NC State News News from NC State University 2017-07-24T02:01:16Z WordPress Staff <![CDATA[Food Processing Innovation Center Poised to Boost N.C. Economy]]> 2017-07-24T01:59:58Z 2017-07-20T15:43:22Z A new initiative taking shape in Kannapolis could create jobs, revitalize rural communities, open new markets for entrepreneurs and farmers … and the list goes on.

Years in the making, the North Carolina Food Processing Innovation Center (FPIC) leapt from dream to reality with the recent passage of the North Carolina state budget, which included $4.4 million in funding. The new center, set to open in 2018, also will receive $700,000 in recurring funds for operational support.

An initiative of North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), the FPIC is poised to revolutionize food processing and manufacturing in North Carolina.

“This is the culmination of a process that NC State and the department and a lot of partners have gone through to do what we think can transform North Carolina’s economy into a food manufacturing economy,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It’s a perfect fit. We’ve got an $84 billion industry in agriculture and agribusiness, so we think this is the defining moment for the future of North Carolina.”

The 10,000-square-foot facility – to be housed in the NCRC Core Laboratory Building – will be the only of its kind in the country. While there are other university-based food innovation centers nationwide, the FPIC will be the only one that is cGMP certified, which means that an FDA-regulated system of controls will ensure a high level of quality at every step.

Providing a space where ideas can come to fruition allows us to engage in really ground-breaking research.

Mario Ferruzzi, a professor in the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute and FPIC subcommittee chair, says the center is designed to engage entrepreneurs, researchers and industry giants alike.

“A pilot plant facility such as the one we’re envisioning would provide flexibility to actually scale up and commercialize ideas, for small entrepreneurs who are looking for facilities that are able to bring them market-ready products. …The research and development piece engages university researchers and allows us to think about how we can translate our technology into something that is commercializable.”

The FPIC also will enable national and international companies – from equipment to ingredient manufacturers – to collaborate with faculty and entrepreneurs.

“Providing a space where ideas can actually come to fruition … allows us to engage in really ground-breaking research,” Ferruzzi said.

The center’s location in an agriculturally diverse state also is a boon, he said.

“The raw materials that come from this state are second to none, so we have tremendous diversity and tremendous capacity from an agricultural perspective,” he said. “But to really grab value from that … would be to transform those materials. So what we would be able to do is to facilitate growth of food manufacturing that would allow us to do more of that transformation here and not have our materials ship out of state.”

Richard Linton, dean of the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, describes the FPIC as a “base camp” for the creation of food processing and manufacturing facilities across the state, in the counties where agricultural products are raised and grown.

“Our hope is that this initiative will help build up the tax base and revive local economies in many of the counties that need it most,” he said.

This project has the potential for a tremendous manufacturing breakthrough that could impact rural North Carolina.

Sen. Paul Newton echoes Linton’s vision.

“This project has the potential for a tremendous manufacturing breakthrough that could impact rural North Carolina,” he said. “What we’re doing here can absolutely take our largest industry in North Carolina to a whole new level, and that is going to directly help rural North Carolina because that’s where we grow the food.”

The wheels are in motion for a grand opening in 2018. A planning committee, chaired by Troxler, is working to complete a business plan by September.

As part of that process, a small task force will visit similar university food innovation centers across the country over the next couple of months to learn what’s working, review revenue models and make recommendations to the committee on design and development.

“We know we’ve got the business climate,” Troxler said. “We’re constantly rated the top state in the nation as far as the place to do business. We’ve got the ag industry. And now, putting this in place so you combine all of this together, this is wonderful.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

Tracey Peake <![CDATA[Survey: Public Retains Positive Attitudes Toward Service and Support Animals]]> 2017-07-20T15:24:13Z 2017-07-20T15:23:38Z How do people feel about service, emotional support and therapy animals in public spaces? It can get a bit complicated, according to a new pilot study by NC State University’s Regina Schoenfeld.

Schoenfeld, an associate professor of veterinary education and development, along with colleagues from Colorado State University, wanted to determine whether recent controversies over the legitimacy of emotional support animals in public spaces had affected public attitudes toward service and therapy animals.

“There have been stories in the media about people bringing animals onto airplanes and in other public spaces and calling them support animals when in fact they are pets, and we wanted to see if this type of negative media coverage had affected public perception of these animals,” Schoenfeld says.

One issue with public attitudes toward service animals is that there are three different categories of these animals, and the public very often doesn’t know the difference.

The public is most familiar with service dogs. These dogs, like Seeing Eye dogs for example, are individually owned and trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. Their access to public spaces is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In contrast, therapy dogs work with mental-health providers and are owned by a health professional. They’re commonly found visiting patients in hospitals or in psychiatrists’ offices, and don’t have a role in public spaces.

Finally, emotional support animals can be prescribed by a health professional and are defined as animals that provide assistance to someone with a diagnosed psychological disability. These animals are not required to have any specialized training, can be any species (as opposed to the dogs most regularly used in the previous categories) and are owned as pets. Like service animals, emotional support animals accompany their owners in public.

In a small pilot study, Schoenfeld and her colleagues created an online survey to determine public attitudes about these animals. Respondents were screened to remove any who utilized any type of service animal. They received 284 usable responses out of 505 respondents.

Generally speaking, respondents were most comfortable around service dogs in public spaces, when compared to therapy or emotional support dogs, with approximately 60 percent of respondents supporting their presence in areas ranging from restaurants to airplanes to college dorm rooms. They were less comfortable with therapy dogs and emotional support dogs; however, a little over a third of participants (the actual number varied from 34.5 to 46.1 percent depending on the situation) still felt that they should be allowed in these spaces. Interestingly, the majority (63 percent) didn’t feel that people with emotional support animals were presenting them fraudulently.

“It seems to come down to two main issues: visibility and trust,” Schoenfeld says. “Service dogs are usually in the company of people with visible disabilities, whereas emotional support animals serve people with psychological disabilities, which are not visible. That’s where the attitudes get a little murkier.

“It was encouraging to see that the responses from the study didn’t seem to reflect the misrepresentation portrayed through the media,” Schoenfeld continues. “Whether that is due to the reports being exaggerated or the population sample in the survey is something we would like to explore further.”

The study appears in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Schoenfeld is lead and corresponding author. Peter Hellyer and Lori Kogan (senior author), professors of clinical sciences at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and DVM student Louana Cheung at Colorado State University co-authored the work.

Dee Shore <![CDATA[4-H Electric Congress Celebrates 70th Year]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:04Z 2017-07-20T15:01:36Z Video by Ken Ellzey

Every summer, North Carolina 4-H Electric Congress draws young people from across the state for hands-on learning, and fun, in science, technology, engineering and math related to electricity.

The N.C. 4-H youth development program and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at NC State University have been holding the congress with generous support from power companies, including Duke Power and Dominion Energy.

This year, the event brought 175 young people and their 4-H leaders and Cooperative Extension agents to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte from July 11-13. They learned not only about principles of electricity but also about energy-related careers and more.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

Staff <![CDATA[NC State Expanding Focus on Equine Health]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:05Z 2017-07-20T14:56:38Z There are big plans for a major expansion of equine health services at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh.

The college has had an existing Equine and Farm Animal Veterinary Center (EFAVC) since its inception in 1983, and is committed to pioneering advances in medical technology and providing the highest level of care to horse owners, trainers and producers. Taking full advantage of the progress of veterinary medicine today, however, requires increasing the size and scope of that center.

NC State has ambitious plans for doing just that.

The proposed expansion and renovation of equine health services – part of the university’s broader Think and Do the Extraordinary fundraising campaign to raise $1.6 billion in private support by the end of 2021 – calls for a $37.9 million investment while setting a new standard for equine and farm animal health.

In addition to the plan for upgrading and consolidating diagnostic, medical and surgical services, funding has already been secured for the Tiffany and Randy Ramsey Equine Sports Medicine Program.

The timing coincides with a growing incidence of sports-related equine injuries in recent years, as more and more people become interested in sport horses. This program will treat performance-related diseases in Olympic, dressage and pleasure-riding horses, as well as endow professorships, fund equipment purchases and assist in the construction of new and renovated facilities.

Combined with the cutting-edge work being done at NC State in the realm of regenerative therapies using platelet-rich plasma and bone marrow-derived stem cells for equine tendon injuries, this initiative will place the university at the forefront of equine sports medicine.

“This is a big project, but we can do it and we must. The impact on our equine and our farm animal programs will be tremendous,” said D. Paul Lunn, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine. “This will give us an entirely new equine hospital and a new farm animal hospital that will be the match of any facilities anywhere. It will be a welcoming place to bring your horse, and it will give our clinicians, staff and students the space they need to be the best.”

The overall expansion plan calls for a phased approach, in order to continue providing services while the renovation and new construction takes place. The four phases envisioned are:

  • Renovation and/or construction of the new sports medicine facilities, an arena, lobby and administrative offices, orthopedics and ophthalmology services, and construction of a ruminant health and field services addition.
  • Construction of new animal holding stalls and co-location of nuclear medicine and other imaging services.
  • Renovation and upgrade of equine intensive care and soft tissue treatment facilities.
  • Renovation of emergency treatment and surgical care facilities, along with additional office and administrative spaces, and the construction of additional equine holding stalls.

NC State’s aggressive agenda aims high and represents a major commitment to providing state-of-the-art veterinary medical services and facilities to the equine community in the 21st century.

For more about the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s equine program visit

This post was originally published in Giving News.

Carla Davis <![CDATA[Sharing Sustainability In Senegal]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:06Z 2017-07-20T14:26:58Z A study abroad experience in Scotland and an Alternative Service Break trip to Belize are how NC State graduate Jack Alcorn ended up in a remote village of Senegal, West Africa.

