Impact Report: An Exceptional Year of Pathbreaking Discovery

By Jay WalshFebruary 8, 2017

Northwestern enjoyed another exceptional year of high-impact discovery, including a Nobel Prize in Chemistry and contributions to landmark astrophysical and biomedical projects. In every knowledge domain — and often by harnessing expertise from across different disciplines — University thought leaders continued to make breakthroughs that extend humanity’s understanding of complex forces at all levels, from the cosmic to the molecular.

This Impact Report offers a snapshot of such advances, which are a part of our more extensive accomplishments in 2016. We also provide key metrics that show Northwestern’s research strengths at a glance. For example, Northwestern again experienced record-breaking growth, with annual sponsored funding reaching nearly $650 million. This success continues a decade-long trend that fuels discovery, including in our 54 University Research Institutes and Centers — interdisciplinary knowledge hubs.

That research is possible because of the University’s ecosystem, which combines outstanding intellectual capital, great facilities and instrumentation, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, financial stewardship, and administrative excellence.

Each part of the ecosystem is crucial, including administrators who enable discovery from “behind the scenes.” Dedicated staff, such as in the Office for Sponsored Research, help manage awards and proposals, while colleagues in the Office for Research Safety provide training and services that allow our investigators and labs to conduct extraordinary science safely. Our Institutional Review Board (IRB) enables our investigators to conduct human subject research with the highest levels of ethical compliance. In fact, this year the IRB achieved accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP), an accomplishment that helps raise the global benchmark for protections in science. Considered the “gold standard,” this accreditation assures research participants, researchers, sponsors, regulators, and the public that Northwestern is focused on excellence. Many other colleagues from within the Office for Research and across the University also play vital roles in our institutional success.

That success is attracting additional resources to Northwestern — includingworld-renowned figures such as bioelectronics pioneer John Rogers and developmental economist Christopher Udry; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey; and prestigious physicist Gerald Gabrielse. Equally important, our ecosystem is cultivating many junior faculty “rising stars,” including those who have earned distinction such as early CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation. As we take pride in our past year’s achievements, we look ahead to additional opportunities for Northwestern to create knowledge with transformative social impact. View the Report.