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Harpur Forum focuses on University research

Finding new ways to support University research and developing that research into marketable products is key to Binghamton University’s future, according to Gerald Sonnenfeld, vice president for research.

Sonnenfeld shared his vision at the Jan. 13 Harpur Forum held on campus as he updated members of the community about campus research initiatives.

Touching on a number of research programs at the University, ranging from the Integrated Electronics Engineering Center to the Center for Teaching American History, he said that continuing to support faculty as they search for external funding is a priority.

“The University doesn’t really pay for research, but basically we pay for the areas that research is done in and we provide startup packages for faculty for research,” he said. “We depend on extramural support for research.”

To help obtain extramural support, the University must position its faculty to be competitive by building the best program in the country, Sonnenfeld said.

“We have to be unique and look for niches that people will want to provide funding for,” he said, adding that Binghamton needs to “try to find other types of funding to help foster our research development” for projects that have the potential to change lives.

Focusing on research does not mean support just for science and technology programs, Sonnenfeld emphasized. The University needs to advance scholarly effort across the campus in order to maintain its position as a premier university.

In addition to providing support for research and scholarly activities, the University is looking for ways to support economic development in the region. Economic development must be part of the University’s research goals, Sonnenfeld said. “Binghamton needs to be part of the process of finding new ways to drive the area’s economy.”

To do this, the University is looking at different ways to conduct research, Sonnenfeld said. Traditionally, universities focused on research and left economic development to corporations. Today, corporations are looking at universities to develop marketable products.

“We need to develop and support ways to develop a product,” Sonnenfeld said. “If we want to continue and spur economic growth, this is one area we can work on.”

In addition to benefiting the community, campus research provides an enhanced educational experience for the University’s students. Faculty members are working to involve undergraduate as well as graduate students in the research process and that results in a richer educational experience.

“One of the great strengths of Binghamton University is that we have a great number of graduate students involved in research, but we have undergraduates as well,” he said, adding that involving undergraduates in research may translate into more work for the faculty, but the results are valuable.

“Our faculty has taken the attitude that this is what makes the University special,” he said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08