This 2012 NC State alumnus combined interests in travel, service and natural resources into a dream job: serving as an agroforester with Peace Corps.

“I’m here to train people on working with trees and planting trees,” says Alcorn of his two-year Peace Corps assignment. “There are a lot of things we can do with agroforestry.”

In Senegal, trees can provide more than much-needed shade from the hot, sub-Saharan sun. They are key to food security. Trees reduce wind erosion, boost soil fertility and improve crop harvests. Some fruit-bearing trees can also provide village residents with additional food sources, such as bananas, papayas and mangoes.

“We use trees to increase food security and access to nutritious food,” Alcorn says.

One way to fast track this access is through mango tree grafting. From a mature mango tree, Alcorn is able to cut a seedling, cultivate it in a tree nursery and later plant it in a permanent location, where it will bear fruit faster than if the tree had been grown from a seed.

Alcorn also teaches local residents how to cultivate strong tree seedlings that have a better chance of survival. In a small tree nursery in his backyard, Alcorn grows dozens of tree seedlings in small plastic bags of soil called tree sacks. Once it’s rainy season again in Senegal, the seedlings will be big enough to plant outdoors.

Alcorn is also introducing local farmers to the practice of using trees as a live fence to prevent  cows, sheep and goats from eating valuable crops.

“With a live fence, you use thorny trees and prune them in a way that they’ll grow into each other. It is less work than maintaining a wood fence and helps prevent deforestation,” says Alcorn, who majored in natural resource economics.

Alcorn is among about three dozen NC State alumni currently serving in Peace Corps, which earlier this year ranked NC State as No. 21 among large universities for number of volunteers in service. Like Alcorn, many of these volunteers have sustainability-related assignments. Since Peace Corps started in 1961, more than 500 NC State alumni have served as Peace Corps volunteers worldwide.

After Alcorn wraps up his Peace Corps assignment in late 2018, he anticipates returning to the United States, where he hopes to pursue a natural resources-related career with a community component.

“I’ll always have a passion for service,” he says.

This post was originally published in Sustainability News.

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Study Finds Day-to-Day Experiences Affect Awareness of Aging, Mood]]> 2017-07-20T13:40:56Z 2017-07-20T13:40:56Z A study of older adults finds an individual’s awareness of aging is not as static as previously thought, and that day-to-day experiences and one’s attitude toward aging can affect an individual’s awareness of age-related change (AARC) – and how that awareness affects one’s mood.

“People tend to have an overall attitude toward aging, good or bad, but we wanted to know whether their awareness of their own aging – or AARC – fluctuated over time in response to their everyday experiences,” says Shevaun Neupert, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the study.

For the study, researchers enrolled 116 participants between the ages of 60 and 90. Each participant took a survey to establish baseline attitudes toward aging. For the following eight days, participants kept a log of daily stressors (such as having an argument), completed a daily evaluation of age-related experiences (such as “I am becoming wiser” or “I am more slow in my thinking”), and reported on their affect, or mood.

“We found that people’s AARC, as reflected in their daily evaluations, varied significantly from day to day,” says Jennifer Bellingtier, a recent Ph.D. graduate from NC State and co-author of the paper. “We also found that people whose baseline attitudes toward aging were positive also tended to report more positive affect, or better moods.”

“People with positive attitudes toward aging were also less likely to report ‘losses,’ or negative experiences, in their daily aging evaluations,” Neupert says.

“However, when people with positive attitudes did report losses, it had a much more significant impact on their affect that day,” Neupert says. “In other words, negative aging experiences had a bigger adverse impact on mood for people who normally had a positive attitude about aging.”

The study expands on previous work that found having a positive attitude about aging makes older adults more resilient when faced with stressful situations.

The paper, “Aging Attitudes and Daily Awareness of Age-Related Change Interact to Predict Negative Affect,” is published in the journal The Gerontologist.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Aging Attitudes and Daily Awareness of Age-Related Change Interact to Predict Negative Affect”

Authors: Shevaun D. Neupert and Jennifer A. Bellingtier, North Carolina State University

Published: July 18, The Gerontologist

DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnx055


Purpose of the study. Possessing more positive views of one’s own aging is associated with better self-rated health, reduced reactivity to stressors, and better well-being. We examined two components of aging attitudes: awareness of age-related change (AARC) of loss and gain experiences and attitudes toward own aging (ATOA). We expected that AARC would vary day-to-day and interact with ATOA to predict daily negative affect.

Design and Methods. 116 participants (61% female, M age = 64.71, range 60-90) reported on 743 total days via an online daily diary study. On Day 1, participants reported baseline ATOA and baseline AARC for losses and gains. On Days 2-9, daily stressor exposure, daily AARC losses and gains, and negative affect were reported.

Results. Unconditional multilevel models revealed significant within-person fluctuation in daily AARC losses and gains. Controlling for daily stressors, age, and baseline AARC, daily increases in AARC losses were associated with increases in negative affect, and a cross-level interaction revealed that this effect was stronger for those with more positive ATOA.

Implications. AARC gains and losses vary from day-to-day, suggesting that interventions targeting the contextual fluctuations in daily life may be a promising avenue for future research. Specifically, individuals who feel generally positive about their own aging, although less likely to report awareness of daily age-related losses, may be the most vulnerable when they do occur. Efforts to reduce daily AARC losses (e.g., limiting activities due to age, receiving help because others assume age-related deficits) may improve the daily well-being of older adults.

Suzanne Wardle <![CDATA[Libraries to Demo Motion Capture Smartsuit]]> 2017-07-19T19:58:03Z 2017-07-19T19:58:03Z The Rokoko Smartsuit Pro looks like a fashion statement – a black jumpsuit with sleeves that extend to the palm and straps that go around the foot. However, it is no simple outfit: It’s a mobile motion capture studio that transmits the wearer’s movements in real time.

The D.H. Hill Library will host a demonstration of the suit on July 26 (register online). The technology has exciting implications for NC State, says Mike Nutt, director of visualization services for NCSU Libraries.

“A lot of people might not have ever considered what to do with a motion capture studio because it was so far out of the realm of possibility,” he says. “What happens when the libraries make that possible for them?”

Next week’s demonstration will be a webinar with a question-and-answer session. Faculty, early-career researchers, the university’s virtual reality interest group, campus technology partners and others are welcome. If there is interest, the libraries will try to get a suit to experiment with, says Chris Erdmann, chief strategist for research collaboration.

The Rokoko Smartsuit Pro could be used in gaming and other creative fields.

Obvious uses for the suit include gaming and moviemaking, but Erdmann says he wants everyone on campus to brainstorm uses. Dance groups could use the suit to improve techniques, he says. Athletes could examine their stances when throwing or kicking. Companies that partner with NC State in research might also find uses for the technology. This is Rokoko’s first demonstration at a university library, Erdmann says, meaning NC State is itself a test case for the suit’s potential in an academic setting.

Library staff have a list of questions about the suit, such as how to set up accounts so people around campus could use it. A suit would join other virtual reality and augmented reality equipment available to borrow. The program is part of the libraries’ efforts to “democratize access to technology,” making it accessible to everyone, NCSU Libraries fellow Peter Schreiner says.

“Anyone can come to the library and use our technology whether they are in a program or it’s just a hobby,” Schreiner says. “Or maybe they just walk in and say, ‘Oh, the library does this? Maybe I could try it.’”

The libraries strive to connect departments and groups on campus and that’s why the D.H. Hill Library is trying to “get those feelers out” to see who would use a Rokoko Smartsuit, Nutt says. The demonstration is also a way to introduce people to what the libraries offer other than books.

“This is a ‘library of the future’ kind of activity,” Erdmann says.

University Communications <![CDATA[Hill Named Head of School of Architecture]]> 2017-07-19T15:15:52Z 2017-07-19T15:15:52Z 0 Staff <![CDATA[Shedding Light on an Emerging Infectious Disease]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:01Z 2017-07-19T14:49:53Z It lives in the lining of blood vessels and is transmitted to people mostly by fleas or ticks or lice, causing an array of diseases in both humans and animals.

That much was known about the bacterium Bartonella.

A new project from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine fills in many of the blanks.

The research answers lingering questions about Bartonella and Bartonellosis, the group of infectious diseases it causes. A comprehensive survey of dogs across North America, the study identified that non-neutered male dogs and mixed breeds are more likely to be exposed to Bartonella. Bartonella was seen in almost every state in America and in southern Canadian provinces.

The research also found that dogs exposed to Lyme disease or other conditions transmitted through a bite from an infected host, collectively known as vector-borne diseases, are more likely to be exposed to Bartonella, commonly treated with antibiotics.

That finding is particularly impactful since Bartonellosis is sometimes treated differently than other vector-borne diseases.

“This kind of information is important not only for veterinarians attempting to diagnose and treat their patients, but also for pet owners trying to keep their dogs healthy,” said Erin Lashnits, a dual graduate student and small animal internal medicine resident at the CVM who co-authored the study. ”Determining where a disease comes from allows us to prevent exposure more effectively.”

Earlier this month, Lashnits was one of just 10 veterinary medicine residents nationwide to receive the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine’s Resident Research Award for her work on Bartonella.

Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of medicine and infectious disease, has spent more than three decades studying vector-transmitted pathogens.

The research was co-authored by Barbara Hegarty, supervisor of the CVM’s Vector Borne Disease Diagnostics Lab, internal medicine professor Adam Birkenheuer and epidemiology and public health professor Maria Correa. Lashnits’ mentor and Ph.D. adviser is Ed Breitschwerdt, professor of medicine and infectious disease, who has spent more than three decades studying vector-transmitted pathogens.

“The scope of research done by veterinarians and researchers and presented at the ACVIM Forum is huge, from endocrine diseases like diabetes to treatment of cancer in dogs and cats to infectious diseases,” said Lashnits. “So I feel particularly lucky to get this recognition.”

