Research partnerships help propel UTSA to Tier One status

Durango Building

Durango Building, UTSA Downtown Campus

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(Oct. 31, 2013) -- Gone are the days when a researcher could sit alone quietly in the laboratory to test a hypothesis. Today's most pressing global challenges are complex and require interdisciplinary solutions. They require dialogue and collaboration.

Strategic partnerships are intrinsic to the strength of the nation's top research universities. As UTSA advances toward Tier One recognition, several local and regional partnerships are helping boost UTSA's research and teaching programs.

When UTSA and CPS Energy teamed up to create the CPS Energy-UTSA Energy Research Alliance in 2010, Mayor Julian Castro called the partnership a "game changer" that would give ratepayers a more efficient utility, while propelling UTSA to Tier One status.

And the partnership is holding up to that expectation.

The 10-year, $50 million program has already supported San Antonio's positioning as a green energy corridor. Likewise, it has initiated new research programs at the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute, while allowing UTSA to recruit and train the next generation of leaders in energy.

UTSA has partnered with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Biomed SA and industry leaders to establish the Commercialization Council. The elite group of C-suite members is dedicated to creating an entrepreneurial culture. Through its collective network, the council has created an ecosystem to support San Antonio's technology entrepreneurs, many of whom are now coming from UTSA.

At the same time, many members of the council have developed processes to enable collaborative research projects. UTSA and SwRI, for example, are now in the fourth year of their joint Connect program, which annually awards funding to collaborative research projects in advanced materials, chemistry and chemical engineering, energy, the environment, security and manufacturing. The goal is to develop new technologies that can lead to more external research funds as well as new companies and products that can help create jobs and contribute to the economic development of our region.

In science and engineering, UTSA has received strong support from the military. Notably, a five-year, $4.6 million grant from the Department of Defense allowed UTSA to establish a Center of Excellence in Infection Genomics in 2011. The funding supports microbiology research, teaching and outreach programs aligned with Army priorities. Additionally, UTSA scientists and engineers are supported by another 22 grants and contracts combined from the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. UTSA researchers also work closely with scientists from the Institute for Surgical Research, which is based at the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

UTSA's partnerships have resulted in excellent new learning opportunities for students.

The Facilitated Acceptance Medical School (FAME) program that is jointly offered by UTSA and the UT Health Science Center San Antonio allows top scholars to earn their B.S. and M.D. degree programs in seven years rather than the traditional eight.

Additionally, the support of strong partners is allowing UTSA to offer several exceptional graduate degree programs that would be challenging for UTSA to offer alone. College-educated professionals now have the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees in business administration and public health, biomedical engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, and Translational Science at UTSA.

Top-tier universities are nationally recognized for excellence in educating students, making research-based discoveries and serving the community. Through collaboration, they stimulate economic growth and improve society's well being.

Partners like the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, SwRI, the military, SAWS and CPS Energy are critical to UTSA's mission. With the help of these and other partners around the world, UTSA is rapidly achieving its goal to become a Tier One research institution that bolsters San Antonio's economy. A top-tier city deserves a top-tier university.