Research excellence and global reputation

Areas of distinction

Our five strategic goals guide how we will invest in some of our leading areas of distinction to enhance the University’s research enterprise and reputation and address global challenges. Our areas of distinction build on existing strengths and reflect our greatest opportunities for impact. We have incredibly talented scholars across the University who seek to advance these areas of research, scholarly, and creative distinction.

Key collaborations and partnerships exist across all schools, elevating our commitment and transdisciplinary approach to frame and solve the most significant challenges of the future. We must continue to increase productivity and scale in these areas, which will enhance our ability to attract top faculty to the University, lead to important and meaningful discovery, and create value for undergraduate and graduate students.

Biomedical and health care innovation

The University of Rochester is home to more than 3,000 people dedicated to biomedical research, studying common and rare illnesses from cancer and heart disease to Parkinson’s and pandemic influenza. These efforts have led to therapies that have saved countless lives and improved human health locally, in the region, and across the globe.

Our dedicated research facilities, faculty, staff, and student support, along with other critical resources, have enabled us to secure millions of dollars in research funding over the past five years. Medical and nursing research at Rochester is interconnected with our teaching and learning mission and the delivery of cutting-edge clinical care.

Additionally, the School of Arts & Sciences and the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences are drivers of biomedical research and educational opportunities. We are committed to fostering innovation and discovery and to growing our research enterprise in order to address persistent health care challenges facing people and communities all over the world.

Investment in key areas such as cancer, environmental health, immunobiology, neuroscience, and RNA biology will lead to breakthroughs and improvements in clinical care and contribute to our national prominence as an academic medical center. Our approach to biomedical and health care research is a blueprint for what the future holds. Research will be accomplished by scientists working as part of a team, such as in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, which brings together more than 150 researchers from 18 departments across the University with more than $50 million in annual research expenditures. We aspire to scale this model to other critical areas.

Rochester is recognized as a national leader in vaccine research and development (influenzae, pneumococcal disease, and human papilloma virus) and is one of nine NIH-funded Vaccine and Treatments Evaluation Units in the US. We helped develop the first vaccine designed to prevent cervical cancer. Our research on human viruses, including HIV, influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and other respiratory pathogens, has allowed us to be at the forefront of the national response to COVID-19, serving as a site for multiple studies that led to the approval of vaccines and treatment for the virus.

Rochester scientists also played a central role in bringing several new drugs to market to treat Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and periodic paralysis. In addition, our researchers have been integral in the development of new experimental gene therapies for disorders such as spinal muscular atrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Batten disease, and myotonic dystrophy. Medical Center neurologists, neurosurgeons, and scientists are pioneering new ways to harness technology to treat neurological disorders and improve surgical outcomes through preoperative brain mapping.

We are proud to be among the nation’s elite academic health care systems, but maintaining this status requires a creative, sustained response to tectonic shifts in the ways we learn, investigate, and deliver patient care. It also requires consistent and new investments in our biomedical and health care research and scholarly pursuits to solve the greatest present and future challenges.

Existing strengths

With cancer incidence in our region among the very highest in the US, especially among older and historically minoritized groups, the need for a leading national center for cancer research and clinical care is critical. The Wilmot Cancer Institute is today recognized as a model for geriatric oncology. New investments will deepen our ability to discover innovative treatments and bring them into practice.

The environment we live in is a major contributor to our health and a key driver of health disparities. The Environmental Health Sciences Center is a national model for transdisciplinary research and community engagement, and Rochester is at the forefront of mitigating the impact of environmental issues on health and improving lives by preventing disease.

A recognized leader in human immunology and vaccine development, Rochester partners with institutions around the world to conduct clinical trials and develop treatments and diagnostics for known and emerging infectious threats.

Rochester researchers are transforming musculoskeletal care through research into areas such as 3-D printed bone and the genetics of arthritis. The department leads the world in the use of a database of patient-reported outcomes developed by the National Institutes of Health and is positioned to be at the vanguard of research that will impact millions of lives in decades to come.

Rochester is a global leader in advancing our understanding of the human brain and translating this knowledge into new ways to diagnose and treat neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and periodic paralysis. The future of the field is still being cultivated.

Decades of research by Rochester scientists set the stage for the rapid development of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Rochester’s expertise and interdisciplinary research in mRNAs will continue to lead to new therapeutics for a wide range of diseases that cannot currently be treated with conventional drugs.

