quote by chancellor chopp - 'Much of our research is on-the-ground innovative work that addresses real-world problems.'

A Discovery Culture Fosters High-Impact Research and Innovation

A research team directs its gray cells at brain injuries

Falls are a huge public health crisis and one of the leading causes of injuries among aging adults. That’s why Kim Gorgens of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology and Dan Linseman of the Department of Biological Sciences are joining forces to study the impact of traumatic brain injuries on aging adults.

Armed with a pilot grant from DU’s Knoebel Institute for Healthy Aging, the two are partnering with Craig Hospital, a leading center for the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries. They hope to discover why older adults take longer to recover from concussions — and why they suffer more severe consequences than younger people.

“Our theory is that some of this difference in age-dependent recovery is actually due to oxidative stress as you age and the depletion of a critical antioxidant in the brain called glutathione,” Linseman says. “We are testing a nutritional supplement in mice that will boost levels of glutathione. We want to see if we can make them recover more like a younger mouse.”

A research team directs its gray cells at brain injuries

Whether at the local or global level, the challenges facing humankind are daunting. Addressing them requires crossing disciplines to share insights and harness a wide array of expertise.

That’s the animating premise behind the University of Denver’s culture of research and innovation.

In the last year, DU channeled its resources toward growing a research enterprise focused on problem solving and knowledge generation. By the close of Fiscal Year 2017, research expenditures had reached a record high of $28.6 million, up 12 percent from the prior year. According to Corinne Lengsfeld, vice provost for research and graduate education, the University boasted 168 unique principal investigators, representing almost every academic division, leading projects funded externally by government agencies, private foundations and for-profit companies.

In recent years, the University has diversified its research portfolio, building strengths not just in the sciences, psychology and engineering, but also in geosciences, economics and business, political science, biochemistry and law.

An evidence-based approach to public policy

At DU’s recently launched Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise — made possible by a $10 million naming gift from Laura Barton and her family in honor of the late Peter Barton — a brand new policy lab aims to change the way policy makers understand and improve public programs.

The Colorado Evaluation Action Lab (CEAL) will connect state and local officials with experienced researchers from different disciplines. Through CEAL, public agencies will tap into the most effective tools for evaluating policies, analyzing data and formulating long-term studies. CEAL’s goal? To make Colorado a leader in an evidence-based approach to policy progress.

An evidence-based approach to public policy

With capitalizing on research strengths in mind,
faculty-student teams are tackling groundbreaking work related to:
icon - two parents standing on either side of a child

Child and Family Welfare
and Mental Health

Peace and Stability

Early Childhood Education


Biophysics and Biomechanics

International Forecasting

In with a big bang: A DU alum heads for outer space

Robb Kulin (BS ’04) has bold plans to defy gravity. He’s one of 12 individuals selected for NASA’s 2017 astronaut candidate program. (More than 18,000 would-be space travelers applied for the slots.)

In the coming months, he’ll journey to various centers across the U.S. and around the world to prepare for the challenges ahead and to become familiar with international partners. He’ll also undergo survival and medical training, spacewalk training, jet training and more — all in hopes that his work will advance the science that could well improve life on Earth.

Kulin’s career aspirations were sparked while he was studying mechanical engineering at DU. “I actually wasn’t interested in space as a child, but my eyes were opened up to the possibility of a career in space while doing a report on the loss of the space shuttle Columbia while I was at DU,” Kulin says. “I have always had a strong interest in exploration, and although [it was] an extremely awful event to be introduced to space by, it opened up my eyes to space as the next great frontier for exploration.”

In with a big bang: A DU alum heads for outer space

It’s no surprise that, as DU’s research commitment intensifies, the University’s scholars are gaining recognition for their high-impact work. In the last year, the number of archival articles published by DU faculty grew by 20 percent over the previous year. Just as promising, the number of citations increased by 10 percent, with 16 highly cited papers enriching the world’s store of knowledge.

As Lengsfeld sees it, the University’s ability to make such significant gains in these categories is partly thanks to a robust internal grants program that jump-starts projects that later bring in outside funding and that supplements others already supported by grants and awards.

