Skip to main content

Doing Research 2021

September 2021

Research funding reaches record $893 million

Support for Northwestern’s high-impact work continued growing despite COVID-19

Even during a protracted global pandemic, Northwestern’s research enterprise again demonstrated strong performance, with annual sponsored funding reaching a new high of $893.4 million for the fiscal year closing Aug. 31. This accomplishment represents an increase of 1% from last year’s total and continues a decade-long trend that has positioned Northwestern among the nation’s most prestigious research institutions. Since 2011, the University’s research funding has climbed more than 74% as Northwestern approaches $1 billion in sponsored support, a scale achieved by only the most successful academic peers. Research of all kinds advanced, and Northwestern faculty made significant contributions to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The dollar amount of proposal activity was up 7% year over year, totaling $3.8 billion, continuing a steady upward trend in recent years and increasing by $1 billion since 2017. The number of awards was even with the previous year’s activity, totaling 3,438, although the complexity of those awards has tended to increase over time.  

Neil Kelleher appointed CLP director

Renowned proteomics expert Neil L. Kelleher has been named director of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute (CLP), effective Sept. 1, after having served as interim director since January. Kelleher also is faculty director of Northwestern Proteomics, a center of excellence within CLP, that develops novel platforms for drug discovery and diagnostics. CLP is a cross-campus driver of interdisciplinary collaboration and biomedical innovation that brings pioneering discoveries from the lab to society. Learn more.

NU technology accelerator to boost research impact, translation and talent recruitment

Thanks to state funding and philanthropy, a multimillion-dollar technology accelerator in downtown Evanston will support startup companies led by Northwestern faculty in health, life sciences and related fields, amplifying scientific discovery and innovation by supplying the laboratory space, networking opportunities and management training necessary to address the world’s biggest problems. The project has been part of senior leadership’s strategic vision, said Milan Mrksich, vice president for research, whose enthusiasm for the incubator helped garner support among key stakeholders, including a generous $25M gift from Trustee Kimberly Querrey. “This significant investment in Northwestern's entrepreneurial activities is exciting and timely,” Mrksich said. “The facility, together with new coaching and business services, will significantly grow the number of companies that translate our basic science into commercial technologies that benefit society.” Learn more.

Round 2 Peterson Foundation grant deadline: Oct. 15 

Round 2 funding is available through a program launched this spring to provide support for faculty pursuing effective policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and improving future preparedness through pioneering, interdisciplinary research on the U.S. economy and healthcare system. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Program will support a second round of such research with grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 over 12- to 18-month project durationThe fund is administered by the Office of Research Development and is open to all Northwestern faculty. Learn more online or by contacting Associate Vice President for Research Fruma Yehiely. Review Round 1 funded projects and submit a Round 2 grant application before the Oct. 15 deadline.

Office for Research bolsters cryogenics infrastructure 

 The Office for Research (OR) sponsored the recent construction of a 48,000 pound, 450 cu. ft. pressure vessel outside of the Technological Institute in Evanston. This container will store high-pressure helium for the Cryogenics Facility, a Northwestern core, whose faculty director is Bill Halperin (physics and astronomy). Funding for the project came in part from a NIH grant meant to shore up the U.S. industrial helium infrastructure. Halperin is an expert on helium and the Federal Helium Reserve. The tank can store store up to 6 months of helium when fully charged, a significant benefit to help ensure consistent supply chain availability. The project is an example of OR taking proactive strategic action to prevent future disruptions of essential scientific supplies.

August 2021

New OR office provides analytics expertise

The recently launched Research Analytics unit promotes a data-driven culture across the Office for Research by partnering with key stakeholders in administrative functions to develop analytics solutions for informed decision making. The unit also collaborates with other areas within Northwestern as a resource for analytic data.  Learn more.

Updated industry sponsored IRB fees

 The IRB Office has announced an updated IRB fee schedule for industry sponsored research. After extensive benchmarking, these fees have been set to align with, or below, those of our peer institutions. These fees are applicable to all new industry sponsored studies submitted in eIRB+ on or after September 1, 2021. Please review our new IRB fees webpage for more information.

Principal investigator leaving NU?

Departing PIs must transfer responsibility to a new PI for ongoing human research. Reference the IRB’s PI Transfer of Responsibilities Checklist for considerations during PI transition. Departing PIs must close studies that will not be transferred to a new PI. See the IRB’s PI Transfer of Responsibility Guidelines for details.

Act now to make space in your lab

August is here and labs are welcoming new members, so now is the time to assess your research space for best performance in the coming year. If you have surplus lab equipment that is taking up space, contact Research Safety to help have it removed and recycled. 

NU Scholars highlights COVID-19 research

Northwestern Scholars has added a direct link on its homepage to highlight the University’s COVID-19 research. Visit the Scholars homepage and click on the banner to learn more about faculty, publications, and sponsored research projects related to COVID-19.

Enjoy free access to ‘UIDPConnect’

The Sponsored Research and Corporate Engagement teams are pleased to share that Northwestern employees once again will have institutional access to the UIDP Virtual 2021 event, Sept. 13-17. We invite you to review the agenda and select the sessions most relevant for your work. Register now using the code "CONNECTACCESS2021."

NU/Tel Aviv nanoscience fellowships 

Applications are now open for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows at Northwestern and Tel Aviv University for research exchange fellowships in nanoscience and nanotechnology. The initiative’s goal is to facilitate robust synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers, with a view toward long-term collaborations. Apply by Sept. 1. Learn more.


July 2021

Annual Impact Report highlights Northwestern’s diverse research strengths

A pandemic year brought historic challenges, but once again Northwestern research thrived, attracting a total of $887.3 million in sponsored research funding in FY20 as the University became the largest academic research site in Illinois. Northwestern also remained ranked among the nation’s top 10 universities. The recently published Impact Report showcases some of the remarkable metrics and research excellence from across all schools and units, including efforts at the intersection of disciplines.

Managing summer research teams in LUMEN

Summer students and interns are back and active on Northwestern's campuses. Research Safety encourages our colleagues in the laboratory sciences to set the right example and ensure that new additions to your teams are properly supervised, trained, and know what to do in an emergency. Enter each student into LUMEN, which will assign any required training, and visit Research Safety for lab coats, eye protection and heavy-duty gloves. Also remember: shorts, sandals, flip fops and other garments that leave skin unprotected pose an unnecessary risk when working with biological, chemical, or physical hazards. Research Safety is always ready to support your work, including with resources to help minimize hazards.

New surgery training available

Effective July 1, new surgery training became available to Northwestern researchers. These resources include AALAS online courses as well as hands-on training. The training will be required for newly added personnel who will perform surgery.  For more information on the new  requirements, please review the PDFs under the "IACUC Online Training" section on the IACUC website's Training Page.

New documents for research with children

The IRB Office website has new documents to support research involving children. These materials feature improved readability/accessibility in line with existing policies, practices, and regulatory criteria. For more information, please see our Guidance and Templates & Forms on Children as Research Participants, Parental Permission, and Child Assent. 

'Nature and Green Infrastructure' spotlights health

Join Northwestern's Corporate Engagement team for a webinar on the health impact for people living in urban areas with access to greenspace. The Aug. 4 event, led by Weinberg College Professor Terry Horton (anthropology), will consider untapped resources for preventive medicine.  Register to attend now.

Research funding opportunities

The NUCATS Institute has extended the deadline for four funding opportunities — ranging from $30K to $200K — intended to support and accelerate innovative research to improve human health. Awarded projects are expected to be completed within 12-24 months depending on the funding mechanism. The deadline to apply is Aug. 13 at 5 p.m.


June 2021

Research office strengthens DEI and analytics capacity

The Office for Research (OR) has made two organizational changes to further support the University’s thriving research enterprise. Effective June 14, Aisha Ghori Ozaki joins Northwestern to become OR’s inaugural director of diversity, equity and inclusion, responsible for leading and coordinating efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace environment. On June 1, Nicholas Angeloni moved from his role as OR’s director of strategic planning and coordination to become director of research analytics for the office. Angeloni will focus on building and sharing analytics expertise to promote OR’s data-driven culture to derive insight into performance measured against goals and peer benchmarks. Learn more.

