Foundations

From the inner workings of the universe to the biological system of a fruit fly, these stories uncover the revolutionary nature of basic science and its potential to shape our world.

Building Resilience for Storm-Battered N.C.

The record-breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season included 30 storms, and while North Carolina managed to dodge the 12 hurricanes that made landfall, that won’t always be the case in the future. A team of interdisciplinary researchers at UNC is combining their expertise in areas like human health, ecology, and urban planning to create a long-term holistic plan helping vulnerable communities prepare for the next generation of extreme weather events.

READDI, Not Reactive

For decades, scientists warned of the potential for a global coronavirus outbreak. But when SARS-CoV-2 emerged, no therapeutics, drugs, or vaccines were readily available. The Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI) — founded by researchers at UNC and the Structural Genomics Consortium — is not only finding solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also drugs and therapeutics for future viral outbreaks.

The Invisible Chase

Just over 100 years ago, physicists stumbled upon an elementary particle that could answer questions about the origin of the universe. Elusive and nearly massless, neutrinos may be the solution to understanding everything from the Big Bang to the inner workings of the atomic nucleus — and UNC physicist Julieta Gruszko can’t stop chasing them.

Tiny Molecules, Big Potential

North Carolina native and organic chemist Sidney Wilkerson-Hill is investigating ways to recreate the power of plants in the lab — work that could lead to advances in drug development.

Cooperation Over Competition

Flocks of birds. Schools of fish. Colonies of ants. Their strength is in numbers as they can fend off larger predators, move faster, and mate more easily. Daphne Klotsa, an applied physicist, studies how these biological swarms function in hopes to improve how humans and automated technologies navigate the world.

New-Age Nicotine

The number of middle and high school students that use electronic cigarettes rose from 3.6 million to 5 million in a single year, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Study. As a wave of vaping-related deaths were thrust into the spotlight last year, researchers at Carolina have become experts in all areas of the field from pulmonology to marketing.

Unseen Science

RENCI is a hub for supercomputing and data science power at Carolina. The institute is the backbone for a slew of successful projects, from the data management software used by the National Library of France to a storm surge modeling system relied upon by FEMA and now a global platform for researchers to develop and test new internet architectures.

The Timber Chronicles

As a paleoclimatologist, Erika Wise studies climate trends from the past thousand years. Her methods of inquiry may be complicated — using microscopic crossdating and isotope analysis — but her research begins with something far more common: trees.

The Head and the Heart

Todd Cohen and Jonathan Schisler — a neuroscientist and a heart researcher — began working together in 2016 after meeting for coffee in Marsico Hall. By combining their expertise in protein studies, they strive to develop a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

Gut Instinct

Just 10 years ago, no one knew how to grow intestinal stem cells outside of the body, preventing scientists from uncovering the mysteries of the gut and the problems surrounding it. But in 2010, that all changed — when Scott Magness’s lab became the first in the United States to grow “mini-guts” inside a petri dish, using them to develop better treatments for human gastrointestinal diseases.