Research Rocks: George Washington University’ Labs Are On Trend in Academia

young scientists making test or research in lab

(DGIwire) — When George Washington University unveiled a new $275 million research building in March 2015, an event reported in The Washington Post, the message was clear. First, GWU aims to be on the cutting edge of fields as far-ranging as biotechnology and civil engineering. Second, it aims to recruit and retain faculty and students that will enable it to establish and maintain its status as a leading research university. More funding for research facilities means higher-quality faculty and students, which will in turn attract more federal dollars and better endowments. Potentially, a large outlay on top-quality facilities could pay for itself many times over.

The project, according to the Post, is perhaps the most important one of GWU president Steven Knapp’s eight-year tenure. His arrival from Johns Hopkins University in 2007 came with a mandate to equal or surpass his former school’s standing in the research arena. Though GWU is known for its work in public policy, business, international affairs and law, its research reputation was less sterling—and Knapp made it a mission to improve its standing, as he told the Post.

The investment is already paying dividends. In 2013, GWU received a whopping $121 million from federal agencies, according to the National Science Foundation, as the Post reported. Though that would rank them only 93rd behind Iowa State and Brown, GWU already surpasses bigger-name Georgetown. In continuing the upward trend, GWU hopes to reach the heights of first-ranked Johns Hopkins, which, the Post said, received $1.9 billion in federal R&D funding in 2013.

The University of Maryland at College Park ranked 31st in funding with $343 million, as the Post also noted, but is already seeing staff migrate to GWU because of its superior equipment. Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Science Santiago Solares made the transition from College Park to GWU just last year in anticipation of the development. Solares performs research on material properties through a process called atomic force microscopy. He told the Post that the new hall was a major factor in his relocation.

One of the world’s leading experts in the area of cutting-edge laboratory equipment, Jeffrey Duchemin, CEO and president of Holliston, MA-based Harvard Bioscience, says, “Though large cost outlays can seem intimidating to universities without a guaranteed return on investment, it can sometimes be the surest way to attract the sharpest minds who can make the discoveries that can change our lives. You spend millions now with the idea that billions will come back later.”

As one of the worldwide leaders in solutions to advance life science research, Harvard Bioscience is keeping pace by offering the highest-quality tools and equipment for university, government and other research laboratories. Its product range is extensive, from molecular analysis instruments to electrophysiology tools.

“On the other hand, a university doesn’t necessarily need to spend millions to have an impressive and effective research lab,” Duchemin adds. “It’s all about making intelligent choices.”