Vice President Scott Whittenburg holds a UM drone.

Message From the Vice President

Welcome to this issue of Vision, the magazine that celebrates the vast range of research and creative scholarship by University of Montana faculty and students.

The research enterprise at the University continues to show strong growth, and the visual and performing arts continue to earn accolades for performances across the country. Last year, we announced a record year of research awards amounting to $87 million in funding and a record $78 million for the amount of expenditures from those grants and contracts. Indicators suggest we will likely exceed last year’s mark by a significant amount, and the expenditures from those awards also are increasing significantly. In addition to the impact that research has on societal issues, the increased funding drives the overall UM ranking and the amount of performance funding the University receives from the state. These metrics indicate that UM continues on a path to become one of the nation’s top-tier research universities — a Carnegie Foundation Research Very High Activity University.

The various stories in this issue demonstrate a hallmark of research and creative activity at UM. Our faculty members are solving big problems in the hard sciences, biomedical sciences, humanities and social sciences. One faculty breakthrough made the cover of Science and was featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Atlantic magazine. Who knew that a fundamental understanding of lichens was wrong! Or that Siamese fighting fish could help our understanding of aggression? Our impact on society is evidenced by The Safety Project, a study by Dr. Rosemary Hughes on the development and evaluation of a violence-prevention program for people with intellectual disabilities. Another significant impact area is our continued assistance for veterans. In this issue, we examine UM’s Mind-Body Lab and the important work of Professor Laura Dybdal. Finally, we look at a new initiative on campus to support and promote unmanned autonomous aerial systems, or drones.UM’s Fire Center uses drones to study an issue of extreme importance to Montana: wildfires.

This magazine also showcases Accelerate Montana, a new initiative to support local businesses, as well as recent success in our efforts to work with local companies and create new ventures. Accelerate Montana, located in the new Harold and Priscilla Gilkey Building, encompasses UM’s Office of Technology Transfer, Blackstone LaunchPad, Montana World Trade Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Small Business Development Center and a new executive education venture called iLEAD. Through Accelerate Montana partners, the University provides support for about 750 companies annually. One example of success from that outreach is the launch of a new startup company, Inimmune, and the transfer of $16 million in research contracts from GlaxoSmithKline to UM and a new proposed Center for Translational Medicine. That interesting story also is featured in this issue.

We share more of our activities and accomplishments online. Be sure to follow our Facebook page at, our Twitter account at and my blog at

And Go Griz!

Scott Whittenburg
UM Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship