“Cal State L.A. professors actually do the teaching and take a real interest in their students—that, and great undergraduate research opportunities, were definitely important factors in my academic success.” Sam Durrance NASA Astronaut and Astrophysicist who participated in two space shuttle flights


Applied Research: Innovation for California’s Needs

Investment in the CSU’s research efforts continues to pay dividends as the CSU successfully generates intellectual property that acts as seed for new entrepreneurship opportunities and provides support for existing ventures. These efforts also lead to significant contributions to both individual industries and Californians as a whole. Sources for CSU research funding range from the winning work of individual faculty members to expanding research centers and institutes and various federal, state and local agencies. The CSU’s research focuses on creation of new knowledge to provide solutions and innovations to meet the needs of a changing California economy. The university remains true to its historical role as a teaching institution by investing in faculty research and advancement to ensure the availability of the most up-to-date research insights to its students as well as opportunities for students to participate in important research experiences.

A measure of the CSU’s active engagement in pursuing research and entrepreneurial opportunities is the number of proposals that the CSU campuses submit to bring in funding for research initiatives and related activities. The figure below shows the per campus distribution of the 5,100 proposals submitted by campuses in 2007-08.

Proposals Pursued by Campus
Campus Proposals
Bakersfield 69
Chancellors Office 8
Chico 570
Channel Islands 62
Dominguez Hills 149
East Bay 96
Fresno 306
Fullerton 156
Humboldt 215
Long Beach 287
Los Angeles 154
Monterey Bay 76
Northridge 194
Pomona 149
Sacramento 146
San Bernardino 170
San Diego 1104
San Francisco 276
San Jose 370
San Luis Obispo 304
San Marcos 62
Sonoma 100
Stanislaus 95

Research funding to campuses totaled over $541 million dollars in 2007-08. The figure below shows awards by campus for 2007-08.

Awards by Campus (in millions)
Campus Awards (in millions)
Bakersfield $11.0
Chancellors Office $1.3
Chico $14.2
Channel Islands $2.2
Dominguez Hills $13.3
East Bay $13.7
Fresno $36.8
Fullerton $17.1
Humboldt $12.8
Long Beach $28.2
Los Angeles $23.6
Monterey Bay $11.2
Northridge $18.8
Pomona $14.6
Sacramento $19.7
San Bernardino $25.8
San Diego $130.9
San Francisco $49.9
San Jose $48.2
San Luis Obispo $25.3
San Marcos $5.5
Sonoma $15.2
Stanislaus $4.5

In 2007-08, the annual research investment at CSU campuses varied between approximately $2 million and $131 million from a variety of federal, state, foundation, and private sources with San Diego State University remaining the top recipient of research dollars. San Francisco and San José were the next highest dollar recipients at about $50 million each.

Many academic units benefit from research awards. In 2007-08, Science and Mathematics had the highest research investment of all academic units. Table 2 provides an illustration of 2007-08 awards by academic units.

Table 2. 2007–08 Awards by Academic Unit.
Academic Unit

Percentage of Awards

Agriculture 4%
Arts & Letters 2%
Business Administration 2%
Education 11%
Engineering & Computer Science 5%
Health & Human Services 11%
Science & Math 26%
Social Science/Liberal Arts 8%
Other 22%

The CSU has focused its efforts and resources to serve its students and faculty and educate local communities across the state to strengthen California’s economy. The following section serves to update the important research areas discussed in the 2004 systemwide economic impact report (agriculture, aerospace and biotechnology) and also highlight the CSU’s promising research related to the environment and physical and applied sciences.

Agricultural Research

Agricultural research remains an important focus of CSU faculty and students. The California Agricultural Technology Institute (CATI), based at Fresno State, is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to improving California agriculture. The institute administers the CSU Agricultural Research Initiative (CSU/ARI), which is a diversified applied agricultural and environmental sciences research consortium between CATI and the four CSU campuses with colleges of agriculture—Fresno State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, and CSU Chico. CATI is made up of The Center for Agricultural Business, the Center for Irrigation Technology, the Center for Food Science and Nutrition Research, and the Viticulture and Enology Research Center. CSU/ARI continues to facilitate member campus collaborations and encourage strong CSU research member partnerships with other qualified university and professional research organization faculty and scientists, such as those from the University of California, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

Examples of diverse projects include Eco-Friendly Water Systems, which will benefit the food processing industry and the environment; Biological Control of Invasive Pests to improve rice production in the Central Valley while reducing the use of chemicals; Use of Crops to Create Biofuels while Reducing Harmful Soils Chemicals; and Study and Improvement of Agricultural Air Quality to reduce ammonia emissions due to the use of fertilizer and dairy production.

