Faculty foster ideas for discoveries

Mitra Dutta, UIC Vice Chancellor for Research

Faculty members across campus are participating in workshops to talk about their research and form new collaborations, says Mitra Dutta, vice chancellor for research ­(Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin)

More than 200 faculty members across campus are engaging in enthusiastic discussions about their research in the hopes of forming new collaborations and developing innovative ideas for discoveries.

Workshops hosted by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research (OVCR) began this spring, but all faculty members are invited to participate in the working groups, which will continue this summer and fall.

The groups focus on areas related to UIC’s research strengths and priorities: social justice and community disparities, urban infrastructure, functional and regenerative materials, the brain, personalized medicine/genomics and big data.

At the request of Chancellor Michael Amiridis, the research themes were identified by the OVCR, with help from the university’s Research Advisory Council, Dean’s Council, Senate Research Committee and faculty.

Working groups allow faculty to come together, share their research, brainstorm and problem-solve, which could potentially lead to cross-campus collaborations, said Mitra Dutta, vice chancellor for research.

“[Faculty] might not know about related work that’s going on in another college or on another side of campus that may impact their own,” she said. “We are a full-service university. We have so many different disciplines in our different colleges. It’s easy to put people of all different kinds of expertise together. We need to take advantage of what we have.”

Dutta’s office helps participants identify and pursue a variety of funding opportunities, too.

“We negotiate finding funding and give [faculty] whatever support they need to develop large, multidisciplinary proposals,” Dutta said.

In 2016, Dutta helped UIC researchers secure a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund a STEM education program called INCLUDES, Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science.

“It’s small and it’s a pilot [program], but it allows us to apply for a $12.5 million award down the road,” Dutta said.

University leaders hope the groups will help shape the direction of UIC’s future research.

“We’re looking to help researchers get the car moving,” said Anthony Halford, director of sponsored projects in the Office of Research Services. “But ultimately, this has to be driven by them.”

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