Tech research project explores human health

Garrett Neese/ Daily Mining Gazette Jason Carter at the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance meeting Wednesday.

HANCOCK — In the early stages of Michigan Technological University’s strategic hiring initiatives, it opened a campuswide competition for areas to expand.

Other parts of the campus looked to expand on existing strength. But kinesiologist Jason Carter, in conjunction with a biomedical faculty member, made the pitch Wednesday for a human health initiative a different way at a meeting of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA).

“We said, ‘We’re not strong, but we’re missing the boat,'” said Carter, department chairman and professor of the department of kinesiology and integrative physiology at Tech. “We showed them all the data out there as to how Virginia Tech, MIT, RPI and all them were garnering research dollars from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We said if you invest in this initiative, we’re poised to be able to move forward, not just remain where we’re out.”

That’s exactly what has happened with the Human Health Initiative, Carter told KEDA members.

In the 2016 fiscal year, the most recent one for which numbers are available, the university received $2.8 million in new NIH research awards, three times the amount from 2013.

Instead of trying to compete with the University of Michigan or Harvard, Tech targeted specific areas for health research, particularly cardiovascular science and engineering, Carter said.

As Tech is a smaller university, Carter said, there are fewer barriers to collaborating across disciplines. There are four biomedical and three kinesiology researchers doing work with NIH funding, including a recent $82,000 grant for a state-of-the-art ultrasound unit, Carter said.

Two new professorships have also been secured through endowed professorships from the portage Health Foundation, including one in the cardiovascular area, Carter said.

TOMORROW: MTU is partnering with another state university and local hospitals in pursuing health initiative grant funding.