Research

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The steady growth of research funding over the past 15 years is a great tribute to the success of the faculty and a multidisciplinary approach to advancing knowledge and science. UNC-Chapel Hill faculty are part of an internationally recognized research enterprise that draws from five health sciences schools (dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health), UNC Health Care and its teaching hospitals, as well as basic and social science units in the College of Arts and Sciences.

 

UNC-Chapel Hill rose to 9th from 16th among leading private and public research universities for the level of federal funding devoted to research and development in all fields during fiscal 2010. Faculty also secured about $767 million in contracts and grants from all sources in fiscal 2012. The new ranking, based on data compiled by the National Science Foundation, was published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Carolina has gained 10 spots in the national top 25 list since 2008. Overall, UNC-Chapel Hill ranked 15th for research and development expenditures ($755.28 million) from all sources in fiscal 2010.

 

In fiscal 2013, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) remained the University’s largest funding source, providing $366.9 million, or 66.9 percent of federal research dollars. The University’s other top funders in 2013 were the U.S. Agency for International Development, $49.7 million (9.1 percent); National Science Foundation, $39.3 million (7.2 percent); and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, $38.1 million (7 percent).

 

The University’s multidisciplinary research centers and institutes continue to play a growing role in bringing research funding to North Carolina, accounting for roughly $160 million of total awards in 2013. These centers and institutes attract close to $7.70 in external funds for each $1 of state funds invested.

 

Federal funding for the School of Medicine made it possible for a multidisciplinary medical team to place an auditory brain stem implant in a deaf 3-year-old Charlotte boy, allowing him to hear his father’s voice for the first time. The YouTube video created by UNC Health Care has been viewed by more than 2 million people around the world.

 

A team of scientists with The Cancer Genome Atlas program have genetically mapped 800 breast tumors, and have categorized them into four subtypes. The work, which was published September 23, 2012, in the journal Nature, fundamentally reshapes the way scientists understand breast cancer and paves the way for personalized treatment of the disease. Charles Perou, a professor of molecular oncology and a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center who led the study, says the research was a near complete framework for the genetic causes of breast cancer, which will significantly affect clinical medicine in the coming years.

 

Carolina researchers are helping North Carolina better prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms through advanced computing technology and collaboration with local and state emergency managers. The Advanced Circulation Model Surge Guidance System (ADCIRC), developed through UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City and the Department of Homeland Security-funded Coastal Hazards Center, provides coastal communities with detailed data about storm surge, wave heights and the potential for flooding. Researchers at UNC’s Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) use supercomputing capabilities to create high-resolution models; the results are shared with emergency managers in coastal communities to help local leaders make informed decisions related to road closings, evacuations, and search and rescue.

 

Since the 1960s, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute research and outreach has shaped how the nation cares for and educates young children. Researchers focus on parent and family support; early care and education; child health and development; early identification and intervention; equity, access and inclusion; and early childhood policy. FPG is one of the oldest multidisciplinary centers devoted to the study of children and families.

 

A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has served as a catalyst to create the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, a $5 million effort exploring the application of advanced digital technologies to humanities research, teaching and knowledge creation. It embraces a variety of topics, from curating online collections to mining large data sets. The initiative will build on the work of the Digital Innovation Lab, in the College of Arts and Sciences, co-directed by Robert Allen, James Logan Godfrey Professor of American Studies, and Richard Marciano, professor in the School of Information and Library Science.

 

A recent study led by nutrition faculty at the Gillings School of Global Public Health found that foods rich in specific amino and fatty acids helped youngsters with Type 1 diabetes keep producing some of their own insulin for up to two years after diagnosis. The study involved more than 1,300 participants in a multi-center research program that is the largest study of childhood diabetes in the U.S. The diet additions did not reduce the need for supplemental insulin, but may help reduce future disease complications.

 

Since 1966, the Carolina Population Center has helped drive related social science and health research projects across the UNC research community. The center focuses on creating new knowledge about population size, structure and processes of change and shares its data and findings with professionals, policymakers and the public. Faculty and students affiliated with the center are working in 85 countries around the world, as well as in the U.S. and central North Carolina. CPC participates in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which follows a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12 in the U.S. during the 1994-95 school year.