College of Engineering surpasses $500M in external awards in less than 5 years

External research awards are up more than $23M year over year

October 31, 2022

By Ashley WennersHerron

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State College of Engineering has surpassed a milestone of $500 million in externally funded research awards since 2019. This includes nearly $53 million awarded in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, setting the college on track to exceed its 2021-22 fiscal year total of $132.4 million in external research awards. 

“Reaching and surpassing this significant milestone is a testament to the quality of research conducted by our faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students and postdocs, as well as the dedication of our hardworking staff who provide direct and indirect support for research activities in the college,” said Anthony Atchley, acting dean of the College of Engineering. “It is of note that these awards are competitive, with thousands of researchers vying for limited funds. Time and time again, the national and international funders have chosen to support the work of Penn State engineers.” 

Since 2019, externally funded awards have supported more than 2,300 research projects in the college across a diverse community of engineering researchers and faculty. Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy, have funded a substantial proportion of the awards — roughly 65% to 73% each fiscal year, which amounts to $354.9 million of the $500 million milestone. 

“Penn State has a research portfolio that is demonstrating impressive growth,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research, who specifically noted such focus areas include artificial intelligence, materials, climate change, biotechnology and additive manufacturing. “As we grow our research portfolio, we are not just solving problems; we are anticipating the hardest challenges, creating new knowledge and fielding impressive prototypes.” 

The College of Engineering accounted for nearly 15% of $780 million received by the University in 2020-21, the most recent fiscal year for which complete data is available. While this was $10 million less than the previous fiscal year, which included several COVID-19 rapid response grants, the college surged by $23 million in 2021-22 as pandemic factors subsided, to a total of $132.4 million.

“Funding availability ebb and flows for research, but despite this variability, the work of Penn State researchers and their collaborators continues to capture the attention as promising, feasible, solution-focused pathways that are worth investment,” said Justin Schwartz, interim executive vice president and provost. Schwartz served as the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean in the College of Engineering before being appointed to his interim role. “Such success is underpinned by exceptional faculty addressing critical society challenges who both benefit from and are bolstering the University’s outstanding interdisciplinary culture. This milestone reflects both the strength of the college and the power of the University.” 


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College of Engineering Media Relations

“Time and time again, the national and international funders have chosen to support the work of Penn State engineers.” — Anthony Atchley