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The Office of University Research-Office of Sponsored Programs at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) has released a report showcasing achievements of the past two years.  The document, “The Equity Imperative: Research Accomplishments: Reporting Period: FY2019 – FY2022” was shared in a newsletter by V.R. McCrary, who serves as vice president of research and professor of chemistry at UDC. Read on.

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The mission of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is “….dedicated to serving the needs of the community of the District of Columbia and producing lifelong learners who are transformative leaders in the workforce, government, non-profit sectors and beyond” as stated in The Equity Imperative, 2019-2022, President Ronald Mason’s strategic plan for the University.

In this plan, one stated objective is to ‘Develop Nationally Recognized Urban Research and Scholarship”, and the establishment of an Office of University Research (OUR) by FY 2022.  The following is a summary of the accomplishments that have followed since October 1, 2018 (beginning of FY2019):

Research Administration

  • OUR established by the Office of the Chief Academic Officer (CAO); re-staffed the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP), and hired a new Director for OSP (Laura Lee Davidson), Research Officers (Charles Sutton, Ashwani Khanna), and Grant Specialist (Cynthia Mohammad);
  • In 2019, OUR negotiated a new competitive facilities and administration (F&A) rate for UDC with the US Public Health Service of currently 52%, which had not been done negotiated since 2011; with an anticipated rate of upwards to 56% F&A rate, UDC will accrue an additional $755K in cost recovery (indirect costs-IDCs) over the next four years – available for IDC distribution to faculty & research initiatives
  • Major awards included a $8.7M grant from the US Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) to develop a program to train healthcare IT professionals; a $6.0M grant from the National Institutes of Health to construct a premier biomedical research center; a $3M NASA grant in advanced materials; and a $7M IDIQ contract from NIST to hire students and post-docs in advanced manufacturing.


  • Increased research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey accordingly -FY2018 =$2.96M; FY2019=$4.9M; FY2020=$4.6M; FY2021=$8.1M. UDC nearly doubled its NSF research expenditures from FY2020 to FY2021 which furthers its path on the ‘Road to Carnegie R2 designation by 2024’

UDC’s awards, and expenditures are illustrated in the following chart:

Awards to

UDC ($M)

Submitted Proposals ($M) NSF R&D Expenditures ($M)
FY 2010 15.7 53.8 5
FY 2011 12.4 48.2 4.4
FY 2012 15.1 35 4
FY 2013 8.7 32.3 3.1
FY 2014 13.4 64 2.3
FY 2015 13.9 29 2
FY 2016 7.5 39 3.5
FY2017 20.4 37 3.7
FY2018 14.2 24 2.96
FY2019 27.9 45.7 4.9
FY2020 43 46.5 4.6
FY2021 33 54 8.1
FY2022 17.5 51 TBD


  • Formed the UDC Internal Research Council (IRC), composed of representatives of each of UDC’s colleges/schools to ignite research collaborations, and unlock faculty/staff/ student innovative potential across UDC
  • Established the UDC External Research Advisory Panel (UDC ERAP) of influential industry, government, and academic executives to advise UDC VPR on best practices in research, and to advocate UDC’s research highlights to their circles of influence

Faculty Awards & Recognition

Since 2018, UDC’s faculty have received national honors and awards for their research efforts.  These include the following:

  • Lara Thompson received NSF’s Alan T. Waterman Award for young investigators in May 2022. She was received a $1M prize for her novel research in biomedical engineering, and UDC is the first HBCU to receive this award in the 46th year history of the award
  • Six UDC faculty members have been selected for awards by the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Committee every year from 2019 – 2023. (L. Thompson, P. Tyagi, D. Shetty, J. Xu, T. Dekissa, B. Higgs)
  • Six UDC female faculty/staff members have received awards from the annual Women of Color (WoC) in STEM awards every year from 2019 -2022 (M. Knight, F. Dixon, B. Ahmad Saeed, L. Davidson, A. Arora)

UDC Economic Impact Analysis

In 2020, the Office of University of Research commissioned a study of UDC’s economic impact to the District of Columbia and the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region. The purpose of this study was to provide a quantitative analysis for investment into UDC by the District of Columbia Government (DCG) that couples the qualitative points for DC Government investment stated in The Equity Imperative. The results of the economic impact, conducted by Econsult Solutions, is as follows:

  • For every dollar ($1) invested by the DCG into the University of the District of Columbia, UDC returns four dollars ($4) back to the city; 4:1 ratio of return on investment
  • $406M in annual total economic impact to the District of Columbia
  • $535M in annual total economic impact to the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region

Strategic Partnerships & Agreements

The OUR, the UDC Foundation, and UDC faculty have facilitated key partnerships with industry, government, and academia to provide internships and research opportunities for faculty and students.  These include:

  • $425,000 partnership with Amazon for curriculum development (UDC Foundation)
  • MOU with the Naval Surface Weapons Center – Dahlgren & Carderock Divisions for student internships and faculty collaborative research
  • MOU with the Applied Research Laboratory, a Department of Defense University-Affiliated Research Center (UARC) at Penn State for student internships and faculty research
  • UDC is a member of the Intelligence and Security University Research Enterprise (INSURE) of the Advanced Research Laboratory for Intelligent and Security (ARLIS), a UARC at the University of Maryland, where we have received $800K in research funding for UDC faculty and student research in chatbox and machine learning technologies.

