University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The University of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 8 (May 1948)

Elvehjem, Conrad A.
Elvehjem on research,   pp. 12-13


Page 12


FACULTY REPORT
* From time to time the
Wisconsin Alumnus is
privileged to publish
articles by Wisconsin
professors about their
special fields. Here are
two such contributions.
CONRAD A. ELVEHIEM, '23, dean of
the Graduate School, is a world-
renowned biochemist in his own right.
He is particularly famous for his studies
on the relation of nicotinic acid to
pellagra control and of folic acid in the
treatment of anemia. He has just been
awarded the 1948 Nicholas Appert
Award for outstanding food research.
FAYETTE H. ELWELL, '08, dean of the
School of Commerce, is holding some
100 institutes and conferences a year
for state business and industrial groups.
12
t1c'hje o0 an                        Recea'sch
  * The dean of the Graduate School sees science at the crossroads.
  Will larger funds bring greater progress, or will fine labs and high
  salaries not necessarily attract the proper spirited young men to
  the Wisconsin staff?
   THE VITALITY of any educational
institution, especially graduate work,
is directly dependent upon research,
because instruction at the graduate
level is largely instruction in research
and because teachers must reach beyond
available knowledge in order to keep
their own interest as well as the inter-
est of the student alive. This idea was
recognized early at Wisconsin. On April
2, 1917, President Van Hise appointed
a research committee consisting of C.
S. Slichter, J. G. Callan, J. A. E.
Eyster, E. B. Hart and R. H. Hess. In
1918 President Birge emphasized to the
Regents the need for support of pure
research and the Legislature included
in the University appropriations the
next biennium $23,000 per year for
special investigations.
  Thus the Legislature made formal
recognition of research as one of the
regular duties of the University. The
amount abpropriated per year has in-
creased somewhat with each new bien-
nium and this year the grant amounts
to $75,000. Over a period of almost 30
years somewhat over a million dollars
has been appropriated and I am willing
to wager with anyone that this is the
most productiv'e million dollars that the
state has ever spent. These sums may
seem relatively small in light of present
expenditures but I wish to point out
that even by 1930 only 26 million
dollars was available fof research in
all universities and non-profit research
institutions in this country. This mea-
ger beginning did much to make our
faculty research-conscious and p r e -
pared the University for future de-
velopments in the field.
               *  *  *
  Just 20 years ago the Wisconsin
Alumni Research Foundation, which
had been organized to control for the
benefit of mankind a discovery made by
Professor Steenbock, made its first
grants of $1200 to the University. Let
me pause here to say that this was
possible only because of a scientist
who was interested in the best use of
a discovery made in a university lab-
oratory, a dean who was so enthusias-
tic about research that a little red tape
did not discourage him, and a loyal
and far-seeing group of alumni who
became the Board of Trustees. The
amount of money made available to
the research committee has increased
each year and at present it amounts to
approximately $400,000.
  Now I could give you the title of
all the projects that have been sup-
ported during the past years or I might
limit the titles to just the past year.
Incidentally last year 138 different
projects were supported. However, the
important point is that the money has
been used to expand research projects
which faculty members are especially
interested in and which could not have
been undertaken through the use of
iegular funds alone. The requests come
directly from the faculty and they are
given freedom in planning their pro-
grams, the only requirement being that
they must produce. I have received
grants from many different funds but
I have never encountered any group
tougher than the research committee.
Last year 100-150 publications resulted
from the grants alone which amount to
only about half of the total money
given by the Foundation. As one sur-
veys the present publications it is
obvious that the projects b e a r i n g
greatest fruit are those that have been
in progress for several years. Thus one
cannot underestimate the importance
of continuity in research.
  It is also obvious that some of the
best progress has been made in the
case of problems studied between two or
more departments.
  It is also important to emphasize at
this point that although the money
from the Foundation is limited to the
support of work in the natural sciences
the fact that this money is available
releases most of the funds given by the
Legislature for studies in social sciences
and humanities. In fact, the two funds
supplement each other very well and I
know of no university that is not envi-
ous of fluid research funds of this kind.
  Much of the money allocated for
research grants is used to hire com-
petent assistants, 258 to be exact. The
best assistants eventually become fac-
ulty members. That is why it has been
said Wisconsin's well-deserved fame as
a national center of scientific research
is not due to fancy laboratories or su-
perior equipment. It is due primarily
to the galaxy to outstanding men which
the University has been able to attract
to its faculty. Additional money has
been used to attract outstanding young
graduate students to the University of
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation
fellows. These students have done much
to raise the caliber of graduate work
in many departments. All students in a
department do a better job when one
or two exceptional students set the
pace. About a dozen of the outstanding
young men now on our faculty were
originally Wisconsin Alumni Research
Foundation fellows.
  In 1915 there were approximately 100
industrial research laboratories in the
United States which were p o o r I y
staffed and poorly equipped. Today we
have 2,500 laboratories employing 130,-
000 people with a budget of 750 million
dollars. It is impossible for a univer-
sity to compete with these industrial
laboratories on the basis of salary, but
it is possible to compete on the basis
of research opportunity. Therefore, the
research committee has established re-
search associateships in order to retain
at the University outstanding young
men who have received their Ph.D.
degrees. It is also possible to retain
members of the faculty who are given
tempting opportunities in industry by
giving them more time for research
and more help for assistants.


Go up to Top of Page