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UND research VP talks priorities as $9.5 million budget gap looms

At a forum Thursday, UND aerospace professor John Bridewell said he has met or been contacted by numerous people throughout his time at the university seeking to partner on research endeavors.

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Graphic by Carli Greninger/Grand Forks Herald

At a forum Thursday, UND aerospace professor John Bridewell said he has met or been contacted by numerous people throughout his time at the university seeking to partner on research endeavors.

Vice President for Research and Economic Development Grant McGimpsey said he realizes there isn't really a system in place to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities.

"In the absence of a structure, at this time I would just say send me emails," he said.

McGimpsey, who has been at UND for about six months, addressed faculty concerns like Bridewell's and explained his department's priorities with about 25 people Thursday.

McGimpsey acknowledged ongoing budget cuts happening at UND as they search for $9.5 million in the 2015-17 budget and set priorities he hopes continues to fund research development, grant and contracts, research communication and corporate development.

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"We have some budget challenges obviously, and one of the silver linings there is we naturally start thinking about more and more carefully what we do so we can be most efficient and set priorities," McGimpsey said.

McGimpsey said due to budget cuts requiring each department to turn in proposals reducing spending by both 5 and 10 percent, he is looking at how to cut the equivalent of 1 1/2 to three employee salaries in his own department.

But he plans to forge ahead as the research department aims to address challenges facing society including national security, energy and the environment with a focus on how those challenges affect the state.

"I think we need to focus at least in part on how to transition this research to the marketplace," he said.

Research at UND

McGimpsey said empowering arts and humanities is a part of research growth.

He came to UND from Kent State University in Ohio, where he said the mission was to find jobs for people, and he's now having to deal with the opposite at UND. "It's about finding people for jobs," McGimpsey said. "It's a complete 180."

Building partnerships with industry is another one of McGimpsey's goals because he wants UND to drive economic development, but he said he realizes many goals won't be easy because of the state's relative isolation and low population.

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"Ultimately, what we're trying to do is brand the university as a place where really important research takes place," McGimpsey said.

One success is $1.7 million worth of new seed funding programs introduced in November. In the future, McGimpsey said he would like to find money to buy out three experienced faculty members from teaching courses and have them work on grant proposals with junior faculty.

"One of the hard parts is finding the money, but the other hard part is finding the people to do this," he said.

While faculty travel has been restricted due to budget cuts, McGimpsey said his office has between $50,000 and $60,000 set aside to fund student research travel each year, something biology professor Susan Felge said is important.

Some in attendance at the forum also said they feel North Dakota State University sees more research support in certain areas.

"I think they aspire to be an important contributor through research to the state, just as we do," McGimpsey said.

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