A New York native, Lashnits holds a bachelor’s degree in astrobiology and a master’s in biology, both from Stanford University. She conducted research on chronic inflammation at the University of California, San Francisco, before earning her DVM from Cornell University. She worked in general practice for a few years in Buffalo, N.Y., before coming to the CVM in 2015.

Lashnits is in CVM’s rigorous Clinician Investigator program, which combines a small animal internal medicine residency with a Ph.D. in comparative biomedical sciences. Lashnits is finishing the second year of her residency and the first year of her Ph.D. work on Bartonella epidemiology.

“The program was designed to prepare veterinarians for careers in academia, research or government,” said Breitschwerdt. “As such, the CVM gets to train the best of the very best.”

Breitschwerdt described the team’s research as the largest Bartonella epidemiological database reported in veterinary literature to date.

Widely recognized as a world leader in Bartonella research, Breitschwerdt directs the Intracellular Pathogens Research Library at NC State’s Comparative Medicine Institute. That lab isolated, genetically characterized and named the first Bartonella species ever found in a dog anywhere in the world, said Breitschwerdt. The CVM’s Vector Borne Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory, which Breitschwerdt co-directs, validated tests detecting antibodies to the pathogens in dogs, other animal species and humans.

In dogs, Bartonella is associated with heart valve infections and several chronic illnesses. An expanding list of Bartonella species and subspecies infect humans. One Bartonella species leads to cat scratch fever in people. Another transmits trench fever. Several can cause inflammation of the inner layer of the heart.

“Hopefully we will have some more information out on Bartonella risk specifically in North Carolina in the next year,” said Lashnits.

There is evidence that various Bartonella forms have evolved with their hosts around the world. Bartonella subspecies have successfully co-evolved with cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, squirrels and kangaroos.

The project is a milestone in the growing field of Bartonella research. According to  Breitschwerdt, before 1990 there was only one named Bartonella species. Now there are 36, with 17 of those connected to a spectrum of diseases. In a paper published this year, Breitschwerdt wrote that Bartonella and Bartonellosis, “represent one of the more important contemporary One Health challenges of modern times.” The One Health approach to medicine, to which the CVM subscribes, links the health of people to the health of animals and the environment.

As Lashnits’ work helps fill the gaps of knowledge about Bartonella, there are still more questions. There’s also an unwavering commitment to answer them.

“Hopefully we will have some more information out on Bartonella risk specifically in North Carolina in the next year,” said Lashnits.

~Jordan Bartel/NC State Veterinary Medicine

This post was originally published in Veterinary Medicine News.

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Notes from Tanzania: Lessons from the Field]]> 2017-07-19T12:15:04Z 2017-07-19T11:00:41Z Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Catherine Doyle, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Doyle is spending several weeks in Tanzania, doing field work related to a research effort aimed at tackling a disease that threatens the livelihood of people throughout sub-Saharan Africa. You can read other posts related to her work in Africa here.

I’m in the field in rural Tanzania now, and only have a few moments for writing. But I wanted to share some of the things I’ve observed working with growers and researchers over the past week or so.

1. The incidence and spread of Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and another disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD), which rots the tubers, is extensive. As a result, many farmers have stopped planting cassava due to the poor yield from their yearly crop. Most fields we have visited are 90-100 percent infected with CMD and/or CBSD.

2. Many farmers have little knowledge that their fields are infected. From talking to the farmers they think that the yellowing and shriveling of the leaves is from the soil or insects.

3. By educating the farmers we can show them that their plants are sick and how to manage CMD, which improves their crop yield. You can see the impact of talking to farmers and the resulting crop improvement. When we revisit fields that were visited in previous surveys, dating back to 2005, we see less incidence of disease and larger yields.

4. Farmers grow many crops along with cassava, which affects the spread and severity of the disease. Basically, this “intercropping” can decrease transmission efficiency of CMD. For example, here’s how Dr. Ndunguru explained it to me: if you have a field containing maize and cassava and you have 10 whiteflies carrying CMD, the whiteflies will be attracted to the maize as well as the cassava. Therefore, the probability that a whitefly carrying CMD lands on cassava decreases. However, this phenomenon also makes mapping the spread of CMD difficult.

5. Weeds and other crops along the road or edges of fields may also carry the cassava viruses. If they are, viruses acquired by these “field edge” plants could transmit CMD and add new variants of CMD to neighboring cassava fields.

6. The concept of family and sharing is important in small stakeholder farmer life.

7. International collaboration and teamwork between scientists, farmers, and the government can bring about change and improve food security.

Some of these things may seem obvious, but experiencing them firsthand is a powerful experience.

University Communications <![CDATA[BOT Elects Officers for 2017-18]]> 2017-07-18T12:39:47Z 2017-07-18T12:39:47Z NC State’s Board of Trustees elected officers for the coming year on July 17. They are:

  • Jimmy D. Clark, chair
  • Thomas E. Cabaniss, first vice chair
  • Stanhope A. Kelly, second vice chair
  • Ann B. Goodnight, secretary

More information about the Board of Trustees as well as member biographies may be found at

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Tackling Cassava Mosaic Disease: One Week in Tanzania]]> 2017-07-17T11:46:35Z 2017-07-17T11:00:52Z Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Catherine Doyle, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Doyle is spending several weeks in Tanzania, doing field work related to a research effort aimed at tackling a disease that threatens the livelihood of people throughout sub-Saharan Africa. You can read other posts related to her fieldwork here.

A team of four collecting leaf samples and scoring the cassava mosaic disease symptoms. Click to enlarge.

My first week in Dar Es Saalam, Tanzania, has been an experience I will never forget. The week started with a visit from Tanzania’s Minister of Agriculture to Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute (MARI), which delayed us from starting our trip to the field. He came to see the work MARI was doing after a CNN article came out about Joseph Ndunguru, the MARI project’s coordinator.

As a national agriculture research institute, MARI is an important part of the international effort to tackle Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD). Through surveying the hotspot regions of CMD, MARI is working with partners in seven countries to build a map of where CMD is spreading in East and West Africa. Using molecular biology techniques, MARI researchers also characterize the type of CMD found in the region.

Most importantly, MARI works to improve farmers’ lives by producing disease-free cassava material that is distributed to local farmers for planting. As a result, farmers are producing larger yields, providing them with basic essentials and money they can use for health care and education. The motto I have heard all week from the senior research scientist at MARI is “without good data we cannot help the farmers.”

Workers harvesting cassava. Click to enlarge.

My first few days here gave me the opportunity to talk to researchers, graduate and undergraduate students about their work on cassava and other crops, like cowpeas and pineapple. I really enjoyed talking to a graduate student named Makaranga about his work on improving local varieties of pineapple. His enthusiasm for improving the qualities of taste and biomass of native pineapple varieties was inspiring. I also got to work in the lab and help undergraduates learn how to extract DNA and RNA from plant samples.

But my favorite part of the week came on July 13th, when we finally got into the field to practice the skills we’ll need to survey CMD. As we drove I was mesmerized by how the landscape and the cassava farms varied. Seeing different types of CMD infection in the field drove home the scope of the problem we are trying to address. I have seen infected cassava in the lab, but this was a moment of realization where I was able to connect the work I do in the lab to life in the field. It was unforgettable. In addition, I got see how cassava is harvested, and ate some raw cassava myself after collecting samples of cassava leaves and the whiteflies that transmit CMD.

Tomorrow we leave for the southern part of Tanzania, where our survey will begin in earnest. I am excited to learn more about cassava, to experience this beautiful country, and to hopefully move the research community one step closer to preserving and protecting the crops that so many in Tanzania and elsewhere rely on.

Suzanne Wardle <![CDATA[Student Body President Outlines LGBTQ Goals]]> 2017-07-14T16:17:44Z 2017-07-13T15:11:43Z Pride Month has passed, but for student body president Jackie Gonzalez and diversity outreach director J Hallen, the work for LGBT rights lasts year-round.

The president released a statement June 19 about goals “aimed at creating a more positive campus climate for our LGBTQ+ community members.” They include changing the package-delivery processing system, encouraging professors to state on syllabi that they are comfortable using students’ preferred names and pronouns, adding housing options and creating media to showcase information about marginalized groups.

“These are little steps that can improve the quality of these people’s lives,” Gonzalez says.

She hopes changing the package processing policy will be simple. Under the current system, students must present their ID cards to collect packages; however, transgender students often go by names that don’t correspond to the ones on their identification. Gonzalez and Hallen propose allowing students to use ID numbers instead. A gender-neutral option helps transgender students feel more accepted, says Hallen, a native of Cary, North Carolina, who is studying business administration.

Both say they want students to feel accepted in the classroom as well. Professors already check name pronunciation with students, Gonzalez says; it’s a small step for them to state they will use students’ preferred names and pronouns.

“It’s an important part of respecting the identity of trans people,” Hallen says. The plan is to take both top-down and grass-roots approaches – she and Gonzalez will talk with department leaders about including text about preferred names and pronouns in syllabi and encourage students to talk to individual professors.

J Hallen

Hallen said changes to both the package-delivery system and the syllabi would help transgender students feel safer and combat gender dysphoria – the conflict between a person’s assigned and true genders.

“When you’re a transgender person and you’re getting your package or going into the classroom, you’re asking, ‘Will this person accept me?’” Hallen says. “It can affect talking to professors, staff, everyone.”

Hallen and Gonzalez hope to promote acceptance this year through videos on social media and the Student Body website that give marginalized groups such as asexual individuals and queer people of color a chance to speak. The goal is to spread messages of acceptance and inclusivity to both current and prospective students. Hallen also wants to include groups outside the LGBT community, including Native Americans.

“It’s important to hit that broader spectrum,” she says.

The student body members would also like to start a discussion about LGBT students and housing.

