Three ways the University of Arizona increases science jobs:

• Making strategic hires

The UA has an initiative to hire a few "rising star" researchers in environmental science and medical research.

"With budget challenges, we're mostly concerned about just holding on to the most quality researchers and scientists," said Andrew Comrie, UA associate vice president for research and dean of the graduate college, "but even in a down period you've got to keep up investment in key areas." Still, a hiring freeze has been in effect for a couple of years, and the UA's ability to hire rises and falls with state tax support and federal research spending, he said.

• Spinning off companies

The UA helps increase science jobs through faculty research, said Jim Gentile, president and CEO of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and a member of several UA science advisory boards.

Research leads to the discovery of new ideas; the faculty build a company around the idea; and the business takes root locally, he said. In the past three years, the UA has launched 19 startups based on new technology and ideas. The most recent are involved in materials science, medicine, optical science, software and agriculture.

The UA "maintained a strong pipeline of new venture development in one of the toughest economic climates in decades," according to an Arizona Board of Regents report. These efforts start small but can grow into big successes. Ventana Medical Systems, the UA's first major spinoff, now employs more than 1,000 people.

Last year the UA launched the University of Arizona Research Corp. to privatize the business-incubation process and make the commercialization of new technology easier and faster.

• Supplying the work force

One of the most important ways the UA helps build science jobs is in preparing future scientists for the work force.

"If you come to the UA you literally get to work alongside world-class scientists learning how things are done," Comrie said. "This isn't training wheels. This is the real thing." About 60 percent of graduating UA students said they participated in research with a faculty member, according to a UA survey.

"I think they're doing a great job at preparing the next generation of scientists in lots of areas," said Bob Davis, an industrial and technology real estate specialist at Grubb & Ellis Co. and a member of several UA science advisory boards. "I wish there were more jobs here locally to employ those people."

He said Tucson should work to attract more science employers, but it's also a circular kind of thing - which comes first, the science jobs or the science company?

Raytheon Missile Systems President Taylor Lawrence addressed the Board of Regents in December, saying the UA was "a critical factor in Raytheon's decision to move business to Tucson from other parts of the country."

The company partners with UA scientists on research-and-development projects and hires UA students.

"Of Raytheon's more than 75,000 employees worldwide, more students are recruited from the U of A than from any other university," Lawrence told the board. "In fact, in the past five years, more than 45 percent of all of our new college hires have received U of A degrees."

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 807-8012.