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UB receives $4.5 million from SUNY to recruit top faculty

UB faculty working with robotics. Photo: Douglas Levere.

By CORY NEALON

Published June 22, 2017

“These significant investments from SUNY will greatly enhance the University at Buffalo’s ability to recruit top-flight faculty members who will strengthen our research enterprise, educational opportunities and impact on the Buffalo Niagara region and beyond.”
Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development

UB has been awarded $4.5 million to hire world-class scholars whose work will boost the university’s research enterprise and educational offerings while enhancing innovation in the Buffalo Niagara region.

The funding is comprised of three grants from SUNY’s Empire Innovation Program, which helps institutions recruit senior faculty members with track records of significant scholarly achievement and externally funded research projects.

The grants support research and education in three fields: robotics and artificial intelligence, systems pharmacology, and X-ray laser technology for structural biology research, including medical imaging and materials science. They align with regional strengths identified by UB and partner organizations that will help grow the Buffalo Niagara region’s economy.

“The University at Buffalo is a world-class scholarly community built on a strong foundation of academic excellence,” said Provost Charles F. Zukoski. We are pleased that, through these Empire Innovation grants, SUNY continues to recognize UB’s strength in high-impact areas and support us in recruiting outstanding faculty, providing them with state-of-the-art research infrastructure and enhancing our ability to create broad and positive change locally and globally.”

Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development, said these significant investments from SUNY “will greatly enhance the University at Buffalo’s ability to recruit top-flight faculty members who will strengthen our research enterprise, educational opportunities and impact on the Buffalo Niagara region and beyond.”

Artificial intelligence and robotics

UB will receive $3 million to add faculty researchers who will build upon the university’s existing expertise in artificial intelligence and robotics. This includes fields such as machine learning, computer vision, human-robot collaboration, cybersecurity and more. Ultimately, these researchers will supports the university’s efforts in advanced manufacturing, transportation (including traffic informatics and autonomous vehicles), developing technological advancements in health care and other fields of research.

“From self-driving cars and traffic informatics to cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing, UB has a remarkable core of researchers working in artificial intelligence and collaborative robotic systems. This timely investment from SUNY will enable us to hire additional faculty members and cement UB’s status as a national leader in these critically important fields,” said Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Systems pharmacology

UB will receive $1 million to add researchers to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, specifically in the field of systems pharmacology.

Using computational and mathematical models, systems pharmacology seeks to understand how medicine affects highly complex systems of the body. The field, which builds upon UB’s existing strengths in analyzing and modeling disease progression and drug effects upon diseases, is key to accelerating drug development and personalized medicine.

“Building our systems pharmacology program will greatly enhance UB’s clinical and translational research capabilities,” said James M. O’Donnell, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “Ultimately, this grant will improve our efforts to advance personalized medicine, including turning discoveries into new and improved therapeutics — endeavors that will improve the quality of life for countless people.” 

X-ray lasers

UB will receive $500,000 to add researchers to the National Science Foundation-funded BioXFEL, a research consortium led by UB that focuses on cutting-edge X-ray laser science. The funding will support the center’s expertise and continued development of technologies with applications in medical imaging, materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering, chemistry and other areas.

“The SUNY Empire Innovation Program investment in X-ray laser science will solidify UB’s position in this cutting-edge research area and, more broadly, promote its advancement as a leading research university,” said BioXFEL director Eaton E. Lattman, also a professor in the Department of Structural Biology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and professor in the Department of Materials Design and Innovation in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences.