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OfямБcial Magazine of the Charlotte Research Institute

vol. 4 no. 1 Fall 2014











NC Charlotte is North Carolina’s Urban Research University. The Charlotte region is our laboratory as this issue’s piece on Health Research and Big Data clearly demonstrates. With prominent partners regionally and nationally, this program offers a distinctive student experience and improves the quality of life in Charlotte and beyond. The reach of our research and scholarship continues to grow globally. Dan Janies’ disease mapping techniques have been used on a wide range of zoonotic diseases and have current application with Ebola. We continue to scale our research infrastructure to respond to the rapid growth of our research community. Several pieces in this Millennial issue describe the talent and processes that are in place to support competitive research at UNC Charlotte. With knowledge translation in mind, we are also expanding Ventureprise and support for innovation and startup. Seventeen companies are now in the incubator; many receiving nationally prominent funding and awards. With the New Year, you will see announcements for the Charlotte Venture Challenge and the UNC Charlotte Science and Technology Expo. We look forward to working with you in 2015!

Robert Wilhelm

Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development Executive Director, Charlotte Research Institute


Partnership, Outreach, and Research to Accelerate Learning



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he four story, 96,000sf building is making its presence known in the northern district of the UNC Charlotte campus! Whether seen from North Tryon Street (Route 29), the new UNC Charlotte 49ers football stadium, or the nearby campus shuttle stop, PORTAL has clearly taken its place at the main gateway to the Charlotte Research Institute. A PORTAL business address provides immediate access to UNC Charlotte’s exceptional academic and research talent. Discover how PORTAL can power up your business at cri.uncc.edu.

vol. 4 no. 1

Fall 2014










Chip Yensan, lyensan@uncc.edu

Creative Direction: Crown Communications Layout Designer: Steven Himes


Karen Ford, kjford@uncc.edu Julie Fulton, jfulton4@uncc.edu Robyne Vickers, rvicker4@uncc.edu


Aaron Cress, Cress Photography, aaron@cressphotography.com Wade Bruton, twbruton@uncc.edu Copyright ©2015 Charlotte Research Institute at UNC Charlotte is the portal for businessuniversity partnerships. CRI facilitates the development of intellectual capital through university-industry-government collaboration creating an exceptional research environment.

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CRI WELCOMES NEW BUSINESS PARTNERS The Charlotte Research Institute welcomes eosMYCO, International ThermoDyne, Huckleberry Genomics, and Clean Propulsion Technologies as our newest UNC Charlotte business partners. These new associates, in combination with our continuing on-campus business partners, contributed to a 34% annual increase in overall university-business licensed space during the past academic year. Prospective business and research partners interested in licensing lab and/or office space at UNC Charlotte through the Charlotte Research Institute should contact CRI Associate Director Chip Yensan at lyensan@uncc.edu or 704.687.8283. Let’s pioneer together!


By Clare Cook Faggart


he Charlotte Area Science Network (CASN), a long-standing partner with UNC Charlotte in Life Sciences, is preparing to launch its 2015 calendar with some exciting programs. CASN was founded in 2002 by of group of individuals and organizations who understood the need to have a network for the science community. The group originally came together to bring Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri, a national advocate for science in the community, to speak at UNC Charlotte in December of 2001. Dr. Shakhashiri, through many presentations in his two day stay in Charlotte, encouraged all to become “Science Champions”. In 2012, Dr. Shakhashiri returned to UNC Charlotte in conjunction with the tenth annual Charlotte Life Sciences Conference. And in its 14th year, CASN continues to bring together the Charlotte community “Science Champions”. With a loyal audience following, CASN opens the new season of Science Cafés on Thursday, January 15 on the topic of EPIDEMIOLOGY. The Science Café is quite casual and



often, with families in attendance. The audience enjoys being engaged with the presenter in more of a conversational-type discussion with an opportunity to interact one-on-one during the initial networking session prior to each program. The season continues on the third Thursday of each month. February captures the interest of all love-struck “Valentines” with the SCIENCE OF CHOCOLATE. In March, as Spring peeks through, we look at the SCIENCE OF SPORTS and the April showers that may encourage some MAN-EATING PLANTS to pop up before your eyes. Another favorite CASN event is the Science Forum. On May 20-22nd, CASN will present Dr. Barbara Oakley, world-renown author and educator, and her new book, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra.)

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Just as the original CASN event with Dr. Shakhashiri reached into the Charlotte science community, to bring together SCIENCE CHAMPIONS, Dr. Oakley will continue the mission. (www. barbaraoakley.com) Check out the CASN website for various science-related events throughout the community and all details for above events. www.charlottescience.org Clare Cook Faggart, Life Sciences Program Manager, has been with the Charlotte Research Institute for six years. She represents CRI and UNC Charlotte at the North Carolina Research Campus. She can be reached at 704-250-5760 or by email at clarefaggart@uncc.edu


By Bernadette Williams


esearch and Economic Development celebrated showcasing their new workspace with an open house to provide the University campus community an opportunity to meet staff members and learn more about the services offered by each team within the department. The theme for the event was “A Passport to Research”. Each guest received a “stamp” for their passport as they traveled a road through the entire unit, where at various stops and intersections, they were able to meet staff and view posters indicating what each area did to assist UNC Charlotte faculty and staff. “Well traveled” passports were entered into a drawing for a grand prize gift card to the Barnes and Noble campus bookstore. Gathering rooms were located throughout where food and prizes were highlights of the event for the 80 faculty, staff, students and vendors who participated in the open house. The feedback received from guests was so positive Research and Economic Development will hold this event on an annual basis offering the campus community the opportunity to learn about the “one stop shopping” to make research happen at UNC Charlotte. Bernadette Williams, Information Technology Program Manager, Advancing University Research Administration (AURA), has over fifteen years of experience in the IT industry and holds a BA in Management Information Systems and MBA. She is an active member of EDUCAUSE, an organization for IT professionals in Higher Education. Bernadette can be reached at 704-687-1865 or bernadette.williams@uncc.edu.

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Expo Participants May 2014

LEE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING SPRING SENIOR DESIGN EXPO & FALL KICKOFF BREAKFAST Submitted by: Terence Jordan Director – Industrial Solutions Lab, William States Lee College of Engineering


ver 370 senior engineering students showcased 70 projects at Halton Arena in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center in May as part of the spring Senior Design Exposition. This annual event, which is the culmination of a yearlong effort, allows the students to present their real-life projects to the public. The senior design program is designed to bring students and industrial partners together in a collaborative research environment. Voted best project, as judged by an independent panel, was The Integrated Living Assistant. The project features an innovative technology that allows remote and autonomous control over household devices, and monitors power consumption in real time by combining artificial intelligence with a progressive home automation system. The students have used this project to launch a new company, Red Wire Logic. Judged as a close second was the Wave Energy Conversion Project. This project consisted of the design and construction of an ocean platform that uses wave energy to produce and store compressed air that drives a reverse osmosis unit for desalination of sea water. The team has formed a new company, SAROS, which is working out of the 49er Foundry student incubator to continue work on the project and make for commercialization. The 2014 fall semester began with the Senior Design Kickoff Breakfast on Friday September 5. There are 211 students enrolled in Senior Design 1 for the fall semester. These students will be working on 46 projects, of which 35 are supported by industry partners - a record number. This collection of Senior Design teams is in addition to the 116 students finishing their 33 projects during fall semester in Senior Design 2.



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2014 Fall Kickoff Breakfast

Remote Liquid Penetrant Weld Device

Automated Assembly for Pipe Couplings




esearch and Economic Development welcomed Gina Ramoz as the University’s first Biosafety Officer at the end of the summer. Enticed by the opportunity to build a biosafety program for UNC Charlotte from the ground up, Gina relocated from Salt Lake City, Utah where she served as the Biosafety Officer for the University of Utah. In her role there, she was responsible for the safe conduct of biological research in approximately 1,350 research labs in 300 buildings campus wide, including oversight of a Select Agents Program and Biosafety Level 3 research. Gina’s interest in biosafety grew from her life-long love of science. Before receiving her MBA from the University of Utah, with an emphasis in healthcare administration, she worked in the Department of Pharmacological Toxicology at the University of Utah, where she managed a multi-million dollar research program, conducting research and designing experiments which resulted in publication in various scientific journals. She admits that while she misses being in the lab for her own projects, she delights in the opportunity to learn of research being conducted by so many talented researchers. The purpose a biosafety officer serves on a campus like UNC Charlotte, aside from the obvious task of establishing and ensuring that work with biological agents is conducted safely, is to increase compliance with biosafety requirements thus having a significant impact on the ability of researchers to receive grants from federal institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Gina looks toward opportunities to interface with various stakeholders campus wide, conducting risk assessments, and disseminating information via training sessions and tutorials in order to cultivate a culture of safety at the university and to provide UNC Charlotte researchers even more advantages to succeed. Gina brings enthusiasm not only to her work at the university, but in life in general. Outside of work, she is an outdoor enthusiast who pursues activities including hiking, windsurfing, dancing, and yoga to name a few. She is an avid reader, but she also finds time to volunteer as an environmental activist and to aid homeless pets. Reach out to Gina if you have any questions or concerns regarding biosafety by email at gramoz@uncc.edu or by phone at 704-687-1825.

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By Devin A. Collins


he 49er Foundry student incubator, located in UNC Charlotte‘s PORTAL building, is the home to some of the most exciting startups in Charlotte. This may come as a surprise to many but to the Ventureprise team running the student incubator they see the talent and work ethic of these young entrepreneurs every day. Every day is no exaggeration - just stop by on a Saturday and you will find these young entrepreneurs working away. The Foundry began as a pilot program in the Ben Craig Center in 2012 and moved to the PORTAL building in February 2014. The Foundry is open to innovative undergraduate and graduate students and alumni within one year of graduation. There is a selection process that applicants must go through prior to submission and once they are admitted they are required to meet milestones. The Foundry is a part of the Ventureprise eco-system that provides incubation and acceleration services to innovation driven enterprises in PORTAL. The 49er Foundry provides students with an intensive hands-on program designed to launch and scale ventures. The goal is to help create companies like Tapity, a 49er Foundry alumni company founded by Jeremy Olson his sophomore year at UNC Charlotte. Tapity was featured in the Financial



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Steve Howard founder of Motus Inc. being interviewed for UNC-TV

Times, Forbes, TechCrunch and a number of other news outlets this past summer when they launched their highly acclaimed newest product called Hours on the Apple IOS platform. Anytime a technology company in Charlotte can get national and international exposure, the entrepreneurial community is excited. A couple of current 49er Foundry companies have reached big milestones and gained regional exposure since the conclusion of the 2014 spring semester. Motus, LLC founder Stephen Howard, pictured above, just graduated with his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering but spent his summer on a sales roadshow selling the MechBlock Kits he helped create as part of Professor Stuart Smith’s lab in The William States Lee College of Engineering. Stephen is manufacturing the MechBlock products in North Carolina and is reaching customers throughout the United States. Stephen was interviewed about his journey from inventor to entrepreneur for UNC TV. eosMYCO Inc., a biotechnology company founded by Ryan Rutledge, spent the early summer competing for a highly selective grant from the North Carolina Innovation Fund. The organization awards $25,000 competitive grants to innovative ideas throughout North Carolina on a bi-annual basis. The selection process is very competitive with only 4-6 grants being awarded each year. Ryan’s company was selected as a winner in June and received $25,000 to advance their environmental remediation products.


The 49er Foundry is currently home to 7 innovative companies as described in brief detail below. The Foundry expects to admit 4-6 more companies in the next academic year.

CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENT BUSINESSES EOSMYCO - A mycoremediation (utilizing fungi for the purposes of remediation) firm. eosMYCO has worked to lead the way in developing and deploying inexpensive, in situ, mycologically sourced solutions to aid in environmental cleanup efforts. eosMYCO’s products are specifically designed to leave ecosystems intact, while removing threats to communities from organic, biological, elemental, and radioactive contaminants. MOTUS, LLC - Motus, LLC is producing Lego-like assembly kits made up of modular blocks and bearings, known as MechBlock kits. The components of this kit can be quickly and easily assembled into a variety of devices and structures for precisely controlling movement in engineering and scientific applications. Visit us at www.MotusMechanical.com and watch our Youtube videos! QUEEN PHOTONICS - Queen Photonics is a photon technology start-up. The areas of interest are the existing and emerging market segments in the optoelectronics industry including sensors, detectors, photovoltaics, imaging, spectroscopy, and optical telecommunication. Based on fundamentally novel features of sub-wavelength devices, Queen Photonics seeks to maximize the market opportunities through evolutionary and revolutionary innovations in the field.

CURRENT UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT BUSINESSES REDWIRE LOGIC - RedWire Logic was founded by four UNC Charlotte electrical engineering students. The team has developed a novel home and business automation technology known as the Integrated Living Assistant (ILA) which reinvents the definition of home automation. ILA’s goal is to bring a simple concept to the home automation market: expandability but not the current market definition of expandability. SAROS - The SAROS (Swell Actuated Reverse Osmosis System) Desalination Project is an organization that is creating and testing a wave driven, self-contained, seawater desalination system with zero operational carbon footprint. We aim to utilize wave energy to provide inexpensive, clean water to areas struck by natural disasters, underdeveloped coastal regions, or areas looking for sustainable desalination solutions. RIGHTHAND - RightHand is a personal assistant and task service that makes it simple and fast for businesses and individuals to outsource small projects and tasks. RightHand is technology based, meaning customers can use our mobile application or website to create tasks, track them, communicate with our RightHands, and pay, all seamlessly within our system. CLUTCH GAMING SOLUTIONS - CGS is attempting to revolutionize gaming through a subscription/cloudbased platform that changes the way people buy/view games. Devin A. Collins is the Assistant Director of Business and Entrepreneurial Development at the Charlotte Research Institute and Director of the 49er Foundry Student Incubator at Ventureprise. He has been at the University for 4 years. FALL 2014





By James Hathaway

A research university’s potential for future greatness is perhaps a bit hard to gauge, but one measure for sure is in the achievement of its newest faculty, as they will set the research agenda for the university in the years to come. Because UNC Charlotte is a young and very actively growing university, it has a larger body of younger faculty than most universities, and, to judge by the attention they have received from the National Science Foundation, they are a very promising group.


n the last 11 years, UNC Charlotte faculty have won 15 Faculty Early Career Development grant awards from the National Science Foundation – a really impressive record for a university of our size, and one that indeed promises future greatness in research. According to NSF, these unusual grants, restricted to not-yet tenured faculty and known as “CAREER Awards,” have special significance that extends beyond the excellence of the research programs they fund: “The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” This year, two UNC Charlotte researchers won the award, Na Lu from the Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management for “Investigating Process-StructureProperty Correlations of Nitrides



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and Oxides for High Temperature Thermoelectric Applications,” and Marcus Jones, from the Department of Chemistry for “PlasmonMediated Photo-Absorption and Carrier Recombination Dynamics in Semiconductor/Metal Hybrid Nano-Systems.” Lu’s award is the sixth in the last decade won by faculty in the College of Engineering and Jones’ is the second in the department of Chemistry. If these awards show a trend, it may be in the fact that both projects are in emerging, interdisciplinary fields of research involving chemistry, quantum mechanics and energy applications, and both involve nanotechnology. Though one researcher is in an engineering department and one is in a chemistry department, it is striking how little departmental and disciplinary differences matter, as the current leading edge in research blurs all distinctions between traditional fields of study. Jones’ CAREER Award project is an example of how little the old disciplinary definitions describe the nature of the research. As a chemist, we might traditionally expect him to be concerned with putting chemical compounds together and studying how they react, but his work goes far, far beyond that. Jones’ research involves the interaction of two quantum mechanical phenomena: “excitons” in quantum dots – extremely small particles – made out of semiconductor materials and “surface plasmons” in metals. An exciton, Jones explains, “is simply an excited state in a quantum dot,” a condition formed when an electron in the dot absorbs energy

and is pushed to a higher energy level, leaving a “hole” in quantum dot is already in an excited state, you put a metal the normal orbital position of the electron. “When you take nearby then it emits much more strongly, the photons come out an electron out of a state and put it into a higher energy state more quickly. “ it leaves behind a lack of an electron, which, for the ease of Though this may sound fairly theoretical, the effect surface thinking about it, we think of as a positive charge. There’s plasmons and excitons can have on each other points to a positive charge and a negative charge moving around possibilities that go beyond the academic. In particular, the separately but, because they are attracted to each other, their issue may be important in designing a better solar cell, and motion is correlated,” Jones said. answering some theoretical questions there may lead to The electron-hole pair is an energized “quasiparticle” known important design breakthroughs. as an exciton, and can be formed by (among other things) a ‘We’re interested in working out an issue concerning distance quantum dot absorbing the energy of a light particle – a photon. dependence of exciton –plasmon coupling in nanocrystals is The exciton is one of the reasons why technologists find because it’s a fundamental question but also because there is semiconductor quantum dots intriguing – through them the a strong interest in quantum dots -- especially quantum dots quantum dot can absorb or release light energy. for photovoltaic devices -- in looking at quantum dots that don’t The other quantum mechanical entity that Jones is interested just absorb one photon, but two or three or more photons. The in is the surface plasmon, a kind of standing wave that can be effect has been called ‘multiple exciton generation,’ and with created by the free movement of electrons in metal particles, this effect we can increase the efficiency of a potential solar cell. with the nature of the wave being dependent on the metal and “The big question though if you want to build a device out of the size and shape of the particle. Though [quantum dots and metal nanoparticles] is metals generally absorb light waves “The big question though if where do we put them in relation to each across a range of frequencies, Jones other?” Jones noted. “Too close and there you want to build a device are effects that wipe everything out. Too points out that, in very small particles of metal, surface plasmons change that. Gold out of [quantum dots and far away and there is no effect. There is nanoparticles, for example, can appear a sweet spot in between – a Goldilocks metal nanoparticles] is region. We are exploring what this bright red because of specific frequency photons being re- emitted by the metal. where do we put them in distance dependence is and there is “You can change the size and the shape also some strong shape and size relation to each other?” of particles,” Jones said. “You can make dependence. The question is what gives spheres of different sizes or you make the maximum response?” rods or different shapes and tune where that color is. The The answer to this question really matters to us, living in the color corresponds to a resonance – it’s a particular frequency non-quantum reality of energy costs, environmental issues and of light that corresponds to the frequency of the plasmon. The the global economy. The current solid-state silicon design of plasmon is like string on a guitar -- you have a strong vibration solar cells is not able to capture the higher energies of some of electrons forwards and backwards within the material. Just light and is relatively inefficient, turning only 33 percent of light like when you if you change the thickness of a guitar string energy into electrical energy at the maximum. Most solar cells or lengthen or shorten it, that resonance frequency changes. are even more inefficient than that, so improving efficiency even The frequency is determined by the size, the shape and the a bit would be a game-changer for solar energy. composition of the matter.” “This [increasing the energy absorption of quantum dots] Though Jones’ work sounds a lot like physics, and perhaps deals with a fundamental limitation in solar cells, which is even optics, there is an important point where it returns to that energy above the band-gap – the minimum absorption chemistry: it turns out that when you put plasmons in metal energy – is usually just lost to heat,” Jones pointed out. “That nanoparticles together with excitons in semiconductor quantum lost energy warms up your solar cell and doesn’t produce dots, some important interaction occurs. electricity. This is a fundamental limitation in silicon devices, “Metal absorbs a lot of light because a lot of electrons can but this effect [in quantum dots] would allow us to capture flow there,” Jones noted. “It actually creates a very, very strong some of that excess energy.” local -- very very small – oscillating field. It’s been shown So to review, what kind of researcher is Marcus Jones? that if you put quantum dots near metal when you have this A physicist? A chemist? A nanotechnologist? A solar energy oscillating group of electrons, you can induce very, very strong engineer? absorbances in the quantum dots.” In the world of contemporary university research, such labels Increased energy absorbance is important in quantum dots, really don’t matter. In fact, the researcher’s willingness to ignore Jones explains, because it improves the capability of the those disciplinary boundaries may be one of the strongest particle to absorb light or process energy. indications of future promise. Over the past decade or so, UNC “In other words, you are using the metal to put more energy Charlotte has been doing an excellent job of finding people who into the quantum dot,” Jones said. “You can use it to get more are active in breaking those disciplinary molds – and perhaps in energy in and you can use it to get more energy out. So if this creating new ones. James Hathaway directs Research Communications operations in the Office of Research and Economic Development. He is a professional science writer with over 20 years of experience in writing about science and technology and in communicating news about university research findings to the general public. For more information, call 704-687-5743 or email jbhathaw@uncc.edu.

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By Angela Davies, Ph.D. Christopher Evans, Ph.D.

(INDUSTRY/UNIVERSITY COOPERATIVE RESEARCH CENTER) The Center for Freeform Optics (CeFO) is the latest I/UCRC at UNC Charlotte. This new National Science Foundation (NSF) funded I/UCRC is a consortium of companies and universities working together on industry-relevant research in an emerging field with a vision that compact, affordable, and high-performance optical systems based on freeform optics will permeate precision technologies of the future. Locally, CeFO is an equal collaboration between the W. S. Lee College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Nationally, the Center is a collaboration between universities (UNC Charlotte and University of Rochester), government labs, and industry.



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he mission of the Center for Freeform Optics is advancing research and education on the science, engineering and applications of freeform optics through a dedicated, continuing industrial partnership. CeFO at UNC Charlotte will work to help launch the permanent introduction of freeform surfaces into the manufacturing infrastructure for optical systems worldwide. Fundamentally, the ability to manufacture freeform surfaces changes the game for optical system design. The ability to design and manufacture optical systems with freeform surfaces has received great interest from industry and governmental institutions in recent years because it has been proven to yield an order of magnitude performance increase with no increase in physical size. The main benefits of freeform optics can be summarized as follows: • Increased compactness: at least a 10 times gain is CeFO’s goal. • Advanced performance: up to a 100 fold increase has been demonstrated. • Lighter weight: weight scales with the cube of a linear dimension. • New solution space. This center will unite three perceptually mature research technologies: optical design, optical fabrication, and optical testing. Two of these areas are in the midst of a true revolution and the third is being challenged to bring the science of optical systems to an entirely new, unexplored region of solutions. In the process, completely new applications for optical systems are emerging. This center provides the synergistic, collaborative working space to bring freeform optical surfaces into the mainstream of optical systems. As CeFO grows and diversifies, it is necessary to develop standards and guidelines to help companies with the least expertise in freeform optics to adopt and implement it. The Center will pursue the realization of standards with regards to the development, evaluation, implementation, and use of freeform surfaces in devices and equipment. The UNC Charlotte facilities include extensive manufacturing and metrology platforms, equipment and resources. These resources are located in several adjacent departments and centers -

Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Sciences (MEES); Physics and Optical Science (POS); the Center for Precision Metrology (CPM), a “graduated” NSF I/ UCRC; and the Center for Optoelectronics and Optical Communications (the Optics Center). The available equipment allows for a wide range of fabrication and characterization activities. Some CeFO equipment is uncommon and well suited to state-of-the-art freeform optics research. Examples for fabrication include an ABB IRB140 Six Axis Robot configured for sub-aperture polishing, a Moore Nanotech 350 FG Diamond Turning Machine, a QED Q22-XE Magnetorheological Finishing Machine, a Raith 150 E-beam Lithography System, and a Molecular Imprint Nanoimprint System. Unique equipment for characterization includes a Zeiss F-25 micro CMM with a work volume of 100 mm cube, several interferometers (Zygo NewView and ZeGage Scanning White Light Interferometers, ZygoVerifire AT 100 mm Aperture at 633 nm, Zygo FTPSI 100 mm Aperture Wavelength Scanning Interferometer at 1550 nm, and a custom Twyman-Green at 10.6 microns), a tunable THz Laser, a VASE Woolam Spectroscopic Ellipsometer, and a Olympus OLS4000 LEXT 3D Measuring Laser Microscope. Discover more about the program objectives and associated research of the Center for Freeform Optics at http://centerfreeformoptics.org/. CeFO Co-Directors at UNC Charlotte: Angela Davies, Ph.D. • (704) 687-8622 • adavies@uncc.edu Christopher Evans, Ph.D. • (704) 687-8622 • cevans52@uncc.edu

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HACK-ABy Jim Currie

Photo Credits: Aditya Khurjekar This Page: Registration as participants arrive. Right Top: Representatives of some of the event sponsors and host.



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Summer 2014. No news of Apple Wallet yet. Not even whispered rumors, but shopping ‘apps’ had begun to appear. New software tools and hardware to enable mobile financial transactions and to enhance the mobile shopping experience were cropping up. This past July, The Money Event (TME) Charlotte brought providers of just such devices and tools together with students, professionals and hobbyist in UNC Charlotte’s PORTAL building for a hack-a-thon to tackle the challenge of creating innovative and compelling shopping experiences thru a mobile phone app. And from noon Saturday July 12th thru late afternoon Sunday July 13th, PORTAL was home to just over 30 programmers working on this challenge.

The Judging.

After twenty four hours of concept and app development and four hours to prepare, the competing teams came together before the judges and a visiting audience for their presentations. Judging the entries were Chase Cabanillas, Director of Technology Architecture for Harris Teeter; Greg Kerr, Chief Technology Officer for inmar, a technology company that operates intelligent commerce; and Charlotte City Councilman David Howard. Khurjekar credits Howard’s encouragement for the decision to produce The Money Event competition in Charlotte. The audience included friends and family, but also representatives from Wells Fargo, Verizon, and Bank of America and from the event sponsors. After a very competitive series of presentations, the judges chose CouponQuest, created by four professional programmers, as the winning entry. “Their application identifies your shopping experience when you are in a store,” Khurjekar said. “It creates something of a treasure search through a store providing little coupons that can be unlocked as part of the experience so people can save money, and it brings the consumer to areas that might otherwise go unvisited. It also includes information about where the consumer is in the store, and who they are, so it is a good combination of mobile technologies and apps being used to create identified shopping experiences.” The second-place entry, created by a team of UNC Charlotte doctoral students, “was very, very close,” Khurjekar said. “Their idea was about adding efficiency and convenience to the waiting line. If you have a popular restaurant or deli, you want to be able to buy food when you want it – not arrive and wait in line for an hour. How can you use the mobile phone to order your food and get a place in line creating a better experience for the restaurant and the diner?”

-THON An International Event.

Co-creator and entrepreneur Aditya Khurjekar became involved in developing the technology for mobile payments while working with Verizon Wireless. A Charlotte resident, he now consults on global-commerce strategies and operates Letstalkpayments.com with India-based partner Amit Goel, the other co-creator of TME. The partners held their first Money Event on July 5-6 in Bangalore, India. They plan to hold several more at major technology hubs worldwide.

24 Hours.

After a brief introduction by Khurjekar, the participants split into teams and got to work. All teams had from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday when app development was required to cease. Sunday afternoon was spent on developing seven-minute presentations for the judging. In developing their concepts, all of the teams got to work with new technology and tools provided by event sponsors such as Microsoft, Saylent, UBER, and inmar. These firms also had lead technical staff on hand to provide assistance and counsel. “The PORTAL building was awesome,” declared Khurjekar, adding that it provided “the best of both worlds” as a competition venue. “Every team was able to get a private space in which they could work by themselves,” he said. “And then we could bring them together into a large hall for group presentations. And there was a nice, comfortable lobby for visitors, so it was a perfect space.”

Midnight Link to India.

The challenge for the first Money Event held in Bangalore, India asked how mobile computing might empower person-to-person transactions. In India some 90 million people do not have bank accounts, but smart phone penetration is among the highest in the world. At midnight on Saturday TME Charlotte hooked-up with TME Bangalore and participants here were treated to a live presentation of the winning app from the Bangalore event. The winner was an app that allowed two people to transfer money between each other, cellphone to cellphone. After an all too short explanation and exchange it was back to work for the project teams. Jim Currie is the Charlotte Research Institute Associate Director for PORTAL. He has been involved with industry partnering, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship for several years. Jim joined UNC Charlotte in February 2014.

A trip to Las Vegas!

In a surprise announcement the first-place team won the right to have two members present their idea at September 2014 The Money Event in Las Vegas as part of Super Mobility Week – a week long event bringing together thousands of mobile professionals and the most significant companies in the wireless industry. Not all were winners at the summer hack-a-thon event, but all participants found it to be a worthwhile and fun experience – enabled by UNC Charlotte in its new PORTAL building. As Khurjekar noted, “Working with the UNC Charlotte team in PORTAL was phenomenal. They were a very eager and helpful partner and were there for us to make everything happen.”

Learn more about The Money Event http://www.themoneyevent.com/super-challenge Learn more about LetsTalkPayments.com http://letstalkpayments.com Learn more about PORTAL http://cri.uncc.edu/business-partners/portal-0 FALL 2014





he Plant Pathways Elucidation Project, or P2EP, is a groundbreaking multi-million dollar program that engages college students from across North Carolina in a first-of-its-kind education and research endeavor.


t its core, P2EP is a student-driven initiative that fuses plant science with human health. The program is fueled by one of the largest consortium of academic and industry organizations ever assembled at the NC Research Campus. The program teams up university scientists, industry leaders and college students who together will explore plant pathways to answer why and how plants, like fruits and vegetables, benefit human health. Science students from North Carolina colleges and universities gain research experience in a multidisciplinary, collaborative environment – one-of-a-kind scientific research opportunities – which better prepares them for a successful career. One of those students is Richard Linchangco, a Ph.D. candidate in bioinformatics at UNC Charlotte. Linchangco studied biology as an undergraduate, which led to studies in genetics and later graduate studies in bioinformatics. “I’ve always had a strong curiosity on how different things work,” he said. “Every organism has its own level of complexity but it’s understood that all organisms share the basic building blocks of life and that’s the genetic code.”