Just and equitable societies

Equity and justice are central to many of the greatest challenges facing modern society. Poverty, discrimination, ableism, and income inequality create and perpetuate social and health disparities. These disparities have generational effects that result in larger differences in educational access and success, income stability and upward mobility, health care access and awareness, and thus overall well-being and community wealth. Understanding these relationships as well as structural conditions such as institutionalized racism, historical and current means of disenfranchisement, and the role of public policies to reduce or reinforce inequality, helps us to augur in a more just and equitable world.

We have a long history of innovation in understanding these relationships, from the Warner School of Education and Human Development’s commitment to making the world more just and humane to the global humanities and public policy scholarship in the School of Arts & Sciences to Simon Business School’s emphasis on social impact to the School of Nursing’s emphasis on research on aging. One prime example is the development of the biopsychosocial model of human health. Developed at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, this approach to medical education and practice emphasizes the importance of integrating biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and health care delivery. Leading examples based in the School of Arts & Sciences include the Rochester Education Justice Initiative, offering educational access and improved outcomes to incarcerated and previously incarcerated individuals, and the Mount Hope Family Center, a world leader in scientific research and clinical services for families affected by violence.

Higher education today is not immune to inequities and challenges. Issues including college affordability, poverty and wealth distribution, freedom of speech and equal access, court rulings on affirmative action and individual rights, and access to support services are all part of the University conversation and environment. COVID-19 and other global issues, such climate change, war, and conflict intensified and accelerated disparities and inequalities. It is our responsibility as a leading research university and medical center to focus on these issues in both humanitarian ways and through an academic lens. Addressing these concerns is critical to developing a more broadly educated and inclusive society, both within our community and beyond, and we are collectively committed to this work. We will continue to educate students to take this knowledge and practice out into the world.

With our academic strengths across the University focused on policy, theory, and practice in equity and justice, we continue to confront some of most consequential issues facing societal health and well-being. The physical proximity between the schools on our River Campus and Medical Campus makes it easier for scholars and students to work and learn across fields in this inherently transdisciplinary space. We are also building pathbreaking academic programs, such as our new Department of Black Studies, ensuring that Rochester will be at the center of national and global conversations about how to make our society ever better.

Existing strengths

In 2022, Rochester established the Department of Black Studies in the School of Arts & Sciences, one of the few national centers for multidisciplinary research and engagement with Black life and culture in the US and beyond. New investments will allow us to build this consequential department more quickly, making Rochester a destination of choice for scholars and students working to understand the broader diaspora, while still staying grounded in the tradition of African and African American Studies.

The University is a major center of research on how economic growth and consistent biases disparately affect individuals, businesses, educational structures, and communities, and how policy and resources can be deployed to better ensure that the benefits of growth and technology are widely enjoyed. With our long-standing distinction in social sciences, health care, and education, we are poised to lead in providing solutions with global impact.

Internationally recognized faculty members in departments, centers, and health services across the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Nursing, Education, Engineering & Applied Sciences, and Arts & Sciences are researching the biomedical, social, and behavioral determinants of well-being and vitality in aging. These include mechanisms that promote longevity and health span, social connectedness and happiness, genome stability and aging, stress signaling pathways in aging, evolution of aging, cancer and aging, research on age-related dementias, and musculoskeletal research.

Factors known as social determinants of health, including economic stability, access to education, and quality of health care, directly shape one’s quality of life. We are committed to advancing research into social disparities to improve equity for individuals and communities—in our region and around the world.

The University is positioned to make critical technological contributions in advancing fusion energy and through advanced materials, catalysis, electrochemistry, process engineering, and environmental sciences can also generate new discoveries toward clean, sustainable energy, preserving our environment for future generations. Meanwhile, Rochester social scientists study how societies and organizations can best adapt to a rapidly changing world.

Musical excellence and innovation

Long recognized as one of the premiere music schools internationally, the University’s Eastman School of Music is known for its accomplishments in music artistry, scholarship, and leadership education. Eastman is a school of many “firsts”: the first professional school at the University of Rochester, the first in the nation to offer a Doctorate of Musical Arts, and the first to establish a program in Music Leadership Education. The impact of these initiatives is evidenced by the fact that they have been replicated at other schools throughout the world.

