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Extraordinary Energy, Extraordinary Research

Extraordinary Energy, Extraordinary Research

In 1949, when NC State physics professor Clifford K. Beck envisioned a nuclear reactor on campus to support a course of study in nuclear engineering, over 90 percent of the nation’s atomic energy was directed toward military ends. Four years later, with fuel hand delivered from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Beck and his colleagues powered up the world’s first reactor dedicated to peaceful, educational purposes. Today, that tradition of leadership in energy technology continues at NC State. In this issue of Results, you’ll learn about two multidisciplinary, data-driven programs working to make nuclear power safer and more efficient. With nuclear power generating more than 60 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity, our work is vitally important to the economy—and to future generations. In this issue, you’ll also learn about efforts to avert a global food crisis and find out how NC State is making it easier to move innovative ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Plus, you’ll get an early look at some of NC State’s most promising...

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Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 1): Can Science Save America’s Nuclear Industry?

Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 1): Can Science Save America’s Nuclear Industry?

It’s the carbon-free fuel that powers steam turbines on the electrical grid and helps doctors detect tumor cells. But technological challenges and national security threats have scientists working overtime to keep nuclear energy safe and reliable. By David Hunt From Diablo Canyon on the central California coast to Turkey Point on the southeast tip of Florida, the United States is home to 99 nuclear power reactors at 62 nuclear plants generating roughly 20 percent of the nation’s electrical energy. But in an industry beset by disruptive technologies and intense competitive pressures, the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. is anything but certain. In a status report published last fall, the Nuclear Energy Institute—the industry’s foremost lobbying organization—painted a grim picture, pointing to a “perfect storm” of economic, regulatory and market forces threatening to swamp nuclear operators under a tide of red ink. Renewables such as wind and solar are gaining market share while a flood of low-cost natural gas extracted from shale is driving down energy prices. At...

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Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 2): Data Detectives Track Down Stray Nukes

Risks and Rewards in the Nuclear Age (Part 2): Data Detectives Track Down Stray Nukes

By Brent Winter First data point: A contractor places an order for lumber, dry wall, wiring, cement, paint — all the materials you would need to build an unremarkable warehouse. Second data point: A thousand miles away, a shipment of magnetic high-speed bearings is stolen from a freight truck. Third data point: An oil-exploration company discovers that one of the radiological sources it uses in sensors that gather geological data from boreholes has gone missing. Fourth data point: Mobile radiation detectors in a midsize city find traces of radiation higher than the normal background radiation would account for. Then a data analyst uses a computer in a secure facility, as well as some highly sophisticated data-analysis techniques, to connect these four dots as signs of illegal nuclear proliferation activities. In short, somebody’s probably trying to build a dirty bomb — but now we’re onto them. That kind of early detection is the goal of the Consortium for Nonproliferation Enabling Capabilities, a partnership funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration...

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Research Revolution Aims to Avert Food Crisis

Research Revolution Aims to Avert Food Crisis

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative launches a bold, innovative effort to face down emerging threats to the world’s food security. By Dee Shore To satisfy the needs of a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, experts predict farmers must produce 70 percent more food and fiber than they do today. Such a jump in production, some say, requires nothing short of a revolution in agricultural sciences. Farmers need new, science-based technology and practices that lead to higher yields on less land, using less water, while safeguarding the environment. The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative at NC State is quickly positioning itself to be a leader of that revolution. Through the initiative, university researchers, teachers and extension specialists are coming together with farmers and other agribusiness and biosciences professionals to find ways to make North Carolina an international hub for plant sciences innovation. “The initiative is reformulating everything we do at the university that touches plants,” says Steve Lommel, associate dean in the College of Agriculture...

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Strengthening Startups to Ensure Success

Strengthening Startups to Ensure Success

NC State spurs entrepreneurship by helping startups attract funding for ideas with the best commercialization potential. By Brent Winter Launching and running a startup company requires expertise in a dizzying range of areas: marketing, business law, accounting, computer networking, human resources, operations and sales, to name a few. No wonder every entrepreneur hits a seemingly insurmountable wall at some point — usually quite early in the undertaking. It’s to be expected considering the complexity of transforming an innovative idea into a prosperous business enterprise. And if you already have a day job — say you’re a university faculty member with research and classroom responsibilities — then that wall may seem especially high. Breaking down the barriers to business innovation has become a specialty at NC State’s Office of Technology Commercialization and New Ventures, which just completed its most successful year ever. OTCNV collaborated with NC State faculty to launch 12 startup companies, execute 164 commercialization agreements, issue 65 patents and generate $3.8 million in licensing revenue in 2016. How...

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In the Lab: Beer Brewers Abuzz Over Wild Yeast

In the Lab: Beer Brewers Abuzz Over Wild Yeast

When John Sheppard was asked to brew beer from wild yeast, he was skeptical. Humans have been brewing beer for millennia; if yeasts that could make a good pint were out there, they would surely have been found long ago. Sheppard set out to prove himself wrong. A bioprocessing professor at NC State, Sheppard is both a beer brewer and a scientist. His research focuses on the art and science of turning water, hops, malt and yeast into ales and lagers. In 2014, representatives of the North Carolina Science Festival approached Sheppard about developing an exhibit on the science of beer for the World Beer Festival, which was being held in Raleigh. They suggested he work with NC State biologist Rob Dunn to find wild yeasts and use them to make beers that could be sampled at the World Beer Festival, offering attendees a tasty and accessible way into the microbial biology of the natural world. Sheppard’s initial skepticism was well-founded: Of all the hundreds of different species of yeast, many of which include different...

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Extraordinary Research

Extraordinary Research

Genetically Engineered Maggots Aid in Diabetes Treatment In a proof-of-concept study, NC State researchers have shown that genetically engineered green bottle fly larvae can produce and secrete a molecule that helps promote cell growth and wound healing, a discovery that could save people from amputations and other harmful effects of diabetes. Read more >> Praising Top Performer Improves Teamwork Conventional wisdom holds that boosting team performance in the workplace should focus on rewarding entire teams that perform well—and that rewarding individuals increases competition rather than helping team performance. But new research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that rewarding individual workers can boost performance both for other workers and for the team. Read more >> Metal Foam Stops Bullets Composite metal foams are tough enough to turn an armor-piercing bullet into dust on impact. Since these foams are also lighter than metal plating, the material may be used to create new types of body and vehicle armor—and that’s just the beginning of its potential uses. Read more...

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Outstanding Faculty

Outstanding Faculty

Mackay Wins Wolf Prize Trudy Mackay, William Neal Reynolds and University Distinguished Professor in NC State’s biological sciences department, has received the prestigious Wolf Prize for her work benefiting agriculture. The award is given in a number of disciplines, including agriculture, chemistry, math, medicine, physics and the arts. Read more >> Nutter Wins National Recognition Susan K. Nutter, vice provost and director of libraries at NC State, is the 2016 ACRL Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. The award, sponsored by YBP Library Services, recognizes an outstanding member of the library profession who has made a significant national or international contribution to academic/research librarianship and library development. Read more >> Mulholland Named Burkhardt Fellow NC State English professor James Mulholland will continue his research into the emergence of Anglo-Indian literature during the eighteenth century at the National Humanities Center, thanks to a Burkhardt fellowship. Read more >> Barrangou Wins NAS Award for CRISPR-Cas Discoveries NC State food scientist Rodolphe Barrangou will receive the 2017 National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology...

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Innovative Outcomes

Innovative Outcomes

A Bright Idea for Safety For College of Textiles alumnus Jeremy Wall, a near miss with a car while he was riding his bike one night became an unexpected source of inspiration: He now heads a company, Lumenus, that’s developing clothing and accessories with embedded smart LED lighting. Read more >> Student Project Evolves Into New Tool for the Biotech Industry When Scott Vu started working on a computer science research project as a teenager, he didn’t realize it would lead him down a path to earning a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and launching a company designed to help the biotechnology industry operate more efficiently. Read more >> New Tool Protects Cloud Computing Services In late 2012, Helen Gu presented a research paper on a new tool designed to prevent disruptions in cloud computing. Less than four years later, she launched a startup to help companies that use cloud computing improve the user experience for their customers. Read more...

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Emerging Researchers

Emerging Researchers

Wearable Tech Converts Body Heat to Electricity Researchers at NC State have developed a new design for harvesting body heat and converting it into electricity for use in wearable electronics. The experimental prototypes are lightweight, conform to the shape of the body and can generate far more electricity than previous lightweight heat-harvesting technologies. Read more >> Technique Boosts Data Retrieval 9 Percent Researchers from NC State and Samsung Electronics have found a way to boost the speed of computer applications by more than 9 percent. The improvement results from techniques that allow computer processors to retrieve data more efficiently. Read more >> FREEDM Center Opens Doors for Young Researchers Inside the Green Energy Hub at the FREEDM Systems Center on NC State’s Centennial Campus, researchers ran into a problem while testing a prototype of an innovative battery charger that could charge electric vehicles more quickly. A resistor load bank that converted the charger’s electrical energy to heat during testing was overheating due to uneven airflow across the resistors. Read...

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Mixed Media

Mixed Media

TEDxRaleigh Taps 2 Visionary Faculty Nilda Cosco, co-founder of NC State’s Natural Learning Initiative, and Veena Misra, professor of electrical and computer engineering, discussed their pioneering research at TEDxRaleigh 2016 last March. They were among 13 thinkers, tinkers and visionaries who spoke on the theme of wonderlust, defined by being in a constant state of wonder and awe. TEDxRaleigh 2017 is slated for April 22 with ticket sales beginning in March. Follow on Twitter @TEDxRaleigh. Cosco, a landscape architect with training in psychology, shared her experiences working to improve child care facilities and other outdoor recreational spaces for children and families. Misra described her work at ASSIST, the Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies, where she leads a team of researchers working to develop self-powered health monitoring devices. Recent Books by NC State Researchers The Mathematical Legacy of Richard P. Stanley Patricia Hersh (Mathematics); Thomas Lam, University of Michigan; Pavlo Pylyavskyy, University of Minnesota; Victor Reiner, University of Minnesota Published by American Mathematical Society, 2016 When Religion Matters: Practicing...

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Lighter Side

Lighter Side

Space, Bees and Bridges Images can capture the imagination, and research images have the power to explain complex concepts, offer insights into the research process and draw viewers into the power and beauty of science, mathematics and engineering. Last year, the Graduate School, University Communications and the College of Sciences sponsored the first ever NC State Research Image Contest, open only to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. This year, the contest has expanded to include faculty and staff. Also new this year, photography and microscopy have been split into separate categories to encourage more images from all research disciplines. Last Year’s Winners See more images at Research Image Contest. This Year’s Contest The 2017 contest runs Feb. 13 through June 15. Each first-place winner will receive $250, with second-place winners receiving $100. For more information about the contest, visit go.ncsu.edu/image-contest...

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