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One component of the P2EP program is knowledge-based bioinformatics, which fits with Linchangco’s research. The program has also helped Linchangco understand the work that a principal investigator does. P2EP sponsors have committed $1.9 million in funding for four years. The program is now in year two. The 2013 program had 29 students, graduate and undergraduate students, coming from 10 North Carolina colleges and universities. NCRC expanded the program this year to 40 students from 12 colleges and universities as well as two high schools. The program aims to show students that there are other options in science. P2EP pursues three primary goals: educational opportunity, scientific discovery and knowledge base creation. In working toward these objectives,

2014 P2EP GROUP P2EP will advance scientific research, create opportunities for industry and consumers, and enhance human health. With its dynamic composition of academic and industry partners, in addition to state-of-the-art scientific facilities and instrumentation, the program offers one-of-a-kind educational opportunities to students; P2EP is cultivating the scientists of tomorrow. Through scientific discovery, a primary goal of the P2EP program is to identify and map plant pathways in food crops – that is, decode the steps taken to produce the beneficial compounds – to better understand how they function and can benefit human health. The first crops of focus have been blueberries, broccoli, oats and strawberries. The program creates a knowledge database to organize and analyze the extensive amounts of data generated. The goal is to assemble plant pathways research in a knowledge base so researchers can find information quickly and focus on the science. The Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) is fueled by a dynamic team of academic researchers, industry professionals and university science students. All together, five academic institutions and seven industrial organizations have dedicated resources to launch the program. The project’s partners are committed to fostering a collaborative and educational environment where students will be mentored and engaged in real-world scientific research. In addition to creating a culture of learning, P2EP partners maximize this multi-disciplinary collection of leaders to create opportunities to enhance the local economy, develop a unique knowledge base of plant pathways research, and identify solutions to some of society’s most pressing health issues. The Leadership Team includes UNC Charlotte’s Dr., Cory Brouwer, Director of Bioinformatics Services Division at NCRC; Dr. Nick Gillit, Director of the Dole Nutrition Research

Laboratory; Dr. Eric Jackson, General Mills; Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Director of NCSU’s Plants for Human Health Institute; Mike Todd, UNC System, General Administration at NCRC; Dr. Steve Coleman, David H. Murdock Research Institute and Clyde Higgs, NC Research Campus. The internship application process will open early 2015 for the 9 week summer program. For more information, see http://p2ep.org. P2EP sponsors include Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, Catawba College, David H. Murdock Research Institute, Dole Nutrition Research Laboratory, Duke Energy Foundation, General Mills, Holiday Inn Express- Kannapolis, NC Research Campus, NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute, Turner Construction, UNC General Administration and University of North Carolina at Charlotte Bioinformatics Services Division.

Students in Dr. Jessica Schlueter’s lab at UNC Charlotte. Clare Cook Faggart, Life Sciences Program Manager, has been with the Charlotte Research Institute for six years. She represents CRI and UNC Charlotte at the North Carolina Research Campus. She can be reached at 704-250-5760 or by email at clarefaggart@uncc.edu

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NORTH CAROLINA SCIENCE FESTIVAL APRIL 10-26, 2015 As of press time, the schedule for UNC Charlotte’s two-and-a-half week program for the 2015 North Carolina Science Festival includes the following:


The best science and technology from UNC Charlotte and our community partners – a whirlwind of geeky fun, wonder and learning for the whole family. More than 100 activities are expected, as the Expo keeps getting bigger and better every year!



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This year we are offering two critically acclaimed documentaries, screening for the first time in Charlotte, each followed by an expert panel discussion. Come and engage!


UP” http://shoredupmovie.com

 A documentary about climate change and the global challenge of sea level rise.

“PARTICLE FEVER” http://particlefever.com

 A documentary about the hunt for the elusive Higgs Boson. “Imagine being able to watch as Edison turned on the first light bulb, or as Franklin received his first jolt of electricity…”


Faculty Panel on Sports Faculty Panel on Data Science and Data Analytics Faculty Panel on GMOs – the Future in Medicine, Food and Beyond


Got a kid who is into robots, or one who you think is ready to have his or her batteries charged? This may be for you. The event is free, with a $5 lunch and advance registration.


• Exhibition and related events (to be announced) in partnership with the College of Arts + Architecture and the Urban Institute • Exhibition on the state of Charlotte’s waterways at Projective Eye Gallery and other locations.


The UNC Charlotte Graduate Research Symposium, sponsored by the Graduate School.






It is time for entrepreneurs and innovators to start preparing to compete in the 2015 Charlotte Venture Challenge! The finals will be held in late April, 2015 and applications will be due early March. In case you are unsure of why you need to participate, consider a few of these highlights from the 2014 Competition. Location, Location, Location. The new UNC Charlotte PORTAL building served as an exceptional venue for the 2014 Charlotte Venture Challenge – a perfect convening location for entrepreneurs, top corporate innovation leaders, and academics to participate in a day long series of business competition pitches. Be Among the Top Southeast Startups. Over 100 teams applied but only 36 made it through an intensive review process for the chance to present corporate and investor judging panels at the finals. Introductions to Corporate Customers. All 36 finalists pitched to a room full of corporate tech scouts and innovation executives from Chiquita, Inc., Wells Fargo, Inc., Edison Nation Medical, SPX, Inc., HP, Inc., Husqvarna, Inc., Premier, Inc., Lowes, Inc., Milliken, Inc., Midrex, Inc., BMW, Inc., Ingersoll Rand, Inc., Electrolux, Inc., Microsoft, Inc., Areva, Inc., Medical Murray, Inc., Belk, Inc., 3D Systems, Inc., Flextronics, Inc., CEM, Inc. Introductions to Investors. All 36 finalists pitched to a room full of investors including Bull City Venture Partners, Blackstone EN, Sunbridge Partners, Upstate Capital Angel Network, Noro-Mosley Partners, IMAF Charlotte, Idea Fund Partners, Charlotte Angel Fund, T2 Venture Capital, Real Ventures, Capital Angels, Capital A Partners and individual Angel investors. Top Speakers. The keynote address titled “Building a Billion Dollar Startup” was given by Manoj George, CEO of Art.com and founding CFO of Red Hat, and Phil Verghis, CEO of Klever and early executive at Akamai Technologies. Cash Prizes To Winners. Charlotte Venture Challenges winners receive cash awards and are announced during the evening’s gala reception which is typically attended by over 250 people.

If you are interested in entering the 2015 Charlotte Venture Challenge competitions visit www.charlotteventurechallenge.com to learn more. Devin A. Collins is the Assistant Director of Business and Entrepreneurial Development at the Charlotte Research Institute and Director of the 49er Foundry Student Incubator at Ventureprise. He has been at the University for 4 years.



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he Charlotte Venture Challenge (CVC) was held in the PORTAL IndustryUniversity Partnership building on the campus of UNC Charlotte on May 1st, 2014. At what has become the Southeast’s premier startup competition, approximately 36 finalist teams and over 250 attendees gathered on the UNC Charlotte campus for the all-day event. The 2014 CVC attracted startup applicants from as far south as Georgia and north as Washington, DC. The competition was divided into six primary categories: New Energy and High Tech; IT and Informatics; Health IT and Biotechnology; Consumer Products and Services; Graduate Student Ventures; and Undergraduate Student Ventures. The CVC filtering rounds - the CVC Entrepreneur Alumni Filter, Mentor Filter, Investor Filter, and Corporate (Fortune 500) Filter - placed an emphasis on identifying the most exciting and compelling new startups. Exceptional talent and positive competitive spirit was on display throughout the entire 2014 CVC event. The seven outstanding category winners for the 2014 Charlotte Venture Challenge are announced below. Health IT and Biotechnology Category Winner: eosMYCO (Charlotte, NC) Founder Ryan Rutledge of eosMYCO. EosMYCO is a mycoremediation (utilizing fungi for the purposes of remediation) firm. eosMYCO has worked to lead the way in developing and deploying inexpensive, in situ, mycologically sourced solutions to aid in environmental cleanup efforts. eosMYCO’s products are specifically designed to leave ecosystems intact, while removing threats to communities from organic, biological, elemental, and radioactive contaminants. Consumer Products and Services Category Winner: ProctorFree (Huntersville, NC) Founders Velvet Nelson and Michael Murphy of ProctorFree. ProctorFree’s mission is to increase the trust and credibility of online testing. We have created an on-demand, automated proctoring solution that deters cheating in an online testing environment. Students are monitored without human interactions using a standard web camera and microphone. Using several new technologies, cheatinglike behaviors can be detected and reported back to the administration within a few minutes of test completion.

IT and Informatics Category Winner: PRSONAS (Durham NC) Founder David Rose of PRSONAS. PRSONAS’ smart virtual presenters use artificial intelligence and computer generated visual technologies to interact with customers and gather valuable user analytics in the physical world. PRSONAS can deliver marketing messages, provide customer support and conduct commerce anywhere, anytime and in any language. New Energy and High Tech Category Winner: Clodico (Oak Ridge, TN) Founder Joy Fisher of Clodico, Inc. Clodico produces environmentally friendly and highly effective odor control products and broad-spectrum biocides. Graduate Student Ventures Category Winner and People’s Choice Award Winner: Motus, LLC (UNC Charlotte) Founder Steve Howard of Motus, LLC. Motus is producing Lego-like assembly kits made up of modular blocks and bearings, known as MechBlock kits. The components of this kit can be quickly and easily assembled into a variety of devices and structures for precisely controlling movement in engineering and scientific applications. Visit Motus at www.MotusMechanical.com and watch our Youtube videos!

Undergraduate Student Venture Category Winner: Track2Quit (NC State) Founders Ian Rogers and Anirudh Mulukutla of Track2Quit. Track2Quit is a technology startup that develops products and services to aid in smoking cessation. Our flagship product aims to track smoking habits and bring awareness to help customers quit on their own time. J. Chris Murphy Award Top UNC Charlotte Student Venture: Clutch Gaming Solutions (UNC Charlotte) Russ Denison Clutch Gaming Solutions, LLC. Clutch Gaming Solutions is a subscription and cloud-based service for gaming and focused on bringing “value” gaming to the gamer and solving global problems through our “gaming solutions”. Our goal is to revolutionize gaming by changing the way people see video games and by changing the way people buy video games.

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entureprise staff and eight client-tenant companies began operation at PORTAL on February 1, 2014 with a wellcoordinated move from the Ben Craig Center. The original eight have been joined by nine new client-tenants for a total of 17 companies in the Ventureprise PORTAL space. Companies range from single-person startups to 20+ employees. The 49er Foundry student business incubator operated by Ventureprise is home to eight additional new ventures (see article elsewhere in Millennial for details). Between commercial and student companies, Ventureprise is engaged with 25 resident client-tenants less than one year after PORTAL opened. Ventureprise clients are in diverse industries including drug discovery, information technology, materials science, business services, energy, printing, electronics and optics. Several were founded to commercialize UNC Charlotte research. Interestingly, two companies are commercializing intellectual property developed at universities outside of North Carolina.