“The on-campus living problem is I think the biggest issue,” Gonzalez says. “We think that we can take steps going forward to make things better and more accommodating for the LGBT community.”

She and Hallen, both rising seniors, don’t expect to accomplish all four goals this year; however, they want to lay the groundwork for future groups of student leaders. They praised NC State faculty, staff and administrators for their support of LGBT students and the work they do to keep campus safe.

“So many professors on campus are so giving and appreciative of students, and that’s something we see on all levels, from housekeeping to the chancellor,” Gonzalez says.

Christy Sadler <![CDATA[Geology Graduate Student Wins NASA Fellowship]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:09Z 2017-07-13T15:09:36Z Corbin Kling, a planetary geology Ph.D. student in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, recently won a prestigious NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship in planetary science. Kling was one of only 33 students in the nation selected for this honor.

The fellowship provides a stipend to cover tuition and other expenses, as well additional money for research expenses, and it can be renewed for up to three years.

Kling’s research studies the formation of pit craters, which result from volcanic or tectonic processes and have been found on Earth and other rocky or icy bodies in the solar system. Kling will be using drones to create high-resolution 3-D models of study sites in Idaho and northern Iceland and comparing those to a study site on Mars. He will use these data alongside sandbox analogue models to more fully understand the processes that govern pit crater formation on planetary surfaces.

“This fellowship is a great honor, and I am beyond excited to continue my research with the help of NASA,” Kling said. “I look forward to testing my hypotheses and continuing to explore our solar system in great detail as I complete my Ph.D.”

Kling holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the University of Georgia and is advised by Paul Byrne, assistant professor of planetary geology.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.

Staff <![CDATA[Diving Into (Dr.) Poole]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:12Z 2017-07-13T14:46:23Z Video by Chris Liotta

On the last day of NC State Livestock Science Camp, Carleigh Gupton, 14, was getting her most hands-on experience yet: up to her elbow in the back of a life-sized model cow, trying with all her might to pull a 75-pound plastic calf right way around for delivery.

Assistant Professor Daniel Poole, surrounded by students in rubber gloves, palpation sleeves and lab coats, watched intently.

“It’s slippery, like ice,” Gupton said.

“Now imagine you’re having to do this lying on your side, in pitch black nighttime and it’s sleeting outside,” Poole told the class. “That’s what it’s like in the real world.”

National Teaching Hero

Poole loves to teach, and it shows: in 2017 alone, he’s nabbed the CALS Outstanding Teaching Award, the University Outstanding Teaching Award and the Educator Award from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

His student nominations paint a clear picture of his style: “Encourages critical thinking.” “Makes us feel welcome and involved.” “Sets the gold standard for university educators.”

“I always joke…that I want to be the female version of Dr. Poole,” former student Lane’ Jackson said. “But it’s 100 percent true.”

In the classroom or the research lab, Poole is energetic and hearty. Ask him about his work and his face lights up. He can fill you in on the ways environmental or management factors like heat stress or endophyte-infected fescue impact growth and reproductive performance in beef and dairy cattle — his research focus — or turn to his brand new model cow with a grin to demonstrate how to correct birth dystocia. When you lift the “lid” on the realistically sculpted heifer’s back, you can see the calf encased in a watertight plastic pouch like a water balloon.

“It allows students to get experience with difficult births before they have to try it with a real calf in the field,” he explained. “Also, I can’t wait to soak one of the students when the cow’s water breaks. Because that’s what happens when you’re out there in real life.”

He pauses, then grins.

“It’s going to be fun.”

“Encouraging and Inspiring”

Before every lab, every exam, every practicum, Poole can be found fielding last-minute questions and explaining tricky course material on the whiteboard in his office or outside his classroom in Riddick Hall. He gives correction “when necessary, but always with respect,” Jackson said.

Animal Science Department Head Todd See praises Poole’s active evaluation of new teaching methods, adapting his courses and assignments to enhance learning and problem-solving skills.

“The result is that his students are better prepared for the challenges following their degree, and have a greater ability to be successful in their careers,” See said.

Rather than launch straight into lecture, Poole starts every class with “Reproduction in the News,” an interactive discussion based on current events. Depending on the week, the conversation could cover anything from changes in federal law to the reproductive cycle of a giraffe.

This helps combat his class’s unfortunate time slot: 8:30 a.m.

“I’ve had students tell me that they hate 8:30 classes, but in mine, they can stay awake,” Poole said. “I take that as a big compliment.”

Poole’s Path

Poole grew up on a diversified livestock farm in southwestern Pennsylvania. He graduated from high school with the firm conviction that he would become a veterinarian.

In college, he got hooked on research — “I loved that feeling of gathering greater understanding” — and earned a masters from West Virginia University and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, then post-doctoral work at Pennsylvania State University.

But it wasn’t until he came to NC State that he realized how much he loved leading a classroom. His first teaching challenge when he arrived in Raleigh: the vast difference in numbers and background of NC State’s larger, more urban student body.

I love that feeling of gathering greater understanding.

“It wasn’t so much my teaching style that changed as my analogies,” Poole said. “Now when I give examples, I tie in more companion animals like dogs and cats.”

See calls Poole an “outstanding, committed teacher,” in particular his providing educational programs in cattle reproductive physiology to youth, farmers and Extension agents even though he has no formal Extension appointment.

“Around the department, he’s known for his enthusiasm, collegiality and commitment to not just teaching, but to our entire land grant mission,” See said.

“I’m A Lab Rat At Heart”

Poole’s research program has addressed questions regarding the effects of ergot alkaloids and heat stress on ovarian and uterine blood flow, changes in ovarian function and early embryo development. To improve management practices, his team conducted additional studies to implement strategies like progesterone supplementation or supplemental protein to negate the negative impact on reproductive performance.

His students are better prepared for the challenges following their degree, and have a greater ability to be successful in their careers.

“We have developed a better understanding of the physiological changes that occur in cattle to maintain homeostasis under these conditions,” Poole said. “Based on these findings, my lab is currently investigating potential mechanisms of genetic resistance or tolerance to these environmental factors.”

Conducting active, ongoing research adds to Poole’s teaching toolbox. He can pull real-world examples from his research, expose students to practical problems and mentor students on undergraduate research projects.

Inspiring Classroom Presence

When he brings it back around to the classroom, Poole prefers case studies to lecture, providing a scenario and asking students to respond like detectives.

“I put in a lot of info they won’t need, because that’s how it is in the real world — the farmer will tell you 800 things, but only two or three will be what you need to know to figure out what’s going on,” Poole said. “That gets the students to apply what they’re learning so that it really sinks in.”

If a student is struggling, it’s to the whiteboard in his office for some Q-and-A based problem-solving, where Poole and the student will draw, brainstorm and problem-solve, allowing the material to sink in for a variety of learning styles.

“Working with them one-on-one, I get to see how they’re thinking and figure out the best way to teach them,” Poole said.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

Staff <![CDATA[Extraordinary Teamwork]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:14Z 2017-07-13T14:28:28Z Veterinary medicine isn’t exactly a team sport, but you might be surprised how much great teamwork it takes to come out ahead of the game.

Mary Kate is a 6-year-old female Dalmatian who has come out a winner thanks to quick thinking and teamwork by clinicians at the NC College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Hospital.

Initially, Mary Kate was scheduled to come to NC State by her owner, Michele Wrath, because of fertility issues. She originally came to see Scott Bailey, associate professor of theriogenology and a board certified expert in canine and equine reproduction.

It was during the course of several visits that a sudden — and unrelated — problem came up.

About a week before the appointment, Mary Kate’s owner, Michele Wrath, noticed a change in her dog’s breathing. Wrath decided to schedule a visit with her local veterinarian to make sure Mary Kate was all right. That visit did not detect a problem.

Nonetheless, Wrath remained concerned. When Mary Kate’s breathing was noticeably more labored, Wrath contacted Bailey and requested an appointment as soon as possible. Bailey was at NC State’s Equine Center in Southern Pines at the time, but he agreed to return to the Veterinary Hospital to see Mary Kate that afternoon.

After the examination, Bailey immediately referred Mary Kate to the hospital’s emergency room, ensuring immediate attention. A radiograph of Mary Kate’s chest revealed that she had a severe bilateral tension pneumothorax or collapsed lungs.

This dangerous condition occurs when air leaks between the lungs and chest wall. Emergency personnel inserted tubes into Mary Kate’s chest to remove the excess air, and the dog’s condition rapidly improved.

Wrath was relieved to see how much better Mary Kate appeared to be.

Michele Wrath with Mary Kate. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

“Shortly after they started to treat her we were allowed to see Mary Kate,” said Wrath. “She was standing in the kennel in ICU attached to a variety of devices, wagging her tail as if nothing had happened.”

But Mary Kate wasn’t out of the woods. There was still a lingering pneumothorax on the right side. Nevertheless, she had stabilized and there was no need to take further immediate action. She remained in the hospital for clinicians to observe her and carefully plan future actions.

Surgery resident David Knazovicky became involved with the case. Extensive examinations and continued treatment failed to identify a specific cause for the issue on Mary Kate’s right side. The problem was termed an idiopathic pneumothorax, a spontaneous issue with an unknown underlying cause. All that was certain was that Mary Kate had a small lesion in her right lung that was the source of the problem.

Seeking to resolve the situation with a less-invasive approach, Knazovicky tried a procedure called blood pleurodesis. The patient’s blood is drawn and injected into the space between the lungs and the chest wall that is sometimes is sufficient to create a seal over a lesion leaking air. The procedure was attempted twice, but failed to seal the leak. The final resort was surgery.

A CT scan also indicated a lesion in the right middle lung lobe, so Knazovicky and Marije Risselada, assistant professor of small animal soft tissue and oncologic surgery and senior clinician on the case, removed the lobe.