Webinar focuses on DEI and social justice

 Join Corporate Engagement for a panel discussion and Q&A with Northwestern professors who have successfully launched programs to advance social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with the support of corporate partners. Register for the June 10 webinar.

Clearing space for new science

Even as research at Northwestern remains extremely active, many labs have used the past few months to perform some major housecleaning and rearrangement of their spaces. In Molecular Biosciences, one lab removed more than 30 pieces of unwanted equipment in a large common space this spring. The results of this streamlining were dramatic. Research Safety can help you and your department with your clean-out projects and the removal of any gear that is no longer needed. Simply email the Research Safety team to schedule a consult.

New NIH biosketch and other support requirements

Northwestern is taking a phased roll-in approach to comply with recent NIH policy notices regarding updates to biosketch and other support requirements. The first phase of implementation begins June 18. Learn more. 

Early submissions for NIH deadline encouraged

For Research Grants and Cooperative Agreements (R01, U01) with a due date of July 5, Sponsored Research strongly encourages principal investigators to submit proposals earlier than usual, since the office will be closed July 1-5 for the University’s extended holiday weekend.

NUCATS accepting applications for funding

The NUCATS Institute has posted a Request for Proposals for four funding opportunities intended to support and accelerate innovative research to improve human health. Awarded projects are expected to be completed within 12 to 24 months, depending on the funding mechanism. The deadline to apply is July 9. 

NU active in cultivating STEM diversity, inclusion

Northwestern’s Office of Research in Higher Education, Training and Evaluation and the Searle Center are excited to announce the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project and their six-week edX course starting June 14 (register here). Currently there are 1,100 participants from some 100 institutions, including Northwestern. The course aims to (a.) advance awareness and the ability to cultivate inclusive learning environments; (b.) engage in discussions about equity and inclusion; (c.) implement inclusive teaching methods to remove common barriers; and (d.) support development of reflective, inclusive practitioners. We also are leading an optional weekly Northwestern Faculty Learning Community to review the material and align it with our University setting. Register separately for the learning community. 


May 2021

Course provides deeper understanding of research enterprise.

Whether you’re new or experienced in research administration, the Research Integrity team invites you to check out the online training program “Introduction to Research Administration at Northwestern.” The curriculum includes a comprehensive introduction to the Office for Research and related offices, plus research-related resources and a “Basics of Sponsored Research Administration” series of web-based courses and webinars. Details, registration information and frequently asked questions are available at Research Integrity’s website.

Congrats to cross-disciplinary research leaders

The Office for Research salutes Weinberg Collage faculty members Dedre Gentner, Thomas McDade, and Michael Wasielewski for their recent election to the National Academy of Sciences. Each of them has made significant contributions to their disciplines, while also being highly involved in Northwestern’s cross-disciplinary University Research Institutes and Centers, which spur innovation and attract talent from across multiple schools and departments. Gentner is co-director of the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), while McDade is affiliated with Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR). Wasielewski is executive director of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN).

Lakeside Discovery supports NU lab

Lakeside Discovery announced in March that it will support the laboratory of Paul DeCaen, a member of the Department of Pharmacology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, in a multi-year partnership to advance new therapies for genetically driven polycystic kidney disease.

Lakeside Discovery, a collaboration between Northwestern and Deerfield Management, seeks to support new target-based drug discovery concepts on a rolling basis, especially projects with a genetic connection between the target of interest and the disease intended to be treated. Reach out to discuss your potential project ideas.

Schedule end-of-year clean up

As the academic year starts to wind down, Research Safety encourages you to contact their team to ensure a smooth transition as departing graduate students and postdocs leave Northwestern. Safety will visit your research space to collect any hazardous materials or samples—a simple but important step that will help prepare for new arrivals and help avoid inconvenience and cost associated with later identifying unknown materials that are left behind. Please arrange to have Safety visit at least two weeks prior to the departure of individuals from your team.

