Innovation Research Program Provides Seed Funding for Scientists

DRI’s Innovation Research Program (IRP) was started by the DRI Foundation in 2018 and led by longtime DRI supporters Tom and Mary Gallagher. Although the IRP is still in its early years, its impact has already been immense. The IRP has provided more than $400,000 in funding to support early-stage innovative research at DRI.

The Tom and Mary Kay Gallagher Foundation generously provided a matching grant for $1 million. Thanks to charitable donors, we are pleased to report that the DRI Foundation successfully secured commitments for the $1 million needed to unlock the match. As a result, the DRI Foundation has set a new goal of raising $5 million to establish an endowment for this important program to support the IRP in perpetuity.

DRI Vice President for Research Vic Etyemezian, Ph.D., shared his insights on the impact of IRP, “In my 20 plus years at DRI, faculty have always maintained that if we had a greater ability to invest in early-stage, pilot-scale research, it would give us a means to take risks with promising, but immature ideas and turn them into longer-term programs. The successes to date of the two rounds of IRP resoundingly support this. It’s hard to overstate this program’s impact on our faculty’s ability to plant and grow innovative ideas.”

Two related successful project examples of research supported by IRP awards are “A data-driven approach to explain the interplay between groundwater and wildfire in the United States” and “Soil aggregate destruction visualization and measurement.” This research into the impact of wildfire on hydrology is now a topic or subtopic of the currently funded Urban Flood Project and is part of a National Science Foundation funded $20 million research grant to the Nevada System of Higher Education that will focus on wildfires.

To support DRI’s Innovative Research Program or for more information on how to make a gift to support DRI, please contact Kristin Burgarello, director of advancement, at 775.673.7386 or

wildfire flames in New Mexico