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After we calculated sponsored research funding levels at the conclusion of the fiscal year last month, we reported a record-breaking $1.2 billion in annual new research awards. Each of those awards came to a single researcher or research team that worked to create a winning proposal.

In addition, each of those projects brings a full suite of research experiences for trainees, a training ground for the next generation of problem-solvers and world-changers. Graduate students make up the core of our research workforce, and undergraduates work alongside distinguished professors in the field and their labs, applying what they learn, making contacts, and becoming more attractive to employers.

Each project brings tremendous excitement to the research team that receives a notice of award. Nothing beats the very first award that a researcher receives to fund their work, and that excitement permeates throughout their career as their work continues to be supported. In honor of that cycle, I’d like to share some examples of the projects, and people, at each level from undergraduate to senior professor level who made advancements during our last fiscal year. They, and their peers, are what truly make ours a thriving research enterprise.

Carolina undergraduates are engaged in a wide variety of research on our campus. For example, Stephanie Caddell is a sophomore studying environmental science in the Department of Earth, Marine, and Environmental Science within the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. She studies how to connect the needs of humans with the needs of the environment to protect the earth.

Graduate students across our campus engage in an amazing array of research that spans all departments and schools. Taylor Fitzgerald, a second-year communications graduate student and 2021 Pavel Molchanov Scholar, is interning with NC Collaboratory, helping to convey the impact that the institution has on the lives of North Carolinians through their efforts to fund research projects that directly benefit them.

Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity (CPPFD) Fellow Julian Rucker is interested in investigating the psychological factors shaping perceptions of, and motivations for, reducing racial inequality across several societal domains. His work also examines perceptions of racial progress in the U.S. The CPPFD is an important pipeline that enhances and expands the diversity of our faculty. Over the last five years, 19 of the program’s participants have been hired directly into the faculty at Carolina at the conclusion of their fellowships, and the program has successfully placed 100% of its fellows into tenure-track positions.

Epidemiology assistant professor Juan M. Hincapie-Castillo, who joined our faculty in 2021, is addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time: substance use disorders. He is working to achieve optimal pain management outcomes while appropriately preventing and treating substance use disorders. His interdisciplinary projects hope to generate evidence that promotes patient safety and advocates for best practices in policy evaluation and implementation. He was just selected as a 2022-23 Faculty Fellow for the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education in recognition for his outstanding research.

Archeology associate professor Jennifer Gates-Foster is working with a diverse coalition in the small western North Carolina town of Old Fort to develop an accessible trail network that uncovers the region’s history and spurs equitable economic growth. The project is supported by the Southern Futures initiative. The goal is to identify outdoor recreational assets that have the potential to ignite economic development while positioning the local community to take advantage of this growth. The collaborative wants to create a trail network that is inviting not only to outsiders, but to the town’s residents as well.

Even our most distinguished faculty members, like Jenny Ting, the William Kenan Distinguished Professor of Genetics and professor of microbiology and immunology, are no doubt thrilled at each single notice of award. Ting was recently elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her career and accomplishments in research related to human innate immune responses, neuroinflammation, the microbiome, multiple sclerosis, cancer, biologic therapy, and infections. She is a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, director of the Center for Translational Immunology, and co-director of the Inflammatory Diseases Institute.

These are just singular examples of the research that happens on our campus at each level, from undergraduate to senior researcher, and they are just a few of the more than 5,000 projects that were sponsored during the last fiscal year. I am so proud of all our researchers, students, and research administrators for this past year’s accomplishments. I am so excited for each new notice of award that will come this year and with it the excitement of getting a new project off the ground no matter whether it’s the very first notice or one of many.

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