Fall 2019: Knight Campus already becoming a hub of activity

I had a field pass to this year’s Civil War game at Autzen Stadium. Since coming to the UO in 2018, I’ve attended a lot of Duck games. But this was the first time I’d felt the hard-hitting rivalry with Oregon State University up-close and personal.

The experience was particularly meaningful given that just days earlier, along with our Beaver colleagues and with those from OHSU, we hosted the inaugural Oregon Bioengineering Symposium in Corvallis. Together, we’re redefining our intra-state relationships.

Students, faculty and practitioners from all three institutions converged to discuss multiple areas of bioengineering and biomedical engineering, with an emphasis on biosensors and precision health technologies. The symposium enabled great discussion among the nearly 250 attendees and seeded thoughts for new research collaborations within the state.

It’s also the most recent example of how the UO’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact is growing into a hub of activity, making connections around the region, state, and nation, while building upon the UO’s established research excellence. 

In October, we partnered with OSU and OHSU to recruit graduate students together at the fall Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting. We are creating partnerships with each of the institutions — one in biomedical engineering and the other in bioengineering — to put Oregon on the national map in attracting ambitious and creative bioengineering graduate students, ones who desire greater breadth in education than a single institution can provide.

In perhaps the most tangible example of statewide collaboration, the UO and OHSU launched efforts this summer to build a joint center for biomedical data science, designed to tackle cancer and other complex diseases with big data. The center combines the clinical prowess of OHSU with the UO’s longstanding excellence in neuroscience, computer science, genomics and math, as well as up and coming strengths in bioengineering and biomedical engineering in the Knight Campus.

The joint project is the first major collaboration between the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the UO’s Knight Campus. It could not take place without the generosity and vision of Penny and Phil Knight, who made both efforts possible. In fact, the combined potential is so inspiring that Tim and Mary Boyle, among the UO’s leading benefactors, were inspired to strengthen both the center and efforts in data science with a $10 million gift.

While the final countdown to open the first Knight Campus building along Franklin Boulevard has finally begun, the initiative is about so much more than just a construction project. We are moving forward with graduate programming, curriculum development, support for underrepresented students in science, faculty hiring and programs to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Knight Campus Internship Program boasted another strong term with record-breaking enrollments and strong internship placements in industry and government labs. The program once again fueled the UO’s top-ranking for the number of students earning master’s degrees in physics. Some 90 percent of students in each cohort are employed within three months of graduating.

Even before our first building is complete, we have five tenure-related faculty, pushing forward aggressively with their research programs. Knight Campus faculty have already attracted more $5 million in externally sponsored projects. We have submitted more than $18 million in additional proposals to federal, state, foundation and industry funders.

In 2019, for the third consecutive year, the Knight Campus provided research support or travel funds for three student groups enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts in science: Students of Color Opportunities for Research Enrichment (SCORE) in biology; the North Star Project in Physics; and Community for Minorities in STEM (CMiS) (multiple scientific fields).

To enhance innovation, we continued our partnership with the Materials Science Institute and the Lundquist College of Business in hosting the Lens of the Market program to provide professional development opportunities for graduate students with an eye towards entrepreneurship. 

In all of these areas, the Knight Campus is building bridges around the state and nation — with sister institutions, peers and those in industry — to tackle society’s toughest problems.

So, it was fitting that we held our annual meeting with our External Advisory Board — made up of some of the most innovative and accomplished individuals from across the nation — in Silicon Valley, an area shaped by creative thinking.

Our meeting motivated all of us to work harder to attain the success and impact the Knight Campus inspires.

Such success won’t happen in a single building or on a single campus. It will be borne of the intellectual connections and active relationships we’re already building with expertise around the community, state, region and nation.

Together, we will make the Knight Campus a hub for paradigm-shifting science, discovery and innovation, in the Willamette Valley and beyond.