Contemplating Life, Death, and the Hereafter. Robotic surgery for prostate cancer. Calculating the age of stars by measuring their velocities. Figuring out Boston’s urban metabolism. The theory and practice of Chinese calligraphy. Who thinks this stuff up? BU professors, students, and researchers, that’s who. Running your eye down the list of the dozens of research projects happening at BU this past year is an education unto itself. To have so many people devoting so much thought and energy to such intriguing topics speaks volumes about the University’s priorities and capabilities. Keep reading...
One of BU’s research efforts got a lot of press over the past year.
BU researchers at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) raised the national debate on athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive concussions. Launched in 2008 as a joint venture between the School of Medicine and the Sports Legacy Institute, the CSTE has been studying Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that has been tied to cognitive and behavior disorders and eventually results in dementia. More than 200 athletes from various sports have committed to donate their brains to the center after death.
This year, the CSTE received a $1 million grant from the National Football League. The gift comes two years after an NFL survey of retired players found that they reported a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory-related illness than the broader American male population. The league has embraced the CSTE’s research as a smart way to help players of all levels learn about the impact of high-contact sports.
Great Grants, Great Research
CTE is the subject of just one of the hundreds of innovative research projects going on at the University. Whether they conjure up multi-million-dollar, multi-year grants or just something interesting to think about, the minds at BU continue to think and deliver. Indeed, this past year, the University surpassed $60 million in support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). But that was only part of the $407.8 million the University was awarded for sponsored research in FY 2010.
One of the most intriguing was the $1.5 million grant to the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The grant will be used to bolster BU’s increasingly popular undergraduate brain research program by revamping its introductory neuroscience course from lecture-based to one embracing hands-on research. The goal is to get students into the lab as early as possible; currently most undergraduates don’t get involved in research until their junior or senior year.
Other impressive research achievements from the year:
Astronomy Department researchers garnered a stunning $31,821,720. That’s equivalent to about $1,870,000 per teaching faculty member. Their numbers were among the highest for all units in CAS.
David Hamer, associate professor at the School of Public Health, and his team received an $8.5 million Gates Foundation grant to teach community health workers in Zambia how to reduce the infant mortality rate.
Richard Junghans, associate professor in the School of Medicine, has used designer T-cells to fight prostate cancer successfully. With a new $6 million grant, he’ll try to extend this approach to fight breast cancer by enhancing the immune system with gene therapy instead of chemo, radiation, or surgery.
Julie Palmer, professor in the School of Public Health, and her group got a $9.1 million grant to continue their landmark Black Women’s Health Study.
Poet Ani Gjika, who left her native home of Albania more than 14 years ago, returned to her birthplace to research five female Albanian poets whose work she plans to translate into English. Her research was made possible by the Robert Pinsky Global Fellowships in Creative Writing.
Ketty Nez, assistant professor in the College of Fine Arts, is writing an opera based on Macedonian folktales.
Tim Gardner, assistant professor in the College of Arts & Sciences, is studying neural circuit formation and the development of animal behavior, especially birdsong.