The Ventureprise mission of strengthening innovation-driven entrepreneurship in the Charlotte region became much more visible with the move to UNC Charlotte’s PORTAL building following nearly 25 years in the Ben Craig Center building. The contemporary PORTAL building interior creates Client-Tenants Client-Tenants Nov 2014 an immediate “wow factor”. The quality of the client-tenants and Venture Success the business advisory services High potential startups find universities attractive. UNC will create a desired long-term Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) has become a magnet for new energy ventures. These economic impact. companies connect with EPIC’s research talent and labs and locate in PORTAL to access Ventureprise business expertise. A promising example is SineWatts, a cleantech startup


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Innovate + Interact + Ignite

Innovate + Interact + Ignite


recently selected for a second Incubator Award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. SineWatts is a Ventureprise client-tenant that also is participating in the CLT Joules energy incubator program. Although founded in Palo Alto, the company relocated to leverage the expertise of EPIC to develop its Inverter Molecule™ product. The largest Ventureprise tenant is C5 Insight, recently recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the 5000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S. Their success serves as a great example for earlier-stage ventures. It is worth noting that the Charlotte region’s entrepreneurial sector enjoyed a banner year for Inc. recognition with 56 Charlotte USA companies making the top 5000 list. Seven of these earned a spot in the elite top 500 list, equaling Charlotte’s best year since 2000. Several client-tenants are already considering expansion within PORTAL. An update on company growth including investment and grant success will appear in the next Millennial edition.

CEO Roundtable Connections

Ventureprise clients are diverse and benefit from multiple business advisory services, including the CEO Roundtable. Launched in June, it exposes company leaders to best practices while connecting them with community experts and with each other. The July program featured Mike Feldman, a former UNC Charlotte professor who launched the highly successful Digital Optics at the Ben Craig Center. Mike’s current business, T1 Visions, recently completed a Series B financing round and was recognized by Inc. magazine as a top 500 fastest growing company. He shared his experiences of the highs and lows of the entrepreneurial journey providing valuable insight to Roundtable participants. Additional 2014 Roundtables have included a CEO panel sharing “How We Are Making It Happen” and a branding and marketing discussion by Greg Johnson of Orbital Socket.

Ventureprise space in PORTAL. The expertise of this group of experienced business counselors is already fully integrated with Ventureprise business advisory services offered to resident client-tenants. The New Year will expand the engagement of SBTDC resources at PORTAL while they continue to serve 700+ small businesses annually throughout the region. Ventureprise will continue to serve UNC Charlotte and the broader community through initiatives that support the formation and early growth of innovation-driven entrepreneurs. For the latest information, visit www.ventureprise.org, call 704 687-0900, or visit Ventureprise in PORTAL, suite 252.



s a non-profit organization, Ventureprise, Inc. is governed by a 14-person board of directors that represents key stakeholders including UNC Charlotte. Two new directors elected in September 2014 bring highly relevant expertise. George Selembo is the CEO of InfoSense, a company that was founded by a UNC Charlotte engineering professor (Dr. Ivan Howitt), participated in the Ben Craig Center, and won the Charlotte Venture Challenge. Dr. Selembo has experience in marketing, finance and product development along with in-depth technical understanding from his Ph.D. in chemical engineering. His experience in tech commercialization and as a rapid growth entrepreneur will help guide Ventureprise strategy. Michael Marvin has the distinction of founding MapInfo in one of the first university incubators located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He led the company’s evolution from a 1986 startup to a NASDAQ listed company. Mr. Marvin has served on many corporate boards and has considerable investment experience that includes startup financing and private equity. His extensive career includes substantial involvement in technology-based economic development. His combination of extensive entrepreneurial experience with university and regional economic development directly matches the Ventureprise mission.

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Looking Ahead to 2015

Ventureprise expects to continue to attract innovationdriven entrepreneurs to PORTAL and will likely be near full occupancy by the end of 2015. With expansion likely by some existing client-tenants, the expectation is there will be about 25 commercial client-tenants and 12 student business incubator teams in the Ventureprise PORTAL program in steady-state. 2015 will begin with the re-location of the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) to the

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Columbus Photovoltaics Innovate + Interact + Ignite

Columbus Columbus Innovate + Interact + Ignite Columbus Columbus Photovoltaics FALL 2014 23 millennial Photovoltaics Photovoltaics Photovoltaics Columbus



Dr. Sarah Liditka, Dr. Jim Laditka


ach day, we engage with copious amounts of data that defy comprehension - data is everywhere and drives all things. Before you started reading this article you may have already checked your bank account online, bought a coffee using your check card, used your GPS to navigate to a meeting, bought something on Amazon during your lunch break, checked in and commented on your Facebook page and tracked how many steps and stairs you have hit on your Fitbit. The act of digitizing everything we do, storing that data and analyzing it enables us to be more precise in the many decisions we have to make, with the intent of yielding more favorable outcomes – for our health, for the environment and yes, even for our wallets. millennial


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ight now, “big data” is a buzz term people are hearing in the media – it is a term that captures the disruption introduced by technological tools that fundamentally affect the way we make decisions – these tools help us to sort through data and importantly, to understand and use it in a practical sense, allowing us to make better informed choices about things like food and other consumer product expenditures, how well and how much we sleep, or what health care related avenues to pursue and at what comparative cost. When unpacked and sorted out, big data can provide deep and wide knowledge about individuals and the population as a whole. Generally, most researchers look at big data to get a handle on human behavior; health researchers use these data to evaluate both the impact of health-related behaviors and, the interaction of patients within the healthcare system and how that translates into health outcomes or customer satisfaction with services. Within the University of North Carolina Charlotte’s College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), big data is being utilized by researchers across several disciplines who seek to solve health care issues, improve patient outcomes, and inform health policy on community, regional, state, and international levels.



Dr. Christopher Blanchette

uilding capacity around big data is a priority for UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor Philip Dubois. To that end, he has asked colleges to very quickly marshal resources to meet emerging health care and business needs in harnessing data. The study of big data has been part of the CHHS DNA for quite some time, most notably through the innovative analytical work of Dr. Jim Studnicki, the Belk Endowed Professor in Public Health Sciences. Dr. Studnicki’s research team created a software solution that has been used by several states and health systems across the country to analyze data associated with the health of their markets and to develop priorities for improving the health of their respective communities. Common databases used to complete such community health needs assessments include birth and death records, cancer registries, hospital discharges, emergency room visits, demographic projections and behavioral risk factor data. Recently, his work has led to a new partnership with Premier Inc. who will be licensing the intellectual property that Dr. Studnicki and his team created at UNC Charlotte based on a 20 year history of work in health informatics. Dr. Christopher Blanchette is the newly appointed CHHS Director of Data Sciences & Business Analytics (DSBA). Dr. Blanchette brings a strong background in healthcare industry analytics, including the use of big data in making decisions on the clinical and cost effectiveness of healthcare treatments and interventions. He seeks to better understand the natural course of chronic diseases and how treatment interventions – like new surgical procedures or biological therapies positively affect clinical outcomes or reduce healthcare costs. Big healthcare databases are essentially a laboratory --- absent people, beds and beeping monitors -- where now it is possible to predict the very best outcomes for those of us being treated for any given disease FALL 2014




or health issue. Better understanding of disease progression for patients with certain characteristics and responsiveness to any given treatment under constrained resources allows providers to choose the right treatment at the right time for the right patient, often referred to as the “triple aim.” Says Dr. Blanchette, “The data science initiative in the College of Health and Human Services provides a dynamic environment where scholars, students and industry partners collaborate to find answers to some of the most complex questions facing healthcare in the US today.” When healthcare resources are constrained as they are and will continue to be moving forward, innovation also becomes a challenge. There is a growing need to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of healthcare treatments and interventions. This environment has

driven the demand for this type of work from most healthcare agencies including government, healthcare delivery, healthcare technology companies, the pharmaceutical industry and, research and consulting companies. Most of these agencies have developed data sources through the healthcare services they provide. However, these data sources are as disconnected as our currently fragmented healthcare system is. This limits organizations in their capacity to analyze these datasets to draw information which can help drive comprehensive decision making around that triple aim. CHHS has established some very exciting partnerships with many industries and community groups who are all focused on enhancing patient outcomes and include group purchasing organizations, contract research organizations, acute and long-term healthcare systems and healthcare payers (insurance).



ithout question, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been a game changer in health data analytics, funding opportunities, and academic/ commercial partnerships. With the Affordable Care Act come higher standards for accountability and positive patient outcomes by healthcare providers like hospitals and primary care physicians. These higher expectations for performance are simultaneously causing the demand for experts in health data analytics to go through the roof. Dr. Blanchette has several students from the Health Services Research PhD program working on groundbreaking projects to prepare them for this work. For an example, Patrick Surry, a 2014 graduate of the Health Informatics Professional Science Masters degree (HI-PSM), is continuing on for his doctoral degree and working with Dr. Blanchette and CHHS research faculty Dr. Dionne Hines to better understand how treatments for asthma affect clinical and economic outcomes among older adults. They are using Medicare health claims data, a data set representing approximately 44 million patients or roughly 15% of the US population and accounting for billions of healthcare encounters chronicling these patients’ journey through the US healthcare system. HSR doctoral students Debosoree Roy and Bryce Van Doren are working with Dr. Reuben Howden from Kinesiology, Dr. Joshua Noone, a CHHS Research Faculty and Dr. Blanchette to assess issues for COPD patients in the US, and with Kinesiology faculty Dr. Susan Arthur to assess differential services associated with the treatment of cachexia (muscle wasting). Several other students including Shweta Shah and Chris Craver are working in CHHS faculty led research teams to look at disease treatments and outcomes, including mortality in lung cancer patients making Medicare claims. Dr. Bill Saunders is a public health researcher and a primary faculty member supporting the Health Informatics Professional Science Master’s degree. His interest and expertise in big data began at GlaxoSmithKline where he helped build a ‘Healthcare Information Factory’ where disparate health data sources were combined to uncover previously unknown



