Research Initiatives

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The Cancer Research Fund

cancerCarolina ranks 8th nationally for NIH funding thanks in part to the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center—one of 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. In 2007 the North Carolina General Assembly established the University Cancer Research Fund to advance understanding of the causes and course of cancer, to devise new treatment methods, and to improve cancer care, screening, and prevention. The UCRF receives nearly $50 million annually from state tobacco taxes, settlement funds, and appropriations. More than 140 outstanding faculty have been hired or retained with UCRF support. This support complements two other critical state investments in cancer facilities: the NC Cancer Hospital, which has been treating patients from all 100 counties since its opening in 2009, and the Imaging Research Building, scheduled to open in the winter of 2014. Together, these investments form a synergistic approach to fighting North Carolina’s deadliest disease. The UCRF fuels a significant economic impact on the state, yielding more than four dollars in return for each dollar invested.

Solar Energy Research Center

Carolina’s Solar Energy Research Center is currently fulfilling a five-year, $17.5 million Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The Solar Fuels and Next Generation Photovoltaics EFRC at Carolina focuses on innovative interdisciplinary research, including improved generation of fuels and electricity from sunlight, with oxygen as a co-product. The center is one of 46 EFRCs nationwide to accelerate breakthroughs for advanced energy technology development and involves more than 20 faculty, 30 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, and collaborations with scientists from multiple universities.

NC Translational & Clinical Sciences Institute

nc_tracsThe NC TraCS Institute, the integrated home of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program at Carolina, is supported by NIH. The institute was created in 2008 and is one of approximately 60 CTSA medical research institutions working together as a national consortium to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium members share a common vision to reduce the time it takes for laboratory discoveries to become treatments for patients, and to engage communities in clinical research efforts. It is also training a new generation of clinical researchers. TraCS offers a number of programs and services to help researchers translate basic science discoveries into meaningful health advances.

UNC Water Institute

In 2010, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health launched the UNC Water Institute, an interdisciplinary effort to solve the most critical global issues in water health and development. The institute focuses on teaching; outreach and training programs to solve water problems; providing objective information on the interface between water, health, and development; and tackling problems that impede effective action on water and health issues. The institute has developed a research program built around technical solutions and innovations in policy, finance, and entrepreneurship that make business sense and lead to sustainable real-world progress.

National Consortium for Data Science

ncdsA new collaboration called the National Consortium for Data Science aims to make North Carolina a national hub for data-intensive business and data science research and education, and to develop strategies to ensure U.S. leadership in a global economy that is increasingly data driven. The consortium, launched at RENCI, the Renaissance Computing Institute at Carolina, unites data researchers in academia with data creators and users in business and government. Together they will tackle the challenges related to collecting, sharing, and using large, diverse data collections, or big data. The NCDS will look at ways to harness big data as an economic engine, including developing data-centric businesses, conducting multidisciplinary data science research, and supporting new data science education programs.

Department of Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering is the fastest-growing occupation and academic curriculum in the nation. In 2003, UNC and NC State established the UNC/NCSU Department of Biomedical Engineering. The department has been a model of interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration in responding to its mandate to provide highly trained biomedical engineers, to develop innovative research, and to commercialize cutting-edge technologies. Research focuses on biomedical microdevices, imaging, rehabilitation engineering, pharmacoengineering, and regenerative medicine. It offers undergraduate programs via the NCSU College of Engineering and UNC College of Arts and Sciences. The graduate program, which spans UNC and NCSU, offers research training driven by extramural support and by collaborations across departments, schools, and institutions. Faculty, graduates, and undergraduates participate in commercial activities, including startup biotechnology companies, that enhance the international competitiveness of RTP and the state.

New Department of Applied Physical Sciences

The boundary that once separated the basic sciences from applications has blurred. This challenges traditional models for natural-science departments—biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics and astronomy—and raises questions for the organization of the research enterprise at institutions such as Carolina that aspire to address global challenges. The newly formed Department of Applied Physical Sciences fosters cutting-edge interdisciplinary and problem-based research and delivers dynamic curricula. APS educates across disciplines, balancing theory and experiment to create a unique environment for learning and exploration. It creates world-class, hands-on research experiences, and provides direct exposure to the entrepreneurial aspects of its degree programs. By collaborating with Carolina’s basic and health sciences and interacting with neighboring universities and Research Triangle Park industries, APS will help generate new jobs and businesses for North Carolina.