Spectrum Logo
A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Investment in faculty members' ideas pays off

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 17 - January 22, 1998

Virginia Tech's $1.5-million investment in faculty members' strategies for improving the university's ability to compete for research grants and for improving the graduate-education experience has already paid for itself, according to Gene Brown, associate provost for program development in Research and Graduate Studies.
Progress reports from last year's ASPIRES (A Support Program for Innovative REsearch Strategies) project awards reveal that $1.6 million in sponsored-research grants has been awarded by outside agencies so far. Brown said that this achievement was especially remarkable since it was accomplished in only nine months of activity.
An additional $4.2 million in proposals have been submitted to outside funding agencies. "If one-third of these proposals are funded, a reasonable prediction given the fact that these activities have already seen peer review by the ASPIRES panels, our return on the principle invested will be 207 percent," Brown said.
At least as important, he says, are "the reports that obstacles to research and scholarship have been removed, claims of increased competitiveness, increases in scholarly reputation, and the future benefits of the research that is being funded."
"We are much more aware of and attuned to the process of obtaining sponsored research than we would have been otherwise, " wrote Laurence J. Moore in his progress report.
"The ASPIRES-funded activities are unique and have the interdisciplinary appeal required to parlay into several million dollars of externally funded grants from a number of agencies," said Michael F. Hochella Jr. of geology.
A summary of the results from a few of the proposals follows: A. A. Trani leveraged his $20,396 ASPIRES grant to acquire a $40,800 air-traffic-control-system simulator. The existence of the simulator played a significant role in obtaining more than $90,000 in sponsored research.
Wayne Durham and Mark Anderson report that updating of the Aerospace Engineering's Flight Simulation Laboratory using a $25,963 ASPIRES grant resulted in the US Navy authorizing $72,000 for modifications to the simulator flight-control system and an encouraging response to a tentative proposal for a $900,000 upgrade to the simulator visual system.
Faculty members in the departments of Computer and Wood Sciences created a prototype problem-solving environment (PSE) for application in the wood-products industry. Such a PSE has now been constructed with the use of a work station purchased as part of Fred Kamke's ASPIRES grant proposal, and faculty members from five additional departments have joined the group. The grant was instrumental in obtaining a USDA National Research Initiative Grant of $161,000 to develop a new simulation model for the hot-pressing process of a wood-based composite.
Mark Widdowson used his $16,400 ASPIRES grant to purchase soil-sampling systems to investigate the effectiveness of intrinsic bioremediation of hazardous compounds. As a result, a research project with the Norfolk Southern Corporation was approved in the amount of $341,000 and research funding is pending on more than $450,000 of additional research from the US Navy and Army.
Jeff Waldon reported that his $11,520 ASPIRES grant allowed him to assemble a Virginia Tech Office for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) Research. NASA has funded their new center for Environmental Applications for Remote Sensing, providing $419,000. An additional proposal has been submitted to the USDA and a seminar series on GIS/RS applications has begun.
David Notter's $7,000 ASPIRES grant for a Strategic Planning for a Sheep Germplasm Development Project has generated $14,040 in funding already and has the potential to generate more than half-a-million dollars more. As a result, the Virginia Agriculture Council provided $11,240 to evaluate genetic resistance to internal parasites; a $600,000 proposal has been submitted to the Fund for Rural America; and, $2,800 has been received from the sale of germplasm for the current breeding project.