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Cynthiya Rueban, Dr. William Saunders, Dr. Josh Noone

clinical efficiencies and outcomes. Now at UNC Charlotte, he also coordinates the Health Informatics and Outcomes Research Academy (HInORA), an interdisciplinary group of faculty and their graduate students led by CHHS. One HInORA working group, the North Carolina Analytics Team, is completing a groundbreaking project examining hospital readmissions among heart failure, myocardial infarction, and pneumonia patients across the entire state of North Carolina. Says Dr. Saunders, “CHHS researchers are contributing significantly to UNC Charlotte’s data science efforts, offering a deep public health oriented perspective. The graduate programs in Health Informatics and Data Science and Business Analytics prepare graduates who will further the medical community’s understanding of health data and its potential to inform better approaches to disease management and health promotion at the highest levels.” UNC Charlotte’s reputation as a place for high level, hands-on learning built on novel internships and interactions with a broad array of faculty, most with work experience the healthcare industry, is growing quickly through these data science programs where students get to roll up their sleeves and solve real-world problems in the healthcare arena.



rs. Sarah Laditka and Jim Laditka are using data from more than 40 years of the United States Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). The PSID, supported by National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health since 1968, is ongoing and has the distinction of being the longest running household survey in the world. The PSID is comprised of information from more than 70,000 participants who have answered over 70,000 questions. It can be linked with comprehensive Medicare claims data, providing an unequalled view of health and the use of medical care in the United States. Their analyses include looking at the effects of chronic diseases such as cognitive impairment, stroke, and diabetes on active life expectancy. The Laditka team is drilling down on mountains of data to study life expectancy and the proportion of remaining life with and without disability. Why is this important? The United States and governments in many countries throughout the word use active life expectancy estimates to forecast the future need for health and social services and the costs of medical care. With the unprecedented numbers of aging baby boomers in the pipeline here in the US, the demand for high quality, accessible and affordable healthcare and supporting social services will be at a pitch never before experienced or imagined. “We are developing new predictive models that address priorities for business, public policy leaders, and our nation,” say the Laditka research team. An interesting connection to health being made by the Ladika’s is related employment status. The most recent analysis examines the effects of unemployment on disability and active life expectancy using PSID data going back over four decades. Compared with individuals with little or no unemployment, those with high unemployment had substantially lower life expectancy and a much greater proportion of remaining life with disability. The substantial increase in long-term unemployment that began in 2008, together with effects of changing technologies and globalization, may actually reduce life expectancy and increase disability in the United States. Without question, this result is very likely to have important consequences for employers, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Importantly, the statistical and computational methods they have developed also have wide applicability for assessing effects of pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices in clinical trials. As our understanding of disease evolves we must also evolve our strategy to best serve public need. In the developing healthcare landscape, the highest expectations

Says Dr. Noone, “The ongoing research in the College of Health and Human Services is allowing UNC Charlotte to stay on the cutting edge of the future of health and health care.”

Dr. James Studnicki

Cynthiya Rueban

Dr. Joshua Noone

for patient health outcomes must also be paired with the lowest cost possible. Partnerships with the healthcare industry give faculty and students the chance to get a closer look at specific diseases, treatment contexts, or interventions and importantly, an opportunity to predict, using big data, the best course of action. As a CHHS Research Assistant Professor, Dr. Josh Noone focuses on understanding chronic disease in the context of the healthcare system as well as the impact of pharmaceutical intervention on the progression of disease. Big data research gives him and other CHHS faculty a platform to more clearly see how individuals interact with the health system on a local, regional or national level. This broad and deep information perspective gives us a better understanding of common chronic diseases, policy interventions, and even an analysis of rare diseases which cannot otherwise be studied to yield any meaningful strategy. Dr. Noone works on a nationally representative dataset with a team of students and Dr. Blanchette investigating the side effects of anabolic steroid use, and on another team working to assess the cost of mental health emergency room admissions in the state of North Carolina. Says Dr. Noone, “The ongoing research in the College of Health and Human Services is allowing UNC Charlotte to stay on the cutting edge of the future of health and health care.” Article Contributors: Dr. Christopher Blanchette and Josh Diliberto

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e live, as the poet W.H. Auden once said, in the “age of anxiety.” As Americans, it often feels like we have a lot to be afraid of – climate change, global competition, economic insecurity, health-threatening foods, random violence, hyper-partisan politics, drug cartels, terrorism… and now, Ebola.


ost of us know that we are more than capable of managing all these threats and that, as FDR once famously told us, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” yet there are worries that are hard to dismiss because they prey on our imaginations. The worst of these are threats that we know are real and serious, but are also mysterious, because they are, in some way, unknown. We know that there are terrorists out there, but we don’t know where they all are, or when they are going to strike at us next. We know that there is an Ebola epidemic loose in the world, but we don’t know if anyone walks among us who might be carrying the virus. We feel the threat, but we don’t fully understand it, and we don’t know how to fight it. In counter to the frightening unknown, Dr. Daniel Janies,



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Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics, deals in information. His work, in many ways, is to provide us with intelligence on some emerging issues that are truly terrifying, and by doing that, helps us manage the threats, and our fears about them. In particular, Janies’ research involves zoonotic diseases – diseases lurking quietly in various animal populations around the world that have proven to be capable of “jumping” to humans and thus threaten to become terrifying global epidemics. You know a lot about these diseases because of past runins we have already had with them: Influenza, SARS, Bubonic Plague, Hendra Virus, Nipah Virus, West Nile Virus, AIDS, MERS, and now Ebola. In a recent interview published in the New York Times, Richard

Preston (author of The Hot Zone) describes Ebola: “Here’s what’s terrifying about Ebola. Ebola is invisible. It’s a monster without a face. With the science that we have now, we can perceive Ebola as being not one thing but as a swarm, and the swarm is moving through the human population and expanding its numbers. It has the qualities of a monster.” And it’s not the only one. Like terrorists, these pathogens lurk -- in birds, pigs, chickens, camels and fruit bats – and we don’t know when or how they are going to strike next. But, Janies points out, we already have plenty of valuable details that could help us understand these dangers – boatloads of genomic sequence and metadata on places of isolations and hosts for pathogens in publicly accessible databases -- if we could just organize the information, analyze it and turn it into useful intelligence. Janies, together with colleagues at The Ohio State University and the American Museum of Natural History, developed Supramap, a high performance computing application that public health scientists use that makes sense of vast stores of genomic information about a pathogen from samples that have been taken in different times and places, analyzes minute genetic differences, tracks ancestral relationships between different

occurrences of infection by the pathogen, and combines them with geographic information. The end result is akin to a “weathermap of disease” that reveals otherwise hidden details of how the pathogen emerges, changes, and travels in an outbreak. Supramap provides an intelligence report that can be read in a virtual globe such as Google Earth TM that allows scientists and health officials to see patterns and make predictions regarding an ongoing outbreak of disease. For example, in a recent analysis that Janies’ lab has done on preliminary data regarding the Ebola outbreak in Africa, it is possible to see that the viral strains involved in the current human outbreak in West Africa are related to previous outbreaks in humans in Central

Africa that range back to the 1970s. An outstanding question is where and in which hosts has the virus been hiding since the last outbreak in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012. Suspect host species range from pigs, to bats, to gorillas. As more data is released, the Supramap application will allow researchers to put all of the data and metadata in context to understand the strains cycles among hosts, and how the properties of the strains change as they travel.


By James Hathaway

Outbreak data in China of the H7N9 virus in 2013.

Left: Supramap for 160 isolates of Ebola virus collected between 1976 and 2014 in Central and West Africa. Right: The same Supramap but in this case the gray lines indicate historical isolates and the red lines indicated isolates from the recent outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Janies’ ongoing work on mapping Ebola is important, but his work on influenza viruses, particularly on the emerging strains of H5N1 and H7N9 show how useful a detailed genetic and geographic map of a strains of emerging pathogens can be. Influenza is familiar to us, and though the viruses are perhaps not as terrifying as Ebola, influenza has a long history of being one of the most deadly diseases to afflict humanity. We think of it as an annual winter virus, but occasionally something changes, and the changes that occur turn the familiar beast into something much more deadly. What exactly makes it so dangerous? Certainly one reason is that the viruses have a history of jumping from other animals to humans. When the trans-species virus is new to the human population, it generally means that human immune systems, especially of young people, have little natural resistance and the strain is often deadly. Another reason is that influenza viruses, like Ebola, with their rapidly mutating single-strand RNA genomes, are highly variable over time. Now another view is emerging that shows another frightening side to the viruses’ variabilty. In a recent study, Janies and co-authors describe influenzas not just as mutating viral genomes, but as regularly re-assorting combinations of 11 separate genes, each of which has its own family history of moving back and forth from species to species and from one population center to another. In essence an influenza virus is composed of a set of working parts, each one of which can act as a free agent to FALL 2014




team with other parts to form a new virus that is suited to evade hosts’ immune systems. The study uses genomic analysis to look at the phylogenic history of genes in the H7 influenza viruses, which include the recent human cases of H7N9 in China. The study’s authors are Janies and UNC Charlotte bioinformatics graduate student Chris Krueger, as well as Laura W. Pomeroy, Igor O. Voronkin, Jori Hardman, Yuqi Zhang Izzet Senturk, Kamer Kaya, and Ümit Çatalyürek from Ohio State University. The authors note that genetic relationships between H7 genes found in a variety of host animals (including humans, migratory waterfowl and chickens), show regular transit in genes that assort with H7 viruses across vast geographic distance. “We find multiple occurrences of transboundary and transcontinental spread, both within and between the previously observed American and Eurasian clusters,” the authors say. “Our results indicate that H7 influenza virus transboundary spread has occurred multiple times and that patterns of spread differ by gene, indicating viral reassortment.” “ here’s an unlearned lesson: even In essence, if people say the disease went the study shows away, no it hasn’t – it’s hanging that individual around in places we are not looking, genes behave like independent it’s hanging around in chickens, it’s actors, moving hanging around in pigeons...” from place to place – from China to Taiwan to South Korea or Vietnam, and back to China -- and from animal to animal – from duck to chicken to human, and perhaps back to chicken or duck… or some other bird -- evolving until they land in successful pathogenic


