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  December 10, 2001

Federal Research Funds Earmarked for UConn

Millions of dollars in federal funding have been earmarked for UConn faculty, allowing a range of key research projects to continue operating and giving a green light to investigators interested in developing several new programs.

Nearly $15 million has been committed to UConn as part of the next federal budget, while more than $12.5 million in additional monies awaits action in the Senate or in conference committees. The funding is expected to make this session of Congress one of the most fruitful in memory, University officials said last week.

Alvin Wilson, UConn's director of governmental relations, said President George W. Bush in late November signed bills which fund programs through the federal Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The appropriated funds will enable researchers in Storrs and at the Health Center to continue work on six projects, and to start work on three more. Three additional new initiatives and the continuation of another study are pending, in bills awaiting Senate action.

Two bills supported in the Senate that would continue funding for the School of Education's Gifted and Talented Program also are being discussed by a conference committee. Once a final version is agreed upon, the bill would move to the House of Representatives and then to President Bush for his signature.

"If the Department of Defense-based initiatives come through, this would be an extraordinarily productive year," said Wilson. "Signs point to it passing, but nothing is certain until Congress has an agreement and President Bush concurs."

UConn President Philip E. Austin expressed his appreciation, while remaining guardedly optimistic about the pending authorizations.

"We are deeply grateful to the members of Connecticut's Congressional delegation for their work in guiding these important initiatives through the Congress," he said. "The funding that has been secured, and the additional research dollars now under discussion, will give our faculty the ability to undertake or expand research that will have a profound impact on the safety, economic well being, and quality of life in our state and beyond."

Included in the bills President Bush has signed are:

  • $1.5 million for a new study at the Health Center to find ways to enhance communication between airline pilots and air traffic controllers;

  • $3 million to continue the

    Health Center's prison health research program;

  • Nearly $3 million for vaccine research in food animals, a program being developed in conjunction with the University of Missouri and researchers at the USDA's Plum Island facility;

  • $1.5 million, to be shared with the universities of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, to continue efforts to clean the Connecticut River watershed and airshed;

  • About $1.4 million to the National Underwater Research Center (NURC) at UConn's Avery Point campus, to continue providing the research community access to advanced underwater technologies;

  • Slightly less than $1 million to extend Professor Thomas Chen's biotechnology research on Tilapia to Rainbow Trout, in conjunction with USDA's Agricultural Research Service;

  • A grant of $2 million to establish a Laboratory for Non-Traditional DNA Testing, building on the DNA Identification Unit partnership between the Connecticut State Police Forensic Unit and UConn scientists;

  • Funding of $720,000 for an integrated research program on biotechnology and functional genomics in cattle, building on the successful cloning research performed by Professor Jerry Yang. The research will be done in partnership with scientists at the University of Illinois;

  • Continued funding of $484,000 to the Food Marketing Policy Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, the defense appropriations bill has passed the House of Representatives, and now awaits action in the Senate. The House bill includes a $3.5 million proposal from the Health Center for an infectious disease control project; $5 million for creation of a Fuel Cell Research Laboratory in Storrs; and $2 million for the Institute for Materials Science to develop sophisticated target recognition devices for the U.S. Army using nano-sensors.

The Senate versions, considered on Dec. 4, await final action. As reported out of committee, however, the bill includes the same level of funding as the bill passed by the House, Wilson says.

Funding for the continuation of the UConn Heath Center's urban health initiative, jointly developed with researchers at Yale University, is being addressed in conference committee, as is funding for the National Center for the Gifted and Talented.

Richard Veilleux