The Eye Opener series was created by UF over 20 years ago for the business world to be able to catch a glimpse of important achievements, research, current events, and other local business related issues facing UF and our community. Each month is a new speaker. Today’s speaker is David Norton.
David wanted to be a scientist ever since he was a child. He loved watching NASA, nature shows, etc.
He didn’t want to be an astronaut because the training was too grueling. He grew up on a tropical fish farm in south Florida. He worked on the farm when he was 10. He learned all about that business.
In 1970 a role model appeared, Gene Wilder of Young Frankenstein. He said scientists want to rule the world, quoting the Angry Villager in Young Frankenstein.
The central thread that drives all scientists is that they want to do something important, something big.
The Army long ago contacted UF to help them with dropping bombs more efficiently. Today, land mines kill 26,000 people each year so UF is involved in bettering those numbers.
In the 1940s Florida had an overabundance of orange juice. Food scientists at UF developed concentrate so that it could last long enough to get to the world. Big challenge today is a bug that carries a virus and is a serious threat to the orange business. It is costing $3.6 billion. UF is working on a vaccine for all trees to protect them.
In the 1970s, a UF researcher created a drug to help those with glaucoma. Julie Johnson, Professor of Pharmacy at UF, is working on drugs that will work specifically for certain people whose genetic code won’t react to standard drugs.
UF is battling cavities among children. Gatorade has brought $190 million in revenues. Research dollars in 1992 were $197 million and now it is $697 million. Other big research schools are Texas, UCLA, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State Penn State, and NC.
One of the biggest issues in the U.S. is competition in technology based production. U.S. has always led however the chart shows Asia catching up to us starting in the early 2000s. What changed in 2007 was China. If you project out to 2020 at this same pace they will pass us in R&D expenditures. China graduates 8 times more engineers than the U.S. per year.
UF is putting in infrastructure to ramp up their research. UF is helping people with their research now, today.
Our cell phones today have 400 times more transistors than was used to send the Apollo to the moon in the 1960s. What technology will be developed today by UF that will trump those numbers again? What will the technology 40 years from now look like compared to today? UF will be part of those strides.
How has the budget affected you? He said we must do our best with what we have. Recruiting and retaining talent is the best we can do.
How does research mesh with business? The results of their research produces products that improve the lives of everyone, including businesses. Part of their mission is to do things that are relevant in society.
Where do funds come from? 2/3 funding comes from contracts and grants, the other 1/3 comes from federal, donations.
What is the future of funding? He has no idea, just said there are big problems and it is a significant pressure point.
How do researchers communicate with students? same people doing research have grad students helping and are the same people teaching classes…for the most part.
What is the State of FLorida doing in terms of solar spending? The current administration has not been interested in new funding for this. UF is heavily invested in solar. U.S. invented solar, but most of the parts are manufactured in China.