Announcements From the VPR

I want to give all of you an update on where we stand in terms of research security and UGA’s efforts to comply with recent, far-reaching federal policy changes that affect the majority of researchers on campus. I also would like to convey why research security is so important to all of us.

National Security Presidential Memorandum 33 (NSPM-33) is a directive from the president of the United States that requires all federal funding agencies to strengthen their requirements concerning the disclosure of potential conflicts of either interest (one’s personal interests that conflict with those of their employer) and/or commitment (one’s external activities that conflict with their responsibilities to an employer) that could represent a threat to U.S. security. 

Since the issuance of NSPM-33 in January 2020, other federal agencies have released related guidance. For example, the Department of Defense (DoD) soon will require all DoD-funded research projects to undergo risk-based security reviews.

Why is this happening? As the memo itself explains, “The American research culture is intentional in its strong commitment to openness. Yet maintaining that open research culture also requires being clear-eyed that certain governments seek to exploit our openness and disrupt the integrity of our research.”

A year ago, I described UGA’s plans to comply with NSPM-33 and how they dovetail with the university’s long-running efforts to improve research security. The memo directs all institutions receiving at least $50 million in federal funding to certify that they have implemented a research security program that covers four aspects:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Foreign travel security
  • Research security training
  • Export control training

The good news is that UGA has been building compliance programs in each of these areas for years, even if the programs have not yet been coordinated under the banner of a single research security program. Regarding foreign travel requirements, for example, UGA’s Accounts Payable Travel Policy requires prior approval of an international travel authority, and that travel authority includes registration of international travel with the Office of Global Engagement to provide a centralized record of travel.

Likewise, UGA launched its export control program in 2014 to abide with legislation that regulates the export of goods, software and technology that might be used for purposes harmful to the United States. Reviews for export control compliance are built into multiple Office of Research processes, such as sponsored project submission, requests for material transfer and non-disclosure agreements, international travel registrations, and visiting researcher and scholar questionnaires, and visa sponsorship.

The university has a strategic goal to increase the number of successful funding proposals to U.S. mission agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, and Homeland Security. In 2022, we created the UGA Research Institute (UGARI) to support that goal. The aims of UGARI are to provide resources to the institution and its researchers to allow us to be better partners for mission agency research. UGARI, for example, is a conduit for the university’s relationship with the Battelle Savannah River Alliance (the five-university alliance of which UGA is a member that, led by Battelle, co-manages the Savannah River National Laboratory).

UGARI deliverables will include the provision of secure research practices that are critical for garnering mission agency funding. Through UGARI, we are contracting with Fischer & Associates, a private firm that specializes in helping universities improve their research security practices, to conduct an assessment of UGA’s capabilities for doing the various types of classified, restricted and controlled unclassified research often involved in mission agency contracts. There can be significant costs in establishing the infrastructure required for such work, and the Fischer assessment will help us chart the best path forward.

We are committed to finalizing and establishing a user-friendly research security program, and to providing the required certification to the federal government in order to continue efforts toward our research goals. 

Some of the content covered by NSPM-33 is familiar to UGA, while some is brand new to all research universities. Indeed, this summer the National Science Foundation announced a “Research on Research Security Program” to help U.S. policy makers and investigators understand the nature and scope of this field, including the four critical areas listed above.

The requirements of NSPM-33 will mean additional effort, both by research administrators and by investigators. Please know we will make every effort to streamline the process and allow you to maintain focus on your research and creative works. These regulations would not be in place if the work we do were not so critically important to our nation and world.

I look forward to working with you to develop a research security program that accommodates your needs, while safeguarding the interests of the U.S. research enterprise. 

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

It’s fall, and that means it’s time once again to nominate our students and fellow faculty members for their exemplary research, teaching and service through UGA’s internal awards programs. It’s also a great time to consider nominating individuals for external awards. These opportunities are an excellent way to recognize and promote colleagues and mentees who are doing truly outstanding work.

In recent years, UGA’s Research Awards have grown to recognize a broader range of research and the many investigators engaged in them. We have created new awards for team science and for research communications, as well as for non-tenure-track researchers. Each of these recognizes the kinds of activity we want to promote. We want you to think BIG, leveraging UGA’s immense breadth of disciplines to realize the highest impact. We want you to work with UGA’s communications professionals to tell the world about your successes. And we want to recognize a wide range of researchers and innovators for their efforts.

UGA’s Research Awards, along with our teaching and service awards, are also important stepping stones for major national and international external awards, which not only help advance individual faculty careers but are well-deserved honors that are very important to enhance UGA’s scholarly reputation and recognition.

There are many paths to receiving external awards. One way to get started is to join professional organizations in your field and start a dialogue with your colleagues, department chairs and deans. Through these conversations, be sure to communicate to them award opportunities that become available to you and solicit their suggestions.

Award nomination dossiers are often vetted by broad review panels, including non-experts, and it’s critical the content be prepared in a rigorous—but also accessible—way. One essential and sometimes overlooked element of a successful nomination is a well-written, comprehensive and convincing nomination letter—typically provided by a dean or department head—that can be fully appreciated not just by peers but by well-informed laypeople.

Earlier this month we held a Research Live webinar to explore best practices for compiling effective nomination packages. Hosted by Associate Vice President Shelley Hooks and Assistant Director Jessica Farmer from the Office of Research Personnel and Internal Grants & Awards, the discussion also featured faculty administrators with strong histories of supporting successful faculty nominations: Nate Nibbelink (associate dean for research, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources); Denise Spangler (dean, Mary Frances Early College of Education); and Mike Tiemeyer (joint director, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and Center for Molecular Medicine). The session was recorded, so if you weren’t able to attend, you can still watch it online.

The Nov. 1 deadline for UGA Research Award nominations to the Office of Research is fast approaching. Thank you for your efforts in providing the best possible slate of nominees. I look forward to recognizing our research honorees next spring during Honors Week. Taking time to recognize the diversity and excellence of our researchers and innovators along the entire career spectrum is imperative and exciting.

Whether a nominee or nominator, please know you are greatly appreciated—my thanks for all you do for the UGA research enterprise.

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

From the VPR

There is one thing all of us, as UGA researchers, have in common, no matter what we study or which college or school we call home. Whether our workspace is a lab or a studio, a field site or a performance hall, we all want our work to matter—to have impact. Of course, there are many ways we can facilitate such impact, and this month I want to focus on one: partnering with industry on applied research projects and initiatives.

UGA has a long list of valued industry partners, including major corporations like Delta, Georgia Power, Truist and Boehringer Ingelheim, as well as many smaller companies that also access our research expertise and facilities. One such company made international news earlier this year, as Dalan Animal Health announced the availability of the world’s first honeybee vaccine—which was developed with scientific support the company received through the UGA Innovation District initiative.

Enhancing our portfolio of industry research collaborations is a UGA strategic objective because it’s a win for all. An industry-funded researcher can continue a research program and perhaps take it in a new direction, most often with a translation to market viewpoint. Our industry partners are able to access research expertise and instrumentation that they may not have in-house. And, as members of the public, we all enjoy the benefits of new products and services created with UGA’s help, as well as the economic growth that can result from such offerings.

Indeed, there is likely not a faster or more direct path to university research translation than through an industry partnership. That’s one reason why in 2021 we created UGA’s Office of Business Engagement (OBE), i.e., to facilitate more collaborations that provide value to Georgia’s economy and communities, while also providing critical research support and opportunities to our faculty and students.

The Office of Research and Development and Alumni Relations are the collaborative home to the OBE, which serves as UGA’s front door for companies that want to partner with us. But the OBE also serves UGA faculty, providing resources, support and guidance to researchers who want to pursue and engage in industry-sponsored activities.

With regard to faculty support, in August the OBE team unveiled its online Business Engagement Toolkit for Faculty. This toolkit offers a range of resources for faculty, intended to help them develop direct relationships with industry contacts, as it is often at this level that corporate sponsored research projects are realized.

Some of the resources in the toolkit include:

The toolkit provides a comprehensive guide to working with industry partners and taking the first steps toward this end. Earlier this month we held a Research Live webinar to unveil the Business Engagement Toolkit, and gave a guided tour through the website and all it has to offer. If you are interested in pursuing industry collaborations, please consult with your unit head, associate dean for research and/or business manager early in the process, to ensure you are aware of established procedures.

Working with industry can be tremendously rewarding and satisfying—I know from personal experience. The range of disciplines represented in UGA’s industry partnerships is immense—companies are looking for STEM researchers as well as those in social sciences, humanities and the arts.

If you’re at all interested in diversifying your funding sources or shortening your path to research translation by collaborating with a corporate partner, please watch our recent Research Live webinar and connect with the OBE team. You may find doors to opportunities and impact that you’d never considered.

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Welcome back! After what I sincerely hope was a restorative and productive summer for all of you, it’s time again to welcome new students and researchers to campus, to enjoy meeting a new cohort of arriving faculty and to settle into the academic year.

Mental health is a phrase that too often we avoid or steer quickly and nervously around. Indeed, the rigors of productive and competitive research programs have potential to establish the unhealthiest of habits, taking their toll on mental health. I want to start 2023-24 with a plea to support and encourage ourselves and one another in considering our own mental and physical habits, and to find new ways to approach the stress of our challenging jobs, with the end goal of fostering a healthy community and research environment for ourselves and our students.

In May, an alarming piece was published in Nature that highlighted multiple recent studies that all supported the same conclusion: There is a worldwide mental health crisis in research programs, one that affects, in particular, faculty and graduate students on university campuses around the globe. The author states that “researchers are much more likely than the general population to experience depression and anxiety.”

We often rationalize angst as a badge of honor. We push ourselves and those around us to the brink to produce research deliverables that signify we are the first to traverse uncharted territory. Further complicating matters, we are just emerging from the most serious public health crisis of our lifetimes—there’s every reason to expect anxiety levels to have spiked. However, we cannot simply point our fingers at COVID-19, as the untenable pressures and resulting anxieties pre-date the pandemic. We simply must dismantle the current unhealthy culture that has produced a mental health pandemic and build new, healthy research norms. We must act.

One of the best ways we can help in this mental health pandemic is by being hypervigilant about the culture we create around our own work; are we focusing on the right drivers and rewards to build a sustainable, productive research team? Then, within our teams, are we communicating the opportunities to contemplate and exercise good mental health practices?

There are many services offered at UGA to assist us in this battle. UGA Human Resources provides information to connect faculty and staff to mental well-being resources, and the University System of Georgia offers an outstanding Employee Assistance Program that includes tools for stress management, wellness challenges and coaching services. Finally, are we listening to our colleagues, research staff and students to know when they are struggling?

At a world-class research university like UGA, we expect the quality of our faculty, staff, postdocs and students to be elite. Stress is an expected (and sometimes even beneficial) byproduct of those expectations. But that doesn’t mean our lives need to be a daily, never-ending struggle to keep our psychological heads above water. If we, as faculty mentors, do not don our wellness oxygen masks first, it should be no surprise that the microenvironment in which we place our students and staff will be fraught with unhealthy practices and danger. We must make mental wellness a priority, beginning by normalizing it in our conversations.

We are a community. We have both the resources and the motivation to listen intently and support one another. My hope is that each of us makes a small commitment each day to doing exactly that.

I hope your fall is off to a great start. Best wishes for a wonderful academic year.

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Calling for all Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant ideas!

True to our UGA land grant mission, we are laser focused on societal impact. Simply stated, we Think Big. Our Office of Research pre-seed and seed grant programs are structured to encourage interdisciplinary ideation around solutions to the world’s most complex problems. 

Two years ago, for example, professors Mark Tompkins and Pej Rohani—whose appointments are based in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Odum School of Ecology, respectively—learned that their proposed Center for Influenza Disease and Emergence Research (CIDER) had been funded by the National Science Foundation with up to $92 million over seven years. You may remember this announcement, as it was one of the largest sponsored research awards in UGA history, but more importantly represented a relatable, compelling vision with global urgency and “Think Big” societal impact underpinnings.

