At the University of Kentucky, our research mission is inseparable from our mission to educate. As we prepare a new generation of scientists, engineers and experts in all fields of human endeavor, research is where their acquired knowledge goes from the abstract to the concrete, from theory into practice.
UK strives to provide research opportunities for all of our students, starting at the undergraduate level. Last spring, UK hosted the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, bringing more than 3,000 talented young scientists, artists and academics to Lexington to show their work.
UK’s research enterprise is thriving, despite declining federal dollars and increased competition for funding. In fiscal year 2013, grant and contract awards totaled $265.9 million, with $137.4 million awarded by federal agencies. UK’s investigators are successfully competing for funding to make basic science discoveries and then take that new knowledge from the lab to our community.
When it comes to medical research in particular, UK not only leads Kentucky, but is making a name for itself nationally and internationally. UK is one of only 22 institutions to have achieved all three of the following prestigious federal funding benchmarks: a National Cancer Institute designated cancer center, a federally funded Alzheimer's disease center and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards.
But it's not the money and national recognition that make UK's research enterprise run. It's the people who have dedicated themselves to their work, in the laboratory and in the field — tirelessly writing grant proposals, running experiments, collecting data, submitting manuscripts, mentoring students. For them, being a researcher is not just a job. It's a way of life.
There are people like Lisa Ruble, a professor in the College of Education who conducted two studies to evaluate the effectiveness of a new treatment model for children with autism. Ruble's students are now using her research to help children and adults with autism.
Then there's Peixuan Guo, a world-leading nanobiotechnology expert at the Markey Cancer Center and UK College of Pharmacy. Guo cracked a 35-year-old mystery about the workings of natural "biomotors." These molecular machines are serving as models for development of synthetic nanomotors that will someday pump therapeutic DNA, RNA or drugs into individual diseased cells.
You may have already read about Vivek Rangnekar, the molecular geneticist whose work has led to the creation of a transgenic "super mouse" that does not grow tumors. This mouse could provide priceless clues that will aid researchers trying to discover how to prevent cancer in humans.
Those are just a few of the researchers working at the University of Kentucky. There are literally hundreds of others, and they all have their own stories. Bit by bit, they are all working to change the world for the better.