U of L receives a record breaking $170 million for research funding Tuesday, Nov 17 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville received 170 million dollars in research funding during the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a record-breaking amount of research funding for the university and an increase of about 18 million dollars from the previous fiscal year.

The money that the university received is used to train students, research vaccines and develop new manufacturing technology.

“It’s super important for a lot of different reasons. It enables really important work to happen and makes discoveries that help people,” said Kevin Gardner, U of L’s executive vice president for research and innovation.

Gardner stressed the real-world impact of the research done at U of L. For example, U of L  research on how environmental pollution affects cardiac health can have life-saving effects on the community. Gardner also stressed how vital it is to the university to prioritize research for the sake of the education of the students.

“Students are learning about current knowledge that was created this year and last year. As opposed to 30 years ago,” Gardner said. “When you are a freshman maybe you should learn about that 30-year-old knowledge, but when you are a more advanced student you should be in advanced classes learning about knowledge that was generated this year and last year.

Gardner went on to explain that U of L’s record as a research institution makes it a great place to invest. He said that grant applications are not easy to write, so the fact that U of L has so many successfully funded research projects should be proof of the researcher’s skills at what they do.

“It’s a great place to invest because it’s a place where we have top-notch researchers who are nationally competitive,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that even though COVID-19 is a big research focus this year, this money largely does not include money that was received for work on COVID-19 research. This is because the fiscal year ended in June, so while many grants had been applied for not many rewards had been received. The money for that research will be included in next year’s financial data.

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

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University of Louisville student government against return to campus Sunday, Aug 16 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville Student Government Association sent a letter to the U of L administration expressing their concerns with the return to campus for the fall 2020 semester.

The letter was signed by the SGA ‘top four’ Student Body President Sabrina Collins, Executive Vice President Lexi Raikes, Academic Vice President Ben Barberie and Services Vice President Henrietta Ransdell.

“The original plan to return to campus in the fall was founded in optimism. In the early planning stages, our committees planned in the hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve by August; however it is clear that the pandemic has only worsened,” the letter said.

“With this in mind, it is essential to reevaluate our original plan with student, faculty and staff safety as the top priority.”

The letter went on to detail the concerns that SGA has heard from students. They claim that many students are untrustworthy of U of L and some worry that U of L is waiting for the billing period to pass before changing the in-person instruction plan.

Other concerns include the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project, that residents will not be informed of positive cases in their buildings and the inability of the university to fully put a stop to parties.

The SGA ‘top four’ then explained that re-opening campus would put certain minority groups who are already more vulnerable to COVID-19 at further risk.

The letter also acknowledged that another mid-semester shift to online-only courses isn’t fair, as many students struggled with the transition last year.

“We hear from students daily who view another mid-semester shift as a ‘worst-case scenario.’ Our constituents constantly ask us to ‘rip the bandaid off’ and tell them if we think classes will be online. Unfortunately, we have no answers to give,” they said in the letter.

The letter concluded by reiterating that SGA is no longer in favor of in-person classes for the fall semester.

 

University Response

Several members of the U of L administration responded to SGA’s letter, including Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Boehm, Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Kevin Gardner, Executive Director of Campus Health Services Phil Bressoud and Chief Operating Officer Mark Watkins.

“We know this is an extremely difficult time for students, faculty and staff at U of L and higher education institutions across the country,” they said in the letter. “In this letter we want to respond to the concerns you have expressed.”

They recognized that the original plan was made in a different time as far as COVID-19 cases in Kentucky but said that they were constantly working to update the plan as new information came out.

The university’s letter went on to remind students that they had the option to take all of their classes online if they were uncomfortable with returning to campus.  Administration said that while U of L has a plan for mass testing and contact tracing, they are not in favor of mandatory testing because it can lead to students becoming complacent and engaging in high-risk behaviors.

They addressed the concerns with the cancellation of the IBM Watson Health Project by saying that the product was not necessary and they have used the money they would have spent on it to hire more contact tracers and buy a product that would help students check their symptoms daily.

The letter also addressed the concern of not notifying students of infected people in their dorms, citing that HIPAA constraints keep them from publicly sharing health information of students.

They went on to list several precautions that will reduce COVID-19 risk on campus such as devoting $150,000 monthly to campus-wide disinfection, limiting the amount of in-person classes and providing rooms for quarantine both through campus housing and hotels if necessary.

“We have a critical mission to serve. Whether through in-person, online or hybrid courses, we are committed to providing the best education possible despite the obstacles presented by COVID,” the university said. “We are committed to offering that outstanding educational experience while creating and maintaining the best possible environment for our students, faculty and staff.”

They concluded the letter ensuring SGA that they discussed all of the concerns within their letter, but that their discussions led them to believe that they were prepared for a return to campus for fall semester.

Collins, a senior, told the Cardinal that SGA appreciated that the administration took the time to respond to their letter and address their concerns. She said that she also believed the meetings that she had with administration during the days following the letter response were helpful even though she still has concerns.

The biggest concerns Collins has heard from students were related to being unsure of what this semester would look like.

“A lot of the concern stems from the uncertainty of the moment and if we are going to switch online mid-semester,” she said.

Collins also wanted to tell students to check their emails regularly for COVID-19 updates and remind them that they can reach out to general@uoflsga.org if they need a template for requesting to take a hybrid-course online or any further help with that process.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Bendapudi announces classes will return on campus in the fall Thursday, May 7 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi announced in an email on May 3 that the University of Louisville is expected to return to regular campus operations for the fall 2020 semester. This includes students living on campus and attending in-person classes.

Bendapudi said that U of L never did close during the Spring 2020 semester and that it continued to serve the 2,700 students who remained in campus facilities or affiliated housing.

