The University of Arizona is once again among the nation’s top public research universities with $761 million in total research activity in fiscal year 2020, according to data released Monday by the National Science Foundation.

The NSF’s Higher Education Research and Development survey annually ranks more than 900 colleges and universities and is considered the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities.

UArizona saw an increase of more than $27 million over its FY 2019 total. The university’s R&D expenditures rank No. 20 among public institutions and No. 35 overall. This ranking places UArizona in the top 4% of all U.S. universities, both public and private. The university also retained its No. 1 ranking in astronomy and astrophysics expenditures at nearly $122 million – an increase of more than $8 million over FY 2019.

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“The University of Arizona takes immense pride in its continued ability to develop incredible cutting-edge research initiatives,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “From exploring the outermost edges of our solar system to creating numerous life-saving technologies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Arizona researchers consistently lead the way in fundamental discovery and generate innovative solutions to our world’s most significant challenges.”

The HERD survey also ranked UArizona second among schools with high Hispanic enrollment. In 2018, the university earned the designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution from the U.S. Department of Education for its success in the enrollment of Hispanic students.

The University of Arizona ranked fifth in both the physical sciences and NASA-funded activity. UArizona led the design and development of the Near-Infrared Camera onboard the James Webb Space Telescope, which was successfully launched Dec. 25.

In the engineering category, UArizona advanced from No. 51 in FY 2019 to No. 47 in FY 2020. In the health sciences, total and federally funded awards increased from $249 million in FY 2019 to $264 million in FY 2020, though expenditures dropped due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The latest HERD data demonstrate the robustness and continual growth of our research enterprise, despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic that took hold in early 2020,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, senior vice president for research and innovation. “At the heart of this success are our faculty and researchers, whose creativity and determination drive discovery and innovation, creating positive real-world impacts and knowledge for a more resilient future.”

UArizona’s top rankings came in the following categories:

No. 1: Astronomy and astrophysics

No. 2: High Hispanic enrollment

No. 5: Physical sciences

No. 5: NASA-funded activity

No. 20: All public universities

No. 35: All universities

The University of Arizona also earned top 50 placements in the following research categories:

No. 21: Biological and biomedical sciences

No. 26: Department of Agriculture expenditures

No. 29: Agricultural sciences, natural resources and conservation

No. 29: Geosciences, atmospheric sciences and ocean sciences

No. 32: National Science Foundation expenditures

No. 35: Science and engineering fields

No. 39: Social sciences

No. 39: Life sciences

No. 39: Chemistry

No. 45: Computer and information sciences

No. 47: Engineering

Research Highlights

Some examples of UArizona research that made headlines and had significant impact in FY 2020 include:

UArizona Tracking Coronavirus Through Wastewater Across US

As the coronavirus continued to spread, researchers at the University of Arizona Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center began using municipal wastewater to monitor the incidence of the virus in communities across the United States.

X Marks the Spot: NASA Selects Site for Asteroid Sample Collection

The OSIRIS-REx mission team evaluated data from four candidate sites in order to identify site Nightingale as the best option for the sample collection. Site Osprey was named as the backup.

Researchers to Study Viability of Vertically Farming Leafy Greens

The University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center is using a $2.7 million federal grant to study indoor leafy green production to help improve the quality, quantity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of indoor vertical farming production.

UArizona Cancer Center Receives Grant for Skin Cancer Prevention Study

With $6.9 million from the National Cancer Institute, a team of researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center is seeking effective preventive and therapeutic strategies to reduce the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.

Quantum Entanglement Offers Unprecedented Precision for GPS and More

University of Arizona researchers are using quantum entanglement to detect radio frequencies with more sensitivity and accuracy than ever.

A Third of California Methane Traced to a Few Super-Emitters

A UArizona researcher led a team that identified more than 550 individual point sources emitting plumes of highly concentrated methane.

NASA Funding to Help Students Build CubeSats

UArizona researchers are using $3 million in funding from NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project Institutional Research Opportunity program to study the low-gravity surface environments of asteroids and provide students from underrepresented backgrounds the opportunity to design, build and operate CubeSats, or miniature satellites.