Last week we announced the CSUPERB spring grant awards.* We spend the largest percentage of our annual budget on spring grants – last week we sent $567,088 to CSU students and faculty all over California. That total includes both our “major grant” (seed grant) programs and the faculty and student travel grant programs.
Last week I had Seth Godin’s mantra in my head, so it’s rewarding to see where the money is going. We’re sending CSU engineers, kinesiologists, and biologists worldwide to scientific and engineering conferences in San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Stockholm and Beijing.
We’re funding collaborative faculty-student research projects in medicinal chemistry, computational modeling, synthetic biology and more. Numerous PIs are planning on collecting next generation sequencing data sets, reflecting a sea-change in the way biological systems are characterized in CSU research laboratories these days. We’re funding joint ventures, including one between Dr. Jaqueline Padilla-Gamino, a new assistant professor at CSU Dominguez Hills, and the Catalina Sea Ranch. Together they are going to study temperature-tolerant strains of mussels that shellfish farmers can depend upon going forward. The joint venture also draws upon the expertise of faculty at CSU East Bay and CSU Long Beach. CSU Dominguez Hills student researchers will learn both biotechnology and aquaculture hands-on practices and skills along the way. Drs. Katie Wilkinson, Susan Lambrecht and Cleber Ouverney won a Curriculum Development grant to work with departmental colleagues to overhaul San Jose State University’s (SJSU) introductory biology curriculum to better align with the Vision & Change Report. Roughly 900 SJSU students per year will be impacted by the new course and laboratory sequence.
Many thanks to the fifty or so CSU faculty we recruited to review proposals this spring. This spring’s five review panels were the most diverse we’ve ever seated. They patiently worked through the new CSYou online review system with us. The expected disciplinary culture differences played out in front of us (engineers like terse, cogent descriptions; biologists like much more detailed and elegant prose). But we are also seeing generational shifts in biotechnologies. New Investigators bring with them postdoctoral experience in using genome-wide, system-wide research and data management methods.
The Vision & Change report predicts many of these cross-disciplinary, fast-changing aspects of biological science. It’s not easy; a couple of our first-time reviewers had a difficult time letting go of their disciplinary expertise and learning to take a “generalist view” of the diverse seed grant proposals CSUPERB considers. However, based on the reviews and proposals I read this spring, the CSU faculty are keeping up and even leading on many new education and research frontiers. There is no greater job than investing in the CSU’s students and faculty – I can’t wait to see what they do!
*For those of you waiting for CSU I-Corps decisions – be patient, we’re wrapping up interviews and administrative i-dotting and t-crossing this week.