Author Archives: Kim Spurr

About Kim Spurr

Arts and Sciences Deans Office

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Thanks to the student and alumni photographers who shared their photos below. (Click on first photo to start a slideshow). Read more about study abroad at Carolina in our cover story.

The Story of Study Abroad

A seismic shift in global education has taken place. The head of Study Abroad at UNC-Chapel Hill explains what’s new, and three students share their transformational experiences.

Vendors and shoppers at a night market behind the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, India.

Scott Diekema captured vendors and shoppers at a night market behind the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, India. (photo courtesy of Scott Diekema)

Studying abroad once was considered an extravagance few could afford. Students today see global engagement as a fundamental part of their education, and many at Carolina have at least one study abroad experience on their transcript.

The College of Arts & Sciences’ robust Study Abroad Program offers more than 330 programs in 70 countries. By the time they graduate, nearly one-third of students in the College have completed an academic program abroad for credit, almost double the number who studied abroad in 2000.

That’s the year Bob Miles, associate dean for study abroad and international exchanges, came to Carolina as the Study Abroad Office’s first full-time director.

In their infancy, study abroad programs were language-based. With Miles’ arrival came a shift from individual program offerings to a structure that allowed a comprehensive array of courses that aligned with the University’s academic objectives.

“We provide academic opportunities abroad that are consistent with the academic standards on this campus and that are of a quality appropriate for a Research I university,” Miles said.

The courses mirror the rigor as well as breadth of teaching within the College, he explained.

Early on, the majority of students who studied abroad concentrated on Western Europe, but the number of students studying in Asia, for example, has increased dramatically — from about 15 in 2000 to some 250 a year today. Likewise, language and social science programs in Africa and the Middle East, as well as in Latin America (which has been an academic focus within the College since the 1940s), are expanding.

To help students overcome the financial challenges of studying far from home, donors have stepped up to fund new scholarships. But more is needed to meet Dean Kevin Guskiewicz’s goal to increase the number of Carolina students studying abroad to 50 percent over the next decade. Raising money for study abroad scholarships is a major priority as the University launches a comprehensive campaign this fall.

A big part of the job for the Study Abroad Office is helping students navigate the unknown. Its campus partners include Scholarships and Student Aid, the registrar, Academic Advising and the Dean of Students. Staff members steer students toward programs that complement their academic interests and provide reassuring information for students and parents alike. They help students negotiate foreign airports, different cultures and unfamiliar currency.

“We are a resource for any problems that arise while the students are abroad,” Miles said.

First flight

Amanda Davis makes a new friend, a monkey, at a cave temple in Thailand.

Amanda Davis makes a new friend at a cave temple in Thailand. (photo courtesy of Amanda Davis)

Until last February, Amanda Davis had never flown on a plane. The farthest she had traveled from her home in Rocky Mount, N.C., was to Florida.

That didn’t stop Davis from signing on for a 24-hour flight to Sydney, Australia.

“The more I talked with my adviser, the more I realized that the program at the University of Sydney was a good fit,” said the senior majoring in linguistics with minors in speech pathology and studio art. “I really didn’t concern myself with how long the trip would take.”

Over four months, Davis took courses in “Aboriginal Australian Languages,” “Child Languages,” the “Philosophy of Happiness” and the “Fundamentals of Glass Blowing.”

Outside the classroom, she assisted with speech and voice research. One project involved assisting in developing an app for kids with speech disorders; another focused on collecting data on distinct vocal onset times. (Vocal onset indicates that a person has begun producing sound based on the way the vocal chords fold.)

“It’s helpful to have access to vocal onset data because a therapist can then tell, for instance, if a person has a creaky voice or a breathy voice,” explained Davis, who is applying to graduate school for speech and language pathology.

For someone fascinated by the spoken word, studying in Australia — with its rich history of language — was a dream come true, aided by financial support from the Jan & Steve Capps Study Abroad Fund.

Davis explores the rock pools at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.

Davis explores the rock pools at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. (photo courtesy of Amanda Davis)

A self-described introvert, Davis discovered that she had to venture far out of her comfort zone. She soon learned she was comfortable facing new situations on her own.

“Before I left home, I was a little worried about getting to know people outside the Carolina community,” she said. “But as I met people from all over the world, I realized how much I enjoyed learning about people from different countries and backgrounds.”

Davis intentionally sought out non-American students in her classes, and before long a core group of five friends from different countries bonded. “We would compare how things are done in each country, what the customs are, how things are expressed,” she said.

Her course schedule also allowed time for travel and exploration around Sydney and Melbourne, and Davis even worked in a solo trip to Cairns to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef. “That was the absolute highlight of my time in Australia. It was incredible!” she said.

She also took a 10-day trip to Thailand with a good friend between the end of classes and her exams. For anyone considering study abroad, Davis advises, “Don’t stick to what’s familiar. There is so much growth in meeting new people, and they become lifelong friends.”

The entrepreneur for social good

Scott Diekema looks out from the roof of Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India, as the sun sets over Delhi.

Scott Diekema looks out from the roof of Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India, as the sun sets over Delhi. (photo courtesy of Scott Diekema)

Scott Diekema has always wanted to help make the world a better place. It’s something his parents, both physicians in Iowa City, Iowa, instilled in him early on.

In high school, he co-founded an effort to benefit children born with clubfoot in developing countries. Within weeks of his arrival on the UNC campus, fellow students Keegan McBride ’17 and Lauren Eaves ’18 approached Diekema about opening a student-run café in the Campus Y.

That conversation evolved into The Meantime, a student enterprise that’s part of the UNC Social Innovation Initiative. The Meantime serves fair-trade brews and baked goods at a coffee stand inside the Campus Y, but it’s also a testing ground for other student-run food ventures. All profits are invested in student grants. Last spring two sophomores were awarded inaugural Bridge Year Fellowships to pursue a year of international public service before their junior year.

“It’s easy to study business at UNC, but there aren’t many on-campus enterprises where you can gain meaningful professional development while also getting paid — and find a way to give back in the process,” said Diekema, CEO of The Meantime.

Before he arrived on campus, Diekema took a gap year that included three months in Nepal, where he spent time living in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. That experience fueled an interest in South Asian religion and philosophy, and ultimately led the Morehead-Cain Scholar to enroll in UNC’s 2017 Summer in India program as one of Carolina’s Phillips Ambassadors. (The privately funded Phillips Ambassadors scholarship program supports student study in Asia. The Summer in India Program has been taught for nearly 20 years by John Caldwell and Afroz Taj in Asian Studies.)

Diekema’s study included three courses: “Contested Souls,” which explored the literature and multifaceted culture of India; “Journalism and Society in India,” which examined the country’s news framework; and “Hindi Conversation and Script,” which focused on the fundamentals and nuances of the language.

Rickshaws and trucks travel through the streets in Chandni Chowk, a busy market in the heart of Delhi.

Rickshaws and trucks travel through the streets in Chandni Chowk, a busy market in the heart of Delhi. (photo courtesy of Scott Diekema)

“Thanks to amazing UNC professors, I learned a ton about the nuances of India’s rich history and culture,” Diekema said. “There really is no unified Indian identity because this country has hundreds of unique languages and cultures. While that has created conflict, it has also made India the beautiful melting pot that it is today.”

Not quite ready to leave Delhi at the program’s end, Diekema stayed on for an eight-week internship as a research assistant for the Just Jobs Network, a private think tank that examines emerging trends affecting employment around the world.

Diekema, a junior, is combining majors in philosophy and Asian studies with a minor in entrepreneurship, and he intends to continue taking advantage of available learning opportunities, both on and off campus.

“Most of all, connecting with people from dramatically different backgrounds than mine helps me develop empathy,” he explained. “If everyone went out of their way to spend time with people who weren’t like them, I believe the world would be a much better place.”

An unexpected science path

As part of UNC’s Science in Scandinavia Program, Shruti Patel (second from right) and her classmates spent time in Helsingborg, Sweden, walking by the water.

As part of UNC’s Science in Scandinavia Program, Shruti Patel (second from right) and her classmates spent time in Helsingborg, Sweden, walking by the water. (photo courtesy of Shruti Patel)

Shruti Patel is ready to display her fourth piece of international memorabilia on her wall: a postcard from Lund, Sweden, signed by the participants in UNC’s 2017 Science in Scandinavia program.

The six-week program was hosted this summer at Lund University, where the students took three courses — “Analytical Chemistry,” “Analytical Chemistry in Medicine” and the “Introduction to Swedish Language and Culture” — and worked in some weekend travel to explore Scandinavia.

For Patel, a sophomore from Candler, N.C., enrolling in such a chemistry-intensive program wasn’t part of the plan when she came to Carolina.

“In high school I absolutely dreaded chemistry … It was doable, but definitely was not my calling at the time, and I was terrified coming into Carolina knowing I had to take Chem 101 and 102,” she said. “But as I took those classes I realized I loved chemistry and wanted to pursue it.”

The fast pace of the courses in Sweden, which condensed several months of material into a few weeks, took some getting used to, Patel said. But the course material in conjunction with the travel experiences taught the group to rely on one another, creating a kind of family away from home that the students hope will continue back on campus.

“We needed to buckle down and do the work, but we weren’t stuck in our rooms. People would pile in the lobby and work together, the professor right there as well,” she said.

The analytical chemistry classes were similar to those offered on campus, she said. In addition, guest speakers talked about unique scientific innovations and examined the interface between science and medicine.

Students visited Gamla Stan, also called the “Old Town,” in Stockholm.

Students visited Gamla Stan, also called the “Old Town,” in Stockholm. (photo courtesy of Shruti Patel)

Patel isn’t sure yet which realm of science she will ultimately pursue, but she hopes to couple it with a second major in peace, war and defense. “Listening to the course speakers talk about their new ideas was truly eye-opening,” she said, “and being undecided about my major really makes me open to everything.”

Her advice to students considering study abroad is to “definitely put yourself out there. Always think about taking a risk because there’s something good about a risk factor, and leave your expectations at the door.”

Facing the unknown, she found, is empowering. “I learned that I can take care of myself and handle whatever comes my way,” Patel said.

Patel hopes to fill her wall with memorabilia from visits to all 195 countries outside the United States. Besides the postcard from Sweden, she has a wooden carving of a lizard from Costa Rica, a peacock feather in a shadow box from India and a tassel from Kronborg Castle in Denmark.

Four down, 191 left to experience.

Global Mini-Mesters

Students unable to be away from campus for a semester or a six-week summer program will have a new study abroad option next year, when the College debuts a three-week Global Mini-Mester Program in summer 2018.

Patterned after the successful Maymester Program, in which students immerse themselves in one course with daily classes for three weeks, the new program is designed to serve students who otherwise might not consider study abroad.

Topics for the first four Global Mini-Mester courses are: Irish literature, taught in Dublin; international sport management, taught in London; Dutch culture, taught in Amsterdam; and an Honors Carolina course in the natural sciences, taught in London.

Each course will be offered once during the summer, at different times, depending on the faculty member’s schedule and available resources onsite.

“We hope this program will encourage more students to study abroad,” said Bob Miles, associate dean for study abroad and international exchanges. His office will use feedback from students and faculty in the inaugural Mini-Mesters to fine-tune the program.

By Patty Courtright (B.A. ’75, M.A. ’83)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital literacy fast-forwards at Carolina

A pioneering initiative ensures every Tar Heel student has free access to powerful digital tools — and the coursework that teaches them to be critical thinkers and sophisticated users of essential technologies

Dan Anderson, left, director of UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab, and Todd Taylor, director of the Writing Program, teach a hands-on workshop for English 105 instructors at the start of the fall semester. The session focused on how to design digital class projects.

Dan Anderson, left, director of UNC’s Digital Innovation Lab, and Todd Taylor, director of the Writing Program, teach a hands-on workshop for English 105 instructors at the start of the fall semester. The session focused on how to design digital class projects. (photo by Donn Young)

To describe students in 2017 as digital natives is stating the obvious, but what is not obvious is where they sit on the continuum from passive consumers of digital media to experienced producers of compelling content.

Starting this fall, as part of a larger College of Arts & Sciences goal to ensure that future Tar Heels graduate with a high degree of digital literacy, a required English course will include at least one major digital project. At the same time, all students will have free access to powerful digital tools, thanks to an extraordinary partnership between UNC and a major software provider.

Planners envision that this digital project will be the start of an “e-portfolio” that students will build throughout their years at Carolina to showcase their scholarship and digital skills.

These efforts are part of the ambitious Carolina Digital Literacy initiative, which has its roots in an earlier historic first: In 2000, when UNC began requiring that every student have a laptop, it also ensured access for all by providing grants to cover the cost for students who couldn’t afford one. That approach was believed to be unique among public universities requiring students to have computers.

“Other schools may be offering free software to students, but we’re saying digital literacy is an essential skill that doesn’t belong to any corner of the curriculum; it will be across the curriculum," says Todd Taylor. (pictured here talking at a teacher workshop)

“Other schools may be offering free software to students, but we’re saying digital literacy is an essential skill that doesn’t belong to any corner of the curriculum; it will be across the curriculum,” says Todd Taylor. (photo by Donn Young)

In 2016, the University announced that it had paired with Adobe Systems to provide all students and faculty with free access to the Creative Cloud suite of software (which includes such design mainstays as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Dreamweaver). An individual student license normally costs upwards of $240 a year.

Todd Taylor, director of the UNC Writing Program and professor of English and comparative literature, and who has been teaching digital media courses at Carolina for more than a decade, said he is unaware of any other university embarking on a digital initiative that approaches the scope of Carolina’s.

“Other schools may be offering free software to students, but we’re saying digital literacy is an essential skill that doesn’t belong to any corner of the curriculum; it will be across the curriculum. Such a strategic implementation that begins with early exposure in this required course is what makes us different from any other campus,” he said.

From functional to critical literacy

The course at the heart of this digital revolution is English 105: “English Composition and Rhetoric.” This writing class is required of every single undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill. That’s at least 120 sections offered each semester (capped at 19 students per class), as more than 4,700 first-year and transfer students complete this core experience annually.

