Cal Poly Honors Faculty, Staff for $32 Million in Research Grant Spending in 2016-17

Cal Poly honored university researchers who spent more than $32 million in research funding; obtained 310 new grants valued at nearly $22 million; and secured two patents in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The patented inventions include an improved statistical method for more accurate assessment of recycled plastic content for manufacturing as well as a specialized filter designed to work with a portable water-treatment bag.

“I am very excited about all the work we are doing and our investment in undergraduate- and master’s-level research,” said Provost Kathleen Enz Finken. “I’m proud of the innovative and creative contributions we are making to industry, in the social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

“I know we have a great future in this as we continue to build our capacity across all areas.”

Chris Kitts, the university’s interim dean of research, said research grants offer Learn by Doing opportunities for Cal Poly students.

“Research brings new ideas, opportunities and avenues of exploration and practice to Cal Poly,” Kitts said at a recent reception for the campus research community. “One way we track our success as a research university is by dollar awards. Together, we spent about $32 million on research across the six colleges. That is encouraging.”

Public and private grants result in tuition, fees and scholarships for students, he added. Moreover, the awards also purchase lab equipment across the university, support the wages of Cal Poly Corp. employees, and employ hundreds of student-researchers each year.

Two faculty members who secured a combined $30 million in grant funding over their Cal Poly careers were honored:

— Stuart Styles, director of the university’s Irrigation Training and Research Center, was saluted for more than $25 million in total funding. The IRTC was established in 1989 as a center of excellence, building on a history of Cal Poly’s contributions to the irrigation industry. More than half of its work (65 percent) is through direct technical assistance, and the remainder is split between applied government- and industry-funded research (20 percent) and training opportunities (15 percent).

— David Marshall, who heads the aerospace engineering department in the College of Engineering, was honored for securing more than $5 million in grants, which funded research on the AMELIA, the Advanced Model for Extreme Lift and Improved Aeroacoustics, a 100-passenger, next-generation airliner. The fuel-efficient aircraft, quieter than existing craft, is designed with short take-off and landing capabilities to make it practical for regional airports.

Four university centers that each received more than $1 million in grants and those who manage them were singled out: Styles and Charles Burt of the IRTC; John Keller and Chance Hoellwarth of the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME); Sam Blakeslee of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP); and Suzanne Phelan of the Center for Solutions Through Research in Diet and Exercise (STRIDE).

Patent holders from the 2016-17 academic year were also praised:

— Keith Vorst of the Orfalea College of Business, patent issued May 2, 2017, for “Systems and Methods for Determining Recycled Thermoplastic Content.” This is a follow-up to a related patent that was issued in 2011, said Jim Dunning, director of Economic Development and Technology Transfer. “It’s the technology to verify the percent of recycled plastic content in thermoplastics,” he said. “If you buy a bottle of water that says 50 percent recycled plastic content, this method can verify that it is 50 percent.”

— Trygve Lundquist of the College of Engineering, patent issued Aug. 22, 2017, for “Field Water Purification System Filter,” which is part of a family of patents for a portable personal water-treatment system that is being manufactured and marketed by a former student, Dunning said.

Two project leaders were honored for hiring graduate and undergraduate student assistants.

The IATPP’s Blakeslee spent more than $200,000 on undergraduate student wages for “Digital Democracy,” an online platform with a searchable database of state legislative committee hearings. And Christopher “Chip” Appel was singled out for the $27,000 spent on graduate student support for his “Forest Resilience in the Sierra” project in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ natural resource management and environmental sciences department.

Kitts also recognized individuals with the highest grant funding totals in their colleges:

— College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences: Stuart Styles, bioresource and agricultural engineering.

— College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Michael Boswell, city and regional planning, a grant initiated by the late W. David Conn, a professor emeritus of city and regional planning who died March 8, 2017.

— College of Engineering, Jim Hanson, civil and environmental engineering department.

— College of Liberal Arts, Patrick Lin, philosophy department.

— College of Science and Mathematics, Suzanne Phelan, kinesiology department.

— Orfalea College of Business: Tod Nelson, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

And new this year, the Office of Research and Economic Development’s Grants Development (GDO) and Sponsored Programs offices (SPO), staffers who work directly overseeing and administering the grants, presented recognition awards:

— Best Partner Principle Investigators (PI): Greg Schwartz of the bioresource and agricultural engineering department (SPO), and Jennifer Klay of the physics department (GDO);

— Most Impactful Projects: Stephen Klisch of the mechanical engineering department for “Joint Loads and Cartilage Stress in Intact Joints of Military Transtibial Amputees: Enhancing Quality of Life” (SPO); and Elisabeth Sperow of the accounting department for the “Low Income Taxpayer Clinic” (GDO);

— Most Interesting Project: Nathaniel Martinez of the biological sciences department, for “Miniaturized Paper as a Low-Cost, Patternable, Shapable and Degradable Scaffold for Cell Culture and Tissue Engineering,” was the unanimous choice of both offices. This new material will include the development of tissue-engineered blood vessels, which could have important implications for future medically relevant applications.