Mary Kate came through the procedure well; the leak was finally eliminated. The surgery was done in April and by mid-June, Mary Kate had healed well enough that, except for occasional mild discomfort, she is essentially back to normal.

“We’re very grateful for the care she received at NC State,” Wrath said. “She’s made a great recovery. In fact, she’s on her dog bed right now watching me talk with you.”

And it all happened some seamlessly.

That Scott Bailey responded so quickly to Wrath’s call, making the drive from Southern Pines to Raleigh to see Mary Kate and immediately turning the case over to emergency personnel who stabilized the dog, and then to have the problem identified and resolved by the surgical team, it could all seem almost routine.

But then, that’s just how great teamwork looks. If you can excuse the sports analogy, it’s like a well-executed double play in baseball — the ground ball is fielded, then thrown to second, and then to first base, and boom, just like that, two outs. Easy as one, two, three, right?

Well, all it takes is rare talent, highly developed individual skills honed through years of diligent effort, genuine care for patients and lots and lots of practice to make it look so easy.

Fortunately for Mary Kate, that’s exactly what was available to her at NC State.

~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine

This post was originally published in Veterinary Medicine News.

Emily Packard <![CDATA[Get to Know: Institute for Emerging Issues]]> 2017-07-13T15:19:44Z 2017-07-13T13:55:59Z The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State brings together individuals and groups to pursue solutions to North Carolina’s challenges and strengthen the state’s future competitiveness. The institute engages people from all walks of life to achieve smarter, more comprehensive and enduring progress through a common vision of excellence.

We sat down with Leslie Boney, IEI’s director and Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement, to talk about the institute’s pursuit of academic excellence, key issues of importance to the state, and how IEI supports all North Carolina citizens.

Leslie Boney, IEI Director and Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement, speaks at the 2017 Emerging Issues Focus Forum, “kidonomics: The Economics of Early Childhood Investment.”

What is the role of IEI at NC State and within the state of North Carolina?

IEI is a nonpartisan public policy “connect, think and do” tank located on NC State’s Centennial Campus at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library. Our mission focuses on bringing people together — from all regions, sectors and  perspectives — around complex issues and in pursuit of a single goal: to ensure North Carolina’s future economic prosperity.

Faculty, staff and students are essential contributors to IEI’s success. NC State talent helps to shape the direction of our work, lends credibility and validity to our research, and participates directly in our service initiatives with stakeholders across the state. Through collaborative public-private partnerships, IEI helps to position NC State and its campus community at the forefront of emerging issues affecting our state.

How does IEI work with and support faculty and staff at the university?

NC State faculty and staff are instrumental in helping to set IEI’s course. As members of our National Advisory Board, Issue-Area Advisory Councils, and Focus and Working Groups, they provide crucial guidance in IEI’s strategic direction and programmatic work in four core areas: economy, education, environments and health.

In addition to soliciting expert leadership critical to IEI’s mission, we routinely feature faculty research in report briefs issued to policymakers and local and state leaders across the state, as well as leaders in the business, education, faith-based and nonprofit sectors. We also showcase key faculty as guest speakers and presenters at high-profile events, such as the annual Emerging Issues Forum.

With support from the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science, IEI offers funding to support research and teaching related to our Emerging Issues Forum topics and core issue areas. IEI’s Faculty Fellows are experts whose research bolsters and expands our impact across the state. IEI’s student internships offer exposure to processes and programs in the public policy sector, and IEI gains creative and fresh insights that add richness to our work. In special instances, IEI will even sponsor a course so that faculty and students can jointly investigate an issue central to IEI programming. In all of IEI’s efforts, we seek to find ways to increase our engagement with the campus community, and community at large.

We care about driving issues forward that matter to the campus community. Through IEI’s recently launched #NCBigIdea Challenge, NC State faculty, staff and students can help IEI find our next big idea to move forward on behalf of our state. The selected topic will be featured at an upcoming Emerging Issues Forum, and the author of the topic will be invited to a special televised town hall in March 2018. This is an opportunity for everyone at NC State to get involved, submit their big ideas (in 140 characters via Twitter using #NCBigIdea, or in a lot more characters using the online submission form!), and help ensure North Carolina’s economic prosperity. Complete details and submission guidelines are available at The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

How do IEI’s services, activities and initiatives work toward NC State’s overall organizational excellence?

While IEI’s work enhances student academic success (Goal 1 of NC State’s Strategic Plan), supports interdisciplinary scholarship (Goal 3), and demonstrates continuous pursuit of organizational excellence in all we do (Goal 4), IEI’s core activities focus on outreach and engagement efforts (Goal 5).

Each of our recent major areas of focus: creating community innovation ecosystems (the 2015 Emerging Issues Forum); preparing for the impacts of automation (the 2016 Forum); and the economics of early childhood education (this year’s Forum), along with our other programmatic work, is carried out in close engagement with our state’s communities and people.

In addition, since 2013, with the opening of the award-winning Emerging Issues Commons located on the second floor of the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, IEI is able to engage with NC State’s faculty, staff, students and visitors within both physical and virtual spaces. Through the Commons, we are able to build awareness and understanding of our state’s issues, foster creativity and collaboration, and facilitate collective action across our state. The Commons serves as IEI’s “connect, think and do” platform to provide our campus community with expanded opportunities for civic participation through lending their voices, connecting with others and sharing ideas. The innovative, digital open source environment enhances engagement and promotes excellence by encouraging citizens to work together to better understand the issues that matter most, contribute innovative solutions, and make North Carolina the best place to live, work and play.

In what ways does IEI work to strengthen NC State’s academic reputation, and to educate the state’s citizens?

IEI is proud that our mission naturally aligns with that of NC State, promoting a culture centered on collaboration, diversity and inclusiveness. Our team mobilizes across North Carolina to share critical data and insights derived from the academic excellence of NC State’s faculty experts and researchers. We work to share an integrated approach to solving our state’s most pressing emerging issues, helping community leaders to catalyze program reforms, public investments, and other proactive responses required to build sustainable capacity for progress.

We are dedicated to addressing North Carolina’s most pressing issues by convening the brightest thought leaders from across the state and the nation, to explore how best to move big ideas forward to solve our state’s most complex issues — and at the core is NC State talent.

What is something people may not know about IEI?

Many people do not realize just how long IEI has been around. While the Institute was officially established in 2002, the first Emerging Issues Forum was actually held in 1986 (the Forums were held at the McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education until we outgrew the space). For more than three decades, IEI has dedicated its work to addressing North Carolina’s biggest challenges in education, economy, health and our environments. Throughout the years, IEI has remained committed to evolving our work with the people of North Carolina. Whether through in-person convenings, bus tours across the state, online virtual engagement, blogs, op-eds, social media — or our newly launched “First in Future” podcast (check it out!) — we meet North Carolinians where they are, around the issues that matter most to them.

Learn more about how IEI identifies new ways to educate and engage citizens, help them solve problems, and recognize the importance and necessity of their participation in public life.

This post was originally published in Provost's Office News.

Tim Peeler <![CDATA[Sign Up for Mobile Mammogram Appointment]]> 2017-07-12T21:00:00Z 2017-07-12T21:00:00Z The Rex Mobile Mammography Clinic, a service funded by UNC Rex Healthcare and donations from the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, among others, will visit Centennial Campus on July 27 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Deadline for online registration is Thursday, July 13. Additional details are available here.

The service is open to faculty and staff who meet the following requirements:

  • Have a physician or medical home
  • Have no previous history of breast cancer
  • Not be pregnant
  • Have a valid insurance card and photo identification
  • Have no symptoms such as pain, lumps or nipple discharge
  • Inform mobile unit staff of breast implants

After online registration, notify Tony Kershaw of Centennial Campus Partnerships at to schedule a specific appointment time and to confirm required documentation.

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Bridging the Funding Gap from Research to Commercialization]]> 2017-07-13T20:46:44Z 2017-07-12T12:43:51Z Five promising North Carolina State University projects will receive support from the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund (CIF), which helps NC State researchers move their inventions into the marketplace.

“NC State is establishing itself as a leader in technology commercialization,” says Kelly Sexton, assistant vice chancellor for NC State’s Office of Technology Commercialization and New Ventures. “This has been confirmed in recent reports by the Milken Institute and the Association of University Technology Managers listing NC State in the top 10 universities in the United States for technology licensing.”

NC State established the CIF program in 2010 with support from Chancellor Randy Woodson. Funding allows researchers to build on promising work with market potential.

To date, CIF has granted a total of $2 million to 35 projects, which have attracted more than $12 million in follow-on research funding. Funded projects have generated 12 start-up companies, 17 license agreements and more than $1 million in licensing revenue.

CIF’s 2018 awardees are pursuing technologies that range from new anti-allergy therapies and potent anti-microbial agents to a complex virtual marine ecosystem modeling platform.

Allergy Therapies for Companion Animals

Pathobiologist Bruce Hammerberg and clinician Dr. Thierry Olivry from NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine have developed a potentially groundbreaking preventative allergy therapy for dogs.

Allergic diseases are among the most common reasons for canine and feline veterinary visits. According to the American Animal Hospital Association these diseases afflict an estimated 10 to 15 percent of pets under veterinary care. Current treatments vary in their effectiveness and have significant side effects, including the development or worsening of bacterial skin infections and a general loss of energy. Allergic diseases result from sensitization to environmental and food allergens. Sensitization requires that so-called IgE antibodies attach to inflammatory cells. Inflammatory cells with IgE on their surface discharge inflammatory mediators in the presence of allergens, causing the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Olivry and Hammerberg have designed and produced a novel protein that removes and blocks IgE from cells responsible for IgE-dependent allergic reactions. The CIF award will go toward a clinical trial of the new treatment in allergic dogs.