CIDER did not magically materialize; it was the actualization of an idea that was devised and cultivated by an interdisciplinary team of dedicated researchers over several years. It began as one of the projects funded in the inaugural 2017 cycle of Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants, offered jointly by the Office of Research and UGA Public Service and Outreach. 

Several more of UGA’s recent signature research efforts also received a kickstart through Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants, including: 

These examples list only some of those projects that have evolved to freestanding research initiatives. Many other projects funded by Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants have resulted in lasting research teams and partnerships that continue to pay off in terms of scholarly productivity and external funding.

Over three previous cohorts, the program has made awards to 30 teams comprising nearly 230 faculty members. The total UGA investment over those three cohorts amounted to less than $5 million, yet the return in terms of subsequent extramural funding is (to date) an incredible $204 million, for an overall return on investment of 40:1. There were also approximately 170 peer-reviewed publications (plus more than double that number of academic presentations) that have resulted from those projects. 

Most importantly, and nearly impossible to attach to a meaningful quantitative metric, is the enormous benefit to society that has been realized. Lessons gleaned from the inaugural Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant round led to the realization that funding was needed for an earlier stage of collaboration and thus the Teaming for Interdisciplinary Research Pre-Seed Program was added to the OoR portfolio in 2020. 

These two seed funding initiatives provide the foundation for UGA’s strategic, deliberate effort to address some of society’s greatest challenges through large, interdisciplinary team science approaches. It is our attempt to encourage you and support you to Think Big.

I’m excited to announce some changes for the 2023 Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant call. Proposals are invited for two tracks – the first is a “New Frontiers” proposal track—intended for teams hoping to embark into demonstrably new/leading edge territory for research—the second is a “Cluster Engagement” track intended to help establish the cluster ecosystem and promote collaboration and engagement of faculty (including recent cluster hires) thematically tied to the recent artificial intelligence and machine learning cluster topics. 

Perhaps most important are new expectations for real-world translation. All 2023 proposals must include components that demonstrate immediate or long-term plans for engagement with end-users and communities, with the ultimate goal of direct and/or commercial translation of the research. Deliverables will include outputs meaningful to community or end-user, rather than only the traditional academic modes of dissemination. Funding agencies preparing to make large, team-science awards expect their funded projects to make a sizable and measurable impact in the world, an expectation that will be fundamental to our team projects.

To help faculty identify colleagues for potential collaboration, Associate Vice President for Research Larry Hornak and his team in the Office of Integrative Team Initiatives have created a new resource: the Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Team Builder. This Microsoft Teams-based platform allows faculty to advertise their ideas and areas of interest—including needs for collaborators of particular skills and/or disciplines—to potentially match up with others. Simply log in with your UGA credentials to get started.

I highly encourage you to use the new Team Builder tool to connect with your colleagues in other departments, schools and colleges and get started. There’s no time to waste—letters of intent are due via InfoReady by Aug. 14. We are here to support research that changes lives – Think Big!

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Have you wondered what you would do if a dangerous spill or injury happened in your lab? The immediate response, after ensuring the safety of those working in your lab and addressing the unexpected event, is to consider why it occurred and how to prevent a future similar occurrence. Perhaps there was even a lapse in compliance with federal or state regulations, which can seem ever-changing and hard to understand.

UGA’s research and instructional enterprise is incredibly complex. Doing the groundbreaking work of inquiry and service comes with an inherent level of safety risk, particularly in university laboratories.

The Office of Research Safety (ORS) staff are your support and guides for navigating regulations. The ORS team comprises nine full-time safety specialists, five of whom focus on chemical and general laboratory safety, with four more concentrating on radioactive materials, lasers and x-ray safety.

All team members work very closely with personnel in the Office of Biosafety and the Environmental Safety Division (ESD). If they cannot answer a question, they know who can.

UGA has close to 2,000 laboratories and lab support areas around campus, many with hazardous chemicals, biohazards, radioactive materials, lasers, etc. Knowing how to manage these varying hazards can be not only time-consuming but also can lead to frustration. We know that time spent deciphering safety regulations means less time spent on actual research; so, we would prefer to relieve you of the former and do the work of translation.

