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Greenville Business Magazine

Clemson faculty support focus on new research office

Sep 11, 2017 01:20PM ● By Kathleen Maris

Clemson University has taken another significant step in its growth as a leading national research university by creating the Office of Research Development in the Division of Research.

According to Tanju Karanfil, Clemson’s vice president for research, the goals of the new office are to increase the number of large, multi-department, multi-institutional grants valued at $2 million and greater, and to help faculty attain select research development activities, such as federal CAREER awards.

Sez Atamturktur, provost’s distinguished professor and a professor in the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences, will lead the new office as its director and the newly appointed assistant vice president for research development. Atamturktur has successfully led Clemson proposals for several multimillion dollar grants and has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator of about $10 millions in funding.

“The way we do research has changed, and with it, the funding environment has changed,” Karanfil said. “Our region, the country, and the world are facing large, complex problems that require a team approach involving multiple disciplines and multiple universities and significant effort and long-term strategic commitments. Funding agencies are rewarding universities who can lead those teams.”

Karanfil likened Atamturktur’s new role to the offensive coordinator for Clemson’s national football championship Tigers.

“Dr. Atamturktur has proven many times that she knows how to successfully navigate the process of research funding. She is also highly respected by her colleagues as a dynamic, visionary leader,” Karanfil said.

“I am honored to be selected to lead the office, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to provide the resources necessary to increase Clemson’s competitiveness,” Atamturktur said. “To this end, we will focus on developing high-impact, high-dollar proposals that involve multiple disciplines, both within Clemson and between Clemson and other universities. We will also help junior faculty improve funding strategies – from identifying funding agencies and specific grants to building networks, to improved grant writing – to develop their research portfolios and position themselves for high-dollar submissions.”

Clemson’s research enterprise has grown steadily in recent years, growing expenditures from $75 million in 2013 to $89 million in 2017.

In 2013, the university’s researchers collectively applied for $386 million in funding and received $78 million. In 2017, the university applied for more than $561 million in funding and landed $109 million. At the same time, the number of proposals for grants worth $1 million and more grew from 66 to 116. This growth contributed to Clemson’s recent recognition as a Carnegie R1 research university, placing it among schools with the highest level of research activity.

The research goals of the ClemsonForward strategic plan include routinely exceeding annual research expenditures of $100 million.

“At the end of the day, the more we ask for, the higher the chance we have of receiving more funding,” said Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “But it is also key to have strong guidance, leadership, and support when preparing proposals for large awards. Dr. Atamturktur has shown that she can provide these ingredients for success, and deliver very high levels of scholarship.”

To reach the goal, the Office of Research Development will focus on three activities:

  • Select large signature grant applications from the National Science Foundation that involve creating centers of excellence,
  • Select large and complex grant applications from other federal agencies worth $2 million and more, and
  • CAREER awards for young faculty that boost their careers. Fourteen Clemson faculty members received CAREER awards in the past two years. Karanfil wants to identify more young faculty and help them apply and help resubmit applications for those who are turned down the first time. Karanfil received a CAREER Award, but on his third try.

“With the promotion of Dr. Atamturktur into this important new role, Clemson’s research enterprise is poised to further build on its recent growth and success,” said Clemson President James P. Clements. “The novel ideas and hard work by our faculty, students, and staff are pushing the boundaries of science, engineering, and humanities research, and the creation of the Office of Research Development will provide vital support to their work.”

Although the Office of Research Development will focus on multimillion dollar grants, Karanfil said non-STEM disciplines, for which grant funding is often awarded in much smaller amounts, play a significant role in Clemson’s overall research activities. As a part of the ClemsonForward R-initiatives, Clemson SEED program was developed to support such activities.

“We are fortunate to have world-class faculty at Clemson doing research in a very broad array of disciplines,” Karanfil said. “It’s the total experience that makes Clemson one of the best universities in the country.”

“The Office for Research Development, and Dr. Atamturktur’s leadership, are important steps forward for Clemson’s research trajectory,” said Ellen Granberg, senior associate provost and co-chair of ClemsonForward. “We are playing at a different level; continuing to progress will require that we do more to support Clemson’s highly talented faculty. The ORD is an important part of that progress.”