Grand Challenges

Pillar 2: Grand Challenges

Tackling Critical Problems at the Edges of Human Endeavor

Consistent with our dual mandate to expand educational opportunities and address important societal challenges, we are well positioned to fully leverage the 4IR advancements in our existing strengths in research. The strategic plan tackles pressing grand challenges in the areas of space, human and intelligent systems as well as natural and built environment in a way that will fundamentally shape the future.

Pillar Owners: John O'Neil and Brian Erstad

OSI Project Managers: Jessica Thornburg and Ryan Smith

The following Pillar 2 initiatives are moving forward in the first wave supported by college, department, unit and/or Strategic Initiatives Funds (SIF) support. If interested in learning more, University employees and students can read the full plan here. External constituents can read the plan here.

For questions, please contact Initiative Owners (listed below), John O'Neil, Brian Erstad (Pillars Co-Owners), Jessica Thornburg , or Ryan Smith (OSI Project Managers).

    # initiative owner email co-owner email
2.1A The University of Arizona Space Institute Tim Swindle John O'Neil
The University of Arizona annually ranks #1 in space science funding nationally. To maintain that success, we will need to improve our infrastructure by establishing an Arizona Space Sciences Center with a Project Design and Management group of project managers, engineers and finance experts capable of designing major projects and an enhanced Proposal Preparation group, and by building facilities that can accommodate the major projects we need to undertake. The Arizona Space Sciences Center Project Design and Management group will provide a mechanism for UA to retain the best project managers, engineers, and mission finance experts.
Launch Date: 02/25/2020
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $1,000,000
2.1D Defending Our Planet Tim Swindle John O'Neil
Space is congested, contested and competitive. Our goal is to retain University of Arizona's leadership in developing space technologies that would monitor and protect planet Earth from man-made and natural space threats. UA will be the lead university to discover a majority of all hazardous near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters that are capable of destroying cities and create the first non-military catalog of all artificial objects larger than 20 centimeters in geostationary orbit to safeguard our nation's security using a next generation autonomous ground-based survey telescope network in combination with space-based telescopes.
Launch Date: 01/24/2020
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $2,000,000

Preeminence in environmental
research and education

Jim Buizer    
We are setting out to be a top ten ranked environmental university in the world. To achieve this goal we must not only excel in research on the natural and built environment but also lead in teaching, public service/community impact (i.e., land-grant), and creating a sustainable campus. We will realize this integrated vision by creating an innovative cross-cutting administrative leadership unit (a "virtual college") that serves, coordinates and promotes all environmentally-oriented people and programs on campus, and which capitalizes on and develops the UA's environmental brand by strengthening the Institute of the Environment or establishing a College of the Environment.
Launch Date: 11/18/2019
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $800,000
2.2D2  Start up of Building a Changing World Barbara Bryson Andrew Comrie
The UA strives to be the first university to develop a robust university-wide ecosystem supporting research, teaching, and service for the built environment, defining a new fully integrated discipline leveraging knowledge and research from all UA colleges. This capacity development effort will be built upon existing strengths such as public policy, environmental sciences, transportation, optical sciences, management, planning, data sciences, public health, geography, and materials. The first steps toward this goal is to conduct a campus-wide conversation about research goals through two workshops and a university symposium.
Launch Date: 04/09/2019
2.4A  Quantum Technologies and Convergence in the 4IR Nasser Peyghambarian    
This initiative brings together researchers from engineering, science, social sciences, humanities, law and business to a common space to investigate social impacts of quantum technologies and intelligent systems on human behavior, cyber security, privacy, hacking, and the effects of these technologies on people to people connections, communication, environment, computing, sensing, creation of jobs and trade. This initiative is envisioned to become a focal point for strategic thinking and creative innovation in quantum science and engineering.
2.5A1 Data Science Academy Joe Watkins    
UA will integrate network science with data and computing science, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and IoT—but also to consider social, ethical, and legal questions. To ensure the nexus between research and education is captured, we will mobilize researchers across disciplinary boundaries who share a passion for data science; deepen our partnerships with both industry and government agencies; and challenge students at all degree levels to explore new, innovative domains of expertise.
Launch Date: 7/1/2020
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $125,000
UAHS 2.1 Access to Precision Health for All Myra Muramoto    
We will build upon our precision health biorepository research programs by creating a Transdisciplinary Center to Advance Precision Health. The center will provide a broad-based and sustainable infrastructure to connect, enable and support transdisciplinary approaches to precision health across research, education, community engagement and services to develop preventative approaches for sustained wellness, earlier diagnoses and tailored treatments at individual and population levels to meet challenges of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
UAHS 2.3 Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center Todd Vanderah    
To lead the state in addressing the current opioid epidemic, we will create a Comprehensive Center for Chronic Pain and Addiction that is the nucleus for treatment, research, trials, drug discovery, technology, education and legislation to predict, prevent, and contain addiction crises. The university will conduct new research on comprehensive behavioral therapies as addiction treatment, develop early screeners for individuals at risk, and develop novel non-addictive pain medications and medications to help those who suffer from addiction.
Launch Date: 12/20/2019
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $224,000
UAHS 3.1A Precision Aging Network Pilot Study Carol Barnes Meredith Hay
We will develop a strong scientific foundation for the essential knowledge needed to match cognitive health span with human lifespan. Specifically, this initiative will help to understand the neurological changes that occur during normal aging and the links to environmental and genetic factors that drive exceptional cognitive health span, e.g., mapping cognitive outcomes to genotypes and lifestyle, and utilizing big data techniques and community-based participatory research to determine optimal individual wellness plans.
Launch Date: 2/25/2020
UAHS 4.1 Personalized Defense Janko Nikolich    
Personalized Defense addresses issues related to infection, immunity and inflammation caused by microorganisms. We will work toward establishing collaboration channels between different university departments, institutes and centers by creating an Immune-Microbe Interface in Health and Disease (IMIHD) interest group. IMIHD will incentivize faculty by granting additional resources to hire more postdocs, jump-start collaborations, support microbiome infrastructure and position Arizona as a revolutionary real-time point of care leader for inflammatory diseases.
Launch Date: 3/10/2020
Strategic Initiatives FY21 Budget: $1,500,000
UAHS 5.1C Center for Advanced Technologies for Health Jennifer Barton    
We will connect researchers across health sciences disciplines and beyond to develop an array of technologies and digital solutions like wearable sensors for disease monitoring and other health applications. Cross-discipline team meetings will occur in a Design Center as we create structural incentives for innovation.
Launch Date: 12/20/2019
Strategic Initiatives Fund FY21 Budget: $140,000 (budget consolidated with the budget for Strategic Initiatives UAHS 5.1A and UAHS 5.1B)

Grand Challenges