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Research & Discovery

Starting with the larger questions we have begun to identify within the College’s strategic planning process, we are focusing on our mission in research and looking closely at where are best positioned to drive innovation and create knowledge. 

Assistant Professor of Biology Sarah Kucenas, recipient of Virginia's highest honor for professors, the Outstanding Faculty Award.
Dan Addison / University Communications

We want to be mindful in this effort, building on our historic strengths while advancing new fields in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the computational, quantitative and data fields. The College needs to leverage its scale relative to peers such as Berkeley for focused investments, creating centers of research excellence that are cross-disciplinary within Arts & Sciences and between the College and other schools. The process of identifying these research areas is ongoing and begins not only by identifying disciplinary and cross-disciplinary fields but key global and historical questions and challenges we wish to address:

Types of questions informing our process include:

  • How can we understand the link between discoveries in neuroscience and human sensory perceptions of the world; individual and group social and economic behavior; and questions of human ethics, human will, and religious conviction?
  • How can we develop and quantitatively assess public policies for alleviating poverty, countering global epidemics, and designing flourishing global cities?
  • What is the future of war in an age when war is increasingly not fought between states but between states and non-state actors?
  • Are there, and should there be, limits on the advances enabled by revolutions in bio- and geo-engineering?
  • How can we address and lead research on systems of inequality, ability and disability, and structures of exclusion across histories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and religion?
  • What is the future of privacy in a world where digital technology has made virtually everything public?
  • How are the cultures, literatures, social and political forms of the Global South continuing to shape and pattern the contours of the transnational and the cosmopolitan?
  • How can we more powerfully articulate and demonstrate that basic research, scholarship, and creative work—in the natural and social sciences, and in the arts and humanities—is both a good in itself and fundamental to the vibrancy and possibility of a democratic society?
  • How can we put ourselves at the forefront of solving seemingly insolvable problems like climate change, poverty and religious violence?

In addition to shaping these research areas—and recognizing the increasing competitiveness for a limited pool of federal funding—we seek to grow external grant support by five percent annually through targeted investments in core facilities and other infrastructure improvements, such as the high-speed computing cluster; enhanced pre-award support, particularly for larger scale collaborative proposals; and the provision of seed funding for proof-of-concept and matching funds.

The restructuring of our graduate programs over the past several years has provided more predictable and competitive funding levels for our students.  Looking forward, we must plan a new round of commitments to build on this success to set our graduate programs at more highly competitive levels in the academy. We need to consider increasing fellowship support, balancing graduate student teaching loads, opportunities for professional master’s degree programs, and competitive funding for summer research grants.

Next Section: Faculty Hiring

 

U.Va. Research & Discovery In The News

 

ASTRONOMY

  • Astronomer Mike Skrutskie, who helped capture unprecedented images of a large lake of lava on Jupiter’s moon Io, using an advanced infrared camera that he designed and built in his lab at U.Va - full story;
  • Department of Astronomy and its collaborations with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory - full story;
  • Astronomy and chemistry professor Eric Herbst - Organic molecules can survive in space near black holes - full story;
  • Role of U.Va. astronomers in Sloan Digital Sky Survey, enabling scientists to search nearby stars for planets and probe the history of the Milky Way - full story;
  • Research by U.Va. physicists on neutrinos, “subatomic remnants of the early universe, … high-energy particles that pass at nearly the speed of light through everything” - full story;

CHEMISTRY

  • U.Va.’s new partnership with Max Planck Society for energy research - full story;
  • Chemistry professor James Landers’ lab receiving $1 million from U.Va.’s Applied Research Institute - a new agreement with Navy Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division - full story;

ECONOMICS

  • Economists’ study quantifying love in marriage - full story;
  • New study by Economics professor Steven Stern indicating that many residents of central Virginia are not receiving the public mental health services they need - full story;

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

  • Q&A with environmental scientist Jerry Stenger who serves as state climatologist - full story;
  • Environmental Sciences’ T’ai Roulson working with Smithsonian team to find rare bee - full story:
  • New study led by environmental sciences professor Paolo D’Odorico indicates global food supply may not meet escalating demand, especially in agriculturally poor countries as world population continues to grow - full story;
  • Karen McGlathery and other U.Va. environmental scientists using grants to study how coastal communities are changing in warming climate, and as result of rapidly rising seas - full story:
  • Mountain Lake Biological Station becoming member station of National Ecological Observatory Network of 106 research stations from the Arctic to the tropics - full story;

HISTORY

  • History professor Alon Confino’s new book, “A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide” - full story;

HUMANITIES

  • A team of U.Va. faculty, led by assoc. professor Chad Wellmon and professor Brad Pasanek, work to understand how ideas traveled during the 18th century, when thinkers in Europe began bucking traditional authority in favor of reason and individualism - full story;
  • English faculty’s successful bid to host exhibition of “First Folio” of Shakespeare’s works, one of the most famous books in the world - full story
  • Religious studies professor Charles Marsh's new biography of devout pastor who defied Hitler’s laws - full story;
  • English professor Stephen Cushman and Biology professor Sarah Kucenas receiving state’s highest honor for professors, recognizing superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service - full story;
  • English professor Stephen Cushman publishing two new books while teaching - full story;
  • English professor John Casey’s new book of essays on the art of fiction - full story;
  • “Notes” Web application developed by English professors John O’Brien and Brad Pasanek and applied to Thomas Jefferson’s book, “Notes on the State of Virginia” - full story;
  • Department of Drama’s production of “The Rimers of Eldrich” - full story;
  • Digital project at U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology to tie together primary sources from all over the world in one online application - full story;

NEUROSCIENCE/PSYCHOLOGY

  • Report on study by U.Va. neuroscientist/psychology chair David Hill on how taste cells regenerate - full story;
  • Published study by psychology professor and Ph.D. candidate on how region of brain sends signals to help prepare for potentially threatening situations - full story;
  • Psychology professor Joseph P. Allen’s study, published in the journal Child Development, that teens who tried to act cool in early adolescence were more likely than their peers who didn’t act cool to experience a range of problems in early adulthood - full story