Research and Innovation Partnerships

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Research and Innovation Partnerships

Your Future. Our Focus.


Northern Illinois University

Collaboration is key Our world faces pressing and complex challenges. At NIU, we know research and scholarship lead to solutions. Our faculty and student researchers are working to: • Improve and restore the environment. • Combat cancer and develop new antibiotics. • Incorporate new technology into classrooms. • Create new materials that could lead to more powerful computers. • Investigate the fundamental building blocks of matter. • Provide advanced warning of severe weather. • Create innovative food- and water-sustainability solutions. • Communicate highly complex ideas and relationships through data visualization. These are just a few of the areas of research at our university. We pride ourselves on having faculty members who teach — and do. They’re not only leaders on campus, but also leaders in their fields with expertise to help identify and solve the challenges of tomorrow. We also recognize that the key to innovation is teamwork that extends well beyond our campus. NIU’s Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships fosters those collaborations. Along with NIU’s Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, we are committed to expanding the university’s partnerships with communities, governments, businesses, nonprofits, industries, other universities, funding agencies and cultural organizations. We also work closely with the NIU Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Through joint competitive-award programs for students, faculty and postdoctoral fellows, we increase diversity among our researchers and stimulate scholarship in such areas as social justice and social entrepreneurship. Together, we can better provide opportunities that sharpen our students’ skills. Together, we can better equip the workforce — and problem-solvers — of tomorrow. And, together, we can better address educational, economic, entrepreneurial and research needs to ensure a bright future for our region — and our world.

Gerald Blazey, Ph.D., Vice President for NIU Research and Innovation Partnerships

Research and Innovation Partnerships


Where we are… Research, artistry and scholarship strengths at NIU • Accelerator physics. • Additive manufacturing. • Applied climatology. • Art education and music education. • Art history. • Behavioral finance. • Biochemical and biophysical studies. • Blindness and visual impairments. • Brand identity, equity and management. • Burma studies. • Business intelligence and service operations. • Data visualization. • The environment, sustainability and energy. • Family violence and sexual assault studies. • Forensic accounting and deception detection. • Fundamental high energy physics.


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• Language and literacy. • Latino and Latin American studies. • Local government. • Management of leadership, teams and careers. • Materials science and nanoscience. • Nonprofit organization leadership and development. • Polar science. • School and organizational psychology. • Southeast Asian studies. • Steelpan studies. • Stress and trauma studies. • Youth development and social change through sport. • Weather hazards.

…and where we’re going Preparing society for a century of change Addressing climate change — Researchers in geology, meteorology and environmental studies are among the NIU experts studying such topics as Antarctic ice retreat, shifting climate patterns and climate-change adaptation strategies. Their work will inform our region, our world and generations to come. Advancing technology — NIU scientists are developing classroom technologies, creating new materials, building new lasers and accelerators, finding novel ways to use advanced computing, engineering cutting-edge machines and exploring the fundamental building blocks of nature. On numerous fronts, we are advancing the technologies that will shape our world. Preparing for shifting demographics — Changes in migration patterns, increasing ethnic diversity and the aging of baby boomers and millennials will have broad impacts on our society, impacting everything from our labor force to community planning. NIU researchers will work to anticipate and prepare for the future. Interpreting the world around us — Our world is evolving so rapidly that it’s often difficult to keep up. Ever-changing technology. The information overload. New ethical dilemmas. NIU faculty will help interpret our world, from probing the psychological, ethical and sociological impacts of new technology, to exploring the state of our humanity through art, history, literature, language, poetry and politics.

$23M center for sustainability The planned $23 million Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability (NICCS) provides a key example of how NIU intends to bring its interdisciplinary expertise to bear on the pressing challenges of our times. As an active member of the state’s new Illinois Innovation Network, NICCS will be built on NIU’s west campus and target research on food systems, water resources and environmental change.

Research and Innovation Partnerships


NIU research, scholarship and North America — It’s our home turf, and we’re all over it: research on politics, business, education, history, health, law, engineering, literacy, environmental restoration, child development, public administration and severe weather — to name just a few areas. Our commitment to northern Illinois, in particular, is evident in collaborations with nearby federal laboratories and the planned campus development of a new $23 million center for community sustainability targeting food systems, water resources and environmental change.

South America — Our work includes examining educator perspectives in Uruguay; shedding light on Brazilian economic history; examining science, race and empire in colonial Rio de la Plata; assessing the health of saddleback tamarins in Bolivian rainforests; and bringing the music of the steelpan, the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, to the world through NIU’s acclaimed Steelband.


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artistry on 7 continents Europe — Climate-change investigations in the continent’s northern region. Experiments at the world’s premier particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. History studies of emigration, humanitarianism, human rights and art’s intersection with science. NIU students and faculty collaborate frequently with European colleagues on a wide array of research.

