Multidisciplinary research centers and institutes are a significant part of the culture at leading research universities like ours. They bring together researchers from multiple fields and offer an avenue to partner with academic, industry and government stakeholders, providing fertile ground for generating ideas and solving problems in an integrated and comprehensive way.
At the University of Idaho, multidisciplinary research units fall into several levels, with Level II units generally considered “centers” and Level III units considered “institutes.” In the interest of promoting an enhanced understanding of what factors differentiate such units, I want to point faculty and staff to our guidelines on the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) website. As you’ll see, the Level III institutes have a higher expectation for interdisciplinary activity and for being resourced both internally, across multiple units, and externally, via agencies and other sources.
This month, I would like to highlight some noteworthy developments with our Level III Institutes. We have renewed the Level III charters of the Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary Studies (IBEST) and Aquaculture Research Institute (ARI). I appreciate the input from multiple colleges during the review process.
At IBEST, Jack Sullivan recently announced he will be stepping down as director at the end of the academic year. We appreciate his leadership in helping IBEST succeed in its mission to advance interdisciplinary research in evolutionary science, and I look forward to launching a search for a new director. IBEST collaborative activities of note include: the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program funded Polymorphic Games to develop evolutionary procedural content generation; NIH funded international collaboration to understand the genetic basis of a unique transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils; and USDA funded a collaboration with Colorado State University that focuses on the role of genetic variation and adaptation in the expanding range of a beetle introduced for biological control of an invasive weed.
ARI will have a new fish research building on the west campus in Moscow that will be equipped with technology to conduct both freshwater and saltwater research. Director Ron Hardy will be spending time in both Moscow and Hagerman as he oversees the mission of the ARI. Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station Director Brian Small is leading the Hagerman station and continuing its focus on fish nutrition while seeking to increase research in genetics, physiology and fish health. It is an exciting time for our world-class aquaculture research enterprise.
We’re also proud to introduce Alan Kolok as our new director for the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute (IWRRI); he joins us from the University of Nebraska, where he was director of the Nebraska Watershed Network at Nebraska-Omaha and the Center for Environmental Health and Toxicology at the Nebraska Medical Center. I know he is excited to build on IWRRI’s 50-year history and chart its course toward nationally recognized excellence in integrated water-based human and biophysical systems.
I continue to be thankful for the contributions of all our multidisciplinary centers and institutes. Our fantastic researchers, support staff, and administrators are helping to develop solutions for the complex problems facing our society, directly supporting our state’s land-grant research university mission.
Janet E. Nelson
Research and Economic Development
UI Biologist Receives National Science Foundation Grant
Wildlife biologist Ryan Long received a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue studying how body size impacts behavior and survival of native antelope in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa.
Meet Baxter, the 300-Pound Robot in Coeur d'Alene
Baxter does his best to teach the basics of robotics and artificial intelligence to the students at the University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene Computer Science Department. He’s even learning to make them coffee.