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Faculty and staff recognized for research accomplishments, illuminating UNC Charlotte’s ‘star on the rise’

By: Susan MessinaTuesday, November 2, 2021

On Oct. 28, UNC Charlotte recognized members of the faculty and staff for their new and ongoing achievements in research at the 2021 Niner Research Reception. The event, held this year at Hauser Alumni Pavilion, brought together faculty and staff from across the University and highlighted the accomplishments of 278 researchers in 15 award categories.

“Our success as a research institution is reflected in your success,” said Rick Tankersley, vice chancellor for the Research and Economic Development Office, to those gathered. “There is no question that UNC Charlotte’s star is on the rise, and our research enterprise is expanding in exciting ways.”

Tankersley noted that despite the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 800 research proposals were submitted, translating to three per working day. These resulted in:

  • 207 New Awards (recipient of at least one new award)
  • 34 First Awards (first award at UNC Charlotte)
  • 12 Big Awards ($1M+)
  • 188 PIs (principal investigator on a new award)
  • 69 Co-PIs (co-principal investigators on a new award)
  • 62 Multiple Awards (recipients of two-plus awards)
  • 97 Collaborative Awards (two-plus faculty or staff members from different departments/units)
  • 43 Multi-college Awards participants in a sponsored award with two-plus others in different colleges)
  • 56 Multi-institution Awards (participants in a sponsored award with one or more researchers from another university)
  • 10 New Faculty (tenured or tenure track faculty who joined the University in fall 2020 and fall 2021)
  • 16 New Patent Awards
  • 5 New Startup Awards
  • 12 I-Corps (completed Ventureprise’s NSF I-Corps program)
  • 48 Supplement Awards (PI on a research supplement to an existing award)
  • 24 faculty participated in Catalyst Boot Camps for STEM+ and Arts and Humanities

A strategic focus on research

Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber emphasized the role of research as a strategic area of focus in UNC Charlotte’s new 10-year strategic plan, “Shaping What’s Next.” She said, “For the next decade we will define our commitment to expanding UNC Charlotte’s research enterprise as ‘powering the future through inquiry, research and creative discovery.’ Your work will be critically important as we make that happen — and pursue our goal to become a top-tier research university.”

Since last December, an R1 commission, composed of key University faculty, staff and administrators, has convened to study the University’s potential path to becoming a top-tier research university. Tankersley announced the commission’s report and recommendations will be available in the coming weeks. The report will include strategies and tactics for expanding grant-seeking training and support for proposal development, strengthening and expanding existing doctoral programs, growing community engaged and use-inspired research, expanding seed grant and planning grant opportunities, adopting a cluster-hire culture, expanding efforts to attract and retain top-notch faculty and aligning doctoral training with existing areas of excellence and industry needs.

Sukumar Kamalasadan“It’s encouraging that community-engaged research is supported and understood as vital to the well-being of the city and region,” said Tamara Johnson, director of engaged scholarship, Office of Urban Research and Community Engagement, who received a New Award and a Co-PI Award as well as recognition for collaboration. Sonyia Richardson, assistant professor, School of Social Work, who earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from UNC Charlotte, and received New and PI awards, added, “I’m honored and inspired to attempt to pursue additional funding for future research opportunities.”

The commission’s report also will include a list of 17 areas of research focus and distinction, which will serve as an invitation to faculty to participate in UNC Charlotte’s strategic progress.

“The steps UNC Charlotte is taking are extremely important as we pursue top-tier research status,” said Sukumar Kamalasadan, Duke Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, whose research interests span smart grid design and modernization, renewable energy integration and other topics. He received Collaborative, Co-PI, I-Corps, Multi-Institution, Multiple, New, PI and Supplemental Awards for 2021. “I look forward to learning more about ways the forthcoming research plan will be implemented for success.”

Photo, inset, Sukumar Kamalasadan, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received eight recognitions at the 2021 Research Reception as depicted by the ribbons on his nametag.