To take full advantage of ORS services, first let the office personnel know where you’re located. If you’re opening a new laboratory, relocating an existing laboratory or needing to decommission your lab space, please complete a Lab Change Notification Form. This will help ensure you are able to take full advantage of ORS subject matter expertise and services.

ORS specific services include:

  • Assisting you to ensure your laboratories are compliant with all federal, state and university safety policies through frequent safety visits, consultations and assessments.
  • Reviewing and approving standard operating procedures for laboratories.
  • Providing general and (upon request) customized training for you, your staff and students. Routine and on-demand courses already include “Lab Safety Basics” (available through the Professional Education Portal or PEP), “What to Expect from Lab Safety Inspections,” and “Advanced Rad Worker.” ORS staff are developing additional courses about appropriate spill and injury response, as well as chemical storage and segregation. We want this portal to be user friendly and serve your needs, so please send us comments at as you see features you like, as well as opportunities for improvement.
  • Helping laboratory representatives navigate Chematix. Managed by ESD personnel, this system provides you and your laboratory managers with quick access to manage your chemical inventories, request hazardous waste pickups, manage laboratory rosters, and document actions taken to improve safety and compliance.
  • Providing assistance with spill cleanup and emergency response. ORS maintains a 24/7 response team that can provide guidance and support services in the event of a laboratory emergency (see for contact information).
  • Supplying laboratories with up-to-date safety signage at no direct cost to the lab. You can always request additional signage and stickers on the ORS website.

ORS also offers additional fee-for-service options such as laboratory equipment decontamination and laboratory decommissioning services. Additional information about these services can also be found on the ORS website.

In summary, ORS is a multidisciplinary team of safety and support professionals working together to help our research community shoulder the weight of regulatory burden while also ensuring that community can learn, investigate and discover in a safe environment.

I have managed a UGA tissue engineering laboratory for almost eight years and have found the ORS team to be professional and collaborative. I greatly appreciate their help in maintaining the high quality of our laboratory. Moreover, I am grateful for their important service to our research enterprise!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!

Karen J.L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Following the recommendations made by multi-year working groups comprising college, school and other unit representatives, this summer the University of Georgia will move from Academic Credit to Collaborator Contribution as a new method for designating investigator contributions to sponsored projects. The change will become effective July 1.

Collaborator Contribution combines indirect cost (IDC) distribution with credit distribution to create a new, simplified way of tracking contributions. There are several benefits to this new method, including the ability to view proposal, award and expenditure trends at the college, department and investigator levels—and to know that the data is consistent and reliable. Accordingly, we are developing a new suite of reporting tools that will allow investigators and administrators to easily view the data in numerical and graphical form. The resulting reports all will rely on the same Collaborator Contribution methodology.

The investigator version of this report will be available this summer, followed by the college and department versions. Next, center and institute (C&I)  reporting tools will be developed.

From now until July 1, we will provide a period of review and comment regarding how allocations will change. One of the many discussion meetings that we’ve held was on April 12, with chief business officers from academic units as well as staff members with decentralized limited signatory authority (DLSAs). These staff in your units are already reviewing these changes and recommending edits where needed.

Some aspects of documenting sponsored project contributions will remain unchanged. For example, you will still be able to log into the Grants Portal and update collaborators, financial department IDs and contributor percentages as the circumstances around your sponsored project change. The IDC distribution process will also not be affected by this change.

No doubt, you have (or will have) questions about this change. We’ve created an informational page (UGA authentication required) about Collaborator Contribution, complete with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, to help explain the new methodology. There is also an email link in case you have additional questions; however, please be sure to review the FAQ as you will likely find that your questions have already been addressed.

We also recently held a Research Live webinar about the transition to Collaborator Contribution, and I encourage you to view the recorded video of this event, which features answers to many of the same questions you likely have.