Ebola Origins Chart



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combinations with other influenza genes that are doing the same thing. Given that the genes mutation rate is relatively rapid and that genes experience a wide variety of host and environmental conditions, the possibilities for dangerous new viral adaptations are dynamic and vast in combinations. “A case in point is the China-Taiwan H7N9 outbreak, which was caused by a virus made of genetic segments previously circulating in chickens in China and ducks in Korea,” the authors note. “Some segments have international connections to and from China-Taiwan to neighboring countries.” “This disease has a long history,” said Janies. “We have isolates going back to 1902. But the recent constellation of H7N9 is a new virus, a new assortment of genes. However each the gene has been around for a very long time.” The construction of gene-by-gene phylogenic trees is possible thanks to the development of large databases containing thousands of viral genomes and new bioinformatics techniques backed by UNC Charlotte’s investments in high performance computing that allow the visualization and analysis of complex genetic relationships. Janies argues a new approach is needed in how we study and monitor widespread zoonotic viruses like influenza that are frequently cross species and geographic boundaries. While the global health community jumps into action when human outbreaks occur, if the outbreak is stopped it does not mean that the threat has ended because the source for the virus’s threat may be distributed elsewhere among animals and geography. “There’s an unlearned lesson: even if people say the disease went away, no it hasn’t – it’s hanging around in places we are not looking, it’s hanging around in chickens, it’s hanging around in pigeons, “ Janies said,

noting that the wildlife biologists and veterinary doctors who know and observe animal diseases often do not belong to the same communication networks as global health researchers and physicians. “The bugs don’t care what discipline you’re in. You are going to have patients and problems caused by the same bugs crossing over geographic boundaries, host boundaries and disciplinary boundaries,” he said. “The genes can be seen as independent actors. They reassemble themselves into novel viruses to which people may not be immune. It’s not just that the genes mutate, it’s that the whole deck gets shuffled. The genes can come from different animals and then come together in a completely novel way. That’s what happened with H1N1 in 2009. New combinations are important events for which to watch.” While it may not be comforting to understand the nature of the threats posed by zoonotic viruses and while a certain amount of natural fear is still likely to be caused by outbreaks, the intelligence provided by Janies’ work helps put the problems in common context involving animals, places, and mutations. Understanding what is happening in these interrelated but distinct contexts gives us the tools to effectively manage the threats -- and with that should come less panic. Knowing how viruses move and change helps us regain control because the danger that you can see, understand, and thus one day anticipate is much less terrible than a mysterious attack that may come at you at any time, out of the dark. James Hathaway directs Research Communications operations in the Office of Research and Economic Development. He is a professional science writer with over 20 years of experience in writing about science and technology and in communicating news about university research findings to the general public. For more information, call 704-687-5743 or email jbhathaw@uncc.edu.


By James Hathaway


hough bioinformatics research is clearly giving us valuable insights regarding the pathogens that cause epidemic disease, a reasonable person might still wonder if any of this matters in the face of a real-life crisis like the Ebola epidemic. What, if any, are the practical applications? Well, there are some, as you can see if you read this short article published by the World Health Organization about a quick diagnosis lab in Liberia. The article caught our eye because it features Dr. Ketan Patel, a former postdoctoral fellow in bioinformatics researcher Dr. Ann Loraine’s lab at UNC Charlotte. The WHO lab critically involves Patel’s bioinformatics expertise – a special section of the Ebola RNA tested must be automatically identified and selected before it gets turned into the DNA that allows complete confirmation of the disease. The trick is that RNA genes tend to rapidly change over time, so how do you pick a section of the genome that you can count on to stay indentifiable? Bioinformatics, with its ability to compare and analyze the massive datasets involved in multiple genomes gives scientists like Patel the answer. The WHO article: Liberia: New Ebola Mobile Lab Speeds Up Diagnosis and Improves Care October 2014 One of the challenges to bring the Ebola outbreak under control in Liberia has been lack of access locally to laboratories able to provide a quick and firm diagnosis of the disease. This month the United States Navy opened a new high-tech mobile laboratory near the Island Clinic, one of the Ebola treatment units in Monrovia, Liberia, that is supported by the WHO. Until the new lab was up and running, health workers had to wait 2 to 5 days to have a preliminary Ebola diagnosis confirmed by sending blood samples to another lab facility in Monrovia. In the new lab, it takes just 3 to 5 hours to get results. Speeding up the time between taking a blood sample and knowing the results minimizes the time non-infected patients are exposed to infected patients and results in better care. US Navy Lieutenant Jose Garcia, Dr Ketan Patel and US Navy Chief Petty Officer Jerrold Diederich – all from the US Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA – run the mobile laboratory. They have to dress in personal protective equipment to do their work. “Since we are dealing with blood samples, there is the risk of infection. Improper handling of these specimens will pose a serious risk to us. That’s why we need to fully protect ourselves,” Dr Patel says. Detecting Ebola Virus Every morning, blood samples from the nearby Island Clinic are brought to the mobile laboratory. The process of detecting

the Ebola virus in blood samples consists of 3 steps. “The first thing we do with a blood sample is inactivate the Ebola virus, making the virus non-infectious and safer for testing,” Chief Petty Officer Diederich says. As samples may be able to transmit infection during the procedure it is completed in a portable biological safety hood so that lab workers avoid any direct contact with blood. The Ebola virus is built of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a form of genetic material. Once any Ebola virus present in the sample has been inactivated, the second step is to extract all genetic material from the blood sample, explains Dr Patel. By identifying the RNA unique to the Ebola virus in a blood sample, lab workers can firmly diagnose the disease. The final step is creating enough copies of the RNA – through a biochemical process called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – that presence of the virus in a sample can be confirmed. The whole detection process of the Ebola virus takes about 3 hours with a maximum of 16 samples at a time. Because the various steps are performed in different sections of the laboratory, samples need to be moved from one room to another in a safe manner. “We use small dunk tanks containing 10% chlorine bleach to avoid any direct contact,” Dr Patel explains. Since the beginning of October, when the laboratory began functioning, more than 500 blood samples have been tested. Half of the samples turn out to be Ebola-positive. “The main goal of our job is to speed up the time between the arrival of the blood sample and the detection of the Ebola virus in the sample,” Dr Patel says. ■

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It’s difficult to explain to others outside of the realm of Higher Education exactly what a Research Administrator does. The title is often misleading, giving the impression that the scope of work is limited to just research. The field of Research Administration is both broad and extensive in its reach. People in this field dedicate their lives to lifelong teaching and learning, expanding the field, and influencing government organizations that determine most of the guidelines that structure research and other externally funded sponsored programs. millennial


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sponsored project is defined as any externally funded research or scholarly activity that has a defined scope of work or set of objectives which provides a basis for sponsor expectations. This more specifically involves research, demonstration, professional development, instruction, training, curriculum development, community, and public service, or other scholarly activity involving funds, materials, other forms of compensation, or exchanges of in-kind efforts under awards or agreements.* External funding can come from anywhere - charitable foundations, not-for-profits, and private corporations as well as local, state and federal governments. Regardless of the source, these entities we call sponsors, (external to the organization receiving the funds); attach certain requirements to the use of those funds. Regardless of what a

sponsor expects from the project itself, whether it is delivered the financial budget necessary for the project, coordinating materials, new technology, or a published paper, sponsors with his/her team members frequently for updates regarding want the research/activities to be managed (administered) the work in progress, monitoring the progress of the project and the activities and results of which reported; basically, they and acknowledging team suggestions, supervising the team want to know what’s happening with their money. members and ensuring that guidelines are met, initiating Sponsored awards are made to the University on the project or contract and working until the project is behalf of the principal investigator (PI), who is primarily completed, and discussing updates with senior officials and responsible for carrying out the requirements of the the sponsor.*** award. The PI may also be referred to as the project However it happens, sponsored projects are conducted at director. The few exceptions are certain awards that may corporations, universities, science foundations, and at many be made to individuals, such as some faculty fellowships. other entities throughout the world. Whether that project In developing a proposal and is within the natural sciences, social administering an award, the PI sciences, engineering or medical fields, represents the University and is research is happening – and none of it responsible for upholding the high is possible without funding. standards expected of University Research Administration, therefore, projects. The PI also serves as is pretty much as it sounds: managing fiscal officer of the project, with all the administrative work involved in the attendant responsibilities of research. At UNC Charlotte, our motto project fiscal management. is “we make research happen”. Not But there’s more to it than just in a manner that faculty or scientists the money. There are regulations do; but the facilitation of the process that must be adhered to, reviews from start to finish is crucial to that need to be conducted successful projects. by individuals and boards, certifications to be acquired, and conflicts that must be averted, all of which must be tracked and managed throughout the lifecycle of the research project, something that can go on for years. Directing these different pieces, the money, the certifications, the cooperative agreements, bringing the research to a close, publishing the results, as well as potentially transferring that work to marketing entities for sales or royalties are all part of the administrative processes occurring behind the scenes.** A research administrator is a professional who organizes the necessary team members and specializes in facilitating, reporting, and analyzing projects. This position requires great responsibility and proper time management because the job entails constant monitoring Erika N. Cottingham M.Ed., CRA, Associate Director of Research Services & Outreach and control of all project variables. in the Division of Research & Economic Development (RED), has over 13 years of The administrator’s role is not only professional experience in grant writing, review, and administration, including 10 in research to ensure that the project is finished administration in an academic setting. Erika holds a Master of Education degree in Teaching on time and on budget, but also may & Learning from Liberty University and a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education involve acquiring more contracts. from Temple Baptist College. She has been a Certified Research Administrator since 2007. Being a project administrator To reach Erika, email her at erika.cottingham@uncc.edu or call 704-687-1882. requires strong executive administrative skills, as well as References: experience in finance budgeting and *Drexel University (2005). What is a Sponsored Project? - Research. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/WvrskO reporting. The administration of a ** InfoEd Gobal (2011). What We Do-eRA 101 - InfoEd. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/qzZa1i sponsored project involves planning *** Janssen, Cory (2010). What is a Project Administrator? Retrieved from http://goo.gl/zBnaNf

The administrator’s role is not only to ensure that the project is finished on time and on budget, but also may involve acquiring more contracts.

