The University of Montana has achieved a major milestone being named a top-tier ‘R-1’ research institution.

KGVO reached out to Scott Whittenburg, UM’s Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship to explain the distinction achieved by the school after being upgraded to the ‘Doctoral Universities: Very High Research Activity’ classification, also known as R1.

“We recently were named Carnegie Research One,” said Whittenburg. “It's a research very high activity status that includes only about 146 universities in the country. Less than four percent of universities in the country have this designation. So, that means we're up there playing with the big schools now.”

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Whittenburg said he always believed the university could achieve this distinction.

“When I started at the university, I guess about nine years ago, I realized that we had the faculty and that the quality was good enough that we should be an R1 institution, a top tier institution,” he said. “For that reason, it's been a goal of mine for the campus since I started here nine years ago, and we've been working towards trying to grow the research expenditures, and those are numbers that people have seen us go along and increase the number of doctoral completers. So it's something we've been working towards the campus it's in our strategic plan and our strategic mission, so I’m just glad that we have finally reached that level.”

Whittenburg compared the research funding when he started at UM with today’s numbers.

“It was about $55 million when I started, and this last year, we reported to the National Science Foundation that we will do $122 million. Plus, we know from some of the metrics that we track we'll probably be up around 15 percent next year over this year,” he said. “So the trend is continuing. We're about evenly split between the three big areas with the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and USDA. So we do a lot of research in health related fields, in applied science areas and forestry. There’s a wide variety, so it’s actually not any one single area that's the largest on campus.”

One of the most visible areas of research for UM has been with COVID 19 vaccines.

“Part of our funding early on in our Center for Translational Medicine was to look at adjuvants for the vaccines that were being developed for COVID,” he said. “These are molecules that make the vaccines that are actually eventually used to be more effective, so you can do them in smaller doses, give them to more people,” he said. “So we received national notification for that work that we're doing on the COVID vaccines.”

The honor was conferred last week by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education organization.

 

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