Supporting a Lifelong Passion for Science

Philanthropy is a multigeneration Lewis family tradition. During his childhood, Robert Lewis wanted to be a scientist. His career took a different path and led him into the family business, where he oversees operations for one of the country’s largest privately held real estate development groups, but his passion for science never left. This passion drew him to DRI, where he served as a DRI Foundation Trustee and DRI Foundation Fellow. He has supported DRI for almost 15 years and was part of an instrumental group of donors that provided philanthropic support to launch the Innovation Research Program (IRP) in 2018.

“While serving as a Trustee for the DRI Foundation, I was able to see first-hand the research DRI scientists are pursuing to solve real-world environmental challenges,” said Robert Lewis.  “Supporting promising research through the IRP is an exciting opportunity to fund scientific research.”

Robert Lewis pointing at a screen in a DRI Lab.
Pictured from left to right: DRI’s Dr. Monica Arienzo, Robert Lewis, president – Nevada Operations, Lewis Group of Companies, Ted Erkan, senior vice president, Northern Nevada Planned Communities, Lewis Group of Companies, DRI President Kumud Acharya.

The IRP was created to provide funding for early-stage innovative research at DRI. Because DRI’s faculty are non-tenured, entrepreneurial, and are responsible for securing their own salaries and research funding – the IRP provides the opportunity for faculty to test new ideas outside of their existing funding model.

“We deeply appreciate the ongoing IRP support from Robert Lewis and his commitment to science,” said DRI President Kumud Acharya.

Development of a high-throughput electronic cigarette testing system is one example of the importance of IRP funding.  The know-how gained from the IRP investment of $28k into this project was used to successfully pursue a $1.7M grant from the National Institutes of Health to research the combination of chemicals released by different e-cigarettes and devise configurations.

Another example is the IRP funding to study soil aggregate destruction visualization and measurement.  $30,500 was provided through IRP.  This initial research provided the foundation to pursue additional funding through the Army Corps of Engineers for water repellency studies on burned soils, and the topic is also a major component of a multi-million-dollar proposal to NSF.  

DRI is grateful for Robert Lewis’ continued support of the IRP fund, which has awarded more than $750,000 in grants to faculty since 2018. This investment has resulted in $22 million in additional grants and contracts to support research at DRI.

For more information on how you can support impactful science that inspires solutions, please contact the DRI Office of Advancement at (775) 673-7300.

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