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AURA By Bernadette Williams

dvancing University Research Administration, AURA, is making research happen with technology. The AURA team is partnering with groups at UNC Charlotte and other UNC institutions to implement changes that will improve research processing and administration. The AURA program builds upon the grant administration changes that were first implemented by the original Research Administration Project (RAP) project, such as, reorganizing the Grants and Contracts Administration team and improving supporting infrastructure for hiring and personnel processes. The objectives of AURA are to streamline the research administration processes, improve customer service, and to advance the communication and reporting capabilities of the University. In collaboration with UNC Charlotte Information Technology and UNC General Administration, the AURA team implemented a process to automatically update human resource data whenever changes are made. Previously, this was completed manually and prone to frequent errors. The website for Research & Economic Development was recently revamped to help faculty, staff, students, and research partners find information quickly and efficiently. The website allows users to navigate the site based on their role or interaction with the Research & Economic Development department. The new site also shines the “spotlight� on industry leading projects that UNC Charlotte researchers are working on. Training and Upcoming Events are also easily found on the site. In the near future, the AURA team will also participate in efforts to analyze and improve University research administration systems, implement a new system to manage travel and related expenses, improve billing for research projects, streamline animal care protocol administration and update the grant fund set-up process. Each project will help support the University goal to increase research to $50 million by 2020.




Bernadette Williams, Information Technology Program Manager, Advancing University Research Administration (AURA), has over fifteen years of experience in the IT industry and holds a BA in Management Information Systems and MBA. She is an active member of EDUCAUSE, an organization for IT professionals in Higher Education. Bernadette can be reached at 704-687-1865 or at bernadette.williams@uncc.edu.



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By Jim Currie



he Charlotte Venture Challenge. A mobile transaction hackathon. The founder of Red Hat. Smoked salmon and cream cheese. 17 start-up companies. A Google originated training program for emotional intelligence. The governor of North Carolina. A market discovery workshop series. Falafel. Corporate training sessions for local firms. A student business incubator with 8 student businesses. What do all of these things have in common? Over the past few months, they could all be found in the PORTAL Industry-University Partnership building. PORTAL is quickly becoming a place of activity and engagement for UNC Charlotte and the region’s business community. Over 90 registered programs and events have occurred in PORTAL since its February 2014 opening. Some of the above mentioned events would have happened anyway – but they would not necessarily have all happened in the same place – a place where UNC Charlotte students, researchers, and faculty routinely interact with entrepreneurs and corporate innovators. PORTAL serves as home for Ventureprise, a business incubator and entrepreneurial support engine, and its client-tenants. It also is home to the 49er Foundry, UNC

Charlotte’s student incubator, and its student incubator teams. The university’s Office of Technology Transfer, corporate partnership offices, and classified research facilities are located in PORTAL as well. And since the beginning of the fall semester, PORTAL is now home to the Orbis Grille – a new food venue and campus gathering space serving delicious, healthy food five days a week. PORTAL is a place where you will find interesting young companies, promising business developments, and entrepreneurial and technology support. And it is home to a spirit of growth – growth of an enterprising culture, growth of our innovative capabilities, and growth of the possibilities of serendipity. A workshop attendee finds training space she’s been looking for. A building client is introduced to a contact with a company he’s been unsuccessful in cracking. A new business is linked to a funding program at a critical moment. Come by, have a falafel, make connections, and discover PORTAL. Jim Currie, is the Charlotte Research Institute Associate Director for PORTAL. He has been involved with industry partnering, technology commercialization and entrepreneurship for several years. Jim joined UNC Charlotte in February 2014.



aving a patent is often not enough to get a new idea successfully commercialized and the Office of Technology Transfer’s micro grant program for proof-of-concept funding seeks to reduce the risks associated with commercializing a new invention. Oftentimes inventors do not understand the large business and financial risks associated with bringing a new technology to market. Just because a new technology shows positive results in a lab setting does not mean it will translate to mass production or work well in other less controlled environments. The proof-of-concept funding is designed to reduce some of these risks and to help the university attract business partners willing to bring a new technology forward from the lab to the marketplace. Since its inception in 2011, the funding program has awarded eight projects with individual projects receiving up to $5,000 in support. Of the eight funded technologies, four were used as a catalyst to spin out new start-up companies, two were used to apply for over $250,000 in additional research funding, and one has received followon support and funding from a large multi-national company with an interest in acquiring the technology. Based on this initial success, the Office of Technology Transfer plans to keep awarding proof-of-concept funding on a caseby-case basis with priority given to inventions with a clear market need and product development pathway. The proof-of-concept funding grant is available to faculty, staff, and students with a university owned invention and the fund provides a maximum of $5,000 per technology. The funding must be used exclusively for product design and development. To learn more about the proof-of-concept funding program, please contact Brad Fach Associate Director Office of Technology Transfer at: bfach@uncc.edu or 704-687-8018

Brad Fach is registered patent agent with 14 years of experience. He has filed over 500 patent applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office in a variety of technology areas ranging from cancer drugs to mobile software applications. Brad is a certified licensing professional (CLP), holds a master’s degree in biotechnology as well as a master’s in business administration, both from the Johns Hopkins University. FALL 2014



UrbanEde millennial


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ast year, students from the College of Arts and Architecture, the William States Lee College of Engineering, and the Belk College of Business collaborated to design and construct a sustainable home for the Solar Decathlon competition. The challenge of the competition was to engineer a building which would exist with a minimal impact on the environment, both in creation and maintenance, while designing an elegant structure that people would find comfortable and appealing. From the use of geopolymer concrete created from a renewable resource, radiant heating and cooling through carefully planned capillary tube system, and a vertical garden which not only provides nutrition, but privacy as well as green space for peace of mind, to movable living spaces enabling the best use of space depending on needs, UrbanEden is as efficient as it is beautiful as a living space. The team’s efforts were recognized at the Solar Decathlon competition in California as they competed with academic teams from all around the world and tied for 3rd Place for the juried Engineering Contests, and won the People’s Choice awards. Success didn’t stop there, in July, 2014 UrbanEden was one of 12 teams in the Matsumoto Competition, a modernist architecture competition to honor George Matsumoto, a founding faculty member at the N.C. State University College of Design who taught from 1948 to 1961. Of the 12 teams, UNC Charlotte was the only academic entrant; the rest of the teams were comprised of professional architecture and construction companies. UrbanEden was one of the six winning teams and took 3rd place for the People’s Choice, an award determined by around 4,000 votes from all over the world. “Winning a People’s Choice Award in the Matsumoto competition – like winning the People’s Choice Award in the 2013 Solar Decathlon – was very exciting for our team of UNC Charlotte students and faculty. Our house, UrbanEden, was first and foremost a research project, an effort to advance the important research of several UNC Charlotte faculty, and an educational project, an opportunity for students to have a unique hands-on learning experience. UrbanEden also embodies a message about sustainable design and lifestyle. The fact that the house also has popular appeal, that people find it beautiful and interesting, is very gratifying.” - Meg Freeman Whalen, Director of Communications and External Relations. Also, the UrbanEden team won U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Talking Walls award for the residential category during its 7th Annual Green Gala and Sustainable Business Awards reception held on September 26th. The U.S. Green Building is an organization dedicated to the improvement of quality of life by “transforming the design, composition, and operation of the places where we live, learn, work, and play within the short space of a generation” to ensure future generations exist in healthy and sustainable environments. The recognition for the UrbanEden team’s work continues to grow and produce valuable insight into the movement of sustainable building design and engineering. Solar Decathlon: http://goo.gl/6hMmOn Matsumoto Competition: http://goo.gl/lchi0C USGBC Talking Walls Award: http://goo.gl/TJexFf FALL 2014




hef Chandra Hoffman and her Orbis Grille team are serving up healthy cooked-toorder breakfast and lunch menu items to

the delight of those who have discovered this recently opened food venue located in the PORTAL building. “Our customers’ positive reaction to our all-natural products and fresh menu options are exceeding expectations”, says Chef Hoffman. Cooked-to-order omelets, fresh fruit and yogurt, smoothies, salmon sandwiches, chicken meatballs, and sweet and sour pork are just a few of the popular menu items at the Orbis Grille.


Open since the start of fall semester and named after the statue located between Grigg and Duke halls, the Orbis Grille at PORTAL is the first full service food venue in the CRI sector of the UNC Charlotte campus. Using one of only two Evo high heat grills in Charlotte, the Orbis Grill staff is able to blend pre-cooked items with individual-order components to create hot, fresh and non-greasy entrees. Offering a reminder that Orbis is still in its first semester of operation, Chef Hoffman notes, “We’ll monitor customer food preferences throughout the semester and tweak our menu offerings as we continue through the year…but so far we are off to a great start”. Check out CRI’s new neighborhood Orbis Grille for yourself weekdays from 7:30am to 3:00pm.



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Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development Executive Director, Charlotte Research Institute (704) 687-8428 rgwilhel@uncc.edu

Chip Yensan

Associate Director Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 687-8283 lyensan@uncc.edu

Jim Currie

Robyne R. Vickers

Karen Ford

James Hathaway

Associate Director for PORTAL Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 687-7573 jcurri13@uncc.edu

Events Manager Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 687-5598 kjford@uncc.edu

Technical Specialist Research & Economic Development (704) 687-8022 rvicker4@uncc.edu

Research Communications Research & Economic Development (704) 687-5743 jbhathaw@uncc.edu

Julie M. Fulton

Office Manager / Administrative Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 687-8428 jfulton4@uncc.edu




P. Gail Keene

Paul Wetenhall

Devin Collins

Lolita Gonzales

Carolyn Smith

Business Manager Research & Economic Development (704) 687-8286 pgkeene@uncc.edu

Assistant Business Manager Research & Economic Development (704) 687-5697 lgonza19@uncc.edu

Pearl Brown

Executive Director / President Ventureprise, Inc. (704) 687-8057 paul.wetenhall@ventureprise.org

Client Services Ventureprise, Inc. (704) 687-0900 carolyn.smith@ventureprise.org


Robert Wilhelm, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, Entrepreneurship and Business Development Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 250-5753 devin.collins@uncc.edu

Clare Cook Faggart

Life Sciences Program Manager Charlotte Research Institute Research & Economic Development (704) 250-5760 clarefaggart@uncc.edu

Business Office Specialist Research & Economic Development (704) 687-7733 plbrown@uncc.edu

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Profile for UNC Charlotte

Millennial Magazine, Fall 2014  

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s Urban Research University. The Charlotte region is our laboratory as this issue’s piece on Health Research...

Millennial Magazine, Fall 2014  

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s Urban Research University. The Charlotte region is our laboratory as this issue’s piece on Health Research...