2012 Research Highlights

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Whether they’re trying to cure the world’s worst diseases or answer tough scholarly questions, Carolina faculty engage in fascinating research. 2012 was no exception. Here are some of the biggest UNC Research stories and trends of 2012.


to wake a sleeping killer

Most scientists thought HIV could never be driven out of latency. This dormant state of HIV is a major roadblock to a cure. But UNC’s David Margolis searched for a cure anyway. His quest has proven the skeptics wrong.

bacteria at the beach

Rachel Noble created a faster, better way to check our beach water for nasty contaminants. Coastal communities are using it to keep beachgoers from getting sick.


early childhood education

The verdict is in on early childhood education: Frances Campbell’s Abecedarian Project followed about a hundred North Carolinians born in the 1970s from infancy to age 30. They were selected because of risk factors in their families such as poverty. Kids who got educational child care from early infancy until kindergarten were more likely to be employed when they grew up and almost four times more likely to earn a college degree.


FY 2012 Funding Sources

get off the couch

Humans aren’t as active as we were a few decades ago. Across the globe, physical activity is on the decline and sedentary behavior is on the rise. UNC researchers calculated that Americans in 2020 may not expend much more energy during their waking hours than they would if they slept 24 hours a day.


keeping house

During the mortgage-lending crisis, thousands of low-income borrowers still made their payments on time. Since 1999, UNC researchers have been tracking how people with low incomes do when they get 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages from lenders who evaluate their applications carefully and don’t qualify them for more than they can handle. Here’s what those lenders did right, and how to keep the goal of homeownership in sight for low- and middle-income families.


fy2012 federal funding breakdown

in the line of fire

After the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, much of the oil and gas never made it to the surface or to land. UNC researchers examined where the oil went and what effect it has had on marine life.


flight risk

UNC’s Allen Hurlbert found out how birds react to shifts in temperature and what this means in a warming world.


black death threat

The plague was never eradicated; it thrives in the wild. Few humans are infected anymore, but the organism that causes the plague is now a bioterrorism threat. UNC’s Bill Goldman found a new clue about why the plague is so deadly and how to make it less so.


technology transfer: 52 inventions licensed. 32 patents issued. 7 start-up companies. 124 patent applications filed. 161 Reports of inventions received. $2.5 million in license income.

isolation desolation

Having a low number of social connections with friends, family, and social groups can be associated with increased risk of poor health. UNC’s Yang Yang found that social isolation is associated with chronic inflammation. Her work is some of the first to link biomarkers, such as proteins in the blood, with social forces such as loneliness.


the future of the outer banks

North Carolina’s barrier islands are on the move. The shape of the Outer Banks has slowly changed over the centuries, says geologist Laura Moore. And now changes in the climate are speeding up the process. Bigger and stronger storms, rising sea levels, bigger waves, and even changes in the islands’ vegetation have already subtly altered their topography.