Comfortable Insect Bite- Resistant Clothing

Andre West, Marian McCord, Charles Apperson, Michael Roe and Emiel DenHartog from the College of Textiles, the College of Natural Resources, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have received CIF support for their work on developing materials that resist insect bites.

Mosquito-borne diseases cause millions of deaths per year, many of these from malaria. Recently, the Zika virus has emerged as a global threat, resulting in significant damage to the developing fetal brain. Current recommendations for preventing mosquito bites include applying chemical repellents to exposed skin or wearing clothing treated with a synthetic insecticide. Exposure to chemical repellants is undesirable for some segments of the population, especially women who are pregnant. The only non-chemical protective textiles on the market are bulky, inflexible, and uncomfortable in hot, humid climates where mosquitoes thrive. The research team has created an insecticide-free, protective, comfortable and breathable clothing linen that defends against biting insects. These products have proven better than 98 percent effective under extreme mosquito exposure. The CIF funding will be used for further research to develop a line of maternity wear.

Detection of Environmental Toxins Associated With Neurodegenerative Diseases

Faculty from the Departments of Chemistry and Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences have developed a set of novel tools to detect a potent toxin associated with neurodegenerative diseases, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

With support from the CIF, the researchers — David Muddiman, Phillip Loziuk and Astrid Schnetzer — plan to examine the links between the toxin, BMAA, and ALS using brain samples from ALS patients. Additionally, they will investigate the levels of free BMAA in water and seafood samples. These data will be used as evidence both for the therapeutic and environmental need to develop a sensitive diagnostic test for this toxin.

Potent Antimicrobial and Anti-Biofilm Agents

Joshua Pierce from the Department of Chemistry will be awarded CIF funding for the development of potent anti-microbial and anti-biofilm agents.

Multidrug resistance is a global problem that is occurring among an alarming number of new bacteria each year. The problem is compounded by the lack of new antimicrobials to treat these infections. In addition to traditional antimicrobial agents, there is also a huge need for antimicrobial agents that can attack bacteria which produce a drug resistant protective coating called a biofilm. Pierce has developed small molecules that exhibit potent antimicrobial activity and biofilm inhibition. These molecules represent a new class of exciting leads for infectious disease drugs with applications for human and animal health, as well as agricultural applications.  Pierce plans to use the CIF funding to carry out pre-clinical studies on the compounds.

Virtual Marine Ecosystem: The Ocean, At Your Fingertips

To create an accurate marine environment forecasting system, Roy He, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences has developed a prototype Virtual Marine Ecosystem (VME) that links models of the atmosphere, ocean and land. The VME system has been likened to a combination of Google Maps and Accuweather for the ocean, providing vital information for coastal and marine problems.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Enterprise Study, released in 2016, estimated that maritime and ocean enterprises are a $58 billion-per-year industry. Today’s ocean prediction technologies fall short of meeting the needs of the many user groups impacted by the ocean both at sea and on the coast. The CIF funding will be used to refine the VME prediction system and its web interface, purchase cloud computing infrastructure to execute the model forecast and host web applications.

University Communications <![CDATA[Neutrons Run Enzyme’s Reactivity for Better Biofuel Production]]> 2017-07-13T15:48:40Z 2017-07-07T12:29:31Z Producing biofuels like ethanol from plant materials requires various enzymes to break down the cellulosic fibers. Neutrons have identified the specifics of an enzyme-catalyzed reaction that could significantly reduce the total amount of enzymes used, improving production processes and lowering costs.

Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and North Carolina State University used a combination of X-ray and neutron crystallography to determine the detailed atomic structure of a specialized fungal enzyme. A deeper understanding of the enzyme reactivity could also lead to improved computational models that will further guide industrial applications for cleaner forms of energy. Their results are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Part of a larger family known as lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases, or LPMOs, these oxygen-dependent enzymes act in tandem with hydrolytic enzymes — which chemically break down large complex molecules with water — by oxidizing and breaking the bonds that hold cellulose chains together. The combined enzymes can digest biomass more quickly than currently used enzymes and speed up the biofuel production process.

“These enzymes are already used in industrial applications, but they’re not well understood,” said lead author Brad O’Dell, a graduate student from NC State working in the Biology and Soft Matter Division of ORNL’s Neutron Sciences Directorate. “Understanding each step in the LPMO mechanism of action will help industry use these enzymes to their full potential and, as a result, make final products cheaper.”

In an LPMO enzyme, oxygen and cellulose arrange themselves through a sequence of steps before the biomass deconstruction reaction occurs. Sort of like “on your mark, get set, go,” says O’Dell.

To better understand the enzyme’s reaction mechanism, O’Dell and coauthor Flora Meilleur, ORNL instrument scientist and an associate professor of molecular and structural biochemistry at NC State, used the IMAGINE neutron scattering diffractometer at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor to see how the enzyme and oxygen molecules were behaving in the steps leading up to the reaction—from the “resting state” to the “active state.”

The resting state, O’Dell says, is where all the critical components of the enzyme assemble to bind oxygen and carbohydrate. When electrons are delivered to the enzyme, the system moves from the resting state to the active state—i.e., from “on your mark” to “get set.”

In the active state, oxygen binds to a copper ion that initiates the reaction. Aided by X-ray and neutron diffraction, O’Dell and Meilleur identified a previously unseen oxygen molecule being stabilized by an amino acid, histidine 157.

Hydrogen is a key element of amino acids like histidine 157. Because neutrons are particularly sensitive to hydrogen atoms, the team was able to determine that histidine 157 plays a significant role in transporting oxygen molecules to the copper ion in the active site, revealing a vital detail about the first step of the LPMO catalytic reaction.

“Because neutrons allow us to see hydrogen atoms inside the enzyme, we gained essential information in deciphering the protein chemistry. Without that data, the role of histidine 157 would have remained unclear,” Meilleur said. “Neutrons were instrumental in determining how histidine 157 stabilizes oxygen to initiate the first step of the LPMO reaction mechanism.”

Their results were subsequently confirmed via quantum chemical calculations performed by coauthor Pratul Agarwal from ORNL’s Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate.

Research material preparation was supported by the ORNL Center for Structural Molecular Biology. X-ray data were collected at the Argonne National Laboratory Advanced Photon Source through access provided by the Southeast Regional Collaborative Access Team.

O’Dell says their results refine the current understanding of LPMOs for science and industry researchers.

“This is a big step forward in unraveling how LPMO’s initiate the breakdown of carbohydrates,” O’Dell said. “Now we need to characterize the enzyme’s activated state when the protein is also bound to a carbohydrate that mimics cellulose. Then we’ll have the chance to see what structural changes happen when the starting pistol is fired and the reaction takes off.”

HFIR is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post submitted by Jeremy Rumsey at ORNL.

Staff <![CDATA[Healthy Eating Campaign Targets Mothers of Young Children]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:15Z 2017-07-06T16:14:32Z A new social marketing campaign launched by NC State’s SNAP-Ed Steps to Health program aims to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income mothers of young children.

They learn from watching you campaign ad
Ads like this one will run in 10 southeastern NC counties.

TV, radio, billboard, digital and social media ads target 10 southeastern North Carolina counties — Carteret, Craven, Duplin, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Sampson and Wayne — with the tagline ‘They learn from watching you. Eat fruits and veggies and your kids will too.’

“Social marketing promotes healthy messages and behaviors, compared to traditional marketing of products and services that we’re regularly exposed to,” said Gretchen Hofing, Steps to Health program coordinator in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. “Mothers have a tremendous amount of influence on their children’s behavior. Our campaign highlights that their children learn from watching them.”

The campaign was developed using messages tested by the United States Department of Agriculture, followed by focus groups and interviews of women in the targeted counties.

“Since mothers tend to be the primary food shoppers and meal preparers, they can change what food is available in the home and how it is offered and prepared for their children,” said Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, assistant professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. “Healthy eating messages for mothers have the potential to influence what foods they consume, as well as positively change their children’s consumption of and attitudes about fruits and vegetables.”

View the TV commercials and digital ads here or visit the Steps to Health Facebook page.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

Staff <![CDATA[Barbecue Camp: From Conception to Consumption]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:16Z 2017-07-06T16:08:01Z Video by Chris Liotta

Why is barbecue delicious? NC State’s BBQ Camp answers this question and more, giving an education in the science of low ’n’ slow.

Hosted by the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences and the North Carolina Meat Processors Association, the two-day seminar is the only university-level, science-based class of its kind in the Southeast. This year’s BBQ Camp — the second annual — was held June 2-3 in Raleigh.

“This is really like going back to school, not just some cooking class,” explained one participant. Limited to 30 aficionados – and at $450 per person – it may seem an expensive lesson to some. But for the 17 people who missed the cutoff, it was a big disappointment. “We always sell out immediately. But we keep a list of everyone who didn’t get in,” said the NCMPA’s Candace Cansler. “They get ‘first dibs’ on the next one.”

Proving barbecue’s broad appeal, the 2017 class included students from New York, Georgia and South Carolina. Among the more interesting was a lawyer from Sherrills Ford who made his own charcoal as a hobby. Reporters and photographers from local media also observed the events.

In two days, participants turn various raw meats — beef, pork and turkey — into finished products, said camp leader (and NC State associate professor of meat science) Dana Hanson, “So it’s kind of a conception to consumption of barbecue.”

Following introductions, the camp opened Friday with an overview by barbecue historians and authors Bob Garner and John Shelton Reed. Then  Hanson quickly got to the, ahem, meat of the matter.

Hanson delved into the intricacies of the muscle versus fat ratios of beef brisket. He went into detail on how the specifics of the various means of raising cattle – and the breeds themselves – influence the final product.

Five briskets ranging from USDA Choice to a Japanese Waygu breed Super Prime were selected for the class’s next session. Hanson provided an overview of how seasonings not only affected taste, but how they would affect the delicate marbling that would render the meat tender enough to fall apart in one’s fingers.

