In this time of transformative change in higher education, it’s more vital than ever for universities to demonstrate their value through the impact they have on the world.  At Northeastern, the path we’ve forged these past several years has achieved this – rapidly and powerfully.

Together, we’ve extended Northeastern’s leadership in undergraduate education and strengthened our unique experiential learning model, grounded in co-op.  We’ve built the faculty, deepened the university’s global perspective, developed best-in-class leadership in online and hybrid professional masters education – and much more.

Now, it’s time to increase Northeastern’s impact even further by accelerating and expanding the impressive gains of our research enterprise.  By underscoring our distinctive strengths – our concentration on the global imperatives of health, security and sustainability, and our unique focus on interdisciplinary and use-inspired research – we aim to make Northeastern the “go-to” place for game-changing research that responds to the world’s most pressing problems.

We start from a position of enormous strength.  Since 2006, we’ve more than doubled our annual research awards to $104 million, capturing 93 $1 million-plus awards along the way.  Our seven national research centers garner continued acclaim for their path-breaking advances.  Our senior faculty continue to be included in the world’s most prestigious academies.  Meanwhile, new faculty colleagues are being recognized with young investigators awards and other acknowledgements of their promise.  We’ve seized the opportunity to establish world-class leadership in strategic fields of national and global importance.

These achievements are highlighted in the new national visibility campaign we’re launching this week, “Making Tomorrow Happen,” which showcases Northeastern’s research success to an even broader audience.

This strong foundation now positions us to vault our research enterprise to much greater heights.  To do so, we’ll press forward with new investments in people, programs and facilities in the coming months and years:

  • Continued faculty hiring: Building on the success of the past several years, we will extend our efforts to build the faculty, adding to our research depth and interdisciplinary capacity.
  • Strengthened Ph.D. programs: We will intensify our efforts to invigorate our Ph.D. programs, with a focus on building programs in which we have opportunities for leadership, and attracting even more of the very best students.
  • Increased research facilities: As we move ahead with our new Institutional Master Plan, we will continue to make increased space for research a prime focus.

At the same, we will reaffirm and deepen the strategies that have enabled our success so far:

  • New research depth: Within our signature research areas of health, security and sustainability, we aim to capture new leadership in the cutting edge specialties of systems medicine, secure environments, and urban coastal sustainability, while also building further leadership in key enabling technologies for our research such as nanotechnology and network science.
  • Interdisciplinary research: Beyond our signature areas, we will leverage the research expertise of our entire faculty with increased opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Student research opportunities: As last month’s phenomenally successful Research, Innovation and Scholarship Expo showed, our students – undergraduate and graduate – are making extraordinary research contributions as well. Through the Center for Research Innovation and college-based activities, we’ll support them even more strongly.
  • Increasing start-ups: Through the Center for Research Innovation, our student-run venture accelerator IDEA, the Entrepreneurship Club and our colleges, we’ll provide even more support for faculty and students to use their research to create new start-ups, companies, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Individually, each of these developments will be powerful; together, they will be transformational.  In many ways, research sits at the center of Northeastern’s continued rise: it is the linchpin that will foster further success in attracting high-talent students and enterprising faculty, developing innovative academic programs, and inspiring bold new philanthropic support.

In other words, our research investments will enable a virtuous circle – a mutually reinforcing set of positive effects that will increase Northeastern’s strength and global impact – no matter how the world continues to change.  So let us all make the most of this opportunity to push the frontiers of our research enterprise, and contribute to our continued success.


Joseph E. Aoun