Notable stories of 2023

FDA-approved cancer breakthroughs. Record graduation rates. Hundreds of millions of grant dollars, and major athletic triumphs. These are just a few of the things Mizzou is celebrating this year.

Dec. 18, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Producing tiny atoms, creating a big impact.

For more than 50 years, the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) has operated at the center of advancements in science and medicine — providing lifesaving radiopharmaceuticals to patients around the world. This year, MURR continued to bolster the domestic supply chain of critical radioisotopes and ensure access for those who need them the most. In March 2023, the university announced an initiative for NextGen MURR, a new, larger research reactor that will expand critical cancer-fighting research and medical isotope production at MU. Shortly thereafter, the university announced an FDA submission for new radioisotope process for cancer therapy, which was approved later in the year and is already being used to help patients at MU Health Care. With the demand of radioisotopes rapidly increasing, NextGen MURR will take the university further into the future, providing accessible and lifesaving innovation for generations to come.

Continuing to cultivate a better future for Missourians — and beyond.

As a member of the Association of American Universities, MU is one of America’s leading research universities, and our researchers find innovative solutions that are improving the lives of people in Missouri and across the world. A team from the College of Veterinary Medicine identified longhorned ticks in Boone Country for the first time — a discovery that helps veterinarians and farmers protect Missouri’s livestock industry. The College of Arts and Science announced its newest research center, the Center for the Humanities, dedicated to advancing humanities research, collaboration across disciplines and public scholarship. And researchers in the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business used artificial intelligence to find ways to improve airline travel. In August, we told the story of professors who taught beleaguered Ukrainians in a remote learning program called the Ukraine Global Faculty.

Statewide, researchers in the College of Engineering are partnering with the Missouri Department of Transportation to develop sustainable plastic waste road pavement mixtures. And locally, members from the School of Law are launching the Homeless Veterans Outreach Program, designed to further empower veterans in taking steps out of homelessness. In the health care arena, scientists in the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building are working to boost immune system memory against influenza and train the immune system to fight and prevent cancer, and researchers in the College of Health Sciences are studying barriers and facilitators to accessing health care in rural Missouri. These are just a few examples of many projects that are creating an impact in our community and beyond.

Securing grants to propel research forward.  

Faculty and students have had another successful year obtaining grants that support critical initiatives and research. This year, researchers brought in hundreds of millions of dollars from prominent grant sources that will help turn their ideas into reality. A few examples include: a $20 million grant supporting the Cancer Moonshot objective;  a $10 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant that will allow researchers to focus on doubling the acreage of cover crops in the U.S.; and a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to refine gene-editing processes that are poised to inform biomedical and agricultural innovation. Additional grants targeted toward health care include a $12 million National Institutes of Health grant to help educate and train infectious disease scientists, a $16 million grant to bolster the School of Medicine’s Rural Scholars Program and ensure people in rural communities have access to physicians, and an $800,000 grant to help ease the nursing workforce shortage.

Attracting and retaining students who will become future leaders.

Student success is a key priority for MU, and the university continues to attract and retain the best students in the state. Mizzou was once again recognized as a transfer-friendly university, it reached an all-time best first-year retention rate and had the highest graduation rate in university history in spring 2023. Mizzou graduates are consistently setting records for successful career outcomes, which is just one reason why the institution was named No. 13 among all public universities on Time magazine’s inaugural Best Colleges for Future Leaders 2024 list.

On campus, students are taking advantage of the Missouri Method through hands-on learning. From fulfilling their lifelong dream to become a nurse to creating the future of cancer detection and even starring in an episode of Amazon Prime’s “The College Tour,” Tigers are leading the way  — and they’re not just limiting themselves to Columbia: This year, students explored the world to uncover new truths and even helped with the 2023 NFL Draft.

Supporting campus from all directions.

Achieving greatness wouldn’t be possible without the thousands of faculty and staff who dedicate their expertise, passion and tireless efforts to support MU students on their journey to excellence. This year, we highlighted musical mentor Wendy Sims and research ally Roberta Settergren. We also shared stories about the people who help keep campus beautiful, including carpenter Tyrone Turner and the Landscape Services Team. We wrote about the College of Education and Human Development’s launch of an on-campus program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get the full college experience. The Preparing Adults for Work and Society (PAWS) program promotes job skills, independent living and social skills. And don’t forget our Valentine’s Day story about researchers Chung-Ho Lin and Hsinyeh Hsieh and how they found love on the tennis courts in the ’90s. Finally, we showcased MU’s dedication to veterans by featuring staff member Meridith Howard, who works overseas while her husband is deployed.

Receiving prestigious recognition.

Faculty, staff and students continue to be recognized at all levels for their academic pursuits and the support they provide to campus. For instance, Haval Shirwan was named to the National Academy of Inventors Fellows Program, Carol Ward was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Wendy Reinke received a SEC Faculty Achievement Award and President Mun Choi was elected chair of the APLU's Commission on Food, Environment and Renewable Resources. On campus, 12 faculty were named Curators’ Distinguished Professors, five faculty received Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence and 21 faculty were recognized for publishing or editing books. We celebrated numerous accomplishments during Faculty Excellence Week and through the Faculty and Alumni Awards. Mizzou’s Nobel Prize recipient George P. Smith also received the inaugural Mizzou Medal of Distinction.

Staff were recognized at the yearly Outstanding Staff Awards ceremony, and students continued to receive honors including Fulbright Awards, National Science Foundation fellowships and honors, National Institutes of Health fellowships and MizzouForward Undergraduate Research Training Grants. Five Tigers were selected for the 2023 SEC Emerging Scholars Program and another four received the inaugural Remington Williams Award. This year’s Mizzou 18 and ’39 cohort was announced, and Paul Odu and Jenny Park received some of the most prestigious national fellowships and scholarships.

Maintaining a championship mentality.

And we can’t round out the year without acknowledging the incredible work of our student-athletes and athletics teams, including the Mizzou volleyball and men’s basketball teams. Just this month, our volleyball squad made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Back in March, the men’s basketball team also made the second round of the tournament. Of course, we don’t need to remind you about the ninth-ranked Mizzou football team, which is Cotton Bowl bound. These programs and others are helping us elevate our standing in the SEC and become a Top 25 collegiate athletics program in the next five years.

Looking toward the future.

We’re looking beyond the moment and toward a horizon that we can reach – one that’s focused on our state, our country and our world. We’ll achieve that through work at places like the Missouri School of Journalism’s Mississippi River Basin Ag and Water Desk; the Johnny Morris Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands and Aquatic Systems; the Center for Energy Innovation; and the MU Research Reactor.

At Mizzou, we pursue meaningful progress — not only for our own sake, but for us all.

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