Commonwealth Research and Technology Strategic Roadmap Profile: JMU

Located in the Shenandoah Valley, James Madison University (JMU) is a comprehensive liberal arts university. Founded in 1908, JMU offers bachelor's, master's, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees and is ranked annually as one of the top public, master's-level universities in the South in the poll on academic quality conducted by the U.S. News & World Report. The university was recognized again by the U.S. News & World Report as a leader in undergraduate research and creative projects. With a foundation in liberal arts, specialized knowledge, analytical skills, and the application of science and technology, students are equipped with the skills necessary to creatively address the issues and needs facing contemporary society.

JMU is a student-focused university committed to preparing students to be educated and enlightened citizens who lead productive and meaningful lives. Faculty and students share a close relationship with a high level of student involvement in the classroom, the lab, and activities on and off campus. In 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized JMU as a Community Engaged University. The honor recognizes the "collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities...for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity." Only 8% of the nation's colleges and universities have been given this designation.

JMU utilizes an interdisciplinary and applied approach in order to facilitate the engagement of faculty, staff, and students to develop solutions to real-world problems. An enterprise-wide research agenda guides the strategic objectives of academic initiatives and illustrates the value placed on collaboration and creative endeavors to address major issues facing society, while enhancing regional development through engagement. JMU's research focus areas include: health and biosciences; national/homeland security; education reform in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); international stabilization and recovery; accountability and outcomes assessment; renewable and alternative energy; and nanotechnology/materials science. JMU is spearheading the creation of a regional innovation ecosystem that balances academic program excellence with cutting-edge research.

In the broad sector of national security, JMU centers and programs date back more than 15 years. The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) (established as the Mine Action Information Center in 1996) is a public policy center that manages information and conducts training relevant to humanitarian mine clearance, victim assistance, mine risk reduction, and other landmine-related issues. As an information clearinghouse, CISR provides training, operates a help desk for queries, hosts conferences and symposia on landmine-related topics, publishes a journal about mine action, maintains a content-rich website, develops mine action education materials, produces geographic information system (GIS) products, and conducts studies and surveys designed to facilitate and improve global landmine action. The Institute for National Security Analysis, the research arm of the Intelligence Analysis degree program, engages the U.S. intelligence agencies' analytical communities in government and private industry with new analytical methods through original research, curriculum development, and presentations and publications. In the area of cyber security, JMU's Information Security program was named one of the original seven National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Housed in the Department of Computer Science, cyber security research encompasses a broad array of topics, including: analysis of advanced persistent threats, digital forensics, identity management, and threat modeling in distributed systems.

The Center for Assessment and Research Studies (CARS) provides graduate training in both assessment and measurement, increases the use of innovative technology in assessment practice, increases the rigor of measurement and statistical techniques used in assessment practice, and produces quality scholarship in assessment and measurement. Additional, JMU offers a Ph.D. in Assessment and Measurement that focuses on the design of program assessment strategies, identification of appropriate existing and/or construction of new assessment measures/methods, empirical analysis of aggregate data, appropriate use of assessment results, and effective communication of assessment to a variety of audiences. Although the program focuses on applications of assessment and measurement in higher education, students can apply many of the skills and knowledge gained in the program to assessment and measurement in K-12 education, as well as to the healthcare and business sectors.

JMU has a long history of interdisciplinary academic degree and research programs in the fields of alternative and renewable energy. The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Lab familiarizes students with a range of alternative fuel vehicles, researches new technologies and designs, and proposes innovative solutions to the transportation challenges facing society. Current research projects focus on the production of biodiesel, including: algae-based fuels; electric vehicle conversion, including motorcycles and bicycles; and curriculum development for outreach to K-12 partners. Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) is part of the Department of Energy (DOE)'s national Clean Cities Coalition, and as such, assists in the improvement of the Commonwealth of Virginia's air quality, increases U.S. national energy security, and promotes economic opportunity in Virginia, primarily by facilitating increased use of alternative fuels and vehicles. VCC provides a forum to leverage resources, develop joint projects, collaborate on public policy issues, and promote petroleum displacement and clear air technologies, as well as research and outreach through a partnership with JMU. Valley 25 x 25 (which promotes 25% renewable energy by the year 2025) sponsors student-faculty energy research on a variety of topics, including: poultry litter waste-to-energy, biochar, solar, and alternative vehicle fuel development. Additionally, JMU hosts the Virginia Center for Wind Energy, which provides wind-related services that focus on wind resource measurements, economic modeling, education and outreach, energy policy analysis, assessment of technical specifications, GIS analysis, and the strategic deployment of wind power within the Commonwealth and beyond.

A key component of a JMU undergraduate degree in science, technology, or engineering is the experience of participating in a research project with a faculty member and team of other students. Projects are cutting edge, interdisciplinary, and often result in student authorship in professional journals and presentations at national meetings. JMU's Center for Materials Science regularly engages students in scholarship of a wide range of topics, covering:

  • Thin Film Deposition, including the ability to deposit films on many materials at a variety of thicknesses. This includes some of the conventional methods used in microfabrication such as thermal evaporation and magnetron and RF sputtering, which can make films on the order of tens to hundreds of nanometers think, as well as the basic science behind thin film deposition.
  • Polymer Nano-Composites, including research expertise in the fabrication and utilization of nano-composite polymers and other nano-structured polymeric materials. This includes work on the inclusion of optically active materials in acrylic and the synthesis of hybrid organic-inorganic materials that might be exploited for light absorption in future solar cells. JMU researchers have also studied the use of nano-composites for the fine-tuning of surface properties that influence wetting and fluid flow.
  • Materials Characterization and Analysis, with three scanning probe microscopes, two scanning electron microscopes, and multiple optical microscopes that provide topological information at a variety of scales. Analytical tools for better understanding crystal structure and chemical composition, including a power x-ray diffractometer (XRD), energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS), thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA), evolved gas analyzer (EGA-MS), and multiple Fourier transform infrared spectrometers (FTIR).
  • An additional area of research in granular materials and foams enables high-speed imaging and complex image analysis of 3D structures, such as those found in foams and jammed granular systems.

In addition, JMU assists with economic development by offering credit and noncredit programming in the Valley as well as throughout the Commonwealth. JMU offers a Master's in Public Administration (MPA) program in Roanoke and several off-campus cohorts in the Mater's in Reading Education and Master's of Educational Leadership. SRI International, one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations based in California's Silicon Valley, recently opened the Center for Advanced Drug Research, or CADRE, in the Rockingham Center for Research and Technology. SRI is closely partnered with JMU and other Virginia institutions in state-of-the-art pharmaceutical research. SRI plans to add other high-technology programs at the Rockingham County site.