Faculty in National Academies and Learned Societies

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty members have brought distinction to the state of North Carolina and the university through their academic and professional achievements. Many have been honored with election as members of the National Academies or fellows of other national distinguished learned societies. UNC-CH ranks 13th among public research institutions in terms of the number of faculty members who have been inducted into the National Academies. (Source: Top American Research Universities Annual Report 2015. Updated 1/2017)

(Sources: Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Updated: 11/2017.)

Advisors to Federal Agencies

Many Carolina faculty members serve on federal advisory committees that play an important role in shaping programs and policies of the federal government. These committee members provide the expertise and professional skills that parallel the program responsibilities of their sponsoring agencies. They also are the public’s voice in the federal government’s decision-making process. Use Carolina’s Federal Advisory Committee Resource to learn more about our faculty who are serving in this important advisory capacity. If you have questions, please contact kdock@email.unc.edu.

(Source: Office of Federal Affairs. Updated: 11/2017.)

Selected Distinguished Faculty Bios

Dr. Stanley C. Ahalt | Computer Science

An expert in data science, Ahalt directs RENCI, UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute, leading a team of research scientists, software and network engineers, data science specialists, and visualization experts working to solve the challenges of managing and understanding big data. Ahalt is the driving force behind the National Consortium for Data Science and the iRODS open source software consortium.



Dr. Nancy L. Allbritton | Biomedical Engineering

Allbritton’s research draws on engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology to develop new tools and technologies for cancer and stem cell research. Her lab develops instruments for research on single cells, microfabricated platforms for sorting and cloning cells, and microengineered “organs on a chip” to support intestinal research.


Dr. Gina A. Chowa | Social Work

Chowa’s research explores the impact that property and asset ownership have on education, employment, and psychosocial behavior in individuals and families. Her findings, based on work in developing countries and in North Carolina, underscore the importance of redefining pathways for success in resource-limited, underserved communities.


Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith | Social Medicine

Recognized for her scholarly work on the practical and ethical issues of involving minorities in research, Corbie-Smith studies the testing and disseminating of community-based interventions to address HIV prevention, cardiovascular health in rural communities, and mental health promotion.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Dangl | Biology

Dangl studies the evolution and engineering of plant disease resistance, including the complexities of the plant microbiome. His discoveries have helped advance the industry of agricultural biotechnology and hold promise for understanding human diseases. His recent findings on the shared basic organizational traits of plant and mammal immune systems at a genetic and molecular level led to discovery of a mutated, disease-resistant-like protein partially to blame for Crohn’s disease.



Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone | Chemistry

Working at the interface of polymer science, medicine, energy, and other advanced technologies, DeSimone studies the underlying mechanisms of diseases and uses nanotechnology to engineer better treatments and vaccines. He and his lab also explore new approaches to lithium ion and lithium air batteries and the use of 3D printing for medical devices. Central to DeSimone’s work is his PRINT nanoparticle fabrication technology, as well as the newly developed CLIP technology, a rapid 3D printing method. He holds more than 150 issued patents.


Dr. Erin Fraher | Medicine

An expert on the health care workforce in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, Fraher directs UNC’s Program on Health Workforce Research and Policy. For nearly 15 years, she has provided impartial, policy-relevant research that informs state and national debates on how to educate and deploy health care professionals to ensure quality care.


Dr. Flavio Frohlich | Psychiatry

With a goal to revolutionize treatment of psychiatric illnesses, Frohlich has developed a device and method for delivering transcranial alternating current stimulation to generate electrical fields in the brain. Using feedback through EEG monitoring, he is able to deliver targeted frequencies of stimulation and optimal control of brain activity with minimal side effects, potentially opening the door to an inexpensive, noninvasive treatment for depression.


