Healthy Economy homestories

Collaborating for Success

Creative partnerships yield results

By Irem Y. Tumer, Interim Vice President for Research

Oregon State University, like many major organizations and businesses, is powered by collaboration. Meetings with faculty researchers, OSU leaders and other partners have given me a new appreciation for the power of conversation, communication and the open exchange of ideas. This give-and-take dialogue can lead to fruitful — and often unexpected — results. 

Irem Tumer

Having moved to OSU from NASA nearly 13 years ago, it is difficult for me to imagine a place where colleagues work in their offices alone, fixated on their computer screens, sitting in silent silos and keeping innovative thoughts, theories and ideas to themselves. Whether in serendipitous encounters or in formal gatherings, the sharing of fresh, new and inspiring perspectives fuels our amazingly productive research enterprise.

This collaborative dynamic — part art, part science — derives from the OSU community’s commitment to probe and seek solutions to some of our planet’s most vexing issues. And much of this work often is explored at the intersection of diverse disciplines such as science and liberal arts, engineering and human health, technology and music. Together, we engage in research and discovery that inspire new ways of thinking, generate economic and social benefits and ultimately save lives.

Several stories in this fall 2019 issue of Terra explore some of these seemingly unconventional intersections. For example, the community doula program, led by a medical anthropologist in the College of Liberal Arts, serves pregnant women from underserved and underrepresented communities with doulas who provide support during labor and postpartum. Her work intersects social science and human health. 

Benefits may also emerge from a collaboration between engineers and health professionals concerned with Parkinson’s disease. Early treatment is key to living with this incurable illness, and the OSU research team is developing electronic sensors and computer algorithms that may enable physicians to diagnose the disease earlier than ever.

A collaboration between a roboticist and a musician/bioengineer has produced the SpiderHarp, fusing engineering and art. The story explores how this unique electronic musical instrument evolved and now delights audiences in Oregon. 

Finally, this issue features a distinguished professor of ecology in OSU’s College of Forestry and connects climate science, forestry and politics. “Final Jeopardy” describes the inspiration for his paper, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” and its cosigning by more than 21,000 scientists across the globe.

Transdisciplinary collaborations like these are the foundation of Oregon State’s continued research success. We recently announced that research funding at OSU rose 15% last year, totaling nearly $440 million. 

Although I have been engaged in the scientific process since my time as an undergraduate mechanical engineering student nearly 30 years ago, I am honored to serve in this role at OSU and continue to discover more about research achievements each day. Collaboration and relationship building — key attributes that lead to the success of Oregon State’s research enterprise — will endure and be inextricably linked in our work to discover solutions to pressing problems for the people of Oregon, the nation and the world.

Annual Research Funding Surges

Research funding rose 15% in the last fiscal year at Oregon State University, nearly matching the university’s highest level of research grant activity ever. OSU recorded $439.7 million in research grants and contracts for the 2019 fiscal year that ended on June 30, an increase of nearly $58 million over 2018. In 2017, OSU achieved its highest level ever, $441 million, partly on receipt of a $122 million grant for construction of a new research vessel. The National Science Foundation provided OSU $88 million in 2018 for a second vessel and $108 million in 2019 for a third. Federal funding of $305 million accounts for 69% of OSU’s FY19 research grants and contracts, an increase of $49 million, or 19%, over a year ago.

By Nick Houtman

Nick Houtman is director of research communications at OSU and edits Terra, a world of research and creativity at Oregon State University. He has experience in weekly and daily print journalism and university science writing. A native Californian, he lived in Wisconsin and Maine before arriving in Corvallis in 2005.