Students in one class created a Scientific American-like popular magazine as a digital project. They not only researched and wrote the stories, they chose photos and graphics and laid out the magazine using design software.

Students in one class created a Scientific American-like popular magazine as a digital project. (courtesy of Tiffany Friedman)

Requiring every section of English 105 to include a digital component “may sound ambitious, but probably two-thirds of the classes were already doing a digital project,” said Dan Anderson, director of the Digital Innovation Lab and a professor of English and comparative literature.

Anderson, for one, finds the term “digital literacy” limiting. He expects Carolina to go far beyond “functional literacy” — knowing how to use software to design a poster, create a video, or launch a website, for example.

“I want students to have ‘critical literacy’— to not only be able to communicate with these tools but to step back and analyze culture and meaning,” he said.

Both Anderson and Taylor emphasize that there are numerous digital tools beyond the Adobe offerings, and that English 105 instructors are using a panoply of approaches to help students develop digital proficiencies — from working with data to media production to critiquing and developing social media campaigns.

“One part of digital literacy is knowing what tool to choose and how knowledge is shaped and shared by a range of activities,” said Anderson.

An example of an English 105 digital project is Scientific Tar Heel, an assignment created by instructor Tiffany Friedman.

In the science writing unit of the class, Friedman asked her students to research and write an article that might appear in a magazine like Scientific American. However, they didn’t just turn in a typed manuscript. They used magazine design software to lay out the articles, photos, tables and other graphics. That showed them how elements such as font choice and photo selection shape a reader’s perception of the story. They knew the finished product would be shared online, which upped the stakes for quality. (See an issue at cdl.unc.edu/assignments).

Other English 105 projects have included preparing short service-learning films or audio e-poems.

“I want students to have ‘critical literacy’— to not only be able to communicate with these tools but to step back and analyze culture and meaning," says Dan Anderson. (pictured here at his desk)

“I want students to have ‘critical literacy’— to not only be able to communicate with these tools but to step back and analyze culture and meaning,” says Dan Anderson. (photo by Donn Young)

Focus is on the words

For those who wonder why students in a “writing” course are making films, Taylor responds: “I don’t know of a film — including every Hollywood blockbuster — that doesn’t start with a script. During the editing process, you’re paying incredibly close attention to the narrative. The focus is on the words. And then you work with the visuals to illustrate that.”

A recent graduate of Carolina who took one of Taylor’s multimedia composition courses echoes his sentiments.

“One of the cool things for me in working with film is I had to strip it down to the essence,” said Izzy Pinheiro (interdisciplinary studies ’17), who created a documentary for class about using music and art to help people cope with illness. “I had to go over the material over and over again. You think about the audience and how it all fits together.”

Pinheiro received a grant to travel to Jordan last summer to make a film on Syrian refugees. She plans to launch a career in human rights work.

An important partner in the digital literacy initiative is University Libraries. Media Resources Center staff have been working with instructors as they develop their assignments; they are a resource for students as well.

“The instructor might assign something, and we will ask, ‘What is your learning goal here?’ said Winifred Metz, who heads the Media Resources Center. “We match them to the best tool for the assignment, whether it is a podcast, TEDx Talk or infographic. Not only do we provide instruction on the software, we show them how to use the hardware — the camera, the audio recorders, how to download the clips to edit. We walk them through the whole process.”

College Dean Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Jim Dean were early champions of the initiative, said Chris Kielt, vice chancellor for information technology and one of the drivers behind the Carolina Digital Literacy Initiative. In addition to Kielt’s office, the College and University Libraries, the School of Media and Journalism and other units across campus are partners in the digital effort.

As part of the software partnership, “we asked faculty to tell us how they were using digital tools in their classrooms,” Kielt said. “They are being used in courses like religious studies and biology and nursing, and yes, of course journalism and communication and English. It’s being used across the curriculum. This has been one of the most satisfying experiences in my 30 years of higher education.”

By Geneva Collins

 

Entrepreneurship’s big boost

Cable industry veteran Bernard Bell will lead the newly named Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship

Bernard Bell watches student presentations in “Principles and Practice,” a course that focuses on core entrepreneurial skills including innovation, creative design, customer development and team dynamics.

Bernard Bell watches student presentations in “Principles and Practice,” a course that focuses on core entrepreneurial skills including innovation, creative design, customer development and team dynamics. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

Carolina will more than double the size of its nationally ranked undergraduate entrepreneurship program with an $18 million gift made to the College of Arts & Sciences by the Shuford family of Hickory, a fifth-generation Carolina family.

It is the largest single one-time gift made to the College by a living individual or family. The minor in entrepreneurship has been named The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship in the family’s honor.

“The new Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship expands our efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship across the College and provides many new interdisciplinary, immersive and experiential learning opportunities for Carolina’s bright students,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt.

The gift will create an endowment to support three additional entrepreneurs-in-residence and up to four faculty fellows, fund up to 70 student internships and support a lecture series on innovation and entrepreneurship. It will also endow the program’s executive director and internship director positions. The College will support at least three additional full-time faculty members, an entrepreneur-in-residence and an administrative staff position.

From left, Dean Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor Carol Folt and siblings Jim Shuford, Dorothy Shuford Lanier and Stephen Shuford celebrate the launch of The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship.

From left, Dean Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor Carol Folt and siblings Jim Shuford, Dorothy Shuford Lanier and Stephen Shuford celebrate the launch of The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship. (Photo by Kristen Chavez)

“I think entrepreneurship is a big part of the future of work,” said alumnus Jim Shuford (English ’88, MBA ’92), CEO of STM Industries. “The skills of entrepreneurial thinking and problem-solving are a natural fit for the liberal arts. An entrepreneurial education will give Carolina undergraduates a leg up — to find a job, start a company, grow a business or be a productive member of any organization or enterprise.”

Shuford’s brother, Stephen Shuford (MBA ’97), CEO of Shurtape Technologies, and sister, Dorothy Shuford Lanier (ABJM ’93) joined him in making the gift to Carolina.

Cable industry veteran Bernard Bell (economics ’82, MBA ’91) has been named executive director of the program. Bell has served as entrepreneur-in-residence and the Richards Donohoe Professor of the Practice at UNC since 2015.

Bell has set four goals: double the number of students in the entrepreneurship program, align the curriculum across a set of entrepreneurial core disciplines, expand the program’s strategic partnerships across the University and through the involvement of alumni and friends, and broaden the student experience with more internships and immersive experiences, such as the Burch Field Research Seminar in Silicon Valley, at locations around the world.

“We have so many entrepreneurs who have come out of Chapel Hill,” Bell said. “What better way to use these new resources than to bring back into the fold the people we’ve helped groom so they can help us make the student experience more meaningful?”

Carolina’s minor in entrepreneurship launched in 2004 as a signature program of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, a $3.5 million, six-year grant program funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to infuse a culture of entrepreneurship across the College.

More than 800 students from a wide range of disciplines have graduated with a minor in entrepreneurship. More than 250 students are currently enrolled. Students pursuing the minor follow one of nine tracks — artistic, commercial, computer science, design, media, scientific, social, sport or public health — and must complete an internship.

