University wins big with lottery funds

17 University projects were selected to receive funding from state lottery profits.

Luke Feuerherm

The University of Minnesota is set to receive part of $26 million in state funding for environmental research that came from lottery proceeds. The Legislative-Citizen Commission of Minnesota Resources has made final funding decisions and will submit their 48 environmental project recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature next year. The University of Minnesota would receive funding for 17 projects, the most projects awarded to any one group. The Department of Natural Resources had the second most projects funded, with 11. In total, the University would haul in about $7.8 million. âÄúWe make funding recommendations on projects from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund , which is the money generated by the state lottery,âÄù said Mike Banker the communications and outreach manager and project analyst for the LCCMR. After setting aside lottery winnings, vendor costs and various state expenditures, seven cents of every lottery dollar are transferred directly to the Trust Fund. They are then combined with donations and fund investment to subsidize research throughout the entire state. At the University, funding is used to jumpstart research or to provide essential supplement funding to current research. University ecology professor James Cotner was selected by the committee for his project that ensures better burial of carbon-producing products in small lakes. âÄúWe can now take what weâÄôre doing in the western part of the state and apply it to the whole state,âÄù said Cotner. Roger Ruan, a University bioproducts/ biosystems engineer professor, was also selected to be funded for his algae research. Ruan, like Cotner hopes the funds will allow him to expand his current research by enabling him to shift from the laboratory to the field. âÄúThe University of Minnesota has been working on this for quite a long time now,âÄù said Ruan. While the University was successful at securing projects overall this year, not all researchers who applied walked away with funding. âÄúThe project we had proposed for this last funding cycle didnâÄôt go through,âÄù said Melissa Pawlisch, coordinator for the UniversityâÄôs Clean Energy Resource Team. However, even after being turned away, Pawlisch said she found value in the system. âÄúGoing through a proposal process is a help to an organization or to a group whether or not you get funded. It allows you to forge some alliances and think through how we would do this,âÄù Pawlisch said. Banker said now that the projects have been finalized and are ready to be passed to the Legislature, he expects the funding to pass with few if any changes. âÄúThe proposals donâÄôt get tweaked, at anytime,âÄù he said. âÄúThe Legislature can change the package of projects being recommended, but the last few years there have been no changes.âÄù