The way of doing business in music is changing dramatically and quickly, intensified in recent years by the pandemic. A number of critical issues must be addressed, as they will determine how the Eastman School of Music continues to lead with innovative programs, initiatives, and partnerships that have global impact. These issues include equity and inclusion, social and racial justice, new technologies in music, the health and wellness of our community, massive shifts in public-school music teaching and learning, student scholarship support, and a wealth of curricular and operational factors. Meaningful collaborations between Eastman and the other schools of the institution will enable the University of Rochester to be a leader in addressing these vital issues. Looking to the future of music higher education, we must consider new relationships, such as traditional music alongside commercial music, music performance and composition alongside artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and performing art alongside business.

Eastman is poised to simultaneously embrace the future of music while furthering traditional music performance at the highest levels of excellence. Eastman’s future will be built upon a legacy of unmitigated excellence while providing students the foundation to create and imagine their place in an ever-expanding and complex musical ecosystem and economy.

Existing strengths

Eastman is exploring two new degree programs to expand its curricular offerings. A graduate degree in Contemporary Music will provide opportunities for students who want to specialize in creating and performing cutting-edge music. A formal program in Commercial Popular Music will prepare students to take advantage of new employment opportunities and attract students who do not currently look to Eastman as an option for their education.

Students enrolling in music schools demand that we think critically about the music we teach, study, and perform much more expansively and inclusively than ever before. Since establishing the George Walker Institute for Equity and Inclusion in Music in 2022, Eastman has been recognized for its progress toward fostering equity and inclusivity in music, which has and will continue to resonate with other institutions.

While the use of technology in the music industry has been growing for decades, COVID-19 compelled those who create, teach, and experience music to utilize technology in ways never before imagined. The Beal Institute for Film Music and Contemporary Media and the Eastman Music Studios at Eastman (EMUSE), in collaboration with Audio and Music Engineering in the Hajim School, are leading the way as we explore the intersection of technology and music in education and performance.

The Institute for Music Leadership creates career and leadership development opportunities for musicians on and off the stage by offering courses, seminars, week-long academies, certificate programs, and a fully online Master of Arts in Music Leadership degree. In partnership with the Simon Business School, students enrolled in this degree program are eligible to progress immediately to a one-year MBA—one of the most unique collaborative arts leadership programs in the country.

Eastman Performing Arts Medicine, a collaboration between Eastman and the Medical Center, provides a clinic for artists, infuses music throughout the Medical Center, utilizes music therapy in the treatment of patients, and brings experts together from across the University to conduct research. We are poised to be a national leader at the intersection of music and health.

The digital future

We are living in the digital age. Computers and mobile devices have revolutionized how we access information and interact with our environment. At the same time, extraordinary and expanding computing power is transforming the ways in which we live, work, heal, and play, as well as how we see and understand the world around us. Building on our strengths in fundamental science and engineering, quantitative social science, medicine, and music, the University of Rochester is at the forefront of discovery in the digital age.

Our scholars in the School of Arts & Sciences, Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Simon Business School, School of Medicine and Dentistry, and School of Nursing are developing the computing technologies and analytical tools necessary to collect and study massive datasets that help us comprehend the ways in which people thrive—as individuals, in organizations, and across communities. Our social science departments, including economics, political science, and psychology, along with the Simon Business School, have been at the forefront of bringing new techniques and models into the scholarly domain. What separates the University of Rochester from our peers is our scope. We have experts in human cognition advancing our fundamental understanding of how we acquire and can process information, from the analysis of ever-growing data sets to engineering advances needed to build the next generation of devices. The University environment provides a test bed for applications, and the demand for these applications motivates further engineering innovation.

The close proximity of our scholars across fields makes it easier to light the spark that leads to transformative breakthroughs. Already we are redefining fields through transdisciplinary collaborations. To look into the past, we have built tools that allow us to read ancient and historic documents previously believed to be damaged beyond repair. New technologies will continue to change how we “see” what is around us, how we process sound, and how we create art and music. It will also change the ways in which we teach and learn, spend our leisure time, treat illnesses, and care for people. The Goergen Institute for Data Science seeds transdisciplinary breakthroughs in basic and applied research to improve health, create new industries, and expand knowledge. And we are integrating these technologies into our educational mission through facilities such as Studio X, our immersive augmented reality/virtual reality lab.

Rochester will play a leadership role in preparing a workforce for the rapidly expanding areas of the digital age. We are developing new undergraduate majors and clusters as well as graduate and professional degrees that prepare learners not only to thrive in today’s digital age but to create the digital age of tomorrow—one that will impact countless lives in the years to come. The Rochester region and New York State are poised to be national leaders in using data and digital technologies to fuel economic growth, and the University of Rochester is leading the way. New investments will enhance and accelerate this leadership role.