“The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at Carolina is unique to any entrepreneurship program in the country – because rather than teaching only business students how to become more entrepreneurial, it also teaches students of music and art, physics, anthropology, exercise and sport science, sociology and many other disciplines how to work collaboratively with an entrepreneurial mindset,” said College Dean Kevin Guskiewicz.

What E-minor Alumni Say

“After one class with the minor in entrepreneurship, I fell in love with the idea of solving real-world problems through business. I’m now a leader in the Triangle B Corp network, a business community focused on maximizing a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.”

Braden Rawls (journalism ’08)
CEO, Vital Plan

“I think the largest impact the minor had on me was to present entrepreneurship as a valid career trajectory, while also providing a framework and toolkit to explore ideas on my own.”

Joel Sutherland (computer science ’07)
Co-founder/Partner, New Media Campaigns

“The entrepreneurship minor not only gave me the knowledge I needed to build my venture, but served as my first investor, providing me with seed money to incorporate my nonprofit and complete one of our earliest international doll deliveries.”

Amber Koonce (public policy, interdisciplinary studies ’12)
Founder, BeautyGap

By Cyndy Falgout

Read a story about the immersive semester-long Burch Field Research Seminar in Silicon Valley.

See photos from The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship kickoff event on the College’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Access to innovators

Alumni give students in Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship an immersive semester-long experience in Silicon Valley.

Carolina graduate Thompson Paine (far left) made sure all of the Silicon Valley Maymester students received T-shirts when they visited Quizlet, where he is the vice president for operations and business development.

Carolina graduate Thompson Paine (far left) made sure all of the Silicon Valley Maymester students received T-shirts when they visited Quizlet, where he is the vice president for operations and business development. (photo by Susan Hudson)

Junior business major Michael Krantz learned “how to work with brilliant people in a fast-paced environment and meet deadlines.”

Junior health policy management major Pooja Joshi learned to be comfortable interacting with powerful chief executives in her field.

Senior psychology major Tiana Petree changed the trajectory of her career path.

The three UNC undergraduates were among 16 students from the College of Arts & Sciences’ entrepreneurship minor who participated in the inaugural Burch Field Research Seminar in Silicon Valley. The entrepreneurship minor and Honors Carolina introduced the program last spring.

Junior Michael Krantz, right, spends time with UNC alumnus Bill Starling at a UNC basketball watch party in Palo Alto.

Junior Michael Krantz, right, spends time with UNC alumnus Bill Starling at a UNC basketball watch party in Palo Alto. (photo courtesy of Michael Krantz)

Thanks to UNC’s vast and growing alumni network in the region, students gained unprecedented access to leaders of iconic tech companies — including Apple, Cisco, Facebook, GoDaddy and Google — as well as innovative startups. They also received intensive education in the principles and practices of business venturing.

“Understanding the San Francisco Bay Area — Silicon Valley — is a very important part of understanding business today. It’s the most important geography in the world for technology innovation,” said Jennifer Halsey ’94, the UNC entrepreneur-in-residence based in Silicon Valley who mobilized UNC’s alumni network to offer the unique experience.

“We have a close community of UNC alumni here who are willing to mentor and facilitate career opportunities for Carolina students,” Halsey said.

The Silicon Valley semester grew out of a Maymester Summer School course developed and taught by history professor James Leloudis with help from UNC’s Northern California alumni network. He had connected with that network through his development work as associate dean for Honors Carolina. (Read about the Maymester course at gazette.unc.edu.)

Among the area’s alumni was Halsey, a political science and communication studies double major who had parlayed her liberal arts education at UNC into a successful Wall Street investment banking career before moving to California in 1998 to advise and invest in high-growth medical technology companies.

Pooja Joshi (left) and Madrid Danner-Smith wait on the pier before taking a San Francisco Bay cruise with other Burch Field Research Seminar students.

Pooja Joshi (left) and Madrid Danner-Smith wait on the pier before taking a San Francisco Bay cruise with other Burch Field Research Seminar students. (photo courtesy of Pooja Joshi)

Halsey initially agreed to host students during Maymester, and that experience inspired her and others to explore expanding the course to a full semester. She reached out to UNC alumni and they responded by offering to host internships and site visits, share experiences on career panels and meet with students during networking and social gatherings.

The resulting Silicon Valley semester offered an intensive boot camp on entrepreneurial principles and practices, a venture workshop course featuring site visits and informal interactions with Silicon Valley elite, a group project to develop and pitch a startup business plan to a panel of investor judges, and a semester-long internship at a Silicon Valley company or nonprofit.

Petree had been on a fast track to start a nonprofit when she began her spring internship at Peninsula Bridge, a Palo Alto nonprofit. But exposure to every aspect of running such an organization made her realize that sustaining a nonprofit financially would be a tough path right out of college.

At a Carolina-Duke basketball game watch party hosted by Halsey, Petree talked about her goals and experiences with UNC chemistry professor and entrepreneur Joe DeSimone. He invited her to spend a day learning about the corporate world at his 3-D printing company, Carbon, in Redwood City. After meeting with marketing, sales, business development and human resource teams, she found herself drawn to HR. And over the summer, she returned to California to intern for Carbon’s HR department.

“This experience has really changed the path of my life,” Petree said.

Joshi interned at Evidation Health, a fast-growing behavioral data analytics company.

“I think the biggest thing for me was getting the opportunity to learn how to talk to and get help from people who are leaders in your field,” Joshi said. “It’s sometimes very intimidating. But it was amazing to have really intimate conversations with people like that and find they are so willing to help students all the time.”

Tiana Petree, left, shown with classmate Anna Baker, learned how much work goes into running a nonprofit. She waits with another student for the San Francisco Bay Cruise.

Tiana Petree, left, shown with classmate Anna Baker, learned how much work goes into running a nonprofit. (photo courtesy of Pooja Joshi)

For Krantz, an aspiring investment banker, the semester offered the opportunity to work alongside prominent senior vice presidents at GoDaddy, thanks to the small business technology provider’s open office plan and collegial culture.

“This is the tech hotspot of the world, where most venture capital is done,” Krantz said. “I don’t think I’d have been introduced to this world if not for this program.”

The goal is to provide access and opportunity, said Halsey, “inspiring students to create the life they dream of living.”

“Every major college in America is competing for access to Silicon Valley right now,” she added. “Our students have access.”

By Cyndy Falgout

Read about a transformative gift for the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship.

 

 

 

A monumental dig

A large-scale archaeological project on Crete has created an enduring collaboration, an experiential global learning opportunity for UNC students and a future heritage tourism site for the region.

For 16 years, UNC researchers and students have led a large international archaeological team at Azoria, on the island of Crete. In this photo, you see an overhead view of people digging on the Azoria site.

For 16 years, UNC researchers and students have led a large international archaeological team at Azoria, on the island of Crete. (photo by Donald Haggis)

Morning begins early, well before 6 a.m., in the small Greek village of Kavousi, on the island of Crete. Pickup trucks rumble up a winding road in the western Siteia mountains, passing by olive trees — one at least 1,500 years old — and wild flora to transport faculty and students to the top of a steep hill with a breathtaking view of Mirabello Bay below.

