Results that Matter

From the Senior Vice Provost for Research

Cornell University

When I pause to appraise Cornell research—its ambitious goals and outstanding achievements—I am amazed by the scope of what gets accomplished here and struck by how successfully our researchers and scholars advance fundamental understandings, create new technologies, and achieve breakthroughs.

Cornell research brings immediate and long-term benefits to people around the world, enriching the human condition. Whether engineers; physicians; physical, social, or life scientists; scholars in the classics; or researchers in entrepreneurship or hotel administration, our faculty do work that improves every facet of our lives. They continue Cornell’s long tradition of combining scholarly work and research leadership with serving the public at home and around the world.

Extreme Talent. Radical Collaboration. Results That Matter.

The three statements on our cover describe the heart and soul of Cornell research. Our faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers are indeed extremely talented. They perform well above and beyond the expected in their chosen areas of research and scholarship for the sake of creating new knowledge and serving humanity. They conduct groundbreaking research—oftentimes coming together from several disciplines at the university or working with communities in New York State or on another continent—to find answers to challenges that have until now escaped solution.

No Matter Where You Go

On one quad of the Cornell campus, we find engineer Michal Lipson, a MacArthur “genius” fellow who’s working with one physics colleague on synchronizing nanomechanical devices for use in nanoscale integrated circuits and starting a company with another colleague across campus to commercialize new photonic inventions. Lipson has invented many technologies based on moving and manipulating light, working to launch the next generation of technologies for transmitting information faster than ever before, including interconnecting nanoelectronic circuits at the speed of light to enable future generations of more powerful supercomputers.

On another quad, we encounter internationally recognized scholar Chris Barrett, who spends time in Africa working on reducing poverty and food insecurity. Barrett collaborates extensively across fields and institutions and within the East African communities where he works searching for solutions such as Index Based Livestock Insurance (IBLI), an innovative insurance program for poor livestock keepers.

Under the campus, beneath parking lots and sports fields, we can take an elevator down to one of our world-class facilities, the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), and see physical and life scientists, engineers, and sometimes even artists working together to harness the power of intense beams of x-rays in order to probe more deeply into nature and human creations. The study of new materials for advanced fuel cells, cancer research, and art restoration are just a few kinds of research projects that we find there, along with a world-leading team of accelerator scientists who are developing the technologies that will soon provide us with even more intense x-ray sources.

Our colleagues in New York City are engaged in research centers like the Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, a multidisciplinary translational neuroscience center at Weill Cornell Medical College, as well as innovative entrepreneurial ventures like Cornell NYC Tech, melding engineering education, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Weill Cornell Medical College faculty member Lewis Cantley, a Cornell PhD, is on the leading edge of cancer research. This year he won a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences—one of the first 11 awarded. Scholars like historian Fredrik Logevall open up new perspectives in history and other areas of the humanities. Logevall won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in history for his book Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam.

Physicist Craig Fennie in Ithaca and physiologist Sheila Nirenberg at Weill Cornell Medical College are 2013 MacArthur “genius” fellows. Fennie crosses the disciplinary boundaries of condensed matter physics and solid-state chemistry to discover new materials with electric, optical, and magnetic properties. Nirenberg studies how the brain encodes visual information as she develops innovative prosthetic solutions for restoring sight after medical conditions such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

Early career faculty are also driving innovation at Cornell. Physicist Kyle Shen, a winner of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers as well as Naval, Air Force, and National Science Foundation Early Career Awards, studies exotic new materials, such as new types of superconductors with unusual electronic and magnetic properties. Microbiologist Ruth Ley, also an early career multi-award winner, investigates the evolution of gut bacteria and is making remarkable connections between these bacteria and our health.

No matter where we go at Cornell, we encounter extremely talented researchers deeply engaged in pioneering research. And while these faculty researchers are exemplary in their chosen disciplines, they also work collaboratively in centers and with research colleagues in different fields, a distinctive hallmark of Cornell research.

We have a multidimensional kind of research collaboration at Cornell that takes place at many levels across a multitude of disciplines and scales, and we do it instinctively. It’s a radical departure from the ordinary approach to problem solving. It allows us to pull together extremely talented researchers and scholars to tackle the most puzzling and daunting challenges of a highly complex, diverse world. And in the end, we deliver results that matter.