Existing strengths

Immersive virtual reality will change how we learn, collaborate, heal people, and are entertained. At the same time, augmented reality will increasingly integrate technology and virtual objects into our daily life. Future advances require investments across optics, materials science, acoustics, artificial intelligence, data science, human-technology interactions, and the understanding of human perception and cognition.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative technology that is impacting nearly every aspect of daily life, including areas in which the University has deep expertise, such as health care, high-energy-density science, fusion, optics, astrophysics, and augmented and virtual reality. We have a strong foundation in AI, especially in the dominant field of “deep learning” and machine learning, which enables enormous amounts of data to be distilled within AI systems.

Rochester has been advancing the ways that technology and humanities enhance one another. Digital tools and computational methods enrich humanistic inquiry, including new ways to read previously unreadable ancient and medieval texts.

Expanding and coordinating programs across music, audio engineering, and neuroscience will position us as the preeminent center for the artistic, scientific, and technical advancement of music and sound in media of all types, including music for film and television, video games, immersive sound for the built environment, and AR/VR.

Solutions to many of our most pressing problems, including health care, educational and economic inequities, changing global demographics and political systems, and the impact of climate change, will require large-scale, cutting-edge quantitative social science research to find innovative approaches to global challenges. Our long-standing strengths in political science, economics, psychology, and business will allow us to examine these challenges and lead the discourse to move our communities forward.

Transformational materials and technologies

Imagine a world where you can travel from New York City to Los Angeles in a matter of hours on a train that levitates over the ground instead of running on rails. Or where computers predict extreme weather events so far in advance and with such accuracy that countless lives can be saved. Or where light-based technologies detect diseases with such speed and accuracy that patients can receive early treatment at a cellular level. These are but a few examples of how transformational materials and technologies will revolutionize energy, health care, transportation, and communications. Rochester is leading the way with distinguished faculty and groundbreaking research happening across the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, institutes and departments within the School of Arts & Sciences, and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Transformative materials challenge and supersede basic physical quantities that limit existing applications, from those in research to industry and manufacturing. To bridge the chasm between transformative, or leading to change, and enacting that change (i.e., transformational), novel materials must be coupled with concurrent advances in technology. This pairing is the strength of the University of Rochester approach and will have a truly transformational impact, reshaping many industries and impacting every aspect of our lives. Through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, Rochester faculty will develop and utilize next-generation materials and technologies to build a safer, healthier, and more sustainable future. We are already working toward breakthroughs in quantum computing, imaging, and our understanding of how planets are formed.

Rochester has long been a world leader in light, optics, imaging, vision, quantum science and engineering, and high-energy-density sciences. The Laboratory for Laser Energetics is the largest and best-funded university-based US Department of Energy program in the nation and home to the largest and most powerful laser systems found at any academic institution in the world. The University is also home to the Institute of Optics, the first program of its kind in the country, which has awarded half of all degrees in the field in the US. Celebrating its centennial in 2029, the Institute recently received a gift that will increase its faculty by 50 percent as it prepares to enter its second century. These hubs facilitate collaborative research that accelerates discoveries in ways that are not possible at other institutions. Due to the transformational scholarship in these units, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Departments of Mechanical and Electrical and Computer Engineering, and other units across campus, the University is currently ranked seventh in the country in federal physics funding.

Industries impacted by new materials and technologies are prime growth sectors with a soaring national demand for jobs. Developing a highly skilled workforce for not only the world and nation but also the state of New York will spur regional economic growth, making Rochester a national hub for these emerging technologies.

Existing strengths

We are one of the few institutions in the world that has expertise in all areas related to the science and engineering of light: optics, photonics, lasers, imaging, and vision. New investment will develop the next generation of lasers for scientific discovery as well as breakthroughs in optics research and industry applications. A recent gift to the Institute of Optics jump-starts our efforts with 10 new faculty positions.

Understanding how matter reacts under extreme temperatures and pressures gives scientists valuable insights into the fields of planetary science, astrophysics, and fusion energy as well as into the creation of new materials. There are natural connections between this research and the growing global focus on space exploration and technologies. We will continue to push frontiers in translating scientific findings into applications that will impact not only science and engineering but also the world economy.

We are on the cusp of three advances in quantum science and engineering: quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum sensing. A practical quantum computer will allow for unimaginable calculations. Quantum communication networks will become a new standard for securely transmitting encoded information. Quantum sensors promise unparalleled sensitivity for detecting and imaging electric and magnetic fields.

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