Dr. Kathleen Mullan Harris | Sociology

Harris directs the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a 20-year survey tracking more than 20,000 teens through adulthood. Under her leadership, the study has provided data for over 2,000 scientific papers by more than 10,000 researchers worldwide, mapping the obesity epidemic, genetic influences on smoking and drinking patterns, and high blood pressure in young adults.


Dr. James H. Johnson, Jr. | Public Policy

A specialist in economic development and impact research, Johnson’s work on changing demographics and economic competitiveness has provided insight for future community and business plans. His research focuses on strategies for successfully educating children in underserved communities, meeting the needs of an aging population, and the impact on US competitiveness of outsourcing white-collar jobs.


Dr. Joanne M. Jordan | Osteoarthritis

As director of UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center, Jordan’s primary research centers on a large, community-based longitudinal study in rural North Carolina that examines the prevalence, incidence, and risk factors of osteoarthritis in the hip and knee. Her work has identified modifiable risk factors that, when targeted for treatment, can reduce disease impact.


Dr. Alexander V. Kabanov | Pharmacy

Director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery, Kabanov pioneers research integrating nanotechnology and medicine to deliver small molecule drugs for improved drug delivery. His work led to the first-in-man polymeric micelle drug for cancer treatment.


Dr. Rachel T. Noble | Marine Sciences

A researcher of environmental microbiology, water quality, and marine biology, Noble has developed new DNA-based testing methods that improve the process of managing and reducing contaminates in water. These tools more quickly assess contamination in shellfish beds and recreational waters, promising better protection for beach communities and seafood lovers.


Dr. Kurt M. Ribisl | Health Behavior

Ribisl’s primary research focuses on tobacco control policy and information technology. He has studied tobacco industry marketing strategies in retail outlets, interventions to reduce youth access to tobacco, and portrayals of smoking on the web and at the point of sale. Ribisil heads one of UNC’s Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science.


Dr. Stephen J. Walsh | Geography

Walsh heads UNC’s Galapagos Science Center, the only university research facility in Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago. His work focuses on social and ecological vulnerability and the interactions between human populations and the environment in the Galapagos, the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon, and Northeastern Thailand.


Dr. Mark J. Zylka | Medicine

A professor of cell biology and physiology, Zylka applies cutting-edge ideas and technologies to the study of chronic pain and neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. Home to two NIH-funded Autism Centers of Excellence, Zylka’s work contributes to the wealth of autism expertise at UNC.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Training

Graduate and Postdoctoral Training Opportunities

Research is a way of learning. Each year over 2,000 graduate student research assistants engage in scholarly research and cutting-edge discovery. Carolina also involves its undergraduates in the adventures of scholarship and science. Indeed, student researchers contribute to many of our most exciting discoveries.

Chapel Hill ranked 9th nationwide in federal funding (obligations) for fellowships, traineeships, and training grants, providing clear evidence of the overall strength of its numerous graduate and postdoctoral programs.

Carolina also has an exceptionally strong program of postdoctoral training, with more than 1,000 postdoctoral fellows continuing their research training on the Chapel Hill campus. According to the most current data available, Carolina is 9th among public universities in terms of numbers of postdoctoral fellows, who have been attracted to Chapel Hill because of its research strength.

(Source: National Science Foundation. Updated: 1/2019.)

Overall Earned Doctoral Degree Rankings

  • UNC-Chapel Hill ranks twenty-first in total number of doctoral degrees awarded (510 total degrees in 2016)
  • Additional rankings:
    • fifth in doctorates awarded in the life sciences, 2016 (198 degrees)

(Source: National Science Foundation Science Resources Statistics Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: 2016. Updated: 1/2019.)

A Look at our Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Health Fields

Overall Ranking

  • 27 (out of 689 institutions surveyed) in total full-time graduate students in science and health fields, 2016.

(Source: National Science Foundation. Updated: 1/2019.)


Students Studying Abroad

  • 17th among doctoral/research institutions in number of students (2,124) studying abroad (2017).

(Source: Institute of International Education Open Doors. Updated: 1/2019.)