FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                           

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Three research teams from universities within the University of North Carolina System have been awarded grants through the University of North Carolina’s Research Opportunities Initiative. 

The grants are funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to promote innovative and collaborative research projects for 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.

The funding will support research projects with the intent of enhancing their national or international profile and providing a competitive edge in pursuit of large-scale research funding. The grants exceed $3.5 million and will be distributed in yearly installments.

“These grants foster partnerships among researchers at our universities to advance science in critical areas such as manufacturing, water treatment and bee hive health,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “I’m grateful to the General Assembly for its strong support of the UNC Research Opportunities Initiative, a program that benefits North Carolinians and the future of our state.”

The winning submissions are: 

A Center for Additive Manufacture of Advanced Ceramics

Lead investigator: Brigid Mullany, UNC Charlotte
Partnering institution: North Carolina State University
Total grant: $1,250,000

This UNC Charlotte-led effort proposes to create a Center for Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Ceramics within North Carolina and to bring together researchers from the UNC System to focus on this emerging technology. Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing modern production, and outstanding capabilities have been developed for fabricating parts directly from computer files using polymers or metals. Critical industrial and defense needs depend on rapid advancement of additive manufacturing for advanced ceramics. Ceramic applications are as varied as aircraft engine components, high-quality freeform optics, components for machinery and scaffolds for medical applications.

Enhancing Sustainable Water Treatment while Adding Value to Aquatic Systems

Lead investigator: Natasha Bell, East Carolina University
Partnering institution: North Carolina State University
Total grant: $1,211,082

Economic growth, resiliency, and natural resource protection are major challenges facing eastern North Carolina, and a key component of addressing these challenges is to improve wastewater treatment (WWT) methods. Investments in the development of integrated, adaptive, and sustainable ecological engineered treatment technologies (EETTs) for wastewater would serve to grow the coastal aquaculture industry by removing waste treatment barriers and increasing the resiliency of municipal WWT while protecting coastal water resources. We propose to install a series of on-site pilot-scale EETTs at a partnering WWT facility and NC State’s Marine Aquaculture Research Center that will incorporate novel 3D printed nutrient-removal structures designed in partnership with an advanced technology-enabled manufacturer in the state. The project will examine microbial communities responsible for nutrient removal and develop innovative biosensing technologies and automated water control systems for adaptive management of EETTs.

App State Multipurpose Apiary Informatics System (AppMAIS)

Lead investigator: Rahman Tashakkori, Appalachian State University
Partnering institution: UNC Charlotte
Total grant: $1,096,943

In the first UNC ROI award for Appalachian State University as the lead principal investigator, the innovative and potentially game-changing approach acquires a vast amount of reliable data from healthy and unhealthy hives in diverse environments and extensive utilization of data science for informed decision-making. Researchers will employ machine learning and bioinformatics to answer key questions on bee hive health, development and genomic diversity. In addition to collecting genomic data from about 30 hives, the project utilizes the App State designed and built “Beemon” system that secures and delivers hive data (audio/video recordings, humidity/temperature, and weight) to a dedicated server for further analysis