Fueled by Faculty’s Bold Ideas and Eagerness to Combat the Pandemic, Grant Funding Reaches $86 Million, a 95% Increase Since 2016

The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science’s focus on bold research to benefit society resulted in another record-breaking year: Sponsored research funding reached $86 million in FY2021, continuing a six-year climb.

Overall, UVA Engineering’s research funding increased by 95% between fiscal years 2016 and 2021, starting at $44 million in FY2016. The growth coincides with an increase in UVA Engineering's tenured and tenure-track faculty since 2014. The school has taken a strategic approach to hiring, recruiting rising-star faculty in areas where UVA has significant multidisciplinary strength in engineering for health care, engineering for the cyber future, and engineering technologies for a sustainable and connected world.

The growth is also fueled by a dramatic increase in the school's graduate program - 64% since 2014.

The school is a strong contributor to the University's strategy for moving from prominence to preeminence in service of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation and world through discoveries that enrich and improve lives.

“We are exceptionally proud of our faculty, who are pursuing their bold ideas to create knowledge and technologies in areas of societal need, from health care to climate change to dealing with our growing cyber infrastructure,” said UVA Engineering Dean Jennifer L. West.

Illimitable Intelligence, Perpetual Energy

From precision medical treatments to systems that thwart cyber attacks and manage climate change, here at UVA, we're engineering a future way of life.

As evidence of UVA Engineering faculty members' success earning grant support for their ideas, multiple faculty have won prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Awards over the past two years:

  • Madhur Behl's research focuses on safer, more trusted autonomous vehicles. Behl, an assistant professor of computer science with a joint appointment in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment, is leading a UVA team in the inaugural Indy Autonomous Challenge in October.
  • Liheng Cai, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and chemical engineering, is developing adaptive photonic polymers that could be applied to windows and, at the flip of a switch, reflecting heat-producing infrared wavelengths while letting in all other visible light waves.
  • Steven Caliari, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia School of Engineering, studies fibrosis progression using hydrogels engineered to mimic living tissue.
  • Lu Feng, assistant professor of computer science and engineering systems and environment, is designing rigorous, model-based evaluations of human and cyber-physical system interactions, with the goal of improving systems’ safety and reliability.
  • Samira Khan, an assistant professor of computer science, is reinventing computer architecture to create networks fast enough to compute big data.
  • Kyusang Lee, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and materials science and engineering, is building the equivalent of a human eye to be used as optical sensors for autonomous vehicles, robotics, manufacturing processes or surveillance systems.
  • Daniel Quinn, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering with a joint appointment in electrical and computer engineering, is using fluid dynamics to study how tuna swim and start modeling and designing fast, highly maneuverable water and aerial drones.
  • Yuan Tian, assistant professor of computer science, is using machine learning voice testing to analyze interactions between voice-activated devices and third-party applications, aimed at better understanding security threats and contributing to advances in the design of a wide variety of internet of things platforms.
  • Bi-Chen Zhou, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, is working to modernize and make widely available a valuable tool in alloy development called the CALPHAD method, which stands for CALculation of PHAse Diagrams.

Three UVA Engineering faculty members also earned highly competitive Young Faculty Awards from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency:

  • Prasanna Balachandran, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, combines artificial intelligence and quantum mechanics to better target research and development of high entropy alloys that perform well in extreme environments.
  • Chloe Dedic, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, employs a state-of-the-art laser technique to measure the properties of flame and contribute to research on combustion at hypersonic speeds.
  • Jon Ihlefeld, associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering, is working to develop insulating materials for transistors that must perform reliably in high-temperature environments.

Click here to read more examples of UVA Engineering’s research projects.