t just a well-supported institution but also considered among the nation’s most innovative universities. Federal funding amounted to $539.4 million, and industry funding was $150.2 million.OSU’s research spending has also increased every year, from $875 million in 2018 and $929 million in 2019 to its current $968.3 million. Federal agencies that provided funding included the NIH, NSF, and the Department of Education.
OSU’s extensive scope of subjects is due to its commitment to academic and research excellence, particularly promoting change and innovation. There are 15 different colleges with specific research programs, including an international academic medical center and health sciences colleges. The latter include medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, public health, nursing, and veterinary medicine.
Wexner Medical Center is noteworthy for its excellent rankings in 10 specialties, including cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, and neurology and neurosurgery. Researchers engage in life-changing studies that contribute to better patient care.
Aside from health and wellness, OSU is also known for its research on food and agriculture through the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Research on sustainability is conducted as an interdisciplinary science with the President and Provost’s Council on Sustainability and the Sustainability Institute at the helm.
The research facilities at OSU reflect the breadth of its research initiatives. Examples are the Byrd Polar Research Center, David Heart, Lung Research Institute, and Aeronautical/Astronautical Research Laboratory.
OSU also provides extensive resources to its researchers, including access to research tools including Buck-IRB, e-Tools, and PI Portal. These resources are also available to undergraduates engaged in research, usually under the supervision of faculty members. The Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry offers grants that support undergraduate research.
The Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) accepts applications for undergraduate research, too. The Department of Political Science has its Honors Research Distinction in Political Science and Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP). The Department of Psychology has numerous projects on human behavior, a few of which are for paid participants.
Providence, Rhode Island
Brown University’s track record in creating knowledge is tried and tested with its researchers engaged in cutting-edge studies throughout its history. As an AAU member, it has remained true to its mission of addressing the biggest challenges society faces through knowledge, too.
In 2019, its R&D spending amounted to $256.95 million. This is a significant leap from its 2006 R&D spending of $195.7 million, and it’s the kind of spending with concrete and positive results.
Brown has more than a few “first” distinctions, notably the first engineering program offered among the Ivy League and the first medical programs in New England. Its long history in the engineering and medical fields contributed to its prominence in research in these areas. Even its master’s and doctoral degree programs are among the oldest in the country, some of which date back to 134 years old!
Becoming an undergraduate researcher at Brown is as challenging as gaining admission! Brown is a highly selective university with a reported 5.4% acceptance rate in 2021! Undergraduates compete for slots in several research opportunities, including fellowships and grants like:
- The Karen T. Romer Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (UTRAs) program supports undergraduates working on faculty-led research and teaching projects. These are available during the academic year, including the summer term.
- The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) welcomes applicants from underrepresented populations who want to pursue doctorate degrees in key fields.
- The Brown Venture Launch Fund (BVLF) assists student entrepreneurs in launching their new ventures. The fund uses a gated award system with three levels.
The VPR or Office of the Vice President for Research provides useful services to students and faculty engaged in research projects. The assistance includes idea conceptualization, knowledge dissemination, and compliance with regulations. There are also services related to funding, awards management, and commercialization of discoveries.
Brown also has an annual Research Achievement Awards that honor the exceptional achievements of its researchers. The high-impact research covers various disciplines from engineering, computer science, and pediatrics to visual arts.
There are also several research institutes on Brown’s campus. The Cogut Institute for the Humanities is dedicated to innovations in humanities, including curriculum advancements. The Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES) studies the interactions between the human and natural systems. The Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation (IMNI) is an umbrella organization assisting centers involved in molecular, nanoscience, and materials sciences.
University of Florida
UF holds the distinction of being the only AAU member in the Sunshine State. The public land grant university is among the country’s most comprehensive institutions, with numerous institutes and centers and 16 colleges on its main campus alone. The comprehensive range means that interdisciplinary research projects are the norm, not the exception, at UF.
Researchers at UF are also well-funded due to the university’s enormous budget for the R&D sector. In 2020, total research spending increased by 1.5% from the previous year and reached $942.2 million. This was impressive considering a two-month pause on most research projects because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government made its largest contribution of $397.2 million, while state and local governments spent $169.2 million.
UF researchers are currently working on nearly 8,000 projects, including:
- The 1FloridaAlzheimer’s Disease Research Center seeks treatments and preventive measures for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. This is a UF-organized partnership with Miami, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Florida International University. Funding comes from the NIH National Institute on Aging.
- The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering trains 100 teachers using probes and sensors for STEM education purposes. Funding comes from the DoEd.
- The UF/IFAS TREC or Tropical Research and Education Center focuses on pest eradication and management of the avocado industry. The State of Florida and DA provide funding support.
UF researchers and innovators don’t rest on their laurels either! In 2020 alone, the university, through UF Innovation, received about 400 invention disclosures. Its number of patents awarded is also among the highest in the country on a year-to-year basis.
UF is also at the forefront of biotechnology research transfers, particularly in the commercialization of its innovations and inventions. This also applies to business startups, and UF has helped in launching 190 startups in 15 years. UF Innovate is the driving force behind new business launchings, aside from the venture capital and business incubators.
Licensing income contributes substantial amounts toUF’s gross annual revenues. The highest income generators are Gatorade, the famous sports drink; Trusopt, a glaucoma drug; and Sentricon, a system for termite elimination.
The Center for Undergraduate Research (CUR) is in charge of matters related to undergraduate research, including coordination of activities and expansion of opportunities. Undergraduates have various programs to choose from, such as the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Program and InvestiGators Research Honor Society.
University of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson must be so proud of what UVA has become in its 200-year old history! As an AAU member and the State of Virginia’s flagship university, its track record in R&D is unparalleled in the Old Dominion. Its research programs have identified five priority areas – democracy, precision medicine, digital technology, environmental resilience and sustainability, and society. UVA encourages a coordinated approach between its research centers, institutes, and labs to amplify their impact.
