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Research

Innovative and interdisciplinary research at Carolina is driven by $778 million in annual external research funding, an amount that has tripled in the past 16 years. More than 70 percent of this funding comes from federal sources. In 2012, Carolina was first (in a 7-way tie) among public universities and ninth overall in the level of federal research funding secured. Carolina received a record $803 million in 2010.

Research centers and programs at UNC have a great impact not only locally, but nationally as well. Research programs fuel economic growth and provide greater technology, understanding, and practices.  Over 400 faculty members across 72 departments are engaged in sustainability research. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has contributed 199 million USD since 2009 in new federal research funding and continues to be an important source of sustainability research funding at Carolina. In FY 2012, the UNC Office of Technology Development reported 161 invention disclosures, 124 patents filed, 32 patents issued, seven companies started, 52 licenses granted, and $2.5 million in license revenue.

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    Carolina Population Center

    Research conducted at the Carolina Population Center explores both local and international issues with ongoing studies in 85 countries. Current projects in the United States include assessing the long-term health status of US adolescents and exploring the cause of their health-related behaviors; analyzing the effects of family structure and employment dynamics on child outcomes; and identifying the etiologic factors for preterm births in North Carolina to inform state and US public health. Abroad, center researchers are using recently developed cellular automation procedures to model land cover change in relation to population change in Nang Rong, Thailand; examining how health, nutrition, and other factors affect education, work, and wages of Filipino youth; and analyzing individual and household response to rapid social  and economic change in Russia and China.

    Links:
    Carolina Population Center - http://www.cpc.unc.edu/

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    Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology

    The Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology, a part of the UNC School of Medicine and a partner with the U.S. EPA’s Human Studies Division, explores the relationship between air pollution and human health. Volunteer subjects, including healthy people and those with lung dieases such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, participate in a range of research studies administered by the Center. Results lead to new policies, such as the 8-hour ozone standard promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Through a better understanding of the negative health effects of air pollution, researchers hope to discover new medications and dietary practices to reduce the impacts of diseases.

    Links:
    Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology - http://www.med.unc.edu/cemalb
    UNC School of Medicine - http://www.med.unc.edu/
    U.S. EPA’s Human Studies Division - http://www.epa.gov/oaintrnt/facilities/rtp_chapel.htm

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    Center for Sustainable Enterprise

    Since its launch in 2007, the CSE Knowledge Bank has grown to include more than 90 sustainability-related articles written by faculty and students. This free resource features award-winning cases like "Procter and Gamble's PUR Water Purifier: The Hunt for a Sustainable Business Model" and "Measuring Environmental Footprint: A Financial Services Industry Case Study." More than one thousand readers subscribe to the service.

    Links:
    Center for Sustainable Enterprise - http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/cse/index.cfm

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    Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters

    Aftermath of a floodThe UNC Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters (Hazards Center) conducts innovative research on natural hazards and disasters. Researchers located at Carolina and the Center's partner institutions around the country study the natural phenomena of hazards - such as hurricanes, coastal erosion, climate change, and earthquakes - as well as the impacts these events have on human settlements.  The information can then be used to inform policy and craft strategies designed to reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience. 

    The linkages between hazard resiliency and community sustainability are evident in areas that have been hit hardest by recent disasters.  Communities that can withstand the impacts of hazard events are better equipped to bounce back quickly, and to maintain or even improve their overall economic stability, population security and environmental integrity by reducing disruption to business and government, limiting damage to infrastructure and housing, and minimizing disturbances to social structures.

    The picture to the right is of flooded neighborhoods and highways in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. It was taken by Jocelyn Augustino.

    Links:
    Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters - http://hazardscenter.unc.edu/

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    Collaborations for Integrating Research and Action

    The mission of the Collaborations for Integrating Research and Action is to “promote social change leading to the existence of just and sustainable communities and institutions and to the expansion of participatory democracy.” This is done through the collaboration of community leaders and University researchers. One current project of CIRA is "Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction," which addresses the root causes of poverty in North Carolina and searches for sustainable solutions.

    Links:
    Collaborations for Integrating Research and Action - http://cira.unc.edu/

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    Department of Applied Physical Sciences

    The Department of Applied Physical Sciences (APSs) is a multidisciplinary research institute that brings together the physical sciences, emerging new sciences, and society to address complex problems in areas such as human health and energy. APSs hosts the Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, a shared instrument and resource facility established in 2006 to serve UNC and the Triangle area with instrumentation and equipment that is too expensive for any one institution to purchase individually.

    Research conducted through APSs is on the cutting edge of scientific discovery, and UNC is ranked among the top universities nationally for research in nano- and microtechnology. Research areas have included nanofluidic sensors, cancer research, bio-inspired materials, and the innovative design of fuel cell membranes.  Most recently, promising research on organic, bio-inspired, and liquid-based photovoltaics is being tested in the laboratory, which recently won a $13.6 million National Science Foundation grant to study soft materials.  Picture thanks to Lars Sahl.

    APSs is an active partner with the Institute for the Environment, helping to understand environmental issues such as climate change and environmental impacts on human health, and in developing the science, public policy, and social models needed to achieve dramatic changes in the future.

    Links:
    Institute for Advanced Materials, Nanoscience and Technology - http://www.advancedmaterials.unc.edu/
    Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory - http://chanl.unc.edu/

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    Department of City and Regional Planning

    Research and service is at the heart of the Department of City and Regional Planning’s graduate education program. Students participate actively in community-based planning workshops and join faculty in a variety of local and regional research projects.

    The Carolina Transportation Program studies how transportation planning and land use patterns impact health, the environment, energy, and economic development. Current research projects explore who uses public transportation and why, the environmental and health effects of travel behaviors, and energy use reduction through innovative community design.