UDC Research Week 2021

The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) held its first celebration of student, faculty, and staff research April 19-23, 2021.  The week-long event included presentations from UDC’s schools and colleges, under the auspices of the Office of University Research and strong support from the Chief Academic Officer. Planning for the event was executed by the UDC Research Week Planning Team, which included members of the UDC Internal Research Council. Highlights were as follows:

  • Over 500 virtual participants
  • UDC academic units providing presentations included the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), David A. Clarke School of Law, School of Business & Public Administration (SBPA), School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS), and UDC Community College (UDC-CC)
  • Featured speakers included Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Mr. Torry Johnson, Program Manager for the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) at NASA
  • UDC announced its very first provisional patents issued to the University by the US Patent & Trademark Office
  • The UDC Research Week 2021 program can be found at UDC Research Week – April 19 – 23, 2021 | University of the District of Columbia

UDC Research Week 2022

It was a meeting of the minds during the second annual UDC Research Week, held virtually April 4-8. This year’s theme, “DIG-IN! Diversity, Innovation, Groundbreaking,” celebrated the diverse contributions of UDC faculty across the research ecosystem at the University. From social robots for learning, chatbots for cyber security to agrivoltaics, students, faculty and staff from every college and school  showcased their work through 82 presentations with more than 400 virtual participants. The UDC Research Week 2021 program can be found at UDC Research Week – April 4 – 8, 2022 | University of the District of Columbia

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Lawrence T. Potter Jr. welcomed participants. The keynote address, “The Economic Benefit of Bringing Robot-Assisted Interventions to Underserved Populations,” was presented by Timothy Gifford, founder, president and chief scientist at MOVIA Robotics, Inc., Bristol, Conn. MOVIA is a collaborative robotics company, that builds systems and software to help children on the autism spectrum learn and grow using robotic technology.

The presentations included topics on “How Social Robotics Support Learning Development,” “Family Members Perspectives on COVID-19 and Self-Efficacy,” “Addressing Visual Space Integration Deficits in the Art Room,” “Chatbots for Cyber Security Reducing Threats and Vulnerabilities,” and “Observational Data for Solutions to Gender-Based Violence in Public Spaces.”

UDC academic units providing presentations included the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), David A. Clarke School of Law, School of Business & Public Administration (SBPA), School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS), and UDC Community College (UDC-CC).

The Innovators in Urban Education sessions, moderated by Dr. Jillian Wendt of the College of Arts and Sciences, featured presentations from graduate students who are teachers in the DC Public School System. Their research projects provided insight and tools to create the next cadre of students and leaders for the community. Their findings recommend the earlier the student intervention the greater impact on the student’s learning trajectory.

SEAS provided an overview of their research in nanotechnology, materials and biomechanics. In addition, students presented cutting-edge-edge research projects with government sponsors such as NASA, NSF, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Defense and NIST.

SEAS has systematically worked to create a research portfolio aligned with national priorities for tomorrow’s industry needs. Dr. Pradeep Behera organized the session as part of his role on  the UDC Internal Research Council. UDC’s SEAS is one of only 15 HBCU ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering programs in the country.

Researchers also explored the convergence of machine learning and agriculture and how these new digital tools must be incorporated into the curriculum for the next generation of agricultural professionals. iUNU, an industrial computer vision company,  donated its AI platforms to UDC. This new technology will be used on UDC’s rooftop garden and eventually throughout the city and the Firebird Farm.

The David A. Clarke School of Law assembled an impressive  group of thought leaders who addressed social justice issues through their research and in-depth knowledge. Professor Bruce Ching organized and moderated the session.

CAUSES hosted  a one-day National Capital Region Water Resources Workshop, “Data Science Applications in Water Management,” led by Dr. Tolessa Deksissa, president of the National Capital Region Section of the American Water Resources Association, and director of the Water Resources Research Institute.

Tomorrow’s skilled technical workforce is also being prepared at UDC’s Community College. It stands out as the only community college in the nation developing a curriculum for a new generation of workers in quantum information systems. Of the 36 million STEM-based workers in the U.S., about 19 million do not have a four-year degree and are skilled technical workers making vital contributions to the nation’s science and engineering enterprise, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. UDC’s Community College provides opportunities for skill-based job training ranging from healthcare-based research to innovations in roadway safety.

During the five days of research presentations, demonstrations, speakers, and networking opportunities–students, faculty and research sponsors received a broad cross-section of UDC’s research capabilities and projects currently underway, securing its place as a source of knowledge and innovation for the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area.

Technology Commercialization

In FY2021, the Office of University Research (OUR), provided services to our research faculty to capture intellectual property that resulted from UDC faculty research.  In summary, the following was accomplished and summarized in the attached table:

  • Six (6) provisional patents filed on behalf of UDC in FY2021, the first for UDC
  • Two (2) provisional patents filed on behalf of UDC in FY2022
  • UDC’s first utility patent was filed in FY2022
  • Updated UDC’s Patent Policy to a broader in scope Intellectual Property Policy, pending approval
  • UDC’s first plant variety patent was filed in FY2022

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