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Amira Maddeb, associate professor of materials science and engineering, studies liquid droplets dispersed in a soft matrix. Maddeb's research is helping to develop better range of motion for robotics used in medical applications. Credit: Patrick Mansell. All Rights Reserved.

By David Pacchioli

Penn State’s research enterprise ranks 22nd in the country in total research expenditures, according to the latest National Science Foundation rankings of Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) research expenditures, released in January 2022.   

The rankings, for the 2020 fiscal year, show Penn State rising from 23rd place in 2019. In addition, the University ranks fourth nationally in the breadth and depth of its research enterprise, as measured by the number of top-ten rankings in key fields and subfields of science and engineering. Penn State had 12 top-ten rankings for 2020. Only Johns Hopkins University, the University of Michigan, and MIT had more, with 17, 14 and 13 respectively.

The rankings do not include Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses, which together generate approximately $10 million in research expenditures.

Among the individual fields, Penn State ranked first nationally in materials science and second in materials engineering for the fourth consecutive year, demonstrating the University’s exceptionally strong position in materials research.

“Our continuing success in materials science and materials engineering is built on decades of tradition, strong institutional commitment, and a unique infrastructure that encourages and enables collaboration,” said Clive Randall, distinguished professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Materials Research Institute. “On these foundations we continue to push forward to help shape the future, by enabling our faculty and students to be successful through accelerating discovery and impact. Our innovative interdisciplinary approach, coupled with the collegiality of our faculty and staff, also helps in the recruitment of new researchers to continually explore new boundaries.”

Additionally, the University ranked second in mechanical engineering and psychology; fourth in electrical engineering, sociology, and total engineering; sixth in aerospace engineering and industrial and manufacturing engineering; seventh in mathematics and statistics; eighth in computer science; and 10th in atmospheric science and meteorology. Penn State also ranked No. 1 among Pennsylvania’s public universities in industry sponsored research.

“Once again these rankings reflect the excellence that defines Penn State’s research enterprise and sets it apart,” said Lora Weiss, senior vice president for Research. “The breadth and depth of our expertise is matched by the dedication and resilience of our world-class faculty. Our unique interdisciplinary approach enables us to creatively and effectively address the world’s most pressing challenges.”      

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