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Extending Our Global Reach

Outer space view of earth

Recent events, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, remind us of our global interconnectedness and illustrate how our shared problems must be addressed with shared solutions from multiple perspectives and diverse areas of expertise.

As our world’s challenges become more complex and their impact felt on a broader scale, international research becomes increasingly important for universities across the U.S. A recent New York Times article underscores its importance and highlights what’s at stake for American universities if we don’t invest in the programs and structural changes that support global research.

Global challenges, such as healthcare, food security and the environment, transcend our state’s and nation’s borders. The University of Minnesota, which maintains strong research programs in many areas with global reach, has been working to advance transdisciplinary partnerships to address these grand challenges and to accelerate the expansion of knowledge in these areas.

The U of M has long been a leader in international research, claiming distinguished luminaries and widely recognized experts such as Norman Borlaug (food security), Chandy John (malaria), Massoud Amin (smart grid energy systems), Julia Ponder (birds in the Galapagos) and Aaron Doering (adventure learning). In 2013, U of M faculty members conducted research in 84 countries (not including the U.S.) and on all seven continents. (See this map showing our global reach.)

In the coming weeks, Inquiry will be sharing stories about groundbreaking research occurring beyond our borders and will feature articles written by several other prominent university faculty leading international research projects that address global environmental, social and economic challenges including:

Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, civil engineering professor in the College of Science and Engineering, leads several large international projects focused on advancing sustainability and scientific research related to the Earth’s surface environment. One of her projects, DELTAS, is a collaboration of government, university and NGO researchers working to develop a framework for understanding, assessing and sustainably managing our world’s deltaic systems. The DELTAS project includes partners in 12 countries and is currently studying three deltas– Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Bangladesh and India), Mekong (Vietnam) and Amazon (South America) — as demonstration sites. Read article

Ronald Aminzade, sociology professor in the College of Liberal Arts, studies the politics of agricultural development and the future of small-scale farming in Tanzania. His research explores the impact of multinational, market-driven approaches to food security on African countries and the smallholder farmers that support local food economies. Read article

James Neaton, biostatistics professor in the School of Public Health, leads the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials, INSIGHT, a network of clinicians involving 400 sites in 37 countries throughout the world who take part in clinical trials for the treatment of HIV. Neaton oversees INSIGHT coordinating centers in London, Copenhagen, Sydney and Washington D.C. which orchestrate the work of clinical sites in participating countries. Read article

A Vision for International Research

Elevating and expanding international research is a critical area of emphasis for the university and its leadership. Five Years Forward, the strategic plan for research, identified “increasing the prominence of international research” as one of its supporting goals within the cornerstone to Advance Transdisciplinary Partnerships.

Erin Dennis

Erin Dennis

Erin is assistant communications director for the Office of the Vice President for Research and senior editor of Inquiry. 

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