System-wide research successes highlighted at SIU board meeting

Carbondale, Ill. – Faculty and staff across the Southern Illinois University System successfully obtained over $93.6 million in contracts and grants in support of research, training and creative activity in FY 2021. Those totals, as well as individual success stories, were shared by top research officers at the SIU Board of Trustees September 16 meeting.

The presentation, led by Dr. Gireesh Gupchup, the SIU System’s vice president for academic innovation, planning and partnerships, included Dr. Gary Kinsel, interim vice chancellor for research at SIU Carbondale; Dr. Don Torry, associate dean for research at the SIU School of Medicine; and Dr. Jerry Weinberg, associate provost for research at SIU Edwardsville. Each took turns highlighting the success of their campus’ research enterprise and how research advancements improve the lives and healthcare of individuals.

“From agriculture to zoology and everything in between, SIU System researchers are on the cutting edge making our lives and homes and communities better places. Their success in obtaining grants and contracts to support groundbreaking work is recognized within the higher education community and beyond,” said Gupchup.

SIU Carbondale is ranked among the top 5% of all U.S. higher education institutions for research. According to the National Science Foundation, SIU Edwardsville ranks first for research expenditures among Emerging Institutions in the Midwest and third in research expenditures among Doctoral/Professional Universities.

In addition to their presentations, highlights of the reports submitted by the campus chief research officers included:

  • The work of Dr. Sharon Locke, director of the Center for STEM Research, Education, and Outreach and professor of Environmental Science at SIU Edwardsville, who received $1.3 million from the National Institutes for Health.  Locke and co-primary investigators Drs. Georgia Bracey, Jennifer Zuercher, and Carol Colaninno, lead a team of SIUE faculty researchers, curriculum developers and graduate students who are developing a community-based environmental health program providing minority students with opportunities to prepare for a career in health sciences.

  • In total, the SIU Carbondale College of Education was awarded $19.5M over the period to provide a broad range of services from early childhood development to Head Start programming as well as health education and other opportunities. An award of note in this area, which is also a collaboration across the SIU System, totals $2.65M to support the Illinois Science Assessment Partnership. Dr. Harvey Henson, assistant professor and interim director of the STEM Education Research Center is the primary investigator.

  • At the SIU School of Medicine Center for Family and Community Medicine in Springfield, Iris Wesley and School of Medicine faculty are leading several projects funded by Delta Dental, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and others. The collective approximate $1.5 million in support provides community outreach and support to increase COVID testing capacities, State CARES Pandemic Stability payments, pandemic health navigator program, and health care vans for childhood and influenza immunizations in central and southern Illinois.

Following the research presentation, Dr. Gupchup welcomed Rob Patino, SIU System director of technology management and industry relations who presented the inaugural SIU System Inventor of the Year award to Dr. Khalid Meksem, professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems at SIU Carbondale. Chosen from across the university system, Meksem is internationally recognized as an expert in studying the devastating effects of the soybean cyst nematode.

The Inventor of the Year recognizes accomplished inventors whose activity over the past 5 years have made outstanding inventorship contributions to the SIU System.  Among Khalid’s contributions include 10 invention disclosures, 8 provisional patent applications, 2 US issued patents (including one issued in China) and a license agreement with a multi-billion dollar chemicals company.

“Agriculture is the number one industry in Illinois and the work of Dr. Meksem is vital to our soybean producers, but his scholarship has implications that reach across our nation and to every corner of the world where soybeans are grown. We are proud of his work and his example which shows how our faculty, staff and students are making a difference in so many places,” said SIU Board Chair Phil Gilbert.

Also, during the meeting, the board formally adopted the university’s budget for the fiscal year as well as made financial plans for the coming year’s operations and capital budgets. As part of the current budget, trustees approved a salary increase plan that establishes general parameters for salary increases. It does not address changes in salaries established through collective bargaining. Effective October 1, eligible employees at SIU Carbondale and in the SIU System Offices will receive 2%. Eligible employees at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will receive 2.5%. At SIU Edwardsville, eligible employees will receive 2% (effective July 1, 2021).

“The fact that the board is able to approve salary increases is a sure sign that our campuses have been making solid financial decisions. With a continued outlook for stable state funding and smart fiscal planning, hopefully we can continue to offer adjustments to our dedicated employees,” said SIU System President Dan Mahony.

The presentations, along with the entire September 16 Board of Trustees meeting, can be viewed here.