Cal Poly Honors Faculty, Staff Who Received $32 Million in Grant Funding in 2015-16

Entrance to Cal Poly's campus

Cal Poly honored faculty and staff who received a record $32 million in grants and whose research resulted in five patents for the university in the 2015-16 academic year.

The patented inventions include an automotive air-conditioning system, an in-wall air-filtration system, CubeSats (or small satellites that launch as secondary payloads), a computer-implemented process to allow the visually impaired to transform touch into an audio response, and an environmentally benign packing design.

“I just want to say how proud I am of the work that you are all doing,” Dean Wendt, dean of research in the Office of Research and Economic Development, told about 80 faculty and staff members gathered at the annual reception held in the fall. “We are celebrating an unprecedented year of externally funded research activity at the university.”

Grant funding for research projects was up 25 percent over last year’s $26 million, and “ranks as the highest amount of external funding on record at Cal Poly,” Wendt said.

“Let me put that number in context for you: The annual base budget for the College of Science and Mathematics is around $37 million, and it includes all the salaries and wages and operating budgets for the college,” he said. “The $32 million is a significant contribution you are making to our institution and to the education of our students.”

There are other benefits to campus research, Wendt said. The grants contributed to more than $250,000 in tuition, fees and scholarships for students; funded more than $650,000 in lab equipment in the university’s six colleges; supported the wages of 58 Cal Poly Corporation employees; and paid $1.8 million in wages to more than 800 student researchers.

President Jeffrey D. Armstrong praised the faculty, who in addition to their teaching duties also apply for and oversee the research, and the staff of the Sponsored Programs and Grants Development offices who administer the more than 500 grants.

“You are impacting lives. You are helping students succeed,” he told the group. “And your careers are just blossoming and growing. It’s very, very exciting.”

Five university centers that each received more than $1 million and those who manage them were singled out: Stuart Styles and Charles Burt of the Irrigation Training and Research Center; John Keller and Chance Hoellworth of the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME); Sam Blakeslee and Christine Robertson of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy; Wendt of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences; and Suzanne Phelan of the Center for Solutions Through Research in Diet and Exercise (STRIDE).

In addition, four individuals who secured a combined $50 million in grant funding over their Cal Poly careers were honored. Styles and Burt, director and chairman of the board respectively for Cal Poly’s Irrigation Training and Research Center, each has procured more than $20 million in external funding. Blakeslee, IATPP director, and Trevor Cardinal, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Regenerative Medicine Program, each has procured $5 million in grant funding.

The patent holders from the 2015-16 academic year are:

— Jay Singh and former student Evan Cernokus, patent for “System, Method and Apparatus for Making and Using Flex Column Void-Based Packing Materials.” Their system for forming space-consuming, shock-absorbing packing materials uses a three-sided flex-column to eliminate the need for non-recyclable polystyrene packing peanuts and better protect shipped items saving time and money in a manner that is also easier on the environment.

— Patrick Lemieux, patent for “Air-Cycle Environmental Control Systems and Methods for Automotive Applications.” This air-cycle air-conditioning invention uses an automotive turbocharger as the system core to maximize cooling while minimizing weight and space, as well as impacts on engine performance.

— Jordi Puig-Suari and Austin Williams of aerospace engineering, patent for “CubeSat Systems, Method and Apparatus.” These nano-satellites piggyback on the launches of larger satellites. The basic CubeSat unit is a box about 4 inches square; larger CubeSats are multiples of that unit.

— Dennis Fantin and Art MacCarley, patent for “Transforming a Tactually Selected User Input into an Audio Output.” Fantin, blind since age 12, and MacCarley developed a computer-implemented process to assist the visually impaired, transforming the touch of a selected Braille key into an analog audio signal output as human speech with an electro-acoustic transducer.

— Carmen Trudell and student Natacha Schnider, patent for “System and Method for Air Filtration Via Cyclone Separators Enclosed Within Exterior Walls.” The invention uses cyclone separators mounted within walls to purify the air in buildings.

Wendt recognized the individuals who had the highest grant funding totals in their colleges:

— Orfalea College of Business: Stephen Hamilton, economics.
— College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences: Stuart Styles, bioresource and agricultural engineering.
— College of Architecture and Environmental Design: Cornelius Nuworsoo, city and regional planning.
— College of Engineering: Trevor Cardinal.
— College of Liberal Arts: Patrick Lin, philosophy.
— College of Science and Mathematics: Stan Yoshinobu, mathematics.