Their destination: Azoria, an archaeological site where UNC researchers and students have led a large international, interdisciplinary team for 16 years. Their goal has been to excavate and study the sociopolitical and economic structure of an emerging city in its transition from the Early Iron Age to the Archaic periods (7th to 5th centuries B.C.). It is the first example of an early Greek urban center recovered from Crete — and perhaps the best documented in the Aegean.

Professors Margaret Scarry and Donald Haggis take a break in an archaic (6th c. B.C.) storeroom of the West Building at Azoria.

Professors Margaret Scarry and Donald Haggis take a break in an archaic (6th c. B.C.) storeroom of the West Building at Azoria. (Photo by J. Martini)

It’s hot, dirty, messy and important work, and it’s been the long-term passion of Donald Haggis, the Nicholas A. Cassas Term Professor of Greek Studies in UNC’s department of classics. He established the Azoria Project in 2001 under the auspices of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Early on, he brought in UNC archaeobotanist Margaret Scarry to the project. She’s an expert in plant remains and the current chair of the curriculum in archaeology and director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology (RLA). That move would prove to be fortuitous, given what they would find over the years about the importance of food and communal dining to the city’s civic life. Another key partner is Margaret Mook of Iowa State University, Azoria’s pottery specialist.

Summer 2017 marked the last season of excavation for Azoria, which will be followed by five years of study and analysis. It’s also a time for reflection on the monumental scale of the project — which has raised over $1.8 million in competitive grants (including funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Science Foundation), trained over 300 undergraduate and graduate students, and resulted in the publication of 35 articles and book chapters and 80 papers.

UNC classical archaeology Ph.D. student Cicek Beeby (center) works with trench assistants Zachary Lingle (chemistry, minor in archaeology ’15) and Mallory Melton (anthropology, archaeology ’14.

UNC classical archaeology Ph.D. student Cicek Beeby (center) works with trench assistants Zachary Lingle (chemistry, minor in archaeology ’15) and Mallory Melton (anthropology, archaeology ’14). (photo by Donald Haggis)

Students have come from universities in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, France, Australia and New Zealand.

“This multidisciplinary approach has resulted in a dynamic, intellectual cross-fertilization of fields — bridging departmental divides that sometimes separate the humanities, social and natural sciences,” Haggis said.

Many of the UNC students who have worked at Azoria say it has been among the most formative experiences of their academic careers.

Azoria quite frankly changed his life, said Tucker Watkins King, who spent three seasons on Crete and also worked with the RLA. He graduated in 2017 with majors in archaeology and anthropology and a minor in classical humanities. He plans to apply to graduate school.

“What I love about archaeology is that a little bit of curiosity can take you to amazing places,” he

said. “My participation in the Azoria Project has inspired me to do what I love and seek a career in archaeology. I would never have realized how much ‘playing in the dirt’ brings my life fulfillment.”

Food as the center of civic life

UNC student Anna Dallara (classics ’17) excavates in the Protoarchaic Building (7th c. B.C.)

UNC student Anna Dallara (classics ’17) excavates in the Protoarchaic Building (7th c. B.C.) (photo by L. Thompson)

Archaeological work at Azoria has revealed buildings used for public functions and evidence of communal dining and large-scale feasting.

Archaeologists call the most prominent structure they have unearthed the Monumental Civic Building, a large hall lined with benches that could accommodate about 150 people. It would have been used for communal dining and public meetings, possibly functioning as an early council house. Connected to that building is a small shrine. Archaeologists have also uncovered what they call the Communal Dining Building, composed of suites of interconnected kitchens, storerooms and dining rooms, and — discovered this past summer — a large warehouse for storing food.  An exciting find is a beam olive press, which uses a lever and weights system and is the earliest known example in Greece.

“In the beginning, we envisioned quite a different character to the city,” Scarry said. “But over the course of the excavations, it became apparent that the site was focused around the use of food as the grease for the politics. I don’t know of any other place where we have quite this kind of configuration.”

UNC classical archaeology graduate students Sheri Pak (left) and Melissa Eaby (Ph.D. classical archaeology ’07) examine pottery at the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete.

UNC classical archaeology graduate students Sheri Pak (left) and Melissa Eaby (Ph.D. classical archaeology ’07) examine pottery at the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete. (photo by M.S. Mook)

The sheer scale and size of Azoria is atypical, she noted. “The amount of earth we’ve moved in 10 excavation seasons is uncommon these days. At the end of the summer, we took some drone pictures of the site; it’s pretty stunning.”

The city was destroyed in a catastrophic fire at the beginning of the 5th century B.C.

A meaningful experience for students and faculty

Long before “experiential learning” became a buzzword, Azoria was providing that opportunity to students. Undergraduates spend eight- to 12-hour days working alongside faculty, graduate students and Greek residents. They live in local villages and learn to navigate the customs and culture of daily life. They work at the dig site and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory Study Center for East Crete in nearby Pacheia Ammos. There, they process archaeological findings — plant remains, animal bones and pottery.

An aerial view shows the South Acropolis, Azoria.

An aerial view shows the South Acropolis, Azoria. (photo by D. Faulmann)

They must be adaptable and flexible, as each day unveils new surprises in the soil beneath their feet.

“Taking students into the field is perhaps the most gratifying teaching experience I have had in my 25 years as a university professor,” Haggis said. “It is essentially a sink-or-swim immersion in an intensive field situation.”

Here’s how some of the students characterize their experience:

“I have really flourished academically and socially here in Crete. Each day onsite is an amazing experience. It is exhilarating to be surrounded by centuries of history and people who contain such vast amounts of knowledge about this history,” said Andrianna Dallis (classical archaeology and psychology ’20, with a minor in neuroscience).

“My first season as a trench assistant with the project was a major turning point in my intellectual development. I was immediately captivated by the interpretative problems posed by field excavation and the satisfaction that came in the pursuit of greater understanding,” said Alex Griffin, (classical archaeology ’17), who will be entering the classics post-baccalaureate program at UNC this year.

Project chief conservator, Stephania Chlouveraki, teaching object conservation to students at INSTAP-Study Center for East Crete.

Project chief conservator, Stephania Chlouveraki, teaching object conservation to students at INSTAP-Study Center for East Crete. (Photo by L. Thompson)

“Azoria has shaped the way that I conduct my research. As an undergraduate I quickly became interested in urban problems — how cities work, how communities function and why some communities thrive while others dissolve. Azoria provides the cornerstone for a lot of my thinking on these issues,” said Drew Cabaniss (classical archaeology ’15, with minors in geology and ancient Greek). He is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan.

Public humanities and cultural tourism

Azoria is also a significant public humanities project for the University, said Haggis. From the project’s inception, he and others have been committed to side-by-side excavation and conservation as well as sustainable cultural tourism.

An aerial view of the storerooms of the West Building at Azoria shows deposits of storage vessels.

