The campaign to support University research efforts emphasized support of programs and people that build capacity and sustained excellence in science, technology and collaborative research spanning all other fields. In particular, the campaign helped solidify existing areas of strength in basic sciences and engineering, and expand selectively in promising new areas that will distinguish U.Va. as a thought leader, produce societal benefit and transform the higher educational experience. In addition to supporting key faculty retention and recruitment efforts, the University placed a high value on programs that exemplify cross-disciplinary collaboration that produces innovation with social relevance. Campaign gifts helped increase proof-of-concept translational research funds and supported initiatives such as the University
Ivy Foundation Biomedical Innovation Grants
Between 2008 and 2013, the Ivy Foundation gave $860,000 to establish a new fund supporting collaborative research projects with the potential to yield leading-edge diagnostics and treatments for a range of human health problems. To date, 20 projects have received Biomedical Innovation Grants to address health issues ranging from Alzheimer’s disease and anemia to macular degeneration and chronic pain. One collaboration between George T. Gillies and Dr. Srijoy Mahapatra resulted in the invention of a technology that aids in controlling cardiac arrhythmia and other conditions with minimal invasiveness. EpiEP Inc., a University spinoff that’s licensed by the U.Va. Licensing and Ventures Group, has already received significant additional investment that will help speed this innovative system (called EpiAccess) from the lab to the bedside.
OpenGrounds Vonage Competition
In the fall of 2012, U.Va.’s newly formed collaboration hub and think tank, OpenGrounds, held its first “grand challenge,” the Future of Social Messaging Concept Competition. Vonage, a leading provider of communications services linking individuals through cloud-connected devices worldwide, sponsored the competition. Vonage’s CEO is Marc Lefar (McIntire ’85). The competition challenged students to “develop ideas that could define the next evolution in social messaging,” Lefar explained, adding that the students definitely “delivered.” Open to any U.Va. student, the competition elicited 38 entries, and more than 50 professionals judging the event chose four ideas to receive three levels of cash prizes totaling $28,000.
Gifts at Work
Supporting Women in Advanced STEM Studies
In 2009, the University received a $225,000 grant from the Clare Boothe Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation to establish two doctoral fellowships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The funding has already begun enhancing U.Va.’s ability to offer prestigious, competitive fellowships to women in STEM fields. One of two recently named recipients, Sandra Liss is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Astronomy within U.Va.’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. With Professor Kelsey Johnson, Liss is conducting a multiwavelength study of super star clusters in the Antennae galaxies. Because SSC formation is thought to be similar to processes of the early universe, Liss and Johnson hope their studies will generate greater understanding of how the first stars were created. In particular, their research seeks to detect and characterize the youngest SSCs. Besides her research, Liss serves as the head teaching assistant of her department and is active with Dark Skies, Bright Kids, a student-led outreach program.