The transition to Collaborator Contribution is based on recommendations from working groups of faculty, staff and administrators—a very big thank you to everyone who took the time to offer feedback, evaluate recommendations and provide final input to help us fine-tune this new process. Special thanks to Jill Tincher from the Sponsored Projects Administration, Shawn Hill from the Office of Research/Finance Division, Chad Cleveland from Finance and Allan Aycock from the Office of Institutional Research, as well as their teams, for the detailed work that went into implementing the Collaborator Contribution model and the corresponding reporting tools.

I am confident that you will find this process an upgrade from Academic Credit, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that this new method is applied consistently and fairly.

I hope your summers are off to a great start! Thank you for all you do in support of UGA research and innovation.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

University of Georgia faculty members are innovative! Of the 200 or so startup projects currently in Innovation Gateway’s pipeline, more than 90% are led by faculty researchers. If your research has potential for commercialization, please know you work at an excellent university to help you translate your ideas to market and social good.

Of course, many entrepreneurially minded students also benefit from Innovation Gateway programs and assistance, but their pathways to market also wind through our various college-based pitch competitions. For Innovation Gateway, faculty are the primary audience and client base.

Over the past five years, “innovation” has been a much-used word on campus. It’s a goal to which many of us aspire—and for good reason. When the Innovation District was established in 2019, it was intended in part to support faculty invention disclosures along with patent and licensing agreements. Our faculty were proving themselves to be one of the most active group of innovators in the U.S., and the Innovation District simply sprang out of the activity that was organically occurring.

The numbers support these observations. UGA has ranked among the Top 5 for new research-based products to market in each of the nine years that metric has been compiled, but that’s just part of the story. More than 1,000 products and over 250 companies have been created from UGA research.

Innovation Gateway personnel assist at every stage of the commercialization process. The Innovation Gateway team members can help secure intellectual property (IP) rights through patents, trademarks and copyrights. They can facilitate feedback from industry partners to help faculty close the gap between a technology’s current state and the point of commercialization. The Innovation Gateway licensing team is in place and ready to facilitate the process and can negotiate and execute material transfer, confidentiality and data agreements, as well as review and negotiate IP clauses in sponsored research agreements.

Why is it so important to protect your ideas? Simply stated, the odds of commercializing your ideas are profoundly increased if those concepts are protected. Protection means a limited time, financial market advantage that allows the development and launch of new products, without the crowd of competitors.

If you decide to take the very exciting plunge and form a startup company of your own (yes, ideas protection is even more vital in this instance), Innovation Gateway has spent this year gearing up to provide even better support. We now offer assistance throughout the startup process, from exploration to evaluation, to development and scale up.

That’s part of the reason Innovation Gateway’s startup pipeline has doubled since we launched the Innovation District, from just over 100 projects in 2018 to more than 200 today. During that time, UGA-based startups—companies you’ve heard about, such as ArunA Bio, Blue Lake Technology, InfraredRx and Can I Recycle This?—have successfully earned upwards of $90 million in grants and investments.

Supported by a generous gift from the Truist Foundation, Innovation Gateway supports both the university and Athens-Clarke County startup communities through experiential learning activities, such as NSF I-Corps, Innovation Bootcamp and Faculty Innovation Fellows. It’s also a highly visible and recognizable UGA entryway for industry engagement.

Last month’s blog topic was UGA Cooperative Extension and its vital role in supporting UGA’s land-grant mission as well as helping us better understand our “customers,” i.e. the people of the state. Commercializing research is complementary to that mission and makes the ideas about which we are so passionate more widely available and in the right format to benefit citizens in Georgia and beyond.

If you believe your research has commercial potential (or even if you think not but the topic interests you) and you haven’t yet connected with anyone at Innovation Gateway, stop by the Delta Innovation Hub. The Innovation Gateway staff are happy to talk, and you might just open a whole new world of potential for you and your work. More importantly, you might just open a whole new world of potential for others whom your work advantages.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Looking for ways to increase the impact of your research or to more directly connect it with community? Consider partnering with UGA’s Cooperative Extension! As both a land- and sea-grant institution, UGA is charged with serving the needs of Georgia and its citizens, and boasts one of the most robust Extension programs in the nation, with dedicated agents providing consultation and programming in every one of Georgia’s 159 counties. Extension’s stated purpose is “to translate the science of everyday living for farmers, families and communities to foster a healthy and prosperous Georgia.”

