CHAPEL HILL, NC – The University of North Carolina System announces that teams from three institutions within the UNC System have been awarded grants through the University of North Carolina’s Research Opportunities Initiative (UNC ROI). 

The grants are funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to promote innovative and potentially game-changing research projects within the UNC System. Priority research areas for the UNC ROI program are pharmacoengineering, advanced manufacturing, energy, data science, marine sciences, and military and security-related issues.

ROI grants fund collaborative research projects with the intent of providing the needed boost to enhance their national or international profile and to provide a competitive edge in pursuit of large scale research funding. The grants are worth nearly $4.5 million and will be paid out in three portions to each recipient during fiscal years 2021, 2022 and 2023. 

“We’re grateful to state lawmakers for their strong support of UNC ROI’s important work,” said Dr. Kimberly Van Noort, UNC System senior vice president for academic affairs. “The research produced by our institutions continues to positively impact the lives of all North Carolinians through advancements in research areas such as engineering, energy and data science. We congratulate each of the winners, and thank all applicants for their strong submissions.”

The winning submissions are: 

  • “Water-Energy Nexus: Off-Grid, Zero Waste Desalination Technology,” from East Carolina University in the Coastal and Marine Sciences priority area. Dr. Kurabachew Duba is the principal investigator. This initiative will support economic development in North Carolina by developing next-generation water desalination systems. This cross-cutting and collaborative research aims to develop a novel water desalination system that operates off grid with zero liquid waste discharge.
  • “Nanocrystal Factory: Advanced Manufacturing of Quantum Dot Inks for Next-Generation Solution-Processed Photonic Devices,” from NC State University in the Advanced Manufacturing priority area. Milad Abolhasani is the principal investigator. The proposal seeks to develop an artificial intelligence-guided (nano)material synthesis platform for accelerated, on-demand manufacturing of quantum dot inks, considered high-priority specialty chemicals with direct implications on strategic economic sectors of the state of North Carolina, including those in energy, defense, and agriculture.
  • “Winston-Salem State University Center for Applied Data Science,” from Winston-Salem State University in the Data Science priority area. Dr. Debzani Deb is the principal investigator. The Center for Applied Data Sciences (CADS) at Winston-Salem State University is an institution-wide initiative with the goal of fostering research and education in data-driven knowledge discovery. CADS aims to bring together computer scientists and domain scientists with complex data science (DS) problems to promote and accelerate data-intensive discovery and DS education.