UVA’s annual research proposal budget is $2.02 billion, a combination of internal and external funding. In 2020, it received $436 million in sponsored research awards. Its School of Engineering was among the schools with the highest funding at $83 million. UVA reported 172 invention disclosures, too.
North Fork – A UVA Discovery Park is a sprawling research park operated by the University of Virginia Foundation. Science and technology firms, academic institutions, government contractors, nonprofits, and startups make their home here. Many of these organizations have collaborated with UVA’s faculty, students, and researchers on diverse issues, too. These include developing a treatment for diabetes, cancer, and alcohol addiction, unmanned, autonomous systems, and cyber hygiene and resiliency tools.
Among the organizations at North Fork are the MITRE Corporation, Battelle, and Signature Science. The UVA Applied Research Institute also makes its home here.
UVA also recognizes faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to their fields and whose research and scholarly works have a profound impact. The annual Research Achievement Awards is the venue for said recognition.
The VPR or Office of the Vice President for Research oversees the research programs at UVA, including providing support and safeguarding intellectual property. The UVA Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research Program (USOAR) welcomes first-year students and sophomores and transfer students under the Federal Work-Study program to apply for paid research positions. Students spend between five and ten hours every week in faculty-led research projects during the fall and spring terms.
The Office of Undergraduate Research offers grants for student-led research, too. The Double Hoo, Harrison Undergraduate Research Award, and Kenan Fellowship are a few examples. The University Award for Arts Projects is notable for its focus on showcasing the arts-related accomplishments of deserving undergraduates.
New Brunswick, New Jersey
Rutgers University, a land-grant and sea-grant university with AAU membership, lives up to its reputation as the best and largest public university in the Garden State. With more than 170 academic departments, there’s an abundance of opportunities for exceptional R&D projects in the Public Ivy.
The percentage of sponsored research in Rutgers” annual budget is nearly 14%, a significant chunk dedicated to advancing arts and humanities, social sciences, and STEAM. Rutgers also has a sizable endowment of more than $1.4 billion, and it’s also a source of funding for its pioneering research.
Such is the brilliance of its researchers that Rutgers is the place where many life-changing inventions and discoveries were made! Several antibiotics, such as streptothricin, actinomycin, clavacin, neomycin, and candicidin, were discovered here by Selman Waksman, who won the 1952 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Researchers also developed robotic hands, tetraploids, and water-soluble sustained-release polymers here.
The Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science, where researchers in fields as diverse as electric engineering, philosophy, and linguistics work together. Such diversity in research comes far easier for Rutgers researchers because of the numerous research centers, institutes, and laboratories within its campuses. The RCSB Protein Data Bank, awarded $34.5 million in grants in 2019, transforms medicine and biology through impactful research, including drug discoveries.
The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository are the largest of their kind globally, and it’s instrumental in understanding the genetic causes of diseases. The organization also undertakes collaborative projects with other researchers, mainly by providing biomaterials and bio-banking services.
Undergraduate research opportunities are provided in most of the academic departments, too. Students work alongside faculty members and researchers, resulting in enhanced academic experiences. The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School requires independent research among undergraduates with the stipulation of appropriate faculty supervision. Other notable research programs are:
- The Undergraduate Research Fellowships provide funding for student-led research.
- The Summer Science Program is for sophomores only, and it’s designed as a full-time, intensive, on-campus research experience. Students learn from mentors as well as participate in seminars, workshops, and social events.
- The Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Neuroscience chooses 12 students for its 10-week, hands-on research experience.
- The Rutgers RiSE program is a 10-week program where students learn about cutting-edge research in diverse fields from physical sciences to engineering.
West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University, an AAU member and a public land-grant university, truly makes an effort to secure funding for its wide range of research areas. For 2019, more than $520 million was secured in research funding, a substantial increase from 2018’s $454.5 million funding.
The largest sponsors were from the corporate and foundation sectors (28%), while the federal government through the NSF and DHHS contributed 29% in total. Even DOD funding has increased to $54 million, an increase by 39% that Purdue has put to good use in programs like:
- The Partners for University-led Solutions Engine (PULSE), a project financed by a $22 million infusion from USAID and intended for research development in developing countries.
- The $15.2 million fund infusion from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was used in information dissemination related to Medicaid technical assistance, quality patient care, and opioid addiction recovery.
- The DOE contributed $9.3 million to a new national center dedicated to a theoretical and experimental physics program.
Purdue’s commitment to high-impact research has resulted in 135 research institutes and centers on its main campus. Each of these organizations addresses particular needs and issues in society, but collaborative projects are common.
Purdue’s Discovery Park is home to several research centers and allows multidisciplinary groups to work on collaborative projects. Large and grassroots centers operate from Discovery Park; large organizations typically have external funding, while grassroots centers have departmental funding.
A few of these organizations are:
- A.H. Ismail Center for Health, Exercise, and Nutrition is the venue for fitness and exercise studies.
- Advanced Aviation Analytics Institute for Research promotes research in aviation/aerospace, applied engineering and management, and leadership.
- Advanced Lyophilization Technology Hub promotes research in freeze-drying/lyophilization.
- Bindley Bioscience Center performs research on life sciences and engineering.
The extensive university library system provides reliable and relevant information sources for researchers in and out of Purdue. There are 15 separate libraries in the West Lafayette campus, including an undergraduate library and a special collections and archives research center. Libraries with specific subject matters are also accessible. There are more than four million traditional and digital volumes in Purdue’s collections.
The Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) is the oversight organization that recognizes original research, creative work, and scholarship among undergraduates. Annual but non-renewable academic scholarships are provided to deserving students who work as full-time researchers.