Enter research — “the science of everyday living” takes shape every day in research spaces all across the UGA enterprise. Our very identity compels us to make the benefits of our research available to Georgia citizens as best we can, working hand in hand with Extension and its 321 agents and 450-plus classified employees.

Extension agents are public service track faculty who develop and extend programming based on local needs and informed by research subject matter. Their education programs deliver unbiased, research-based education in three main areas: agriculture and natural resources (ANR), family and consumer sciences (FACS) and 4-H youth development.

In addition to agents, Extension specialists are tenure-track or public service-track faculty located in academic units: ANR and 4-H specialists in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and FACS specialists in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources also includes some Extension specialists among its faculty.

In partnership with advisory councils, citizens and local governments, Extension agents and their colleagues develop a plan of work every other year to strategically define the issues they will address in their community, leveraging their expertise with that of their local partners and the rest of the UGA community. Because of this grassroots needs assessment, programming in every Georgia county is unique and personalized.

Of course, every county has a certain level of base programming that is similar across the state, such as soil testing, pesticide safety training, home horticulture advice and 4-H programming. Extension has identified eight programming areas to help identify, aggregate and track impact of programming. These include:

  • Animal production
  • Food safety and quality
  • Health and wellness
  • Community, home & life skills
  • Plant production
  • Sustainability, conservation and the environment
  • Urban agriculture
  • Youth and family development

County agents routinely collaborate with specialists, as well as researchers from other UGA units and even other universities, to address local needs that may be outside their areas of expertise. Through Extension, the opportunity is ripe for connecting broader research activities to the state—as long as those activities serve the community’s needs. Recent examples include research in rural healthfarmer mental health and suicide, and childhood obesity.

In summary, Extension programming is local and collaborative. It is science-based and results-driven, but it is also personal, even multi-generational. Indeed, to the residents of many parts of our state, Extension personnel are UGA. They are the face, voice and hands of the university. They build lasting relationships with the individuals and communities they serve. They work hard to establish trust—and just as hard to maintain that trust once it’s there.

This summer, the United States will celebrate the 161st anniversary of one of the most significant—yet underappreciated—pieces of legislation ever enacted regarding U.S. higher education. Passed on July 2, 1862, the Morrill Act paved the way for today’s “land-grant” universities, of which the University of Georgia is proudly one. The act made it possible for states to establish public colleges funded by the development or sale of associated federal land grants.

The new land-grant institutions, which emphasized agricultural and mechanical arts, opened opportunities to farmers, tradespeople and other working-class citizens to reap the benefits of a college education. Together with two subsequent acts, the Hatch Act of 1877 and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, this new national approach to higher education carried with it a three-part charge to land-grant universities: teach, conduct research and provide service to the local (i.e., state) communities.

For more than 160 years, UGA researchers have stepped up to contribute to our university mission of teaching, research and service. It’s a responsibility—and a tradition—that will continue throughout the 21st century and beyond, for the benefit of the state we call home.

As Georgia’s land-grant university, UGA is ideally situated not just to conduct research with impact, but to apply that research through resources like Extension. If your research has potential application to a real challenge affecting everyday Georgians and you are not already working with Cooperative Extension, I urge you to connect and explore a potential collaboration with high societal impact. For more inspiration, please take a moment to view the Research Live webinar, “Turning Research into Impact: How UGA Cooperative Extension Works with Georgia Communities.” We all have a role to play in upholding and growing this rich tradition.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research

Announcements From the VPR

Postdoctoral researchers are vital members of laboratories and other research spaces, not just here at UGA but in research universities around the country. I began my full-time research career as a postdoctoral fellow at a medical center, and the position provided a vital bridge between the completion of a Ph.D. and the obtainment of a tenure-track faculty position.

