The LSU AgCenter and the University of Louisiana at Monroe signed a memorandum of understanding on May 18 that will establish cooperative research projects between the two institutions.

The joint program will provide opportunities for faculty members from both institutions to develop joint projects that combine the efforts of current research programs, officials said.

For example, ULM basic pharmaceutical sciences researchers and LSU AgCenter researchers will explore the many compounds used to treat diseases based on natural products found in plants.

ULM’s toxicology program -- the only one in the state -- employs faculty members who will collaborate with LSU AgCenter researchers to investigate how chemicals affect the environment.

Both toxicology and basic pharmaceutical sciences departments are housed within ULM’s College of Pharmacy, the state’s only publically funded program leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy.

ULM and the AgCenter will each contribute funds to jointly support research grants that include faculty from both campuses, said John Russin, AgCenter vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station.

Research teams will be invited to submit proposals that will be reviewed by both institutions, Russin said. “Each proposal will be required to include a faculty member from each institution.”

The funding will come from the joint fund, with each organization managing the funds for the research in their own institution.

“Higher education in the state is facing a challenging time,” said Eric Pani, interim vice president for academic affairs at ULM. “We are charged to improve Louisiana’s economic development and build its intellectual capacity while receiving less support from state appropriations. I’m looking forward to seeing this partnership grow.”

Cooperation within higher education -- sharing efforts and resources -- is the only solution to this problem, he added.

“The partnership between ULM and the LSU AgCenter brings together two great institutions and leverages their strengths in a tremendously promising way that will produce benefits very quickly,” Pani said.

ULM President Nick J. Bruno agreed, saying, “ULM’s collaboration with LSU AgCenter means innovative research that benefits the world around us. And just as importantly, the partnership means unique experiences for our students.”

The students who serve as research assistants in these projects will learn directly from their work in the labs, and other students will also benefit as the knowledge discovered in the labs is transferred into the classroom, Bruno said. At that point, the faculty member’s role changes from researcher to teacher.

“Because state budgets have become leaner, individual campuses have to reach out to others to build the kind of relationships that contribute to the economy of Louisiana,” said Russin. “By joining together, we can fund research teams that can compete for additional funds on the national scene.”