Annual Report 2019

Breaking Barriers

“It’s been an exciting year in discovery, both on and off campus. Whether it’s helping illuminate black holes for the world to see, working to halt lung disease before it starts, or identifying mental health risks among transgender students, our researchers have been busy,” says Gloria Waters, Vice President and Associate Provost for Research.

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Innovative Research

Stopping lung cancer before it starts?

A BU professor of medicine says that newly identified genomic differences related to the immune system may play a key role in the early development of lung cancer, and that those differences can be detected in normal airway tissue.

Transgender students at higher risk for mental health issues

In the most comprehensive study of its kind in the US, BU researchers found that college students whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned them at birth are up to four times more likely to experience mental health problems.

Diagnosing CTE in the living

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) can only be detected post-mortem. But a BU neurology professor has discovered an experimental PET scan on living people that can detect abnormal brain tissue in patterns similar to those diagnosed with CTE after death.

BU scientists help bring to light first-ever image of a black hole

The historic multinational effort required an enormous team of scientists, including two from BU’s Institute for Astrophysical Research. Known as the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, their findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters in April 2019.

Bluetooth devices might be broadcasting your habits

An engineering professor and a team of researchers have discovered a vulnerability in several high-profile Bluetooth devices—including the popular Fitbit watch—that could allow third parties to obtain sensitive information from the devices.

It’s all about who has access to guns

Two separate BU studies analyzing FBI and CDC homicide data conclude that controlling who has access to guns has much more impact on reducing gun-related homicides than controlling what guns people have.

Meet the world’s first neural-network-enabled drone controller

A passion for drone racing inspired one computer scientist to develop a machine-learning-enabled quadcopter drone controller that could advance technology for AI-controlled vehicles. 

Can you code a masterpiece? The huge influence of data sciences

Data analytics isn’t just framing the works of art that we see or listen to. Very often, it becomes the art. Read this story and others in a five-part series on data sciences as BU aggressively invests in this field.

Can you hear me now?

Leveraging mathematical prowess and 3-D printing technology, a team of BU researchers argue it’s possible to silence noise while maintaining airflow. Using metamaterials, the group’s experimental “sound baffles” canceled 94 percent of noise.

Students discover a new vehicle for microplastics to enter the food chain

While on a field trip with their faculty-mentor, a pair of student researchers found that 75 percent of the seagrasses they had collected contained microplastics.

Giving drivers power to see around corners, behind obstructions

What if your car could warn you about objects hidden by obstructions? BU researchers have developed a system that is bringing “non-line-of-sight imaging” to reality.

BU experts on why patch fixes won’t stop massive data breaches

Computer scientists say a failsafe system would require the IT industry to start over with a clean slate. In other words, build a safe, protected cyber infrastructure rather than trying to fix an inherently leaky one.

Fast Facts


Total Research Awards in FY2019


Publications by BU Faculty in 2018


1 of 65 Members of the

Award Activity in Millions

Note: The figure for FY2004 includes a substantial award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the construction of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL). The figure for FY2010 includes funding received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Field Weighted Citation Impact for BU + Domestic Peers*

*Source: SciVal® database, Elsevier B.V.,, September 2019.

Field Weighted Citation Impact for BU + International Peers*

*Source: SciVal® database, Elsevier B.V.,, September 2019.


Cara Stepp and Steve Ramirez recognized by White House for outstanding early-career research

Ann McKee elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Leonid Levin elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Siddharth Ramachandran named 2019 Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellow by DOD

David Bishop elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Sigrid Nunez wins National Book Award

How Do You Manipulate a Memory?

BU neuroscientist Steve Ramirez explains how it’s possible to pinpoint specific memories in the brain—and then dial up or dial down their emotional oomph.

Watch the video

Selected Grants

Boston University is

Breaking Barriers

See how