Meanwhile, the campus’ commitment to innovation and enterprise was supported by research at the Daniels College of Business, where Aimee Hamilton, assistant professor in the Department of Management, studies organizational innovation at firms dependent on knowledge workers, or, as she describes them, “people used to a fair amount of autonomy.”

“We tend to think a lot about technological innovation — the newest smart phone or biomedical drug — but there are a lot of what I would call ‘architectural’ or process types of innovation that are very important to organizations,” Hamilton explains, adding that these “create the organizational context that allows employees to be at their best and give the organization their best.”


In Fiscal Year 2017 DU faculty members produced 929 distinct pieces of published research, including books, articles, book chapters, scholarly monographs, pieces of music and artwork.


138 new grants were awarded to faculty members, up more than 5 percent from last year.


About 33 percent of the Class of 2017 worked with a faculty member on a research project funded by DU's Partners in Scholarship program, as reported through the National Survey on Student Engagement.

Thanks to a student-developed ride-sharing app, it’s easy to get a lift

For alpine adventurers, the mountains are always calling. But answering that call can be tricky if you don’t have transportation.

Faced with this problem, sophomores Meredith Gee and Sam Schooler developed Wanderlift, a ride-share app for anyone hankering for higher altitudes.

The app’s creators say Wanderlift has built-in social and environmental benefits, too. Teaming up to share rides is a great way for fellow mountain enthusiasts to meet. Plus, fewer cars on the road means less traffic and pollution.

To jump-start their idea, Gee, an emergent digital practices major, and Schooler, who is majoring in computer sciences, drew on classroom experiences and involvement with DU’s entrepreneurship club and Center for Sustainability.

Thanks to a student-developed ride-sharing app, it’s easy to get a lift

The entrepreneurial spirit on campus — and in Denver — was enhanced by a year’s worth of booked-solid programming from DU’s Project X-ITE, described by Chancellor Chopp as “a hub for transforming ideas into projects, products and businesses — as well as a headquarters for experiential learning focused on entrepreneurial work.”

Supported by a team of innovation fellows from DU’s programs in business, social work, arts and law, as well as by an advisory board of undergraduate and graduate students, Project X-ITE lives by a manifesto that inspires its programming: “We seek answers to big challenges and find solutions that break the mold.”

With big challenges and solutions in mind, Project X-ITE hosted a daylong Social Enterprise Summit in November 2016, introducing students and community members to domestic and international companies from the public, private and cause sectors. Participants explored strategies, resources and financing for the emerging world of innovative and socially driven business models.

That was followed in spring by an X-ITE-sponsored Flight to Denver, a three-day boot camp for the technologists, engineers, scientists and policy experts tasked with helping the United Nations meet its 17 sustainable development goals. These visionaries came from 11 countries to combine forces with experts from six Front Range universities, 30 private-sector companies, seven nonprofit organizations and five Colorado-based public-sector groups.

The work conducted at Flight to Denver culminated with a progress report delivered to U.N. global headquarters in New York.

For a staff member, innovation is all in a day’s work

Alyssa Boltinghouse (MA ’15), assistant to the chair in the Department of Religious Studies, would be busy enough if she limited herself to the requirements of her job description. But Boltinghouse is always looking for ways to make a difference, whether it’s polishing a departmental branding effort, developing the first-ever religious studies e-newsletter, creating a student-recruitment brochure for an MA program or editing videos aimed at prospective students.

For her efforts, Boltinghouse was recognized with a DU Innovator Award in fall 2016. The award honors staff members who have looked beyond their day-to-day tasks to harness new and exciting ways to engage students and the community.

For a staff member, innovation is all in a day’s work

According to a report compiled after the event, Flight to Denver resulted in a host of benefits to the University, the city of Denver and the state of Colorado. These included:

Providing a platform for local engagement with the U.N.’s sustainable development goals

Harnessing the strengths of Colorado’s innovation ecosystem

Establishing a lasting partnership involving the University, the Colorado governor’s office and the United Nations Foundation

Highlighting the thirst for experiential learning in the Denver community