Students then grouped into teams of five and developed dry rub recipes using a wide array of seasonings ranging from simple kosher salt to a concoction called smoked sugar – so concentrated a drop is enough. Their efforts were applied to the briskets and sent to the cooker, to be judged at that night’s dinner.

Trimmings from the briskets were then used to make Texas Hot Link sausages. Students learned correct fat-to-lean proportions, the many different casings used commercially and the flavor profiles different spice combinations would impart on the finished product.

Saturday’s program began as the sun rose by putting a traditional North Carolina whole hog on a cooker for the evening meal. After a smoker-side breakfast of four types of sausages and biscuits, students donned protective coats and hairnets and entered the facility’s meat labs for an in-depth session on converting carcasses to the various cuts used in barbecue.

Led by Hanson’s team, the class cut out ribs, chops and tenderloins, learning how bone, muscle groups and even membranes made the finished meats we are all familiar with. They discovered how liquid solutions improved both flavor and moisture levels. (For the uninitiated, marinating adds flavor, while injections of sodium phosphate enhance moisture.)

They also learned how manufacturers are actively experimenting on alternatives to the seven major allergens, including soy and dairy, used in retail ready-to-use meat products. And that the red color in hamburger packages is not blood but myoglobin – a protein that turns red when exposed to the air.

Moving from the meat labs to the university’s farm, the class learned the variety of techniques available to properly prepare the meat they now understood scientifically. Cooking low and slow can take many paths, from traditional ‘sticks’ of hickory to sophisticated pellets made from a number of woods to impart different flavors. The cookers themselves run as wide a gamut, and half a dozen different types were demonstrated to the group.

They say man cannot live on meat alone. So Chef Eddie Wilson, Golden Corral’s director of culinary innovation, was brought in to give a lesson in campfire cooking. Using wood fires and cast-iron Dutch ovens, including a century-old family heirloom, Wilson built ingredients step-by-step for baked beans, fire-roasted peppers, potato salad and blueberry cobbler.

For their graduation dinner, the class feasted on their hard-learned efforts, including beef ribs, sausage and pork barbecue, accompanied by the campfire-cooked sides. Each also received a gift package of promotional t-shirts, hats, aprons, barbecue tools, a copy of Meathead — the definitive tome by authors Meathead Goldwyn and Boston University’s Dr. Greg Blonder — and a raffle ticket for a custom-made oil drum smoker.

To view photos, visit and

To sign up for future BBQ Camps, please email

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

Staff <![CDATA[“Ooo”s and “Eww”s: High Schoolers Experience Livestock Camp]]> 2017-07-24T02:00:18Z 2017-07-06T16:05:36Z For camper Thaddeus Sharp, 14, the first-ever NC State Livestock Science Camp felt both foreign and familiar.

Familiar because he lives on a family farm with a swine division in eastern North Carolina.

Foreign because, though he helps out around the farm, he’s never helped deliver a calf — even just on a life-sized model, like the one in Riddick Hall he and his classmates crowded around for one of the final demonstrations of the session. Suited up in lab coat and arm-length palpation sleeves, he felt around blindly, trying to hook a badly positioned calf’s legs for safe delivery.

“It’s a great experience, because I haven’t done this before,” Sharp said. “The hardest part was getting in there…I have pretty long arms, but it was still hard — it’s so slippery.”

In its first year, the week-long NC State Livestock Science Camp was a smashing success, camp director Carrie Pickworth said. Organizers had to shut down sign-ups at 30 campers, who ranged in age from 14 to 18 and came from all corners of the state. Some live on family farms; others had never been near a large animal until the camp’s first trip to the Swine Education Unit.

Students lived in a campus dorm and traveled to all five livestock education units and laboratories in Riddick Hall for classes, conducting forage estimates at the equine unit and pelvic tract measurements with Poole at the Beef Educational Unit earlier in the week. Current and past CALS students served as camp counselors.

The camp seeks to diversify demographics of students entering the Department of Animal Science while promoting studies in the livestock industries in which careers abound for graduates.


CALS Livestock Camp Carrie Pickworth“The camp is important to help promote awareness of the diverse career opportunities that exist to work with livestock…beyond veterinary medicine,” Pickworth said. “You don’t have to come from a farming background to choose a career in animal agriculture.”

There are already plans for another camp in 2018.

“Some parts of it are gross,” 14-year-old camper Carleigh Gupton said, “but it’s fun at the same time.”

CALS Livestock Camp

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.

University Communications <![CDATA[GBS Open House at Sullivan Shops July 14-15]]> 2017-07-06T15:22:26Z 2017-07-06T15:22:26Z Get a behind-the-scenes look at NC State Grounds and Building Services at its annual two-day open house next week.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about the department’s work, gather tips to use at home and tour shops on carpentry, construction and other topics. The event includes activities for children, including “cool tools and big trucks” and a kids’ car wash.

The open house is free and takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, July 14, at Sullivan Shops I, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 15, at Sullivan Shops III.

Visit the website for more information.

University Communications <![CDATA[More Stores Change Name to Wolfpack Outfitters]]> 2017-07-06T19:03:56Z 2017-07-06T14:57:04Z Stores that sell NC State supplies and merchandise will go by Wolfpack Outfitters starting this year.

The main store at the Talley Student Union already uses the name. Pack Shop at Wolf Ridge on Centennial Campus will adopt it over the summer, according to Campus Enterprises. State Stuff Stores that sell merchandise and concessions at Carter-Finley Stadium, Doak Field at Dail Park, Reynolds Coliseum and PNC Arena will also become Wolfpack Outfitters.

The change is part of a move to “provide consistency among our Wolfpack Outfitters locations,” says Jeff Halliburton, director of NC State Stores. Customers will “feel they are getting the same experience regardless of where they are on campus.” NC State Stores, previously known as NC State Bookstores, is the umbrella organization that operates Wolfpack Outfitters.

State of the Art and Wolf Xpress in Talley Student Union will keep their names.

Brent Winter <![CDATA[WolfPerks Offer Variety of Discounts]]> 2017-07-06T16:29:50Z 2017-07-06T14:56:58Z One of the things about working at NC State is the diverse array of benefits available to employees. The WolfPerks program is a good example. Providing employee-only discounts and special purchasing programs ranging from campus dining and Wolfpack athletics to cellular service and dental care, WolfPerks offers so many benefits — with more being added on a rolling basis — that many employees might need a refresher on what the program covers.

“The whole point of the WolfPerks program is to put money back into employees’ pockets,” says Joe Williams, director of benefits in NC State’s Human Resources division. “That’s why we try to leverage the participation of a wide range of campus partners, like Student Health Services, University Dining, Arts NC State and athletics, along with as many off-campus partners as we can find.”

“The goal is to help our employees both on campus and off,” says Britt Hurst, employee recognition and wellness program manager. “Whatever we can do to help in every facet of their lives — financial, wellness, leisure time, whatever it is — we want to do.”

On-Campus Discounts and Services

  • Discounted athletics tickets. The Department of Athletics offers a faculty/staff discount on season tickets for all ticketed sports. Season ticket purchases for football and men’s basketball include a free parking pass. In addition, faculty and staff receive free admission to many athletics sporting events (excluding football, men’s basketball, certain women’s basketball games and certain baseball games). For more information, visit the athletics ticket office.
  • Discounted arts performances and classes. Arts NC State offers faculty/staff discounts on classes at the Crafts Center and performances from University Theatre, the Music Department, the Dance Program and the NC State Live performing arts series. Visit Ticket Central for more information.
  • Computer purchases via interest-free monthly payments. NC State Stores (formerly known as NC State Bookstores) allows university employees to purchase computers, tablets and computer accessories by making interest-free monthly payments via payroll deduction. After making an initial 10 percent down payment, employees pay off the balance in six or 12 monthly installments. Only permanent, full-time NC State employees with at least 12 months of service are eligible. For more information on this program, visit the NC State Stores website.
  • Dental care. Campus Smiles is a full-service dental practice offering dental care to NC State students, faculty and staff at two on-campus locations: the Student Health Services building on main campus and Research Building II on Centennial Campus. The practice offers preventive, restorative, prosthetic and periodontal services, as well as orthodontics, cosmetic dentistry, oral surgery, custom mouthguards and more. Campus Smiles offers discount programs and accepts most major dental insurance, including the NC Flex dental plan. For more information, visit the Campus Smiles website.
  • Discounted dining. The Incredible Savings Club offers savings and convenience to faculty and staff who like to dine on campus. Here’s how it works:

> Sign up for AllCampus payroll deduction through Wolfpack One Card Services.

> Choose a monthly limit for AllCampus deductions (in fifty-dollar increments, from $50 to $200).

> When making a purchase at any on-campus dining location — dining halls, food courts, restaurants, cafes or C-stores — simply present your employee ID card to pay for your purchase through payroll deduction. Your faculty/staff discount will automatically be applied to each purchase.

> Your account will be charged for the amount you purchase each month, up to your chosen monthly limit, and your purchases will be deducted from your next paycheck. If you don’t make any on-campus dining purchases, your account won’t be charged.

For more information, visit the Incredible Savings Club website.

  • Massage therapy. Student Health Services offers massage therapy services to faculty and staff. Massages are provided on site at Student Health and at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Massage therapists can also travel to on-campus locations to provide chair massages for departments and units. The types of massage offered include Swedish, deep tissue, sports, myofascial and neuromuscular. For pricing and appointment information, visit Student Health’s massage therapy website.

Off-Campus Discounts and Services

  • Cellular discounts. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon offer NC State employees discounts on monthly plans and phones, as well as other employee-only benefits.

