“This designation reflects the transformation NJIT is undergoing,” commented NJIT Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Fadi Deek. “We have achieved a coveted Carnegie research classification by being designated as ‘R1: Doctoral Universities – very high research activity’ along with only 130 other institutions of higher education in the United States.”
Indeed, the designation caps NJIT’s swift, strategic rise as a research university. In 1979, the university’s research expenditures totaled $375,000; today they surpass $160 million. Since 2014, total R&D expenditures have increased by more than 50 percent. Over the next five years, the university aims to double the number of awards its faculty secure from external funding agencies and private sector partners.
NJIT’s Strategic Plan, 2020 Vision, names research as one of the university’s five critical priorities and places it at the very center of university life. NJIT aims to play a leading role in four emerging areas of multidisciplinary research: data science and information technology, the nexus of life sciences and engineering, sustainable systems, and a transdisciplinary category that addresses the large systemic challenges of “smart cities,” for example.
Deek called the R1 designation “a reflection of the excellent research and scholarship that our faculty and students are engaged in,” while adding, “But we are also mindful of much more work to be done as we rise even higher.”
The university supports research in numerous ways, and takes seriously its role in nurturing talent on campus. Over the past six years, NJIT has hired nearly 130 new faculty members across STEM and other disciplines, increasing its faculty from 268 in 2014 to a projected 345 by 2020. They include experts on topics such as machine learning, data analytics, biomaterials and biomechanics.
Over the past four years, 11 young researchers have won CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation, described by the agency as among its most prestigious. Their work ranges from solving problems that rely on large-scale mathematical optimization, to the development of novel soft solid materials such as smart gels used as sealants and valve controls, to the creation of new methods to design lenses and mirrors to precisely control the intensity pattern and phase of light beams in applications such as optical data storage and astronomy.
In 2014, NJIT inaugurated its own seed-grant program to support interdisciplinary projects between fields as diverse as architecture and biomedical engineering. Many of these initiatives have gone on to attract outside funding.
As part of 2020 Vision, more than 70 new labs, centers and research institutes have been created for a total of more than 105. Each year, 350 undergraduate students spend significant time working closely with faculty in these hubs, including the 120 who returned to campus last summer to take part in research projects.
As part of a $400 million capital-building program, NJIT is transforming research and educational facilities on campus. The gut-level renovation of the five-story Central King Building and the construction of a new 24,500 sq. ft. life sciences and engineering building are bringing students and faculty new teaching and research labs, rooms to conduct projects, and common areas where they can socialize and share ideas.
Of NJIT’s new classification, NJIT President Joel Bloom noted, “Receiving the R1 designation is a major achievement for NJIT and is the direct result of our faculty, researchers and staff, as well as the investments we have made to support their research agendas.”