My postdoc fellowship allowed me to immerse myself in a clinical setting, giving me time and opportunity to better understand my “customer” (e.g., clinical personnel and patients) while becoming a more independent researcher and developing my project management, networking and mentoring skills. A high-quality postdoctoral experience of this type can be career shaping—even career changing.

It is imperative that we offer UGA postdoctoral researchers the highest quality experience while they are engaged with us in the UGA research enterprise. Indeed, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), under the direction of Associate Vice President Shelley Hooks, is committed to supporting the needs of UGA’s postdocs, from their hiring to their professional development to the other needs and challenges they encounter. Increasing the number of postdocs and their impact on UGA research is not just our Office of Research (OoR) goal—it’s a strategic goal of the entire university.

In the four years since 2019, spanning the COVID slowdown, we have made significant strides toward that goal, realizing a 30% increase in the number of new postdoc appointments. We currently have slightly upward of 260 UGA postdoctoral fellows. In addition to appointment processing and policy development for postdocs, last year OPA staff members developed updated policies for postdocs, including simplifying separation procedures upon the end of funding.

Shelley’s team also develops and delivers professional development programming for postdocs, and these activities have increased substantially for FY23. Check out the UGA Postdoc Portal for more information about these opportunities.

Already this year, we have offered many new programs and events, including an academic job search panel discussion, an industry job search panel discussion, an international scholar webinar series, an intensive mentoring workshop series, a grant writing panel discussion focused on National Institutes of Health K awards, and an NIH/National Science Foundation grant writing workshop. We are always open to suggestions of topics, so please do let us know as you think of additional subject areas of postdoc importance.

By way of special activities and support, I’m excited to report that OPA is hosting a day-long Life Sciences Career Day, in partnership with the graduate school, to be held March 30. Over the 2022-23 academic year, 21 postdoc travel awards totaling $18,300 have been awarded through OPA.

Another OPA focus—a priority for all of OoR, just as it is for UGA—is to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion among our postdoc community. That community already is exceptionally diverse in terms of international culture, and OPA activities actively celebrate this point. The OPA office is home to a world map displaying countries of origin, and OPA was host to a multicultural potluck winter holiday celebration.

However, like many academic populations, the domestic postdoc population does not fully reflect the diversity of our nation or state. We are developing programs to ensure that postdoctoral training opportunities are available, apparent, welcoming and appealing to diverse scholars. For example, OPA partnered with the Graduate School to select and support postdocs and graduate students in the SEC Emerging Scholars program, which seeks to increase diversity among SEC university faculty.

Next year, I’m very excited about the launch of a pilot program, the UGA Postdoctoral Scholars for Innovation, Diversity and Excellence (UPSIDE), which has the goal of recruiting exceptional postdoc talent to drive UGA’s strategic research missions; to enhance innovation, diversity and excellence throughout our domestic postdoc community; and to create a pipeline of diverse, innovative scholars prepared to join and lead the next generation of faculty. Participants in this two-year fellowship program will engage in both faculty-mentored research/scholarship in strategic priority research areas and academic career professional development.

The postdoctoral community isn’t the only specialized research community we serve. OPA is embedded within the broader Office of Research Personnel (ORP), which also supports visiting scholars/researchers, research scientists and research affiliates through resource development, oversight, advocacy and the creation of appointment/registration policies and procedures.

In FY22, the ORP staff led or facilitated the appointment or registration of 25 new research scientists, 234 visiting scholar/researchers and 62 research affiliates, as well as 139 new postdocs. The ORP staff have extensively reviewed visiting research scholar and research affiliate polices to address research security concerns; updated the research scientist promotion guidelines to reflect new Board of Regents annual review requirements; and administered the university-level review for eight research scientist promotions.

Research of the caliber found at UGA necessitates a community of committed professionals, as well as adequate administrative structures behind those professionals. In the Office of Research, we will continue to do everything we can in support of all our research communities, both for the benefit of those community members but also for everyone whose lives are positively impacted by UGA research.

My sincere thanks for your support as we build a diverse research community.

Karen J. L. Burg
Vice President for Research
Harbor Lights Chair in Biomedical Research