UArizona again ranks No. 1 in astronomy and astrophysics, top 20 among public research universities

Carina Nebula

This landscape of "mountains" and "valleys" speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. It was captured in infrared light by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

(Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI)

For the fifth consecutive year, the University of Arizona is ranked in the top 20 among the nation's top public research universities, with $824 million in total research activity in fiscal year 2022, according to data released Thursday by the National Science Foundation. This figure represents a $54 million increase over its fiscal year 2021 total.

The university also retained its No. 1 ranking in astronomy and astrophysics expenditures at more than $123 million, which represents 15% of all expenditures in this category across all U.S. colleges and universities. UArizona has ranked No. 1 in this category each year since 1987.

The NSF's Higher Education Research and Development survey annually ranks more than 900 colleges and universities and is considered the primary source of information on research and development expenditures at U.S. colleges and universities.

"The University of Arizona has consistently increased its research and development expenditures in an effort to help improve understanding of our most pressing challenges and to generate discoveries that fuel innovation," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "Our excellence in astronomy research is unparalleled, and our leadership in quantum technologies, health sciences and climate resilience will keep our institution at the forefront of the world's most important scientific breakthroughs. The federal and other sources of funding that enable the work of our brilliant researchers also brings tangible economic benefit to our state, and we are proud of both these forms of impact."

The university's research and development expenditures rank No. 20 among public institutions and No. 37 overall. This overall ranking places UArizona in the top 4% of all U.S. universities ranked in this list, both public and private.

"This substantial increase from $770 million in the 2021 fiscal year underscores our dedication to advancing impactful research, innovation and creative inquiry that shapes a brighter future," said Elliot Cheu, interim senior vice president of research and innovation. "At the heart of this success are our faculty, research staff and students, whose relentless pursuit of new knowledge drives our university's position as one of the nation's top public research institutions."

The HERD survey also ranked UArizona No. 3 among schools with high Hispanic enrollment, up one spot from last year. In 2018, the university earned the designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution from the U.S. Department of Education for its success in the enrollment of Hispanic students.

UArizona ranked No. 6 in NASA-funded activity and No. 7 in the physical sciences.

The University of Arizona Health Sciences had $324.3 million in research activity in fiscal year 2022. This marks the fourth consecutive year of increases for UArizona Health Sciences, which has six colleges and 15 centers and programs in Tucson, Phoenix and Gilbert, Arizona.

"We are proud of the dedication of our talented researchers, physician-scientists, staff and students to address critical health care problems," said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president for the University of Arizona Health Sciences. "In 2022 alone, we made important advances in several of our priority research areas, including immunology and immunotherapies, pain and addiction, cancer and neuroscience. Collectively this work will help to improve the health and well-being of individuals in the local community, across the state of Arizona and around the world."

UArizona's best rankings in the NSF's Higher Education Research and Development survey came in the following categories:

  • No. 1: Astronomy and astrophysics
  • No. 3: High Hispanic enrollment
  • No. 6: NASA-funded activity
  • No. 7: Physical sciences
  • No. 20: All public universities
  • No. 37: All universities

The University of Arizona also earned top-50 placements in the following categories:

  • No. 25: Biological and biomedical sciences
  • No. 29: Geosciences, atmospheric sciences and ocean sciences
  • No. 29: Agricultural sciences, natural resources and conservation
  • No. 34: Department of Agriculture expenditures
  • No. 36: National Science Foundation expenditures
  • No. 36: Social sciences
  • No. 36: Science and engineering fields
  • No. 39: Life sciences
  • No. 44: Computer and information sciences
  • No. 50: Department of Health and Human Services expenditures

Some examples of UArizona research that made headlines and had significant impact in fiscal year 2022, between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, include:

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully begins its journey to space
UArizona led the design and development of the Near-Infrared Camera onboard the James Webb Space Telescope. Once Webb has successfully unfolded and parked in its outpost past the moon, the UArizona instrument will align the telescope's 18 mirror segments and serve as the Webb's primary imager for at least the next 5 1/2 years.

OSIRIS-REx improves understanding of potentially hazardous asteroids
NASA and UArizona scientists were able to significantly reduce uncertainties about asteroid Bennu's orbit and determine the likelihood of the asteroid impacting Earth between now and the year 2300.

Evidence points to animal market, not lab, as epicenter of pandemic
In a new paper published in Science, UArizona virus expert Michael Worobey connects the dots from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and shows that an origin other than the Huanan Seafood Market is extremely unlikely.

UArizona awarded $60 million to lead Precision Aging Network
The network, established with funding from the National Institutes of Health, has the ultimate goal of developing more effective brain-aging treatments and interventions targeted to the individual.

UArizona-led team finds nearly 500 ancient ceremonial sites in Southern Mexico
The discovery shifts researchers' understanding of the relationship between the Olmec civilization and the subsequent Maya civilization.

Near-Earth asteroid might be a lost fragment of the moon
A team of UArizona-led researchers think that the near-Earth asteroid Kamo`oalewa might actually be a miniature moon.

Study shows vaccine protects dogs against Valley fever
A team led by researchers at the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence successfully tested a Valley fever vaccine for dogs, with two doses providing high levels of protection against the fungal disease.

Researchers develop ultra-thin 'computer on the bone'
Engineers and physicians teamed up to develop a wireless device to monitor and protect bone health.

'Mini Psyches' give insights into mysterious metal-rich near-earth asteroids
New research into metal-rich asteroids reveals information about the origins and compositions of these rare bodies that could one day be mined.

Small but mighty: How UArizona researchers are harnessing the power of algae to capture carbon
An astrobiologist, an engineer and an ecologist have teamed up to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Compound developed at UArizona Health Sciences provides innovative pain relief
Researchers targeted a common sodium ion channel to reverse pain and saw positive results that could lead to a nonaddictive solution to treat pain.

Study finds large new source of greenhouse gas emissions
An international team has discovered hundreds of large bursts of methane from oil and gas production activities across the globe. The bursts account for 10% of global oil and gas methane emissions and are missing from most greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

UArizona engineer awarded $5m to build quantum-powered navigation tools
Funded by the NSF Convergence Accelerator Program, the Quantum Sensors project aims to make space and terrestrial navigation far more sensitive, accurate and affordable.