The instrument that will form the heart of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, has...
UA Leads the Nation in Physical Sciences Research Funding
The NSF ranking indicates excellence in space, chemistry and physics research, officials say.
The UA's No. 1 ranking in physical sciences places it higher than institutions such as MIT, CalTech, Johns Hopkins and UC Berkeley. The UA was ranked No. 16 among all public universities for overall research funding and No. 24 when private universities were included – making it the top-ranked university in the Rocky Mountain region with regard to research funding.
"UA faculty members are building the largest, lightest telescope mirrors in the world, and they're developing unique approaches to harnessing solar energy. Also, the UA was the first public university to serve as the control center for a NASA mission," said Leslie Tolbert, the UA's vice president for research. "The NSF ranking tells us we're playing a leading role in the nation's physical sciences research effort."
This leadership role rests in large part in the areas of space and planetary sciences. Faculty members in these areas head up some of the largest research projects in the country, including sending high-resolution cameras to take close-up photos of Mars.
According to the NSF report, UA faculty members in the physical sciences were awarded almost $174 million in research grants from federal, state and private sources in the 2007-08 fiscal year. The report also shows the UA has been able to attract more funding for physical sciences each year, with the 2007-08 budget reflecting a 14-percent increase over the previous year.
"These numbers mean we're a powerhouse in physical sciences," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science. "It's remarkable that our outstanding faculty members in space sciences, chemistry, optical sciences, physics and other departments have received an increase in grant funding even in the midst of nationwide economic trouble."
Ruiz said dollar amounts are an indirect measure of quality. "Since the great majority of research grants are distributed on a peer-reviewed basis, being awarded big research grants means the reviewers look at UA's science as truly extraordinary."
He also emphasized how excellence in one field positively impacts the university as a whole. "For example, we do optical physics not only at our world-class College of Optical Sciences, but across many departments such as astronomy, planetary science, physics and engineering. UA science follows a very distributed model, which exemplifies the interdisciplinary scope of this institution."
Tolbert added: "As a premier university for the physical sciences, the UA is able to attract and keep top-notch faculty members who can provide top-notch education to Arizona's students."
The rankings of research and development expenditures in the physical sciences at universities and colleges can be found on the National Science Foundation website.