Research at SDSU

One of the best ways to learn is to build knowledge through research and innovation. San Diego State University received its first federal grant in the 1950s, began its first doctoral program in the 1960s and has continued to chart a course of discovery and scholarship ever since. SDSU is the flagship research institution of the 23-campus California State University system and one of the top 70 public universities in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Report. The university offers 23 doctoral programs. In 2019-20 SDSU researchers brought in $144.4 million in grants and contracts.

SDSU students and faculty are scholars, educators, humanitarians and researchers. San Diego has long been a hub of innovation on many levels: biomedical sciences, military defense, public health, engineering, water science, climate change, social policy and more. Our researchers work alongside one another, with students and in partnership with industry and faculty from neighboring universities to help the region and the world tackle some of the biggest issues of our day.

Confronting today's challenges

When COVID-19 arrived stateside, SDSU faculty stepped up to the challenge in many ways, including answering a U.S. Department of Defense call to design low-cost, easy to assemble breathing devices for the critically ill; initiating a contact tracing program focused on the hardest hit underserved communities in San Diego County; and testing surfaces in public areas for reservoirs where the novel coronavirus may linger.
In FY 2020, faculty and student researchers traveled to far flung locations such as the Arctic, to explore the impact of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Closer to home, they focused on using local creeks as outdoor labs to study wildfires, water quality, invasive species and emergency management. They discovered ways to make deep brain stimulation safer with carbon electrodes that fared better than metal electrodes when embedded in the brain; and studied migrant trauma and cancer care in the border region of Imperial Valley.
SDSU offers students a wide array of research opportunities, with an emphasis on developing a future pipeline of researchers from diverse, underrepresented communities. in 2020, 430 students presented their research at the Student Research Symposium.

By the numbers


awards in FY20


in FY20 funding


research output in the CSU system


top 50 grad programs 


economic impact


doctoral programs

$1M +

in tech transfer revenue

300 +


Our leadership


Stephen Welter

Dr. Hala Madanat is the Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation at SDSU. In this role, Dr. Madanat is charged with stewarding the university’s expansive research enterprise, supporting the development of SDSU’s Mission Valley Innovation District, and overseeing SDSU’s research advancement, research support services and technology transfer efforts, the SDSU Research Foundation, as well as the university’s start-up incubator, the ZIP Launchpad.

From 2016 to 2020, Dr. Madanat served as the Director of SDSU’s School of Public Health. During her tenure, research funding at the school increased 50 percent and its U.S. News ranking rose to No. 23 nationally. 

Dr. Madanat is a distinguished professor of health promotion and behavioral science. Her research addresses health disparities through community engagement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Madanat is leading a $3 million contact tracing program funded by the County of San Diego  aimed at enhancing support in underserved communities and curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

She is a core investigator of SDSU’s Institute for Behavioral and Community Health, and serves as the lead principal investigator on the $12 million SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Partnership, funded by the National Cancer Institute. She has led the evaluation of several National Institutes of Health-funded grants and published nearly 90 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and books.

Dr. Madanat has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Jordan, a M.S. in Community Health Sciences, and a Ph.D. in Sociology with a minor in Public Health, both from Brigham Young University.

Stanley Maloy, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation

John Crockett, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research Advancement

Rick Gulizia, Assistant Vice President for Research Support Services

Cathy Pucher, Executive Director of the Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad

Alicia Kinoshita, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Research

Tommy Martindale, J.D., Director of Technology Transfer

Matt Brown, Director of Information Technology

Kellie Woodhouse, Communications Lead