Additional examples of agricultural research include:

  • CSU Chico’s work with Sierra Nevada Brewery, the emerging North State olive oil industry, and grass-fed beef producers exemplifies how students and faculty have helped in the creation of new markets for producers.

  • At the Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC) of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dr. Stuart Styles is conducting research related to accurate calibration of the flow rates that correspond to device readings. The goal of this project is for the ITRC to improve calibration procedures and accuracy for irrigation applications, and transfer that information to a wide range of users.

Biotechnology and Health Care Research

The CSU graduates a significant percentage of students into the biotechnology and healthcare fields. As part of their training, the CSU provides students the opportunity to participate in life science research related to biotechnology, health services, and biomedical science. California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) continues to play a vital role in coordinating and furthering the development of biotechnology research and education within the CSU. The CSUPERB directive includes fostering the economic competitiveness of California by facilitating the training of the scientific and bio-manufacturing workforce, catalyzing technology transfer and improving intellectual property protection, and facilitating the acquisition and long-term maintenance of state-of-the art biotechnology resources.

CSU campuses have shown advancement in the biomedicine and biotechnology areas over the past few years. Examples include:

  • The CSU has an 11-campus initiative to study stem cell technology and advance the field of regenerative medicine. The university provides research-intensive internship opportunities for advanced students, supports on-campus stem cell research, and has expanded stem cell courses for undergraduates and graduates.

  • CSU Fullerton Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Dr. Daniella Rubin is the lead researcher of a study exploring childhood obesity’s links to Prader-Will Syndrome. Supported by $4 million in federal funding, researchers at CSU Fullerton’s Center for the Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles and Obesity Prevention are collaborating with the University of Florida’s College of Medicine to explore exercise interventions to combat the syndrome.

  • CSU Long Beach Professor of Biological Sciences, Dr. Editte Gharakhanian’s research laboratory has created new knowledge in the field of protein trafficking, and trained over 70 undergraduate and 20 graduate students. Dr. Gharakhanian and her team have not only identified proteins involved in the final stages of protein trafficking to lysosomes, but also defective mutants.

  • CSU Northridge Center of Achievement for the Physically Disabled and the Abbott and Linda Brown Western Center for Adaptive Aquatic Therapy have a national reputation for providing compassionate adapted therapeutic exercise programs to people with disabilities. Under faculty supervision, CSU Northridge students train to be professionals in adapted exercise and fitness while assisting community clients.

  • Dr. Karen Jensen, Associate Professor of Nursing, heads the CSU Channel Islands Nursing Pipeline Program, which aims to provide a consistent stream of prepared, qualified, and culturally diverse students applying to the BSN program.

  • The Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State, funded by a $4 million grant from The California Endowment in partnership with the university, facilitates regional research, leadership training, and graduate education programs to address emerging health policy issues affecting people living in Central California.

  • CSU San Bernardino is partnering in the National Children’s Health Study, a multimillion dollar National Institute of Health grant, which will enable tracking of about 1,000 San Bernardino County children from birth through age 21 in the largest study of its kind ever undertaken across America.

Information Technology and Engineering Research

The CSU’s information technology research involves not only individual faculty projects, but also corporate partnerships and campus-directed programs. The CSU has partnered with industry leaders such as Sun Microsystems, Lockheed Martin, and Agilent Technologies. San José State has campus laboratories that are sponsored by Applied Materials, Cisco, and Hewlett-Packard.

The CSU’s focus on research in Information Technology and Engineering has allowed graduates to gain employment with Qualcomm, SAIC, and other industry leaders. Other examples of collaborative research programs in information sciences include:

  • The Center for the Commercial Deployment of Transportation Technologies (CCDoTT) chartered under the CSU Long Beach College of Engineering is administering a $2.6 million program of seven research and development projects in dual use of commercial/military maritime goods movement.

  • CSU Fullerton conducts research on Web-based telecommunications link and orbital analysis, simulation and operation for NASA-JPL. Other research areas include GPS Local Area Augmentation, Global Navigation Satellite System, Intelligent Vehicle High System for automobile navigation with GPS, and Inertial Navigation System.

  • CSU Dominguez Hills Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department, Dr. Mohsen Beheshti, directs the “Geospatial Data Analysis Using Wireless Sensor Networks” project through a $130,000 grant funded by the NGA-National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. This grant provides a state-of-the-art Computer Security Research laboratory where undergraduate and graduate students are working on network security related research. Graduates from this program have been hired by Raytheon and Boeing.

  • Cal Poly Pomona Associate Professor of Computer Science Dr. Amar Raheja and two undergraduate students worked with L3 Interstate Electronics Corporation (IEC) to develop software to support Advanced 3D Locator Base Stations in 2007 and 2008. This software works with a patented Integrated GPS Indoor Navigation Technology developed by IEC, which will enable first responders in an emergency situation to see the 3-D position of all personnel in the response team, especially when they are within buildings and structures.

