OSU has identified six strategic initiatives for investment that will bring to the university new centers for research and outreach, additional faculty, and undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, internships and educational opportunities. The initiative proposals were submitted by teams of OSU faculty from different colleges and departments—this interdisciplinary approach is intentional. "OSU's strength is the depth and breadth of our faculty," says Provost Sabah Randhawa, "and our ability to create interdisciplinary teams of wide-ranging expertise should be attractive to external funding sources. Teaming faculty with different perspectives will lead to richer, more diverse perspectives and approaches.” The six strategic initiatives will be funded at $2million annually for five years.
Investment in these areas will complement outstanding efforts already underway in other priority areas, especially nanoscience, microtechnology, and entrepreneurship.
Center for Healthy Aging Research: Linking Individuals, Families and Environments (LIFE)
This initiative will bring together faculty specializing in different facets of aging, from diet and genetics, to bone health, to the psychological, social and ethical implications of the "graying of America." Researchers will study the mechanisms underlying the biological aging processes and how the body responds to "stresses," from bone fractures to drug interactions and infections, to psychosocial and environmental stressors. A better understanding of the interface among physical, psychological and social well-being - and technological innovations to optimize aging - will result from multidisciplinary research. Key units will include OSU's Linus Pauling Institute and the Colleges of Health and Human Sciences and Engineering.
Computational and Genome Biology
This initiative will build on the enormous growth in genome data over the past 10 years. These new data represent a vast, new scientific frontier, but exploration requires new tools and experimental approaches. The OSU initiative will capitalize on the university's strength in creating new combinations of mathematical, computational and biological approaches to speed up breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and environmental science.
Ecosystem Informatics: Mathematics, Computer Science and Ecology
This initiative will look at how to create useful information about ecosystems from the staggering amount of natural resource and ecosystem data. Sharing, interpreting and synthesizing that knowledge requires a team-based approach to address complex problems including climate change, species extinction, water supplies and quality, earthquakes and tsunamis, the history of life, and the management of our oceans, forests and other resources. The initiative builds upon OSU's Innovative Graduate Education and Research Training program, a six-year, $3.9 million effort funded by the National Science Foundation to train future leaders in ecosystem informatics.
Subsurface Biosphere Education and Research
This initiative is based on OSU's strengths in the study of the vast number of microorganisms living below the Earth's surface. Scientists now believe that the weight of these subsurface microbes equals that of all of the plant and animal life on the surface. This sub-surface life has huge implications for ecology, deposits of oil, gas and minerals, water resources, agriculture and medicine. These microorganisms have been found in some of the most inhospitable places on earth and may be tied to life on other planets. It has implications for a wide range of benefits, from environmental cleanup to a better understanding of soil processes.
Sustainable Rural Communities
This initiative is a statewide program to address the needs and challenges of Oregon's rural towns. The goal is for faculty to provide ongoing research and analysis to allow decision-makers to develop successful strategies for helping rural communities overcome disadvantages that come with small size and geographic isolation. OSU is uniquely positioned for this initiative because of our faculty expertise in several different colleges as well as our statewide Extension Service. In addition to generating new knowledge through research, one of the goals of the initiative is to train a new generation of community leaders, professionals and scholars through a new academic program in Rural Studies and Rural Policy.
Water and Watersheds
This initiative is also based on an emerging need and existing OSU strengths. Despite its reputation for abundant rain, rivers and lakes, Oregon is beset by water quantity and quality challenges, from water rights issues in the Klamath basin to pollution concerns in the Willamette River. This research project is designed to coordinate the many water-related activities at OSU, and capture additional opportunities for research, education and outreach. One goal is to establish a new Institute for Water and Watersheds that would leverage additional funding and educational opportunities.
This new institute will complement the Institute for Natural Resources in providing outreach to Oregon communities and solutions to water resource issues.