Department of Defense director for basic research to visit UO

UO science lab

The new year will bring new opportunities for research funding partners, beginning with a chance to learn more about opportunities with the U.S. Department of Defense.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, the deputy director for basic research for the Defense Department, Bindu Nair, will visit the University of Oregon. Nair will meet with President Michael H. Schill, Provost Patrick Phillips and Vice President for Research and Innovation David Conover.

She also will connect with faculty members across campus and deliver a public talk at 11 a.m. in the Lease Crutcher Lewis Room in the Erb Memorial Union. Nair will share her insights on priorities for defense department research as well as discuss tips for how to successfully apply for funding.

Kate Petcosky-Kulkarni, director of strategic research initiatives in the UO's Research Development Services, said the visit aligned with a key strategic priority for the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation of diversifying the university’s funding portfolio

“This is an incredible opportunity for our leadership and our researchers to gain new insights into the Department of Defense’s funding priorities,” Petcosky-Kulkarni said “This visit aims to help faculty build critical relationships with Department of Defense leadership to position them for success in applying for funding through the agency’s programs.”

Relevant programs for UO researchers include the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship and the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative. Historically, the agency has comprised a smaller portion of UO’s total federal funding dollars compared to the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, but given the broad scope of research led by UO faculty members, a clear opportunity exists to pursue Department of Defense funding, Petcosky-Kulkarni said.

“The agency is a very relationship-oriented federal funder, and this visit will help faculty make those important connections to facilitate future research and engagement with Department of Defense programs,” Petcosky-Kulkarni said.

Nair’s visit grew out of a September trip to Washington, D.C. by a group of UO researchers participating as part of the Early Career Faculty Travel Grant Program organized by Research Development Services. At the time, Nair was not available to meet with the group, but promised to travel to Eugene to meet with UO faculty members and administrative leaders.

Nair is a materials scientist who has worked in areas such as cell membranes, chemical and biological sensors, and wearable power. Her professional background includes academic research, government contracting and research administration.

She took over as interim director of the basic research office at the Defense Department in early 2018, where she manages a $2.2 billion research portfolio. Part of managing that portfolio is fostering collaborations with institutions where research is taking place.

A major focus of Nair’s visit will be on Defense Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research. Oregon is one of 34 states eligible to participate in the new program, which enhances the capabilities of colleges and universities to develop, plan and execute science and engineering research relevant to the mission of the department.

An RSVP for Nair’s talk is requested. Contact Petcosky-Kulkarni at kpetcos2@uoregon.edu with any questions.