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Inside Research

An Internal Newsletter for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research

December 2020

an illustration of Alice Marwick

Mad About Media

Alice Marwick learned how to code when she was 11 and began working in the tech industry at 19. After the dot-com bubble burst, she realized she could combine her passion for technology with her love for social science in a graduate program. Now, the UNC communications professor researches disinformation and privacy, two of the most pressing issues in the world of media ethics.

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The Future of Human Genomics Research Will Address Grand Challenges
by Terry Magnuson, Vice Chancellor for Research

The National Human Genome Research Institute just published its 2020 Vision for the next decade of genomics research, a field that often addresses some of the world's biggest challenges, from cancer to COVID-19.

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The OVCR has revised guidance regarding onsite occupancy for research activities. On June 1, the university resumed research operations in facilities and labs on campus. At that time, our office issued requirements that onsite occupancy of our research facilities not exceed 50 percent of normal occupancy with six feet of distancing or 200 square feet per person. The updated guidance removes the 50 percent onsite occupancy limitation, but retains the physical distancing guidance, refined to six feet or 150 square feet per person.

It is important to note that this is guidance. The research deans of individual schools and the College of Arts & Sciences are responsible for deciding how their units' research operations will be managed, consistent with the university guidelines and other measures to ensure safety. When on campus, all individuals must maintain appropriate physical distancing from others and wear a face mask. Research administration that can be conducted remotely should continue in that manner.

All other guidelines listed on the COVID-19 information for researchers website remain in effect.

UNC Research News & Updates

IE's CMAS Center director steps down

UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) research professor Adel Hanna is retiring after nearly two decades of leading the Community for Modeling and Analysis System (CMAS) Center. Established to improve air quality modeling and analyses, the center moved its home to IE in 2003. Hanna was instrumental in growing the user community to thousands worldwide, overseeing implementation of a training program, and spearheading special issues in scientific journals to bolster the center's reputation. The annual CMAS Conference also evolved under Hanna's leadership and is now a major venue for discussing advances in air quality modeling and policy.

Tom Pierce, associate director of the EPA's Atmospheric and Environmental Systems Modeling Division, gave a tribute to Hanna at this year's CMAS conference. "Adel was the ultimate diplomat, knowing just the right words and offered the right suggestions at the right time to ensure harmony and continued success of CMAS," he said. "We thank you for your leadership of CMAS over the past 20 years and we wish you all the best in your well-deserved retirement."

IE Deputy Director Sarav Arunachalam will serve as acting director of the CMAS Center until the position is permanently filled.

CRC enters sixth year of projects

The Coastal Resilience Center (CRC) continues its sixth year of projects, focusing on protecting communities from coastal hazards and creating products and services for end users. The center currently supports 16 core projects across four categories — coastal infrastructure resistance, building resilient communities, coastal hazards modeling, and education and workforce development — that focus on the transition of research outcomes and the institutionalization of education programs based at CRC partner universities. In the coming year, researchers and educators will focus on the most effective ways to transition research outcomes, tools, and guidance to end-users on the federal, state, and local levels.

Inside UNC Research

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A Q&A with Quinton Johnson
In November, Quinton Johnson joined the Division of Institutional Integrity and Risk Management as the university's export control officer. In this role, he will work closely with faculty and staff to train and support individuals engaged in research and international transactions. We spoke with Johnson to learn about his experiences with and the importance of export controls.

What are export controls?

Export controls are a series of laws and regulations based on international treaties and domestic policies that restrict the dissemination of certain technologies and information.

Why is this role so vital at a research university?

Research universities receive a majority of their support from federal funding agencies. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that those taxpayer funds are utilized responsibly and ethically. Export control laws and regulations were primarily developed to curb the proliferation of weapons across the world. It is not always obvious how new technologies and inventions may be used. Export control officers are constantly reading the applicable regulations, working with government and industry partners, and reviewing new research awards to help identify and control new information or technology that might have the potential to be used nefariously.

What did you do before coming to UNC and how will you apply skills from that time here?

Most recently, I led the export controls compliance effort at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. I was the first person to lead that effort, and I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be as collaborative as possible. My goal at UNC is to provide support and answers when needed, with the overarching aim of reducing compliance burden. I plan to use the lessons learned from building a program at VCU to develop a process at UNC that is integrated and imbedded in current policy and procedure so that our program enhances rather than hinders our faculty, staff, and students' research and academic efforts.

Why and when in the research process should researchers reach out to you?

My "zoom" door is always open and my calendar up to date. Anytime anyone has a question about what export compliance is or how it may impact them or their department, I am happy to chat. If you would like a basic review of UNC's policies and procedures, you can also visit the Division of Institutional Integrity and Risk Management webpage or contact the office at exportcontrol@unc.edu.

You are officially a Tar Heel now. What's your favorite part so far about being a member of this community?

My co-workers have been amazing. I had so many people voluntarily reach out to help orient me within the university. I am only in my third week, but I already feel like a part of the team. I truly am excited to contribute to the research and academic efforts of this world-renowned institution.

Research Spotlight

Nilu Goonetilleke

Changing the Trajectory of HIV

School of Medicine immunologist Nilu Goonetilleke studies therapeutics that may strengthen the immune system's response to HIV — research that could ultimately lead to a cure for the disease.

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seeds spilling out of a packet onto dirt

Celebrating Plant Conservation

For 20 years, the North Carolina Botanical Garden has been a member of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, an underground seed bank that protects 2.4 billion seeds from all across the planet.

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Upcoming Events


Home Health Workers and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Join this first working group meeting for researchers interested in home health workers and the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the interdisciplinary seminar hosted by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

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A Guide to Non-Academic Interviews

This special seminar from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will use a common HR method of questioning called behavior-based interviewing to prepare postdoctoral research associates for non-academic interviewing, from overall structure to the types of questions asked.

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Communication Skills

Learn how to communicate with research teams and the public in this professional development seminar for research professionals, graduate students, postdoctoral research associates, and early stage faculty researchers from the N.C. Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute.

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Using Qualitative Research to Study Social Justice

Uncover how to use qualitative research to draw attention to underlying mechanisms that define social problems in this online course from the Odum Institute.

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By the Numbers

2 billion

pounds of North Carolina sweet potatoes were produced in 2019, making N.C. the nation's lead producer for 38 years in a row. More…


local businesses will receive plans to improve their operations during the pandemic thanks to Carolina PROSPER. More…