Program offers Bucks for Brains

By Ben Langston

Despite the recession and the scarcity of jobs, the University of Louisville has seen great success with the Research Challenge Trust Fund. The fund was instated to offer funds as an incentive to attract premier scientific researchers to U of L. The university has matched all $115 million allocated by the state for the program.

“Private donations and state matching funds went to support the creation of two new endowed chairs and one new research mission support fund,” reads the U of L executive report for the program. “As of June 30, 2009, several outstanding candidates were actively being recruited to fill the endowed chair positions.”

The program, which has been nicknamed Bucks for Brains, began in 1997, when it was created by the Kentucky state legislature. The enduring goal is to create more jobs for Kentucky citizens and, in doing so, give the economy a boost.

The program has certainly given the university a large boost, not only in granting the ability to hire highly renowned research faculty, but also in keeping those faculty members on board and providing them with the best facilities possible.

“It’s really allowed us to bring a bunch of high profile researchers and their staffs to the university,” said Mark Hebert, U of L spokesman.

The Bucks for Brains program has done more than just create jobs at U of L. According to the Bucks for Brains website, the funds have led to several huge breakthroughs in different fields

“These scholars are…enhancing the education of our students and drawing international attention to the university with significant breakthroughs, including numerous medical discoveries that will lead to a better quality of life for people everywhere,” reads the Bucks for Brains website.

Many vital medical discoveries are being made, including cutting edge cancer treatment developments and new equipment for patients suffering from heart disease.

“We’ve had many programs benefit from the funding,” said Bill Pierce, a U of L professor who is involved in the program. “Our Cancer Center has grown. The Institute for Cellular Therapeutics has had success in researching transplantation to fight sickle cell anemia. We’ve also done research in using stem cells to repair damage after a heart attack.”

The Kentucky state legislation’s statute, which brought the Research Challenge Trust Fund to life, contains many measures to ensure funds are being spent for research purposes, which helps guarantee the kinds of breakthroughs that are currently taking place at U of L. According to the statute, any time a project is brought before the Council on Postsecondary Education, that research proposal must be reviewed and ranked before funds are allocated. This keeps funding from being spent on unrelated costs or projects which have not been thoroughly planned, and ensures every dollar of trust fund money is being used to power life-saving breakthroughs.

According to some, the council has been successful in choosing these projects, making Brains for Bucks a welcome part of U of L’s future.

“This program is one we can all agree is good for the university,” said Hebert. “It’s a good thing and we want to keep it going.”

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