    The Center for Community Capital analyzes ways to bring economic opportunity to underserved citizens and communities. Findings related to the value of home ownership, housing finance policy, and the effects of home ownership on civic involvement will contribute to the development of sustainable business practices in the wake of the national economic downturn.

    The Center for Urban and Regional Studies brings together researchers from across campus to improve living conditions through economic development, environmental protection, and sustainable community development. Research provides state and national leaders with the resources to make informed urban planning and policy decisions.

    Links:
    Department of City and Regional Planning - http://www.planning.unc.edu/
    Carolina Transportation Program - http://ctp.unc.edu/
    Center for Community Capital - http://www.ccc.unc.edu/
    Center for Urban and Regional Studies - http://curs.unc.edu/
     

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    Energy Frontier Research Center: Center for Solar Fuels

    In 2008, the chemistry department at UNC launched the Center for Solar Fuels. In 2009, the center became one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Research focuses on solar fuels catalysis, development of hybrid materials, organic photovoltaics, and advanced spectroscopy and theory. The center is the only EFRC-funded center in North Carolina and one of 16 that received Recovery Act funds for job creation.

    There are more than 17 participating faculty from multiple campus departments at UNC who work in partnership with researchers at Duke University, N.C. Central University, N.C. State University, and the University of Florida.

    Links:
    Center for Solar Fuels- http://www.efrc.unc.edu/index.html

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    Environmental Finance Center

    The School of Government is home to the Environmental Finance Center, a department focused on reaching local communities through the delivery of interactive applied training programs and technical assistance. The EFC at UNC is dedicated to enhancing the ability of governments and other organizations to provide environmental programs and services in fair, effective, and financially sustainable ways. Current programs focus on finding ways to incorporate environmental infrastructure into the government in a financially and socially responsible way.

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    Gillings School of Global Public Health

    A doctor and nurseThe mission of the Gillings School of Global Public Health is to improve public health, promote individual well-being, and eliminate health disparities across North Carolina and around the world. Research both discovers solutions and translates findings into effective practices and sound policy recommendations. Innovation labs at the school anticipate future public health challenges, conduct high-impact research and demonstration projects, and accelerate sustainable solutions.

    The Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility is an interdepartmental program hosted by the school and funded in part by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Since 2001, the center has invested $1.3 million to support pilot projects, which led to research projects yielding over 28 times that amount of external funding—$36.9 million. Services and technical support provided by the center enable research on the toxicity of hazardous chemicals and environmental pollutants.

    The Water Institute of the Gillings School brings together individuals and institutions from diverse disciplines and sectors and empowers them to work together to solve the critical global issues in water and health. Current research includes analyzing impacts of climate-related hazardous events on drinking water and sanitation coverage and water safety planning for small municipal and private water supply systems. 

    Links:
    Gillings School of Global Public Health - http://www.sph.unc.edu/
    Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility - http://cehs.sph.unc.edu/
    The Water Institute- http://waterinstitute.unc.edu/

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    Highway Safety Research Center

    For over 40 years, UNC’s Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) has conducted interdisciplinary research aimed at reducing deaths, injuries, and related societal costs of roadway crashes. Researching effective models for pedestrian-friendly development is a focus of the HSRC. The HSRC recently evaluated the safety of switching traffic lights from incandescent to LED bulbs, a study that analyzed both the importance of sustainability and the value of safety.

    Links:
    Highway Safety Research Center - http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/index.cfm

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    Institute for the Environment

    Students on top of Kenan LabsThe Institute for the Environment serves as a hub for multidisciplinary, environmental research. Faculty and staff in the Institute’s four research centers partner with others at UNC to find comprehensive solutions to pressing environmental problems.

    The Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development creates and applies advanced environmental software and models. Transforming complicated data sets into summary trends helps policy makers make informed decisions on issues that affect human health, air pollution, and climate change.

    The Center for Sustainable Community Design evaluates strategies to mitigate the environmental effects of rapid population increases and resulting development patterns. Researchers address coastal hazard mitigation, wildlife conservation, and the impact of development on socially vulnerable communities.

    The Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development explores energy issues facing the state, the nation, and the world. Researchers examine the rationale and consequences of various energy choices and the feasibility of renewable and nuclear energy sources.

    The Center for Watershed Science and Management researches issues related to water quality and availability. Innovative market mechanisms are evaluated to address interbasin transfers and water allocation formulas, approaches to improving water quality, and compensatory stream and wetland migration.

    Links:
    Institute for the Environment - http://www.ie.unc.edu/
    Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development - http://www.ie.unc.edu/cempd/
    Center for Sustainable Community Design - http://www.ie.unc.edu/cscd/
    Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development - http://www.ie.unc.edu/cseeed/index.cfm
    Center for Watershed Science and Management - http://www.ie.unc.edu/research/watershed_science.cfm
     

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    Institute of Marine Sciences

    A researcher examining a specimenLocated in Morehead City, the Institute of Marine Sciences conducts a wide range of research and provides students with practical field experience. Researchers investigate coastal ecology and human impacts, microbial ecology and human health, species diversity and ecosystem functioning, and environmental modeling. Recent research projects have involved analyzing the consequences of climate change on endemic marine communities and fishery production; monitoring of light hydrocarbons at Conch Reef, Florida Keys to identify impacts of the BP oil spill; and a study of birds, sea turtles and marine mammals in eastern Pamlico Sound to assess potential risks associated with the development of wind farms in our sounds of coastal ocean.

    Links:
    Institute of Marine Sciences - http://marine.unc.edu/

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