The One University advantage
Values: Collaborating As One University
By Caroline Whitacre, Vice President For Research
How many times have you heard the phrase “Ohio State is one of the most comprehensive research universities in the United States?”
We tend to gloss over those words that frequently come in the first few sentences of any story about the university. But those words have an important meaning and underscore one of our greatest strengths. I would like to share my thoughts on the value of collaborating as One University.
First, the comprehensiveness of OSU provides a large array of opportunities for students to pursue research projects. As I strolled through the rows of posters at the 2010 Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, I could not help but be impressed at the universe of topics represented.
In the area of art there was “Interpersonal Relationships Through the Eyes of Crows,” and in engineering: “Development of an E85 Engine for the EcoCAR Hybrid Vehicle Competition.” In humanities there was “Experience of the AIDS Orphan in the Central and Eastern Regions of Ghana,” and in the health professions category I saw “Characterization of a Novel HSPB3 Mutation Causing a Motor Neuron Disease.”
Students have unlimited opportunities to pursue their passion and even to try a number of research projects throughout their time at OSU. A particularly visible articulation of collaborating as One University was the Solar Decathlon project in 2009. A group of students decided to enter this US Department of Energy competition, which focuses on the planning and building of a self-sustainable solar house. More than 60 students representing 20 different disciplines worked together on the OSU Solar House, which placed 10th in the world.
It was with a huge sense of pride that I stood in front of the OSU Solar House as it was displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and felt the sense of togetherness exemplified by our student team. What made this project even more important was that students from engineering, communications, political science, architecture, design and other disciplines came together to address global problems centering on energy and the environment. It took an unprecedented collaborative effort to provide all of the various disciplines necessary for the project. The competition, which is held every other year, is gearing up for 2011 and Ohio State has been invited to apply.
When we collaborate as One University, we become much more competitive for major grant opportunities. One only has to look at our present grant portfolio to appreciate this fact. OSU is one of the few universities in the country that can claim both a National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. These are large collaborative grants that typically involve faculty from different disciplines with the goal of advancing research in specific fields and passing that new knowledge along to students. Other examples include the Comprehensive Cancer Center Core grant, which has been in place at OSU since 1976, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science awarded in 2008, the Reading Recovery Program in place at OSU for the past 25 years and the recently awarded Population Health Initiative. All of these support far-reaching programs in biomedical research, engineering, education or population science.
Collaboration as One University, however, is about much more than securing large amounts of grant money. It means that we can tackle the world’s toughest problems with a multi-pronged approach, creative minds and state-of-the-art facilities. For example, the world’s food supply will need to increase by 40 percent over the next 15 years in order to meet the demand of the globe’s increasing population, which will go from 6 billion people today to a projected 8 billion people by 2025, leading to unprecedented needs for food production, food security and water. This is exactly the focus of one of the new OSU Centers of Innovation, which involves 80 faculty from 12 colleges. This group is undertaking such tough questions as, “How do you increase crop yields from a single acre of land?” and “How do you make today’s crops more disease resistant using approaches that can be applied in the third world?”
This is just one example of collaborating as One University; there are many — in alternative energy, personalized health care, overcoming poverty, complex systems and artistic design, to name a few.
I learn every day about new initiatives taking place at this great university and am astounded at the creativity and collaborative spirit of its citizens.
The View from the Top is a regular feature that appears monthly in onCampus.