$4.5 million from the General Assembly will support strategically important research

RALEIGH, N.C. – Three research teams from within the University of North Carolina System have been selected as recipients of awards totaling $4.5 million from the 2025 Research Opportunities Initiative (ROI).

The grants are funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to encourage innovative and collaborative research projects across the state. The UNC System ROI program focuses on six priority research areas: advanced manufacturing; data science; energy; marine and coastal science; military and security-related issues; and pharmacoengineering.

Since its inception in 2014, the initiative has awarded a total of 24 grants, amounting to more than $38 million in funding. On average, each ROI award recipient receives $1.5 million distributed over a three-year period, enabling faculty to pursue groundbreaking research and make significant contributions to their respective fields.

The winning research projects for fiscal year 2025 are:

Nature Inspired Collaborative Energy Research (NICER)
Principal investigator: Dr. Shabnam Hematian

  • ROI focus area: Energy
  • Award amount: $1.5 million over three years
  • Institution: University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Collaborating Institutions: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The NICER (Nature Inspired Collaborative Energy Research) team will leverage expertise in chemistry, biology, computer science and engineering to find new ways to use natural products to capture, store and transport clean energy.

Ultra-High Efficiency Perovskite Tandem Solar Cells

  • Principal investigator: Dr. Jingsong Huang
  • ROI focus areas: Advanced manufacturing, energy
  • Award amount: $1.5 million over three years
  • Institution: UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Collaborating institution: NC State University

This research team’s focus is to boost North Carolina’s energy production and reduce dependence on fossil fuels imported from out of state. The goal is to create all-perovskite tandem solar cells, which have the potential to be twice as efficient as current silicon-based solar cells.

TEAL-SHIPS Transect Expedition to Assess Land-to-Sea Habitats via Interdisciplinary Process Studies
Principal investigator: Dr. Bradley Tolar

  • ROI focus area: Coastal marine sciences
  • Award amount: $1.5 million over three years
  • Institution: University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Collaborating institutions: East Carolina University, NC State University, UNC-Chapel Hill

TEAL-SHIPS will initiate a strategic research partnership for coastal and marine science within the UNC System that establishes a seasonal interdisciplinary expedition to study coastal land-sea habitats from the Cape Fear River to the Gulf Stream.