Our faculty and students are working on thousands of projects that will ultimately benefit North Carolina and the nation. Here are just a few examples of cutting-edge research results from the past year.

Dr. Sami Rizkalla and his colleagues are testing advanced composite materials to gauge their effectiveness in making bridges stronger and safer, as well as reducing the cost and duration of repairs to this critical infrastructure. The N.C. Department of Transportation has commissioned the state-of-the-art Constructed Facilities Lab at NC State to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of increasing bridge load-carrying capacity.
Biomedical engineer Dr. Elizabeth Loboa is using a unique approach to creating bone tissue from adult stem cells. Her breakthrough research, using microfluidics in functional tissue engineering, could lead to a process to grow bone to replace damaged or lost bone in patients with osteoporosis or other skeletal defects.
Funded by the Association of Institutional Research, Dr. Crystal Gafford Muhammad is exploring college enrollment differences between young black men and women. The project will provide policymakers new knowledge for use in developing strategies to encourage young black men to attend and complete post-secondary education.
Epidemiologist Dr. Jay Levine is leading the Food Safety Research and Response Network, a new effort to protect the U.S. food supply from pre-harvest disease. Funded by a $5 million grant from USDA, this program involves more than 50 food safety experts from 19 colleges and universities. Cell biologist Dr. Ken Adler is the recipient of the 2005 O. Max Gardner Award, the highest faculty honor presented by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. The award honors the faculty member recognized as having made “the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” Dr. Adler’s research may enhance the lives of more than 100 million people worldwide who suffer severe respiratory diseases.

Physicist Marco Buongiorno-Nardelli has helped to overcome some of the biggest obstacles in the nanotechnology revolution. In a field that theorizes ultra-fast electronic devices based on a single molecule, knowing exactly how electrons will determine the behavior of the system is crucial. Dr. Buongiorno-Nardelli’s work allows scientists to model behavior of novel materials and nanostructures accurately enough to narrow down which experiments are worth conducting. Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer won accolades this year for her groundbreaking research showing that a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil from Montana is that of a young female—and that she was producing eggs when she died. Dr. Schweitzer and technician Jennifer Wittmeyer discovered unusual bone tissue lining the hollow cavity of the T. rex’s leg bone and were able to relate it to a layer of bone that is found in present-day female birds only during ovulation. The research provides a connection between the extinct giants and living birds, especially ostriches and emus.

Nuclear and textile engineers have joined forces with textile scientists from Egypt to create textiles with permanent antimicrobial properties. Drs. Mohamed Bourham and Marian McCord are working with scientists from the National Research Center in Cairo to produce these innovative products for defense, homeland security, and health care applications.

With support from the National Science Foundation, psychologist Dr. Pamela Martin and her Southeast Raleigh Mathematics and Science Initiative are exploring how elementary students of color learn mathematics and science. This after-school intervention program for students in low-income communities uses cultural modeling practices to allow a diverse group of students to relate familiar experiences from their communities to their academic learning environments.
Funded by a million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Dr. Deborah Lamm Weisel and colleagues are assisting police agencies in California, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina in analyzing common, chronic crime problems such as domestic violence, graffiti and property theft. The findings demonstrate the critical role of supplementing crime data with observations and surveys to guide the choice of the most effective crime prevention strategies.

Research by Dr. Charles Apperson focuses on La Cross encephalitis (LACE), a disease caused by a mosquito-transmitted virus. LACE is the leading cause of pediatric encephalitis in the U.S. Most at risk in North Carolina are mountain areas, including the Cherokee Reservation, where large populations of the mosquito Ochlerotatus triseriatus occur. Apperson’s study, which quantified direct medical costs per patient with a lifetime of recurrent seizures at $48,000 to $3.2 million and reduces life expectancy by 12%, highlights the substantial family and social burden imposed by the disease and the need for prevention.
Led by Drs. Zvezdana Pesic-Van Esbroeck and Craig Yencho, the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service produces high-quality sweetpotato seedstocks used by 90% of the growers of North Carolina’s $90 million sweetpotato crop. The exceptional seeds, along with “specialty market clones” are also distributed to growers in all other sweetpotato growing states and niche markets in the U.S.

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management research is providing scientific input to Yosemite National Park as it establishes a long-term sustainable visitor use monitoring program. Dr. Yu-Fai Leung has developed environmental indicators and associated monitoring protocols for protected areas, providing a model for national parks and other ecologically sensitive areas throughout the country.

Industrial design graduate students under the direction of Professors Percy Hooper and Bong Il Jin have teamed with North Carolina Radiation Response to design a mobile laboratory enabling radiation specialists to travel to any radioactive “hot zone” in the state to test for contamination. The redesigned mobile lab increases the efficiency of the workflow involved in processing radioactive samples.

Management and engineering professors Lynda Aiman-Smith and Angus Kingon are researching decision processes used by technology companies when the pace of scientific and technical advancements outstrips current management systems. Funded by a $600,000 NSF grant, they are channeling new nanotechnology knowledge from the nation’s R&D centers to industry for commercialization.