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For More Than Four Years, ‘The Mizzou Advantage’ has Encouraged Research Growth, Brought Nationally Renowned Faculty to Campus

MU initiative awards $3.8 million to fund additional projects; hires new faculty fellow

June 2nd, 2014

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430, BasiC@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— The Mizzou Advantage, an initiative that fosters interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty, staff, students and external partners to solve real-world problems in four areas of strength identified at the University of Missouri, is turning four years old this summer. Officials say the first four years have been very successful, bringing more than $13 million to campus. They also announced today new awards of more than $3.8 million to 45 interdisciplinary teams representing dozens of MU faculty across multiple departments and colleges. A new faculty fellow to lead the initiative in the future also has been announced.

“What is remarkable is the impact The Mizzou Advantage has had in such a short time,” said Ken Dean, interim provost. “It has achieved an enviable return on investment and is clearly realizing the hope of those faculty and campus leaders who brought it to fruition. We’re looking forward to the next several years as it continues to benefit our campus.”

“The Mizzou Advantage was created to increase MU’s visibility, impact and stature in higher education, locally, statewide, nationally and around the world in the areas where MU is highly differentiated: Food, Media, Sustainable Energy and One Health/One Medicine,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said. “This latest report demonstrates that the initiative has been successful in its early goals. We have hired seven prominent faculty with funds from the initiative, built interdisciplinary networks on and off campus, and created a better learning atmosphere for our students. The Mizzou Advantage is helping build a better Mizzou.”

Over the past four years, The Mizzou Advantage initiative has been used to conduct research; invite nationally prominent speakers to campus; provide funding for development of faculty, staff and students to travel to and present at national conferences; attract external research funding; and host training programs and conferences at Mizzou. In return, the campus has received $13.4 million – of which $9.4 million has come from research grants tied directly to Mizzou Advantage research programs and $4 million has come from donations by outside donors.

Some previous research projects include:

  • Breaking Down Biomass–MU faculty members studied how to break down biomass (e.g. grasses) more efficiently. As a result, MU researcher William Jacoby has joined with other researchers at Duke University who are utilizing his methods to break down waste. Jacoby’s team has received a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation looking to bring sustainable sanitation solutions to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation.
  • Growing Biomass and Restoring Flood Plains – an MU research team is studying how to reclaim developed flood plain land, keep the waterways free of potential pollutants, and develop a cash crop for farmers by planting willow trees near streams.
  • Enhancing Heart Blood Flow After Coronary Treatment – A group of MU researchers are trying to enhance coronary artery blood flow by preventing blood clots and cell growth, which can occur when treating coronary artery disease. The researchers received a NIH grant for $1 million.

Additionally, The Mizzou Advantage has funded 82 graduate and 50 undergraduate students to travel to and attend conferences. It also has provided funds for six staff development awards and 29 faulty development awards. The initiative also provides $50,000 per year to the Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors program to host nationally prominent speakers, researchers and scholars in The Mizzou Advantage’s four areas.

One of Loftin’s goals is to increase MU’s standing in the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of 62 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada. AAU universities are on the leading-edge of innovation, scholarship and solutions that contribute to the nation’s economy, security and well-being. Today, Dean announced new funding awards from The Mizzou Advantage that will help meet this goal.

“We’re very excited to announce new awards from The Mizzou Advantage totaling $3.8 million that will fund 45 projects,” Dean said. “Each of these awards was evaluated, in part, on the potential to help us advance our goals on one or more of the measurements used by the AAU, which include faculty citations, number of prominent faculty on campus, faculty awards and memberships in national academies, and competitively funded federal research support. I’m very excited about the new level of success for The Mizzou Advantage in the months ahead.”

Some of those newly funded projects include:

  • Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears in Female Youth Athletes with Video Game Technology – MU researchers in medicine, computer science, information science & learning technology, and orthopedic surgery are using video game technology to develop screening software to measure female athletes’ knee angles during jumping and landing tasks. This technology is being used to develop injury prevention programs to identify and proactively treat at-risk female athletes at a much lower cost.
  • Immersive, Interactive, Integrative: The News of Tomorrow in 3D – As media technologies continue to evolve, consumers are provided with more elaborate story coverage across multiple platforms and devices. Researchers in journalism, architectural studies and computer science will study the potential of “news in 3-D,” the possible next level in the media-communications hierarchy. They will explore new techniques for telling stories in 3-D and systematically study how people learn and absorb content through this emerging media.
  • Interdisciplinary Inter-Institutional Stroke Research Collaborative – MU researchers from multiple colleges and schools across campus are collaborating to establish a detailed registry to simplify the many elements involved in stroke research. On campus, this will lower stroke researchers’ costs and improve efficiency. It also will foster partnerships with neighboring institutions (e.g. Washington University, University of Missouri – Kansas City, etc.) to address state and national health issues.

As The Mizzou Advantage moves forward, the initiative will be guided by Jerry Frank, assistant professor of history, who was named faculty fellow for The Mizzou Advantage, effective June 1. As faculty fellow, Frank will work with The Mizzou Advantage facilitators to encourage collaborative networking among experts at MU, around the nation and the world; coordinate faculty hires and sponsorship of conferences; help with outside funding proposals; and assist with developing appropriate infrastructure to meet the needs of large projects.

Prior to coming to MU in 2010, Frank was the director of the Colorado Water Workshop where he worked with scholars, students, industry and policy makers to understand and address the pressing economic, political, social and environmental issues related to western water. In just two years, Frank significantly reduced the program’s overhead costs, raised sizable funds in donations and grants, and hosted two major regional conferences. Since his arrival at MU, Frank has been awarded the Provost’s Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award and published his first book, Making Rocky Mountain National Park: The Environmental History of an American Treasure.

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