Africa — Our work includes analyzing peacebuilding efforts, illuminating the history of slavery and emancipation, supporting sustainability efforts for schools in Kenya and Tanzania and expanding our knowledge of Madagascar’s modern fauna, including its famous lemurs.

Asia — NIU boasts one of the United States’ seven federally funded centers for Southeast Asian Studies, with faculty and students conducting research in fields ranging from history, political science and public health to art, music and cultural anthropology. Additionally, our Center for Burma Studies has a world-leading art collection.

Australia — NIU faculty and students have worked “down under” studying paleo-hydrological systems, delivering hearing services to underserved Aboriginal children, collaborating on development of fingerprint detection technology and studying the ecology of New Zealand islands and the seabirds that call them home.

Antarctica — For decades, NIU students and faculty have conducted large-scale research investigations in Antarctica to inform us about ice sheet dynamics and potential future sea-level rise — a vital issue to coastal communities worldwide. Note: The examples provided here are not intended to be comprehensive of NIU efforts. Island countries such as New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago were grouped with the nearest continent.

Research and Innovation Partnerships


Why collaborate with NIU? For many decades, NIU has been collaborating with businesses, schools, communities, federal laboratories, government agencies, other universities and nonprofit organizations. Our outstanding faculty members conduct leading-edge research in their fields while training the next generation of problem solvers. Because our graduates tend to stay in the region, we are a major supplier to the workforce in northern Illinois, from Chicago to the Mississippi River. We have the know-how — and we have advanced facilities at our disposal in such areas as engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, geosciences and high-performance computing.

NIU regularly collaborates on research with national laboratories, including nearby Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, as well as with researchers at the Large Hadron Collider, located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.


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What companies say “ Invictus Medical has been working with NIU to commercialize a critical technology for neonatal intensive care units. Starting with a joint small-business technology-transfer project, we are now approaching the launch of a finished product. The licensing team, engineering faculty, senior administrators and graduate students have made very productive colleagues for Invictus.” — George Hutchinson, CEO, Invictus Medical, a San Antonio, Texas-based medical device company.

“ We have roots here, and our owners have been huge supporters of NIU. We know we don’t have to go far for talent — a lot of our employees have come from NIU. So it’s a longstanding relationship that we value.” — Jim James, chairman and CEO of IDEAL Industries, based in Sycamore, Illinois. In 2016, the company kicked off the IDEAL-NIU Intrapreneurship. The goal of the program is to provide NIU students with real-world experience bringing new products to market, with the ultimate goal for the NIU teams to build and manage new business platforms going forward.

“ The partnership between FONA and NIU is very exciting. It’s so rewarding to see this development of new technology come together. Truly amazing things can be accomplished when subject matter experts come together to solve a commercial and technological challenge.” — Robert M. Sobel, Ph.D., vice president of Research & Innovation of FONA International Inc. in Geneva, Illinois. The company has collaborated with NIU since 2016 to develop new flavor compounds.

“ Discover has a long-standing tradition of promoting education and developing products and services that help our customers better manage their finances. What better way to accomplish both than to collaborate with the diverse and talented students at Northern Illinois University?” — Glenn Schneider, chief information officer at Discover Financial Services. In the fall of 2018, the company launched its “code_orange” program on the NIU campus. Each semester, the program provides tech-savvy NIU students with paid opportunities to help research and develop new technologies for the company.

Research and Innovation Partnerships


NIU research centers and institutes Center for Burma Studies Center for Cross-disciplinary Research on Engaging Advanced Technology for Education Center for Governmental Studies Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy Center for Latino and Latin American Studies Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies Center for P-20 Engagement Center for Southeast Asian Studies Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault Education Systems Center Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development Northern Illinois Center for Community Sustainability (target opening fall 2021)


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Among the sponsors of NIU research and scholarship Federal Argonne National Laboratory Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Endowment for the Arts National Endowment for the Humanities National Institutes of Health National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Science Foundation U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S. Department of Defense U.S. Department of Education U.S. Department of Energy U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of State

Private sector Baxter International Inc. Burgess-Norton Manufacturing Company Discover Financial Services FONA International IDEAL INDUSTRIES INC. Invictus Medical Navistar International Corporation Nonprofit organizations Nature Conservancy National Geographic Society Casualty Actuarial Society Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center

State of Illinois Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Illinois Department of Public Health Illinois State Board of Education

Research and Innovation Partnerships


Learn more about NIU Research and Innovation Partnerships If you’re interested in collaborating with NIU, contact the Division of Research and Innovation Partnerships (RIPS) at

About NIU Located 65 miles west of Chicago, Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals strategically located in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body. For more information, visit