Nominations invited for nanomedicine awards

Nominations are now open for two prestigious international prizes: the $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine, which recognizes researchers for career-long contributions to the field, and the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award, which recognizes emerging researchers who have made groundbreaking discoveries. Recipients can be affiliated with institutions in the U.S. or worldwide, including Northwestern. Submit nominations by the May 17 deadline.

Germ-free facility supports microbiome research

Established in 2016, the Center for Comparative Medicine Gnotobiotic Facility maintains germ-free mice for Northwestern researchers investigating the role of the microbiome in human health and disease. Services include experimental design consultation, microbiological testing, germ-free surgery, and caesarian rederivation. Learn more by visiting the CCM website.

Getting started with corporate philanthropy

Join the Corporate Engagement team for a panel discussion with Northwestern professors who have successfully established and maintained relationships with individuals in industry. Hear about their real-world experiences and examples of developing corporate partnerships. Register now for the hour-long May 20 event.


April 2021

Peterson Foundation grant to fuel more COVID-19 research at Northwestern

A new program at Northwestern is providing funding for faculty who are pursuing policy-relevant COVID-19 research, including investigations into state-level pandemic responses and socioeconomic and health disparities across communities. Announced last week, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Program will support such work with individual grants ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 over 18- to 24-month project cycles. The fund is administered by the Office of Research Development and is open to all Northwestern faculty. Learn more and request a grant application. The Round 1 application deadline is April 30.

Foreign influence guidance updated

Issues related to foreign influence in academic research remain a key national security focus, resulting in federal investigations, firings, criminal charges and other consequences for those who fail to comply with the necessary guidance. Federal research sponsors have provided clarifications and adjusted processes to assist universities in protecting against improper foreign interference in academic research. The Office for Research continues to monitor these developments and has recently updated guidance for Northwestern researchers.

‘Other Support’ resource page launched

Sponsored Research has launched a new webpage dedicated to Other / Current & Pending Support. The page provides guidance for investigators about what to include in their Other Support documents. As well, the page offers curated links to related resources. Read more.

Free access to virtual UIDP summit

The Sponsored Research and Corporate Engagement teams are pleased to share that Northwestern employees will again have institutional access to the UIDP Virtual 2021 event on April 12-16. We invite you to review the agenda and select the sessions most relevant for your work. Register now using the code “ALLACCESS2021.”

Investment to spur your innovation

The N.XT Fund is a $10 million gap fund designed to support promising early-stage startups at Northwestern. Investments aim to de-risk technologies to a value inflection point to attract potential partners and investors. INVO is announcing a focused solicitation to support commercialization of Education Technology (EdTech) developed by Northwestern researchers and entrepreneurs. Apply for a N.XT Award or learn more by visiting the website.

Updated toolkit among NUCATS resources

The NUCATS Institute’s Center for Clinical Research continues to enhance its Recruitment Toolkit to provide Northwestern study teams with valuable resources and information. The digital toolkit consists of essential training, templates and editorial guidance to create recruitment materials and respond strategically to recruitment challenges. Other NUCATS initiatives include the KL2 career development award (current RFA deadline is April 12). Learn more about the award’s impact on healthcare disparities through the perspective of former KL2 scholar Dr. Muriel Jean-Jacques (internal medicine and geriatrics).

New climate forum features NU scientists

Northwestern researchers have been selected to present their work during the world’s first Planetary Health Week, April 25-30. The Planetary Health Annual Meeting is a virtual conference that highlights the connection between human health and climate. Registration for the free event is now open. Learn more.


AI at Northwestern – upcoming events

The University continues its virtual “AI and Its Impact” series on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. during the Spring Quarter. The series alternates between presentation- and discussion-based sessions to highlight AI-related research across Northwestern and to facilitate networking opportunities. All are welcome! Find the entire event calendar here and register for the next session, occurring April 14.


March 2021

New leadership hire strengthens research institute

Northwestern’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) has named Jagadīśa-devaśrī Dācus as its new associate director to oversee operations, provide thought leadership and develop and implement strategic goals and objectives. A licensed social worker with a doctorate from City University of New York, Dācus brings more than two decades of leadership experience, including tenures at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Learn more.

Admin expertise key for juvenile detention study

At a recent Office for Research (OR) digital forum, Linda Teplin (psychiatry and behavioral sciences) shared findings from her longitudinal investigation of youth who have been incarcerated — including stark differences by race/ethnicity and sex. She also presented her work at the annual AAAS meeting in February. Her related study on the predictors of firearm violence was just published. Teplin praised research administrators, including those in the IRB Office and Sponsored Research, and acknowledged the unique challenges of her complex intergenerational study: “We do the science, but we couldn’t do this work without the truly exceptional support from OR,” said Teplin at the event, organized by the Research Integrity team.

Keep it clean—and safe

Spring cleaning is a few weeks away, but Research Safety is ready to assist your lab now — and always — to keep your benchtops and fume hoods clean. Talk to your laboratory safety specialist and visit our office to pick up cleaning supplies. It’s also a good time for soon-to-depart graduate students and postdocs to catalog their samples and prepare to leave their bench ready for those who will join your group next. Please check shared spaces, freezers, and refrigerators for materials that become lost and forgotten. The disposal of unknown hazardous material is expensive and avoidable. Research Safety can provide special waste pickups to make this process easier. Thanks for your partnership in maintaining our research facilities.

NU achieves accreditation excellence again

In February, Northwestern’s Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) successfully attained its AAHRPP reaccreditation status for 2019 through 2024. AAHRPP is an independent, non-profit accrediting body that uses a voluntary, peer-driven, educational model to ensure that HRPPs worldwide meet rigorous quality and research participant protection standards. The multistep reaccreditation process included three days of AAHRPP interviews with some 130 University faculty and staff. The IRB Office is grateful for the invaluable contributions of many in our research community to make this “gold standard” accreditation possible!

Navigator tool helps streamline research

With the new Research Navigator tool, investigators and their teams have an integrated platform to search, manage and track their research projects. The online user guide helps get you started. You can also learn more by contacting Research IT’s Senior Director Steve Moyano.

UIDP Conference institutional access

The Sponsored Research and Corporate Engagement teams are pleased to share that Northwestern employees will again have institutional access to the UIDP Virtual 2021 event on April 12-16. We invite you to review the agenda and select the sessions most relevant for your work. Register now using the code “ALLACCESS2021.”

Advanced Manufacturing: Progress and Promise

Interested in how Northwestern approaches advanced manufacturing? Join the Corporate Engagement team for a webinar on the subject, led by Research AVP Jian Cao, the Cardiss Collins Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Northwestern Initiative on Manufacturing Science and Innovation. Register now for the hourlong April 7 event.

Nominations invited for nanomedicine awards

Nominations are now open for two prestigious international prizes: the $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience and Nanomedicine, recognizing researchers for career-long contributions to the field, and the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award, recognizing emerging researchers who have made groundbreaking discoveries. Recipients may be affiliated with any institution, including Northwestern. Nominations are due by May 17.

Help NUCATS help you

The NUCATS Institute is conducting a survey on the clinical research enterprise at Northwestern. This is your chance to let the Center for Clinical Research know what resources you need to be more effective in this space. Your feedback will help inform future resource improvements on campus as well as strategies for improving our overall research infrastructure. Responses will be confidential.


February 2021

Research-focused development director joins Northwestern

On Jan. 27, Northwestern welcomed its new development director for research centers and initiatives, Curtrice Scott. In this senior fundraising role, she will work closely with Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich to support high-priority research programs. The VPR also recently provided an update to the research community addressing several pandemic-related matters while sharing his perspective on how Northwestern is poised to build on its success in 2021.

IACUC Open House

Mark your calendars to join the IACUC team for an Open House on Feb. 25 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. Learn about IACUC processes, rodent medical records requirements (including helpful tips) and how to prepare for your next NIH Just in Time protocol submission. Registration information will be sent via eIACUC.

