Research Impact

Research at UIC finds the answers that transform lives

Whether it’s discovering new ways to reduce the spread of HIV, developing imaging techniques that detect aggressive cancers, or visualizing the blood vessels of the brain in our Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers improve the health and well-being of communities both urban and rural, local and global.

Economic impact

Joanna Burdette looks through a microscope as Hyun-Young Jeong looks on

By almost every measure, UIC is a key driver in the economic vitality of the city and the state.

In fiscal year 2013, UIC added $4 billion to the Illinois economy.  While most of the impact is due to increased educational attainment by alumni, UIC also leaves its mark on the city and state as the second largest university employer in Chicago, by providing charity health care to under-served populations, and by increasing the amount of royalties earned on UIC-created inventions.

UIC strives to expand its impact by supporting and sustaining innovation on campus. Through IllinoisVentures, LLC and EnterpriseWorks Chicago, UIC provides inventors and innovators with the funding and the structure to help drive ideas forward that will have a positive impact on our community, our city, our state, and our world.

Impact on health and wellness

Man swimming in suba-diving gear

Research carried out by UIC scientists has led to improvements in health and well-being. Translating research into action is part of UIC’s legacy.

If you ask an older adult what one of their greatest fears is, there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s falling down. Thanks to a treadmill-based training program developed at UIC, older adults can be taught how not to fall, and the knowledge is retained for up to 12 months.

Plastic bottles, soup cans and receipts all seem harmless enough, but each contains bisphenol A, or BPA, an additive used to make plastic flexible. Studies conducted at UIC showed that exposure to this chemical early in development increases the risk for prostate cancer later in life. The finding is a major contribution to the growing body of evidence that suggests BPA plays a role in numerous diseases ranging from cancer to infertility.

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, often lethal lung infection that affects nearly one-third of the world’s population and causes 1.8 million deaths annually. With few new drugs to treat the disease, UIC chemists took to the water to collect actinomycete bacteria from throughout the world in a hunt for new antibiotics. The scientists discovered a new class of compounds that holds promise for treating TB.


Greg Thatcher

Innovator of the Year

From Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative disorders to cancer and sleep disordered breathing, scientist Greg Thatcher is working to find a cure for them all. Thatcher was named UIC Innovator of the Year for his work in transitioning numerous patents into several successful start-up companies.

Impact on policy

Latina woman cutting up vegetables with grandson

Research conducted at UIC has a strong and enduring influence on the development of public health and social policies that improve the quality of life for millions of Americans.

Investigators in UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy and Jane Addams College of Social Work have:

  • changed the way we eat
  • focused attention on the impact of incarceration on children and families
  • alerted policy makers to the need for regulations on e-cigarettes to prevent their sale to children
  • improved access to programs that keep seniors fit, strong, independent and out of hospitals.

From informing federal nutrition and wellness policies to restrict the availability of high-sugar, high-calorie snacks and beverages in schools, to investigating how raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 could cut down on the number of new teen and young adult smokers, researchers at UIC’s Institute for Health Research and Policy provide the insights, data and analysis sought by national and local policy makers to address complex public health issues.

Studies conducted by faculty in UIC’s Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research have led to improvements in access to mental health services for incarcerated youth, given seniors a framework for choosing assisted living facilities, and supported mothers with substance abuse to better parent their children.

Brian Kay in his lab

Inventor of the Year

Brian Kay, a recent UIC Inventor of the Year, has created key inventions that employ protein engineering and molecular biology to make antibodies that are better, faster and cheaper. The Inventor of the Year Award honors researchers whose discoveries have the potential for significant impact like Kay’s work, which could be applied to identify emerging diseases or develop therapeutics.

Advancing scientific knowledge

At UIC, researchers are at the forefront of scientific and medical advancement, grappling with issues that affect our view of the universe. UIC’s location in the heart of Chicago gives faculty and students the unique opportunity to collaborate with national laboratories, such as Argonne and Fermilab, and other top research universities.

Particle physicists at UIC work with Fermilab, the country’s premier particle physics laboratory, as part of the team that leads U.S. participation in analysis of experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. Physicists at UIC shared in the discovery of the Higgs boson.

UIC is a partner in a federally funded energy research center that will combine the R&D firepower of five Department of Energy national laboratories, five universities and four private firms in a quest to achieve revolutionary advances in battery performance. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne and directed by UIC physics professor George Crabtree, will receive up to $120 million in funding over five years.