Expanding research

A place where research, scholarship and creativity flourish, UNT is furthering its impact in science, engineering and nanotechnology to become a major research university that attracts top students and faculty. UNT’s new strategic plan for research lays out its vision and the steps it will take to reach Texas’ Tier One status. UNT submitted its plan to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in April, along with the state’s six other emerging research universities. University leaders already say UNT is on the right path.
UNT’s vision is to become a major research university with equally strong programs in the sciences and the arts while continuing to provide students with a top-notch education.
The university’s ability to expand in new directions while remaining student-centered is part of what attracted V. Lane Rawlins to serve as president for the 2010-11 academic year.
“A national research university can’t forgo teaching to do research. They go hand in hand,” says Rawlins, who oversaw Washington State University as it was designated a top-tier research university by the Carnegie Foundation — one of only 96 such institutions nationwide to reach this classification. “UNT is managing to give students the very best education while growing its research profile. That dual commitment will push it to the top tier and maintain its hold as one of the most comprehensive, diverse institutions in Texas.”
UNT recently created a 10-year plan to outline how it will meet the criteria of the state’s new Tier One program, which provides a pathway for Texas universities to become top research institutions. The plan calls for hiring more research-active faculty to increase external research funding, increasing graduate student support, improving undergraduate education, providing more opportunities for student and faculty development, and developing more research space.
“UNT has a strong foundation of being comprehensive and collaborative, which is the impetus for our growth as a national research university,” says Vishwanath “Vish” Prasad, vice president for research and economic development.
Faculty and students
Faculty will play an instrumental role in UNT’s goals as they attract funding for research and scholarship, an essential ingredient for a top research university. UNT will continue recruiting and retaining more high-quality faculty, seeking those who are already known in their fields or are rising stars and who conduct multidisciplinary research.
UNT’s seven active research clusters already are drawing prominent faculty and yielding results. For instance, two new experts hired as plant signaling cluster faculty are bringing $2.3 million in research funding to UNT.
At the same time, UNT is enhancing graduate and undergraduate education to maintain a high-achieving student body and strong graduation rates. UNT already has boosted its competitiveness by investing about $6 million in the past three years in graduate education, with more than $3 million for more competitive stipends, scholarships and fellowships.
The university is committed to providing researchers with top-notch facilities, including a new high-performance computing facility and a design render farm to support animation and visual imaging. UNT also has a host of new or improved facilities in the works. They include a nanofabrication facility, the new Life Sciences Complex, the future Business Leadership Building and a new research field station in Chile. UNT plans to create about 300,000 square feet of research space through reallocation, renovation and new construction to accommodate new hires and new research emphases.
Discovery Park, UNT’s nearly 290-acre research facility, is UNT’s hub of research and innovation. It features a unique combination of high-powered microscopes and other tools to give UNT’s nanotechnology research a competitive edge, says Raj Banerjee, associate professor of materials science and engineering and director of UNT’s federally funded Institute for Science and Engineering Simulation.
Nowhere else in the region will researchers and industry find the space, expert knowledge, research capability and economic development potential that Discovery Park offers, Prasad says.
Learn more about UNT’s quest for major research university status >>

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