New LUMEN feature offers better chemistry

On Feb. 5, Research Safety enabled a new chemical inventory tool called ChemTracker within the LUMEN research registration system. Any researchers working with a significant chemical inventory, including hazardous and specialty materials, can benefit by using this tool to help track and manage these materials. Learn more about this innovation and how it can improve your lab’s research workflow and safety.

Reminder:  RCR training requirement

All trainees supported by NSF awards, including postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students, are required to complete Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training. PIs ensure compliance with these requirements. Each school, department or program has created its training plan and department administrators should communicate RCR training requirements to incoming trainees. The Office for Research Integrity (ORI) facilitates tracking and compliance with the University’s NSF RCR training policy. In addition, myHR Learn sends automated emails to trainees reminding them to complete RCR training within the required timeframes. For more information, refer to ORI’s Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Requirements and contact our team with any questions.

Research innovation and impact on display

Learn about how Northwestern knowledge is changing the world. INVO Spotlights is a new landing page where visitors can read stories and watch videos featuring research and technologies emerging from our labs and startups. Meet featured innovators and enjoy short, accessible Tech Talks and Startup Demos. Current offerings include several lay-friendly overviews of how synthetic biology is transforming work in various fields.

Digital tools extend NUCATS resources

NUCATS has updated its website to better connect researchers with the institute’s resources and services. A new help page provides access to expert advice and comprehensive support. The redesigned Navigator Portal offers information on NUCATS membership, grant development and implementation, Studio Consultations, letters of support, key documentation and more. Researchers can access these enhanced resources via a new button on the NUCATS homepage.

AI at NU: upcoming events

During Winter Term, the “AI and Its Impact” virtual presentation series continues to showcase excellent AI-related research at Northwestern and beyond. Presented on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. via Zoom, the series alternates between new discussion-based sessions (Feb. 17 and March 3) aimed at fostering engagement and facilitating networking and the traditional presentation-based sessions (Feb. 10 and 24 and March 10). All are welcome! Reach out with questions or for more information.


January 2021

Northwestern research innovation translates into real-world impact

INVO congratulates Northwestern faculty thought leaders whose efforts continue to help advance innovation and bring it from the lab into the world! From organ and tissue regeneration to the battle against COVID-19, the INVO team’s mission is to help support this enterprise. We are proud of these colleagues and invite you to learn more about some of their breakthroughs.

The quantum revolution: designed atom by atom

Interested in the chemistry and materials that are creating the technologies of the second quantum revolution? Join Northwestern’s Corporate Engagement team for a webinar on this topic, led by Danna Freedman, professor of chemistry and deputy director of the Center for Molecular Quantum Transduction, which will occur Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 11:00 a.m. to noon.

Subcontracts process improvements continue

Sponsored Research begins 2021 bolstered by performance gains in contract execution over the past year, in part driven by new technology. The team is optimistic for continued process improvements in the year ahead. Read more here.

COVID can’t sideline thriving NU research hubs

University Research Institutes and Centers continue to set records for research proposals. Despite the global pandemic, investigators have forged innovations that push the boundaries of traditional disciplines, resulting in 98 proposals with a total value of $80M+ since Sep. 1, 2020. This performance exceeds the previous year’s record-setting pace +15% in number and +90% in dollar amount. Our researchers drive this success with their perseverance and partnership. Even given major challenges to research in the past year, our faculty still are accelerating their pursuit of large-scale, world-changing research projects leveraging Northwestern’s interdisciplinary excellence. See more URIC metrics.

OR equipment grants keep cores humming

The Office for Research has completed the FY21 competition for instrumentation grants and has awarded more than $1M in grants and loans to Northwestern’s core facilities. The funds enable new equipment purchases that fuel cutting-edge research in these critical shared research facilities on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses. Since its inception in 2005, the programs have funded more than $19M in grants and $4M in loans. Examples of past awards include: optical and electron microscopes, a DNA sample repository, next generation sequencers, semiconductor processing equipment and many types of spectrometers. The proposals submitted by the core facilities are reviewed and prioritized in partnership with subject matter experts and leadership in the schools and OR. The awards are administered by OR’s Core Facilities Administration.
Learn more about instrumentation grant opportunities.