Research expenditures climb with interdisciplinary growth

February 24, 2004

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State's research expenditures in fiscal 2003 climbed to $545 million buoyed by the University's strength in interdisciplinary projects that involve collaborations by faculty members and students from across the University.

According to the Annual Report of the Office of the Vice President for Research -- published at -- more than 60 percent of the total expenditures were made in four strategic, interdisciplinary, collaborative programs: Materials Research Institute, Penn State Institutes of the Environment, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the Social Science Research Institute, including the Children, Youth and Families Consortium. Together, the four initiatives account for $333 million of the total expenditures.

Eva J. Pell, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School, says, "Funding for research expenditures comes primarily from federal, industry, and foundation sources and is spent mostly in Pennsylvania, providing an important boost to the state's economy. The ability of our faculty members to propose and successfully compete for these funds in the national arena reflects the excellence of the University's basic and applied research programs."

Fiscal 2003 is the first year that expenditures from federal agency sources exceeded $300 million. Expenditures from National Science Foundation funds were up 20 percent to $42 million with programs in nano-science and nano-technology primarily responsible for the increase. These projects involve manipulation of small groups of atoms and molecules, or even individual atoms and molecules, to construct ultra-small functional units that have applications in healthcare, microelectronics, national defense, homeland security, communications, and manufacturing.

For example, one nanotechnology project at Penn State's Particulate Materials Center involves nanospheres so small it would take 10,000 to span the width of a human hair. Filled with fluorescent dye and inhaled or injected into the human body, these tiny glowing particles could attach themselves to tumor cells or white blood cells enabling safe and effective pinpointing of tumors or treatment of infections.

Other significant increases in expenditures from federal sources include Department of Energy, up 37 percent to $12.5 million; the Department of Defense, up 9 percent to $116 million; and the Department of Health and Human Services, up 4.6 percent to $86 million.

According to National Science Foundation (NSF) data for 2001, the most recent tally available, Penn State ranked 11th among all U.S. universities in R&D expenditures. The NSF report on university research expenditures across the nation for fiscal 2003 is not yet available. The rankings can be seen on the NSF Web site in Academic Research and Development Expenditures: Fiscal 2001 at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009