MSU research sets new record at $112 million

GAIL SCHONTZLER, Staff Writer, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana State University has set a new record for research, spending $112.3 million in the past year, up nearly $10 million from last year.

MSU President Waded Cruzado pumped both hands in the air, as if the Bobcats had just scored a touchdown, when asked this week about the new record.

“Yes!” Cruzado said, smiling broadly. “This is not a small feat. It happens when there are less federal dollars available. It means we’ve increased our competitiveness. These are not earmarked dollars.

“The quality of ideas of our faculty and students are garnering more and more attention,” she said. “I could not be any prouder or happier.”

MSU professors and scientists do research on everything from new brucellosis vaccines for bison, to human infectious diseases, crop pests, fuel cells and ways to bury underground the greenhouse gases from burning coal.

Tom McCoy, MSU vice president for research, was on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment. No breakdown was yet available to show how much research money was spent in each department.

Last year, MSU announced that for the fiscal year ending June 30, the Bozeman campus had spent $102.7 million, down from the previous record of $109.5 million. McCoy said then he considered that very good, given the belt-tightening in Washington, D.C.

The leading research departments last year were immunology, chemistry and biochemistry, transportation, physics, and land resources and environmental sciences.

MSU officials contend the money benefits not only scientists, but also graduate students and undergraduates. Undergrads are required to do some research or original creative work to earn their degrees.

Research dollars also support hundreds of jobs in Bozeman and around Montana.

Most of MSU’s research funds come from federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, departments of Energy, Defense and Agriculture, private foundations and charities like the American Heart Association.

Tracy Ellig, MSU news director, said $11.6 million of this year’s total was federal stimulus money spent on the $17 million renovation of MSU’s biomedical research center, Cooley Lab.

MSU leaders expect to be able to keep the research spending total in the $100 million ballpark, but the number can move up and down, Ellig said.

“Money is so tight,” Ellig said, “maintaining in the range of $100 million, we believe is sustainable. We don’t forecast, given the situation in Washington, large-scale growth on a continuous basis.”

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.