UT Austin ranked first for NSF funding in the US

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TACC’s Frontera Supercomputer Award contributes to university rankings

January 20, 2022 – The University of Texas at Austin is ranked No. 1 among American universities in National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research in fiscal year 2020, according to the annual survey of research and development. Development in Higher Education (HERD).

TACC’s Frontera supercomputer is the fastest academic system of any university in the world. The current ranking is No. 13 on the Top 500 list.

The university had NSF research expenditures totaling over $144 million, surpassing other institutions such as the University of Washington, Texas A&M University, and the University of Michigan.

“NSF funds bold ideas across multiple disciplines, laying the foundation for future breakthroughs that will impact society. Making that kind of impact is what inspires and drives everything we do,” said UT Austin President Jay Hartzell. “I am especially proud of our research teams and research support staff whose incredible work allows us to leverage NSF funds so effectively.”

Examples of NSF funding abound on the UT Austin campus. The NSF designated UT Austin as a National Institute for Artificial Intelligence in fiscal year 2020, competitively awarding professors Adam Klivans, Alex Dimakis, and their computer science and computer engineering colleagues a cooperative agreement to establish the Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning. Now a hub for interdisciplinary research, the institute brings together mathematicians, roboticists, data scientists and ethicists to create new classes of algorithms that can lead to more sophisticated and beneficial AI technologies.

At the Jackson School of Geosciences, Assistant Professor Ashley Matheny won an NSF CAREER Fellowship to support her work studying lateral water transport in trees – something that, to date, has been poorly understood. It does this by designing sensors capable of measuring water content at different depths when inserted directly into trees. This information will give scientists a more complete picture of how plants use water, which, in turn, could improve predictions of drought and wildfires.

Moody College of Communication graduate student Anastazja Harris received an NSF doctoral dissertation grant to study the role artificial intelligence literacy plays in hiring managers’ acceptance of selection and interview recommendations based on artificial intelligence. Specifically, she wants to know whether a person’s understanding of AI — or lack thereof — affects whether that person follows or rejects the technology’s suggestions. “It’s an important distinction,” Harris said.

And the NSF awards also enabled scientists at UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) to deploy Frontera, the fastest supercomputer at any university in the world. Every year, thousands of researchers and students across the country use TACC’s systems to power data-intensive projects in everything from astronomy and engineering to medicine and manufacturing. Recently, Frontera enabled key COVID-19 epidemiological and molecular models in addition to producing real-time emergency storm surge forecasts along the Gulf Coast.

“Our leadership position in the expenditure of NSF funds enables our extremely accomplished and diverse cadre of researchers to make major contributions to basic and applied science,” said Daniel Jaffe, UT vice president for research. . “These funds, distributed among nearly 600 campus project teams and facilities, enable innovative curiosity-driven research – the benefits of which will continue to reap well beyond our lifetimes.”

UT Austin also ranked #5 in the nation for research funded by the Department of Defense and #8 for research funded by the Department of Energy.

The HERD survey is the primary source of information on research and development spending at US colleges and universities and is administered by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.


Source: Eleanor Breed, UT Austin and Faith Singer, TACC

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