An aerial view of the storerooms of the West Building at Azoria shows deposits of storage vessels. (Photo by D. Faulmann)

In 2012, Azoria won a Best Practices in Site Preservation Award from the Archaeological Institute of America for its focus on working with local specialists in stewardship of the site.

A new grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will support the final stages of site conservation and public programming, with the long-term goal of creating an archaeological park that will provide a positive economic impact for the region.

“Our work has reached diverse and international non-academic audiences,” Haggis said. “We consider public education — local and global — to be the most important outcome of our work.”

Learn more at azoria.org.

By Kim Weaver Spurr ’88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water Over the Bridge

A professor of American studies is helping port communities worldwide understand how rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change affect shipping and coastal infrastructures.

More than 14,000 vehicles cross the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge every day — a lifeline for the people of Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, connecting them to the Northern Outer Banks. Below the bridge, tides from the Atlantic Ocean push into the widening Oregon Inlet, breaking through to the Pamlico Sound.

The Bonner Bridge Replacement Project began on March 8, 2016. The new structure is designed to withstand 100 years of ocean currents, built with high-durability concrete and reinforced stainless steel. But it comes after years of failed attempts to create a durable bridge and countless arguments over environmental concerns.

The path forward, according to Rachel Willis, involves infrastructure and ports (like the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and Port of Wilmington in the background) that work with sea-level rise, rather than against it. (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

Beach erosion, severe weather and heavy traffic have taken their toll on the bridge since it was first built in 1963. In 1990, in the middle of the night, a dredge rammed into the bridge during a brutal nor’easter, causing a 400-foot section to collapse into the waves below. For more than three months, Hatteras Island could be accessed only by boat or plane. In 2013, safety concerns closed the bridge for 12 days when routine sonar scanning showed that substantial sand erosion had compromised the support structure. And in summer 2017, construction crews struck major underground electrical cables, knocking out power to Ocracoke and Hatteras islands for a week.

Since the bridge’s original construction, more than $300 million has been spent to protect and repair it.

——-

Rachel Willis watches the bridge construction from the water’s edge on Hatteras Island. She sighs.

“The ocean wants to open that inlet,” she says. “But we have put all this development and coastal infrastructure in a fixed place — and nature keeps taking it back. How are we preparing to protect the people in these communities? The answer is not ignoring the signs that nature gives us.”

Willis’ research examines the intersection of transportation infrastructure and sea-level rise. How does a labor economist end up studying climate change?

The answer is not one you’d expect: socks.

The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge connects Ocracoke and Hatteras islands to the Northern Outer Banks. The bridge is in the middle of a major replacement project after decades of severe weather, heavy traffic and beach erosion have taken their toll. (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

The Herbert C. Bonner Bridge connects Ocracoke and Hatteras islands to the Northern Outer Banks. The bridge is in the middle of a major replacement project after decades of severe weather, heavy traffic and beach erosion have taken their toll. (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

Knitting global social fabric

In the early 1990s, Willis and her students compiled data from every child care center in North Carolina — research that contributed to the development of Smart Start legislation. In 1994, while presenting this research at a conference, she met a sock manufacturer who would eventually introduce her to an industry specialist who created training programs for factories and workers.

In the 10 years that followed, Willis followed the lifecycle of socks around the world. She traveled to Italy, China and the Czech Republic to study sock-knitting machines and business practices. In North Carolina, she visited more than 200 sock factories and interviewed thousands of workers, owners, supervisors and suppliers.

But it wasn’t just about socks.

“The purpose of this research was, really, to find out the future of manufacturing, which was obviously declining in the United States. It quickly became clear that cost-effective land transportation was vital to global competitiveness.”

By land or by sea?

When you drive into Morehead City, you can follow the train tracks all the way to the port, thanks to the city’s namesake, John Motley Morehead, who as governor oversaw their construction in the 19th century. Today, boats still arrive at the port and load goods onto the trains, which make deliveries to local factories and villages along the corridor.

But this kind of infrastructure is the exception. “We’ve undervalued trains as a transportation method in this country,” Willis says. “It’s all about the interstate system here.”

Here’s why Willis believes the nation must put goods on railcars and then get railcars to ports: It costs about 80 cents per mile to move one metric ton of freight on an airplane. It costs 27 cents to move it by truck. It costs 2 cents by rail. “It costs one penny by water,” Willis stresses. These numbers don’t just represent product cost — they are a proxy for the amount of carbon put into the atmosphere to move goods around the planet.

Willis (front row, far right) poses with students from her “Global Impacts on American Waters” class atop the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, N.C.

Willis (front row, far right) poses with students from her “Global Impacts on American Waters” class atop the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, N.C. (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

The search for a solution

The Dutch have a famous saying: “God built the world, but the Dutch built Holland.” About one-fifth of the Netherlands lies below sea level and 60 percent is vulnerable to flooding — startling statistics that the Dutch have learned to live with. Unlike most of the world, they have always worked to maintain a symbiotic relationship with the water.

Willis has always been fascinated by Dutch resiliency. And with good reason.

In the 13th century, the Dutch were already reclaiming land lost to flooding through the construction of dikes. Two hundred years later, the invention of the rotating turret windmill not only pumped water out of permanently flooded lands, it provided an energy source. Fast forward to the 1980s, when the Dutch began the largest land reclamation project and erected the grandest flood barrier that the world has ever seen.

The barrier, called Maeslantkering, is equivalent in size to two Eiffel Towers placed horizontally on the water in the Hook of Holland. In 2015, Willis decided she had to see it for herself. “If you’re looking for an insane field trip, go see where these solutions are in full force,” she advises.

“The Dutch spend the same percentage of their national income on infrastructure related to water management as the U.S. spends on the military,” Willis says. “Because fighting the water is their national defense.”

Willis returned to the Netherlands this past summer to interview local experts on their refocused efforts to work with nature to provide coastal protection. In 2011, they used 21 million cubic meters of sand to form a hook-shaped peninsula called the “sand engine,” which enables the forces of the ocean to deposit sand along the North Sea coast.

Willis realizes that these solutions are not financially possible for most of the world’s coastlines. “The costs are astronomical for all but the wealthiest communities and countries,” she says.

Willis points toward Hatteras Island as the ferry nears the docks. She’s been studying alternative means of passenger transportation since she was on the board of the Triangle Transit Authority (now GoTriangle) in the 1990s, and became interested in the same concept for freight near the end of that decade. But even before then, she spent her childhood riding trains and boats across Europe and Asia, having lived in both Germany and Japan. (photo by Alyssa LaFaro)

Optimism and education

Approximately 50 percent of the world’s population will live within 30 miles of the coast by 2050, according to Willis. How do we prepare people for threats from more intense storms? More importantly, what happens to communities that are at risk now?

“I have great optimism about finding solutions,” Willis says. “Because I’ve seen extraordinary examples of them.” She stresses that working toward solutions involves seeing the whole picture.

“Our goals are not American — our goals are global. … The problem is not going away. It’s water over the bridge. We need to look at infrastructure in the short run that is adaptable to these floodwaters, but we need to use policy and incentives to stop building at the edge.”

Story and photos by Alyssa LaFaro, a writer for Endeavors magazine. The print version of this story was written before the hurricanes that hit the Southeast.

 

A love for Latin rhythm

Music professor Stephen Anderson, a critically acclaimed composer and pianist, has a knack for finding Latin rhythms wherever he goes — most recently, the Dominican Republic.

 

“Es como una sopa. ¿Qué necesitamos para preparar una sopa?” [“It’s like a soup. What do we need to make soup?”]

Steve Anderson surveys the group of college-age musicians — over 30 of them have squeezed into a small classroom to attend his master class at the National Conservatory of Music in Santo Domingo. Every eye is on him, bright and attentive.

Carne!” says one of the students.

Eso — exacto,” Anderson says, pointing to the student. Yes, exactly.

Steve Anderson stands at a whiteboard and explains some of the theory behind improvisation in jazz composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Santo Domingo.

Anderson explains some of the theory behind improvisation in jazz composition at the National Conservatory of Music in Santo Domingo. (photo by Mary Lide Parker)

Constructing a jazz harmony is like throwing together a homemade stew, according to Anderson. “The meat is the arpeggio,” he explains. “Play a chord progression, and that’s your main substance. And you could just play that — the core element.”

In fluent Spanish, Anderson details how combining scales adds color to the harmony. “So those are two elements — the meat and potatoes,” he says. “But then you add the spice, the improvisation. Just like a stew that only had meat and potatoes — how would it taste? It would be kind of bland. How spicy you make it is really up to each individual chef.”

Anderson talks to a student after the master class.

Anderson fields questions from students after the master class. (photo by Mary Lide Parker)

Finding Latin music in unlikely places

Anderson fell in love with Latin music as a college student — but he wasn’t anywhere near Latin America. Attending a university in Utah, he studied traditional jazz and classical composition and played in a country band on the weekends. To earn more money, he applied for a pianist position in a salsa band.

“It was all these guys from Colombia,” Anderson recalls. “They weren’t really educated in musical notation; they played just enough piano to show me what to do.” Through this process — no formal instruction, no reading music, just copying what he was shown — Anderson learned his first Latin rhythms. He was hooked.

Over the past few decades, no matter where he has lived, Anderson has always befriended musicians from Latino cultures. (He spent two years in Mexico, hence his Spanish fluency.) “We become good friends because I’m interested in their music, and I think they find me interesting because I’ve studied so much composition and theory,” he says.

Students listen to a lecture by Anderson and Jeffry Eckels.

Students soak up the lecture by Anderson and Jeffry Eckels. (photo by Mary Lide Parker)

Three years ago, Anderson met Guillo Carias, a retired jazz musician from the Dominican Republic. “He played in the symphony there,” Anderson says. “He worked in Miami for years, but he retired to — of all places — Cary, North Carolina.” Carias regularly came to hear Anderson’s jazz trio play at a venue in North Raleigh, and the two became good friends. One night, out of the blue, Carias invited Anderson to play a concert in the Dominican Republic.

“I had played Puerto Rican jazz, Cuban jazz and Brazilian jazz, but never really Dominican,” Anderson says. “I didn’t know anything about it — but of course I said yes.”  Over the next several months, Anderson transcribed dozens of Dominican rhythms. “I looked up videos of people playing on YouTube,” he says. “I began to think about how I could write my music and fuse it with their music.”

When Anderson first traveled to the D.R. in 2014, he met musicians just as eager to learn from him — in particular, Guy Frometta, a drummer. “Guy and I were very like-minded, as he was interested in American jazz music and I was interested in Dominican music,” Anderson says. “So we were teaching each other. Mostly he was teaching me.” The result of that collaboration is The Dominican Jazz Project, a concert and music collaboration that resulted in a CD released on Summit Records in 2016.

Anderson performs with Sandy Gabriel, a renowned saxophone player in the Dominican Republic.

Anderson performs with Sandy Gabriel, a renowned saxophone player in the Dominican Republic. (photo by Mary Lide Parker)

Forming a brotherhood  

In spring 2017 Anderson was back in the D.R. to teach a master class and to perform at the Jazzomania Jazz Festival with the eight other talented musicians from The Dominican Jazz Project.

“Sometimes, especially in academia, people go out of their way to ‘have a cultural experience,’ but for me, it’s happened very naturally,” Anderson says. “I think the key is humility. Be interested, learn from other people, then step away from it. As a gringo, I’m not trying to ‘be a Dominican.’ In some ways that would be disrespectful. They wanted me to be myself and write my harmony but then fuse elements of their music with my ideas.”

The Dominican Jazz Project has been a prolific collaboration for Anderson and his fellow musicians, initiating unique teaching opportunities and creating lasting friendships. “When you have an opportunity to work very personally and intimately — sometimes you stay in their house and eat food with them — it changes everything,” Anderson says.

“What I’ve realized through this process is these guys are just like me. They are my brothers, and we felt that within hours just by playing music together.”

Stephen Anderson also directs UNC’s annual Summer Jazz Workshop. His participation in The Dominican Jazz Project was supported through private gifts.

Story and photos by Mary Lide Parker ’10, a writer for Endeavors magazine.

 

Convergent science gains momentum

Professor Rich Superfine in the new BeAM campus makerspace (lab) shares how faculty are integrating these campus makerspaces into their course curricula.

Department of applied physical sciences chair Rich Superfine discusses how faculty are integrating campus makerspaces into their course curricula. (photo by Lars Sahl)

Rich Superfine, chair of the department of applied physical sciences, explains this next-generation approach to science and the new institute that will be home to it at UNC.

Q: What exactly is convergent science?

A: Convergent science is at its core an expansion of the concept of “team science,” where the basic scientist pursuing new discoveries is engaged from day one with the engineer, medical doctor and entrepreneur to seamlessly transition discoveries to impact in the lives of people who most need the innovation. Scientists have performed science for decades in individual laboratories within isolated departments. We have found that integrating discovery science with partners far down the chain of application is essential to speeding the transition of discovery to impact.

Q:  What are examples of the innovations that can be spurred by combining insights from different disciplines?

A: Examples include the use of serious gaming technologies to design new materials to deliver drugs to patients or materials to use solar energy to create clean water and electricity. In each case, we need to answer basic science questions to create breakthroughs to deliver new effective therapies, to lower costs and enhance efficiencies. However, the number of science directions to pursue is vast. By having the engineer and clinician as part of the team, the science to be discovered is steered to where it can be most effective. For example, in the case of solar energy, a decision can be made early in the experiments to focus on the fundamental physics and chemistry of materials that are economically synthesized.

Q: What research is happening now at UNC that we could call convergent science?

A: One example is from the laboratories of Joe DeSimone, where he has created teams to speed the impact of new particle printing methods for pharmaceuticals and new 3-D printing technologies. Another is physics professors Jianping Lu and Otto Zhou, who have taken the basic science of carbon nanotubes and transitioned them into a new X-ray technology that is revolutionizing medical imaging. At the outset, Lu and Zhou worked with UNC biomedical engineering professors and UNC clinical medical imaging professors to understand how they should develop the nanotube devices.

Q:  Tell us about the UNC Institute for Convergent Science.

