A letter to faculty, staff and students from Betsy Cantwell

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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Betsy Cantwell
Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell

Without a doubt, this academic year has tested each of us in myriad ways. It has tested our agility and ability to adapt how we operate at each level of the University of Arizona, from classrooms to laboratories, administrative offices to dormitories.

When the first case of the novel coronavirus was detected in Pima County in January 2020, the University's research enterprise swiftly pivoted, prioritizing the safety and well-being of researchers amid a quickly evolving pandemic.

The Office of Research, Innovation and Impact launched a system for approving essential research and provided guidance on the temporary shutdown of laboratories and facilities. In May 2020, after developing the nation's most effective antibody test, the University expanded its testing statewide. On June 1, RII launched a comprehensive Research Restart Plan, detailing its six-phase approach to safely continuing and reopening research to faculty, staff and students. Nearly a year later, we are at Phase 4. Between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, University researchers submitted a staggering 310 COVID-19-related grant proposals, 105 of which are underway with more than $76 million in funding support.

Research productivity unrelated to the pandemic continued to soar as well. The University and the French National Centre for Scientific Research announced a partnership that includes establishing an international research center focused on the environment, space science, data science and global climate change. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and began its journey back to Earth, with a sample of dust and rocks on board. Engineers at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab began casting the penultimate 8.4-meter mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope, one of the world's largest and most anticipated telescopes.

And throughout the past several months, researchers from across campus have been involved in efforts to ensure the world is better prepared for future pandemics.

While the 2020-21 academic year is winding down, much is still happening.

  •  Beginning this summer, RII will roll out and upgrade new systems designed to make your work related to Conflict of Interest and Commitment reporting, the Human Subjects Protection Program, and research proposals much easier. Please keep an eye on your email inbox for updates.
  •  In a few months, the UA Tech Park at The Bridges – a 65-acre multiple-use development that will include technology companies, recreational facilities and high-quality residential and retail spaces – will complete construction of The Refinery. The four-story, 120,000-square-foot office building will be dedicated to technology-related research and innovation.
  •  The University will soon break ground on two new campus buildings. The Applied Research Building, at the southeast corner of Helen Street and the Highland Corridor, will focus on: imaging technology; advanced manufacturing; CubeSat design, fabrication and testing; balloon payload integration for stratospheric balloons; and more. The Grand Challenges Research Building will be located at Cherry Avenue between University Boulevard and Fourth Street. The building will house optical sciences research, transdisciplinary research centers and several labs, all related to quantum networks, photonics and medical imaging technology.
  •  The BIO5 Institute's annual KEYS Research Internship, one of the state's premier programs for Arizona high school students interested in developing STEM skills, will welcome its 15th cohort of 51 interns in June. Interns complete research projects guided by scientists in our labs. Of the program's 526 alumni, 60% are from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in the science workforce.
  •  The University of Arizona Washington, D.C. Center for Outreach & Collaboration, established to inform and convene leading experts from around the world and extend the impact of University research and scholarship, will hold a grand opening this fall.

To the Class of 2021: Congratulations for persevering through such a trying academic year.

To our amazing faculty and staff: Thank you for your herculean efforts to advance the University's research enterprise and impact in Arizona, the U.S. and around the world.

Warm regards,

Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell
Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation