I read with great interest a recent editorial in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that applauded the cooperative research efforts by Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. While competition often brings out the best in opponents in a football stadium, at The University of Southern Mississippi we also know that it is collaboration that produces the most significant results in the research laboratories and fields.
The truth is that Mississippi’s public universities work collaboratively much more frequently and effectively than many may realize. And the truth is that the competitive public and private funding secured and the research conducted by the state’s public institutions, including The University of Southern Mississippi, is more significant than many realize. Despite a ban on federal earmarks for research, in FY12 Mississippi public institutions were able to secure more than $400 million in external funds for research—The University of Southern Mississippi was able to secure more than $63 million, exceeding all of its peers with the exception of Mississippi State.
University researchers across the state have appreciated the results of successful collaborations for decades now. The Mississippi Research Consortium, formed in 1986, is a coalition of Mississippi’s four research universities — The University of Southern Mississippi, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. The consortium serves as the Governor’s Science and Technology advisors and is tasked with not only developing and sharing resources, but extending technology development in Mississippi, enhancing economic opportunities for the state of Mississippi, and making the most of our state’s significant human potential. The University of Southern Mississippi values its role in this consortium.
Mississippi residents should know that enhancing the quality of your life is a focus of Southern Miss research. We are continuing to meet head-on the intellectual and human issues of the day. The challenges are formidable, and university professors and students are tackling the issues through relevant research that translates into real-world applications and learning opportunities. Simply put, the research conducted is improving not only Mississippi and beyond, but also the lives of Mississippians, in a number of ways. For example, at Southern Miss:
· Whether it’s helping children to learn better in school, providing training for teachers or researching autism in children, our College of Education and Psychology is addressing a myriad of societal issues.
· Through a variety of state and federally funded grants, faculty members and students in our College of Health are conducting research on projects ranging from deaf education to obesity in the Mississippi Delta.
· Our School of Polymers and High Performance Materials is a national leader in the multidisciplinary field that touches on everyday items such as LCD TVs, paints and coatings, synthetic fabrics, golf clubs and shampoo. For example, polymer researcher Marek Urban’s “healing plastic” was recognized for developing one of “Five Materials that Could Change the World” by Stuff magazine. When scratched, Dr. Urban’s plastic erases the imperfection on its own.
· Our unique business incubator, the Accelerator, is located in Hattiesburg. At 60,000 square feet, the Accelerator provides state-of-the-art space, technology and professional advice to start-up companies that can work collaboratively with Southern Miss researchers.
· Our commitment to the Mississippi Gulf Coast is perhaps best evident, although not limited to, in our oil-spill related research. Our work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast extends from border to border. We recognize that the north-central Gulf of Mexico is one of the most biologically productive environments in the world and our research will help ensure it remains so.
· The work of our Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs is focused on sustainable coastal and marine resources, development of new marine technologies, and the education of future scientists and citizens. Seventy-five percent of GCRL’s operations are funded by grants, contracts and self-generated funds with a direct $12-15 million annual contribution to the region.
· Our National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security is offering solutions for the safety and security for sports stadiums and arenas that have been identified as potential targets of terrorism.
This research, not only at Southern Miss, but at public institutions across the state, has and will continue to serve Mississippians well for decades to come.
Gordon Cannon is Vice Provost for Research at The University of Southern Mississippi. He can be reached at Gordon.Cannon@usm.edu.