A: An important addition to the Carolina Physical Science Complex, this new institute will empower convergent science across the University, providing collaborative and entrepreneurial research space, meeting space, offices for visiting entrepreneurs and scientists from partnering companies. It will be a resource for researchers who want to engage companies in their work or to start their own enterprises. The ICS will strengthen the preparedness of the talent pipeline by engaging existing and new undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral training programs so that the next generation of students incorporates convergence as a mentality to approach their own work.

Former Ph.D. student Katie Moga holds an adhesive patch embedded with microneedles which was deisgned to deliver medication painlessly. This is an example of multidisciplinary research known as convergent science.

When Katie Moga was a doctoral student in chemistry at UNC in 2015 in the lab of Joe DeSimone, she helped design adhesive patches embedded with microneedles to deliver medication painlessly. The technology has the potential for application in everything from vaccines to chemotherapy, and is an example of the kind of multidisciplinary research the new Institute for Convergent Science will support. (photo courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill)

Q: How does convergent science fit into UNC’s broader research and innovation ambitions?

A: UNC is a research powerhouse that ranks 8th in federal funding nationally. We deserve to be proud of that activity, while also recognizing the positive feedback to scientific discovery when we step up to the challenge of engaging how our research translates directly to a societal impact.

Q: Why is the institute an important addition to the Carolina Physical Science Complex?

A: The creation of the institute, a signature initiative in the University’s just-launched fundraising campaign, is a phenomenal, transformational opportunity for UNC. We will co-locate individual science laboratories with spaces for team science and collaboration, and will build a state-of-the-art technology hub that will be a beacon to students and faculty. BeAM — the UNC network of makerspaces — has started this revolution on campus by injecting the excitement of the making of things through digital technologies like 3-D printing, electronics, wood- and metal working into the lives of students and faculty across the arts and sciences. The building itself will serve as a metaphor for this dynamic, creative and collaborative approach to the arts, science and discovery.

Q: How can we encourage students to work on creative solutions that stretch across disciplinary boundaries?

A: Our undergraduates are encouraged and empowered from the moment they step foot on campus to work on real problems of consequence. Many are drawn to UNC because of its deep commitment to public service and to creating innovations that address grand challenges. And many already have the skills to take off upon arrival, but many more need to be trained in collaborative interdisciplinary approaches. Successful projects demand multiple viewpoints and talents, where everyone shares a deep respect for all disciplines.

Read about an example of convergent science — the nanocomposites research by UNC professors Theo Dingemans, Greg Forest, Daphne Klotsa and Peter Mucha.

Read about how the Institute for Convergent Science is one of the signature initiatives in the Campaign for Carolina, UNC’s newly announced $4.25 billion fundraising campaign.

Interview by Kim Weaver Spurr ’88

Science sized super-small

UNC researchers converge to pool their talents, creating nanocomposites with extraordinary properties

Staff members Wallace Ambrose, Amar S. Kumbhar and Carrie Donley and professors Theo Dingemans, Greg Forest and Peter Mucha stand in front of equipment in the Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory, also known by the acronym, CHANL..

From left, Chapel Hill Analytical and Nanofabrication Laboratory (CHANL) staff members Wallace Ambrose, Amar S. Kumbhar and Carrie Donley support the nanocomposites research of professors Theo Dingemans, Greg Forest and Peter Mucha —producing high-resolution images of carbon nanotubes embedded in crystalline polymer. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

The telephone was used for one thing: making calls. A cell phone, in contrast, provides a small office’s worth of functions, from email and music to video editing and GPS. Making materials multifunctional is the goal of a team of UNC scientists from diverse disciplines. How about a coating that is completely impermeable — able to conduct, perhaps even generate, electricity?

Theo Dingemans, professor of applied physical sciences, explains his collaborative work this way: “For the people who build cars or airplanes, we want them to have new materials that allow them to design newer, faster, cheaper, more fuel-efficient machines.”

Dingemans compares the new composite materials that he and his colleagues are designing to Legos. “Lego blocks are available in many different shapes and forms so kids can let their creativity run wild and build fun structures. We do the same thing in that we design new molecular ‘Legos’ so material scientists and engineers can let their creativity run wild and design new structures with new functionalities.”

Amar Kumbhar peers through a transmission electron microscope as Professor Greg Forest looks on.

Amar Kumbhar peers through a transmission electron microscope as Forest looks on. The microscope provides critical high-resolution data to guide and validate the experimental and modeling team effort. (photo by Kristen Chavez)

The scale on which Dingemans and his colleagues — mathematics professors Greg Forest and Peter Mucha and applied physical sciences assistant professor Daphne Klotsa — work is tiny, measured in nanometers. How small is a nanometer? A human hair is approximately 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers thick. An antibody is about 10 nanometers; a virus is about 100 nanometers.

Nanotechnology has unleashed an entirely new design space for materials. A nanocomposite is made of a matrix material — such as a polymer or plastic — mixed with a small number of rod-like nanoparticles to add impermeability, conductivity or other properties such as strengthening rebar. The addition of a small amount of tiny particles dramatically changes the properties of the overall material. For example, imagine a computer you could roll up and fold like a piece of paper.

The team develops and validates nanocomposites both virtually and experimentally.

Forest, who is the Grant Dahlstrom Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, describes the process: “The idea is to insert nanoparticles into a polymer matrix at very small volume fractions so that the composite acquires the special properties of the nanoparticles. For example, 1 to 2 percent volume of conducting rod-like nanoparticles can make a polymer nanocomposite conduct electricity even though the host polymer does not.”

The process of developing these nanoscale composites relies on a variety of expertise, a coming together of different disciplines sometimes referred to as “convergent science.” The team relies on Forest and Mucha’s theoretical and computational modeling, Klotsa’s zoom-out view of nanostructures (called coarse-grained modeling) and Dingemans’ polymer chemistry research and experimentation.

Physicist Daphne Klotsa (pictured here) is a member of the nanocomposites team.

Physicist Daphne Klotsa is part of the nanocomposites team.

Convergent science benefits from multiple, diverse expertise when approaching a research question. It streamlines Dingemans’ experiments to be more cost-effective and targeted. “Every new piece of experimental information the team provides affects what we might choose to model or how we’re going to go about it,” says Mucha.

Klotsa adds, “Each model brings in different knowledge and has different constraints so you can access only certain types of information, and then someone else has to take over. “

Their successful convergent science approach has attracted funding from the Army Research Office (ARO), among other agencies.

The scientists say this collaborative process has changed the way they conduct research.

“It’s highly time-consuming, but toward a greater end of achieving something that none of these groups could have done on their own,” Mucha explains.

“Working this way, you get a lot more done, you learn a lot more and it’s more fun,” says Dingemans. “I think it makes a difference in this field and a bigger impact on the world.”

Forest adds that UNC graduate and postdoctoral students also benefit from a convergent science environment.

“The problems our students work on are not direct applications of what we already know. They’re working on problems where new knowledge of chemistry, processing materials, mathematics and computation is needed — work that will move nanotechnology, and their careers, forward.”

Read a Q&A with professor Rich Superfine about convergent science.

By Dianne Gooch Shaw ’71