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University of Alabama in Huntsville a juggernaut in aerospace research, public/private collaboration

According to the latest information available from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) ranks in the top 12 in federally funded research activities for five different academic programs.

UAH’s rankings in the NSF’s latest Higher Education Research and Development Survey were anchored by its aerospace engineering program, which received the fifth-largest amount of federal research expenditures in the nation.

The NSF survey also revealed that UAH ranks 11 nationally in NASA-sponsored research and 28 in Department of Defense research.

UAH programs ranking highly were:

• #5 Aerospace Engineering
• #8 Economics
• #11 Computer and Information Sciences
• #12 Atmospheric Science
• #12 Astronomy & Astrophysics

In a Monday statement, UAH interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Bob Lindquist said, “UAH’s strengths in these areas obviously point to the clear support that this university provides to the federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal and the corporate presence in Cummings Research Park.”

“This success points to the valuable partnerships that have existed for decades in this community and that UAH clearly provides effective and innovative outcomes to the technological challenges that exist for the U.S. Army, NASA and the FBI,” he added.

At a 2019 Yellowhammer NewsShapers event in Huntsville, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield praised UAH as “a leader in the preparation and education and skills development of great engineering students — and not only engineering students, but also students that are graduating with the types of degrees that are in high demand in the aerospace and defense and space industry.”

Additionally, John Shannon, vice president and program manager of space launch system for Boeing, said the state’s investment in UAH was especially key for the industry in Alabama, calling the university in the Rocket City “world-class.”

United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets at its state-of-the-art facility in Decatur, is also a fan.

ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno advised, “We have a great workforce here (north Alabama), we get tremendous engineers [from] this university (UAH). We have a wonderful apprentice program for our skilled technicians that build these rockets. I cannot get access to this kind of talent anywhere else.”

While UAH’s aerospace engineering prowess is not new, UAH’s research in astronomy and astrophysics jumped sharply from 2017 to 2018, advancing nine spots from 21 to 12 in the nation as a result of a $20 million, five-year grant by the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

That grant will fund the development of new predictive plasma-surface interaction technologies for the nation’s aerospace, manufacturing, energy, environment and agricultural sectors.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn