Research History

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Time + Tenacity: The Formula for Breakthroughs in UNC Research

Time and tenacity — two essential components for successful research endeavors at UNC-Chapel Hill. With more than 200 years of research under its belt, Carolina houses an ever-growing list of discoveries and inventions, many of which span several decades.

Featured: Blood, sweat, and tears


In 1981, researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill found themselves at the epicenter of a perfect storm — people with hemophilia, a painful disease that causes bleeds in the joints and requires weekly blood infusions, were contracting HIV through their treatments. But it was the curiosity of one man nearly 30 years prior that set in motion events that would open a vast field of research at UNC and draw in hundreds of researchers across the university. Kenneth Brinkhous’ research and determination altered the course of global public health. With the passage of the years, it would transform the life of a man named George McCoy and the lives of countless others like him who turned to UNC-Chapel Hill in a quest to survive. Read more…

From 1793 to Today

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Through the Looking Glass

grad student Rich Holloway wearing the flight helment from Virutal Research.tif

Before Fred Brooks founded UNC’s Department of Computer Science in 1964, he had already made his mark on the world. He received the National Medal of Technology for his work on IBM’s System 360 project, and played a large role in persuading IBM to build a new research facility in North Carolina — a move that is said to have sparked the growth of Research Triangle Park. Under his guidance, the department grew to become a leader in graphics, audio, and virtual/augmented reality technology.

Hedging High Stakes and Human Behavior

drivers ed car with logo

Since 1966, the UNC Highway Safety Research Center has worked closely with the NC Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program to make roads safer for drivers everywhere. Today, it’s the only center in the country focused solely on highway safety. Two of the center’s big successes include “Click It or Ticket” — the nationally recognized program of the Highway Safety Administration — and graduated drivers licensing, a program that allows new drivers to earn their license in stages.

Kings of Chemistry

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The names Morehead, Venable, and Kenan shine from the plaques of buildings across UNC’s campus. Why? In the late 1800s, the three helped Canadian inventor Thomas Willson analyze and commercialize a low-cost way to produce calcium carbide and acetylene, which revolutionized the gas lighting, iron, and steel industries. Their success continues to be celebrated today, particularly by the Carolina chemistry department — its three buildings are Venable Hall (1925), Kenan Laboratories (1973), and Morehead Laboratories (1987).