Research Enterprise: Intense activity picking up even more in some fields

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette file photo In this April 2016 photo, Adrienne Minerick, Michigan Technological University associate dean for research and innovation, professor of chemical engineering, shows the prototype blood-typing device she and her research team developed. Research in many fields at Tech is expanding, particularly in the bio-med and human health fields.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Technological University has been involved with various forms of research activity for decades, and university officials are working to keep it involved in research well into the future.

David Reed, Tech vice president for research, said research enterprise at the university has been expanding steadily.

“It’s everything we do as research,” he said of in defining what “research enterprise” is.

Reed said research at Tech began in earnest more than 50 years ago.

“Research activity really started when Ray Smith was president (1964 to 1979) in the 1960s,” he said. “It generally has gone up (since then),” he said.

There have been lulls in research activity in that timeframe, Reed said, but in 2016, Reed said $72.5 million was spent on research at Tech, the most ever.

Research activity at Tech is quite intense, Reed said.

“At any given point in time, we have about 800 projects,” he said.

Two of those projects at Tech include Adrienne Minerick, associate dean for research and innovation, professor of chemical engineering, and adjunct professor in biomedical engineering, whose team created a device for quickly typing blood, which eliminates a lengthy testing process, and Joshua Pearce, Tech associate professor in materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering, who with his students developed a process to make the plastic filament needed for 3-D printing from waste plastic, such as soft drink bottles.

Reed said the fastest-growing research field at Tech is bio-med and human health.

“A lot of our recent hires have been in that field,” he said.

Related to the growth of research in the bio-med and human health fields is Tech’s partnering with the Portage Health Foundation for finding funding for some of those projects.

Reed said how much Tech spends on research on any year depends on funding available. About two-thirds of the university’s research money comes from the federal government, and currently it is uncertain what will be available in the next budget for Tech research projects.

Funding for research also comes from industry.