External research funding creates opportunities for students, faculty; offsets state funding cuts


Brian Esquivel

Research at PNW has created many opportunities for students. More than 50 research programs underway drive experience for undergraduate and advanced degree students and help balance out state funding cuts.

PNW is getting known as a university that does research. 

PNW currently has 50 externally funded research programs underway. More than $10 million supports faculty research in a variety of areas. 

“The shift from primarily teaching to more focus on research leads us in the direction of becoming an all-encompassing university that offers more doctoral degrees and a new influx of faculty-focused research,” said Maja Marjanovic, director of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Funds have come through research grants and other awards from federal agencies, like the Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Education and Indiana Department of Transportation.

Marjanovic said the increased research funding signals a change in the university’s focus and provides students with more opportunities to experience cutting-edge projects. 

“Without additional research, we’re stuck learning history,” said Marjanovic. “If you’re only learning from textbooks, you’re learning about things from someone else that happened almost a decade ago instead of conducting projects that add to your development.”

While some faculty members have long been involved in government and other research, external research funding jumped to more than $14.5 million in the 2020-21 school year. Funding topped $11 million last year and remains solid today.

“CIVS has established partnerships with local industry to model manufacturing processes in order to increase efficiencies and/or reduce emissions,” said Michael Zimmer, a faculty fellow for undergraduate research. “These are wonderful opportunities for our students to work with industry partners to tackle real-world issues.”

The outside funding provides students access to newer technology as well as the ability to conduct research independently inside and outside academia. The projects engage students, hire more staff and student workers and advance knowledge globally.

This also burnishes the university’s reputation through project presentations and publication. 

Marjanovic said program grants and externally funded research has grown significantly in the last five years. 

The additional research funding is timely, as state governments are tightening their belts, constraining support for higher education.

“Universities are being funded less and less by the state and we’ve had to find different sources,” she said. “Compared to back then, we can’t expect determinants to be able to fund research, so we turn to external sources of funding.”