Funds aid researchers, SD County’s economy


UCSD official says money will aid about 800 positions

There are numerous ways UCSD is going to spend the $40 million-plus in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds it has received.

And that’s good news for the region, based on calculations in a study of the university’s economic impact.

Art Ellis, UCSD vice chancellor for research, estimates that the stimulus funding will preserve or create about 800 positions.

“A key criterion of these proposals for stimulus funds is that the research must keep people at work or put people to work,” Ellis noted. “A recent study of UCSD’s economic impact estimates that every million dollars in research funding preserves or creates approximately 20 jobs, so we believe that the current level of stimulus funding maintains or opens roughly 800 positions. … The funding agencies have recognized UC San Diego’s role in advancing regional, state and national goals.”

The funding, though, comes with earmarks, Ellis said in an interview after the news release was issued.

He explained that stimulus funding is awarded through agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which evaluate project proposals put forward by individual researchers or research teams at UCSD.

“Any stimulus funds the projects receive, based on the merits of the proposals, are spent on the proposed research,” Ellis said, adding that, without that funding, many projects through the NIH or the NSF would be “hard-pressed to conduct work.”

“That our researchers have succeeded in explaining the merits of their work to these and other funding agencies is evidence of the value of their research,” he added.

The UCSD research teams who applied for stimulus funding will be held accountable for spending the funding for the purposes described in their proposals, he said.

Research receiving federal stimulus funds, according to the university’s news release:

  • Steffanie Strathdee, a professor of medicine, has received funding to continue her work to stop the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases in Tijuana.
  • Richard Northcutt, a biologist, is showing how the nervous systems of vertebrates have changed since land animals first appeared, and how this may affect our behavior.
  • Gerry Boss, another professor of medicine, received funding to teach students at Helix High School about conducting research and clinical trials.
  • Richard Norris at Scripps Institution of Oceanography received funding that prepares the next generation of graduate students for the enormous interdisciplinary challenges of marine conservation.
  • Seana Coulson, a cognitive scientist, received funds to advance her research into how people integrate what they hear when the speaker uses hand gestures in addition to words.
  • Judith Varner, professor of medicine, received about $1.9 million to continue her team’s research on new approaches to treating cancer by focusing on a better understanding of and new ways to combat angiogenesis (the development of a tumor growth-promoting blood supply) and tumor inflammation.
  • Kang Zhang, director of the School of Medicine’s Institute for Genetic Medicine, has received $3 million in funding for genetic studies of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in adults over age 60.

UCSD scientists have submitted proposals that request a total of more than $660 million for projects, and hope that the $40 million-plus mark will soon be greatly surpassed as their project proposals are studied and funded.