She also said that U of L’s research and healthcare infrastructure and recent experience of moving swiftly from in-person to online classes has well prepared the university to respond to future rises in COVID-19 cases.

Bendapudi said that the principal concern is the health and wellbeing of the Cards community.

In preparation for the fall semester, U of L is employing several strategies, including having the Executive Vice President for Research, Kevin Gardner, work with U of L researchers and Campus Health Services to ensure quick testing of students, faculty, staff and contact tracing.

In addition, Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm is leading a work group to help U of L students get the best education in the fall and to support faculty and staff.

Bendapudi said that the university will continue to consult with local and state health officials and U of L experts as the situation progresses. She also addressed the still-present uncertainty with a situation like this.

“We know there are many questions that we need to answer between now and the start of the Fall semester. We will be providing a more comprehensive update on our path forward by the first week of June,” she stated in the email.

U of L Executive Director of Communications John Karman said that the university will be prepared to switch back to online only instruction if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases.  But he also made it clear that there will be measures taken to try to prevent an outbreak at U of L.

“The university will have significant health and safety protocols in place for students returning to campus this fall. Details of those measures should be revealed in early June,” Karman said.

Bendapudi ended her announcement with words of encouragement.

“What I have seen of our U of L family is that we are uniquely able to rise to a challenge and overcome it. This global health situation is no different. I have full confidence that the U of L students, staff, and faculty I interact with each and every day are ready for anything, and that is true in this situation as well,” she said.

Graphic by Alexis Simon //The Louisville Cardinal

 

 

 

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U of L researchers from various departments help combat COVID-19 Friday, Apr 3 2020 

–By Eli Hughes

The University of Louisville announced April 3 the actions its researchers are taking to respond to COVID-19, which includes actions from the school of medicine, the school of public health, the school of social work and J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

These U of L departments are manufacturing kits used in COVID-19 testing, manufacturing personal protective equipment, disinfecting N-95 masks and working on ways to contact trace the spread of the virus.

“There is an incredible amount of work and I am really proud of researchers we have here who have really responded incredibly well to this crisis and the need for all of these types of activities,” said Kevin Gardner, the executive vice president of research for U of L, in the April 3 U of L trustee’s meeting, which was held virtually.

The Speed School has partnered with the School of Medicine to create and distribute swab kits. The lack of these kits is a limiting factor to widespread COVID-19 testing, so U of L hopes that this contribution can make it possible to increase the amount of testing.

Researchers at the Speed School are also manufacturing face shields, which medical professionals can use to protect themselves when they are in contact with COVID-19 patients. These masks will be distributed not only to hospitals in Kentucky but across the country to places where the virus is spreading more rapidly such as New York.

U of L has also developed a process for sanitizing N-95 masks, which are the medical-grade masks that have been valuable resources since the beginning of this outbreak. Gardner has said their facilities will be able to sanitize 10,000 N-95 masks a day.

The Schools of Public Health and Social Work are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak by helping with contact tracing. This means they are helping identify who might have come into contact with individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

This action can help prevent the spread of the virus by quickly isolating those who have been in contact with the virus.

More information on U of L’s research can be found on the U of L research website.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L suspends all nonessential research activity Wednesday, Mar 25 2020 

–By Eli Hughes

Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation Kevin Gardner announced in an email March 24 that the University of Louisville’s nonessential research will be required to temporarily stop all activity.

This announcement comes after Gardner requested March 15 that nonessential research projects slow down their activity.

Gardner expressed in the email that this decision would affect U of L’s research projects. “We recognize the significant impact that this suspension of non-essential research activities will have on the progress of your research programs,” Gardner said.

“However, it is critical that we minimize our on-campus research density at this time in order to prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus and to protect the health of ourselves and of our university and greater community.”

This suspension requires researchers to stay away from their on-campus workspaces and stop research activity completely by March 26.

Under these guidelines, researchers are not permitted to remove research materials from campus without permission from the dean or vice president of the department. Researchers are permitted to work from home using lab notebooks and data from computers.

Exceptions to this research suspension apply to research that would lose valuable data or pose a health or safety risk if suspended. A full list of criteria for suspension exceptions can be found on the College of Arts and Science’s emergency resource website.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L executive vice president for research and innovation announced Saturday, Jan 11 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

Kevin Gardner, vice provost for research at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), will be the University of Louisville’s new executive vice president for research and innovation. Gardner will assume the role Jan. 27, pending the approval of the board of trustees.

“Dr. Gardner brings excellent credentials to this position,” said President Neeli Bendapudi. “As important, he brings energy, enthusiasm and communication skills that will help us build our research enterprise and share that knowledge to benefit our students, our community and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We are excited to have him join our team.”

Gardner helped elevate UNH to the highest level among research universities during his tenure there. Since 1999, he served various roles at UNH including director of strategic initiatives and vice provost for research.

In his role as vice provost at UNH, he saw their rise from a Carnegie High Research Activity university (R2), to a Carnegie Very High Research university (R1). U of L has been a Carnegie R1 institution since 2005.

Gardner was also an associate state director of New Hampshire’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). In this position, he led them to develop a statewide plan to increase engagement among higher education, research-based business and industry and state government.

In addition, he served as director of New Hampshire’s Environmental Research Group and Recycled Materials Resource Center.

He received his bachelor of science in civil engineering from Union College and his master’s and doctorate degrees in the same field from Clarkson University. Gardner was a research assistant at Clarkson.

Gardner succeeds William Pierce, who served as the EVPRI at U of L from 2009 to 2018. Robert Keynton, professor and Lutz Endowed Chair for Biomechanical Devices, served as the interim EVPRI after Pierce retired.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Louisville 

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