  • CSU San Bernardino physics professors Paul Dixon and Tim Usher invented a classroom computer-based electronic measurement system called NI ELVIS, licensed by National Instruments to replace several lab measuring components with a specially designed laptop system.

  • San Francisco State University has partnered with technology corporations to better monitor critical environmental data about oceans as it relates to earthquake and tsunami detection.

Environmental Research

The CSU actively continues research to better understand California’s environment and how to protect the state’s water, air, land and wildlife resources. Research is designed to address the important environmental challenges facing California today.

An example of a collaborative and interdisciplinary research initiative is the establishment of the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST). COAST was established in 2008 as a systemwide initiative to promote marine and coastal science research and education throughout the CSU and disseminate this information to the public to promote sound, comprehensive policy statewide. The collaboration brings together the collective resources of the CSU to provide coordinated, integrated solutions to state and national marine environmental challenges. COAST has initiated a program to promote new research collaborations among CSU campuses and to increase the competitiveness of proposals for extramural funding. In 2009 and 2010, COAST distributed over $150,000 in assigned time funding to 14 teams of researchers comprising 37 faculty members at 16 of the campuses. This program has the potential to create a massive return on investment—to date $650,000 has been requested in external funds, and the number is expected to grow to the millions of dollars over the next one to two years.

Additional examples of environmental research initiatives at the CSU include:

  • San Francisco State, Fresno State, CSU Los Angeles, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Chico, Humboldt State, CSU Northridge, and CSU Stanislaus have joined with the University of California and federal agencies in the California Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit partnership to provide research and educational assistance for federal management, conservation, and environmental research agencies.

  • CSU Chico is contributing to the sustainability of the agriculture industry through collaborations with the University of California on crop variety trials (including walnut, almonds and field crops), agricultural waste management and by-product development trials (rice straw composting, food processing waste management, and olive oil processing waste by-product development), use of DNA markers to improve meat quality, and evaluation of potential new crops for Northern California including vegetables and pecans.

  • CSU Fullerton conducts environmental engineering research that focuses on investigating technological options for reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, funded by the California Air Resources Board, and the evaluation of disinfection technologies for wastewater treatment, funded by the Water Environment Research Foundation.

  • Half of the nation’s research and development activity in water technology occurs within a 100-mile radius of Fresno State. The campus is home to the $60 million International Center for Water Technology, a joint venture with industry in the San Joaquin Valley, and to a Water and Energy Technology Center, where innovative ideas are turned into productive businesses.

  • Dr. Brandon Pratt, Assistant Professor of Biology at CSU Bakersfield, is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance knowledge of plant physiology, particularly mechanisms governing the vascular transport as well as vascular evolution in native California shrubs. His work has been directly applied to the recovery of Southern California and South African plants from wildfires.

  • Cal Poly Pomona’s Dr. Pablo La Roche (Architecture), Professor Michael Fox (Architecture) and Dr. Phyllis Nelson (Engineering) collaborated on a People, Prosperity, and Planet (P3) grant funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, intended to address the impact of building design on energy consumption in Southern California climates. The faculty worked with students in architecture and engineering to develop a “Green Kit” that focused on passive and low-energy techniques to optimize heating and cooling performance of buildings.

  • CSU East Bay Assistant Professor Erik Helgren in the Department of Physics is exploring organic polymers as an alternative to silicon solar cells. In the renewable energy resource lab, Helgren works on improving the polymer efficiency rates by adding carbon nanotubes. He is aided by a team of student assistants who are gaining lab skills and experience with solar technologies.

  • In 2009, CSU Los Angeles was awarded a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the Center for Energy and Sustainability. The project will train students, support research, and increase public awareness in the fields of biofuels, carbon sequestration, photovoltaics and fuel cells.

  • Humboldt State University Professor Steve Sillett has conducted groundbreaking research on redwood forest canopies, and was featured in a 2009 cover story in National Geographic. Sillett and other researchers at Humboldt State are studying how redwoods respond to rapid climate change.

Physical Sciences/Advanced Sciences Research

CSU research efforts related to the physical sciences and advanced sciences are also examples of the CSU’s commitment to academic excellence. Examples of such research include:

  • CSU Northridge Center for Supramolecular Studies, which includes faculty members and post-doctoral research associates from the Departments of Physics and Chemistry, is an active interdisciplinary program in experimental biophysics, bio-physical-chemistry, and biochemistry.

  • Dr. William Gearhart and Dr. Angel Pineda at Fresno State direct the Applied Mathematics Graduate Project, funded by GE Healthcare as part of a comprehensive research agreement between GE and Fresno State in the area of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Twelve students were involved in a 2008 project that focused on developing a mathematical explanation for a new method of imaging blood flow using MRI.