“Our most heavily used WolfPerks benefit is the cellphone discount,” says Williams. “The discount to your monthly plan sits on top of your existing contract, so you don’t have to change plans or anything like that. They make it easy.”

Willams notes that with six kids in his family, cellular bills bills add up fast. “That’s almost a mortgage payment,” he says. “On a payment that size, a 20 percent discount really helps.”

For more information, visit the WolfPerks cellular discount web page.

  • Wolfpup child care program. Full-time employees and post-docs are eligible to enroll their children in NC State’s Wolfpup child care program. The program includes a five-star center managed by Bright Horizons on the Dorothea Dix campus in Raleigh, as well as about 20 more Triangle-area centers that are all rated with at least four stars and that offer discounts or preferred slots to NC State employees. For more information, visit the Wolfpup program web page.
  • Local entertainment discounts. NC State employees are eligible to receive discounts on tickets to a variety of local entertainment venues and events, including the American Dance Festival, the Durham Performing Arts Center, the North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Railhawks soccer, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Durham Bulls. See more information on the WolfPerks website.
  • Financial discounts and services. In addition to being eligible to join the State Employees Credit Union and access to all the benefits of SECU membership, employees can receive special discounts and services from BB&T and Wells Fargo. Employees can also receive free financial planning assistance through NC State’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, as well as free financial planning services from state retirement plan vendors Fidelity, TIAA, Prudential and CAPTRUST. For more information, visit the WolfPerks financial services page.
  • Moving With the Pack is a program that assists employees with finding, buying, selling or financing a home. Employees who buy or sell a home through Moving with the Pack get a cash rebate. In addition, buyers who use one of the program’s preferred lenders get a discount on closing costs. “It’s a nice recruiting tool for faculty or staff who are moving here from another state and need to sell one home and buy another,” says Williams, “but it’s also a great benefit for current employees.” More information is available at
  • Shopping discounts. NC State employees can receive discounted membership to BJ’s Wholesale Club and rebates for joining Sam’s Club. Employees can also participate in the WeSave Discount Program, which provides discounts from thousands of businesses offering everything from furniture and fitness to computers and vacations. Learn more at the Wolfperks shopping discounts page.
  • Amusement park discounts. Faculty and staff are eligible for discounts on admission to Great Wolf Lodge and Carowinds in Charlotte, Wet’n Wild Emerald Pointe in Greensboro and Kings Dominion in Virginia. For more information, visit the WolfPerks website. “I’ve used the Great Wolf Lodge and Emerald Pointe discounts because I have young children,” says Hurst. “We would have gone there anyway, but getting a discount allows us to spend more money while we’re there and just have more fun.”“That’s the point of a lot of these programs, like the Incredible Savings Club or child care or the cellular discounts,” Williams says. “It’s for stuff you’re already probably going to do; we’re just helping you get more out of it. That’s a benefit we think everyone will appreciate.”

For more detailed information all available features, check out WolfPerks online.

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Studying a Disease in Order to Prevent Starvation]]> 2017-07-18T21:23:33Z 2017-07-06T14:18:59Z Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Catherine Doyle, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Doyle is preparing to spend several weeks in Tanzania, doing field work related to a research effort aimed at tackling a disease that threatens the livelihood of people through sub-Saharan Africa. In our ongoing Research Matters series, NC State researchers address the value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

There is a stark difference between fields of healthy cassava plants (at the bottom) and those affected by cassava mosaic disease (on top). It’s a difference that can mean life or death for the millions who rely on the crop. Photo credit: Joseph Ndunguru. Click to enlarge.

When you start talking about food security, you have to have to think about disease detection and management. That’s what I’m thinking about as I get ready to leave for a cassava field survey in southern Tanzania.

You might know cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) as tapioca, or a thickener in pies and bubble tea. But for over 800 million people in Africa and Asia this crop of tubers is their main source of food and income.

For example, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, as of the late 1990s, cassava roots were the single largest source of calories for 40 percent of the population in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, cassava is grown by smallholder farmers, many of whom are women. It is estimated that cassava consumption in that region amounts to approximately 80 kilograms per person per year, making cassava their most important staple crop. Cassava is drought resistant, grows in poor soil, and can be stored for long periods underground. It is often the only crop to survive war and conflict. The resilience of cassava makes it an insurance against famine. As the basis of food security in Africa, surplus production of cassava provides farmers with a way out of poverty and the ability to have a better standard of living.

But cassava is facing a major threat.

The cassava crop is devastated by cassava mosaic disease (CMD), which can result in up to 100 percent losses in severely infected fields. In addition to the threat this poses to those who rely on cassava to avoid starvation, CMD can cause up to $2.7 billion in economic losses annually.

You can tell when CMD arrives in a field. The leaves of the cassava plants shrivel and curl as they are covered in whiteflies that carry the viruses that cause CMD. When this happens, farmers often use their savings to feed their children, depleting any funds that could otherwise be used for education or to meet other basic needs.

To combat CMD the first step is to diagnose and detect the spread and severity of the disease. That’s what I’ll be doing in Tanzania.

I’ll be part of a three-week field survey, working with scientists from Tanzania’s Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI) to collect leaf and whitefly samples we can use to monitor disease type and progression. Most importantly, we will be talking to farmers, engaging in discussion about CMD and how it affects their crop. It will be a chance to learn and experience how one crop and one disease can change individual lives.

I’m planning to write more about the trip and what we learn, so stay tuned. [Note: Additional posts from Doyle can be found here.]

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[From Transformers to Autonomous Systems]]> 2017-07-18T21:24:49Z 2017-07-05T16:19:42Z Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Edgar Lobaton, an associate professor in NC State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In our ongoing Research Matters series, NC State researchers address the value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Autonomous systems are becoming a reality in our everyday lives. A few examples that most of us have seen in the news include autonomous vehicles such as the Google Car, and autonomous stores such as Amazon Go. All of these systems require sophisticated sensing, machine learning and artificial intelligence in order to make them work, which fascinates me.

Edgar Lobaton

My passion for machine learning and autonomous systems started when I was a little kid.

I was in my first year of elementary student in Peru, waiting diligently every weekend in front of the TV in order to catch an episode of the Transformers animated series. Sitting on my parents’ couch, hearing the classic tune describing the robots as “more than meets the eye,” the same thought would keep going around and around in my head: “I’ve got to have one.”

Growing up in a third-world country, my parents could not afford to buy Transformers toys for me. As a resourceful kid, I did the next best thing: I decided to build my own. With the limited resources I had, I started to build my own robots. At age five, I started by drawing my first Transformers on a piece of paper, cutting them out with my bright red training scissors, and then folding legs and arms in order to convert them into little squares. Not the most useful Transformers, but it was a first attempt.

A couple of years later, my dad taught me how to make cubes out of paper, so I ventured to build my first 3D Transformer. With a little ingenuity, and using some rubber bands and pins, I was able to make Transformers with movable joints. Not full transformation, but at least arms and legs could bend. Probably, nowadays, most kids can 3D print one of these at school.

By the time I was a high school student (still in Peru), I had already figured out how motors, gears, electromagnets and pulley systems worked, which allowed me to build some simple robots that could move around. However, this was still far from becoming a sentient, autonomous robotic system. What was missing was for the robots to understand their surroundings and be able to make decisions based on that information.

I had my mind set on studying mechatronics in Peru at the time. Thanks to the sacrifice of my parents, who decided to take my sisters and I to the USA in search of a better education, I was able to get into Seattle University for my undergraduate studies. I was extremely excited about this opportunity to finally make my dreams come true. As an electrical engineering student at Seattle U, I organized a team of students to attempt to get into the RoboCup competition, in which teams build robots and have them compete at playing soccer.

We built our robots from scratch and used some basic image processing in order to track their position and identify the location of the ball. From there we programmed their behavior so they could play as a team. Our robots crashed and broke all the time. They would get disconnected from the computer that controlled their motion and they would literally get lost. Sadly, we were unable to make it to the actual competition. However, I felt an overwhelming joy just seeing the robots move together toward a goal for the first time. They were finally acting on their own. Finally! It was a first example of an autonomous system that I helped make myself.

Time went on, and I decided to focus my efforts more on the sensing and machine learning aspects of my childhood dream. I have applied the knowledge that I accumulated since I was a little kid to projects involving surgical robotic systems, autonomous driving vehicles, cyborg insects, and autonomous recognition systems. These applications, and many others, have the potential to change the way we live and work. They could save lives.

My childhood dreams have led to advances that can make a difference in the real world. Dreams are important. Research is important. I am lucky enough to still continue pursuing my dream while contributing to developments in these fields of robotics – and helping to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Study Finds ‘Smart’ Transformers Could Make Reliable Smart Grid a Reality]]> 2017-07-06T14:26:13Z 2017-07-05T13:13:11Z A new study using complex computational models finds that smart solid-state transformers (SSTs) could be used to make a stable, reliable “smart grid” – allowing the power distribution system to route renewable energy from homes and businesses into the power grid.

The idea of a smart grid that can handle power flows not just from the power company to our homes, but also back from our homes to the power company has been around for years. Among other benefits, such a grid would improve efficient use of renewable energy and storage. But, to date, the smart grid has been mostly conceptual. The new study indicates that it could move from concept to reality in the near future, using technology that already exists. The key technology is the SST.

Solid-state transformers, developed at NC State, can make the smart grid concept a reality. (Click to enlarge.)

Transformers are found in substations and at distribution points within the larger power grid. Conventional transformers convert the high voltage power used in power lines to lower voltage power that can be used safely in homes and businesses.

In 2010, researchers at the National Science Foundation’s FREEDM Systems Center at North Carolina State University unveiled the first SST, which not only performed all of the functions of a traditional transformer, but could also redirect power as needed to address changes in supply and demand.

“The SST is a fundamental building block in the smart-grid concept,” says Iqbal Husain, ABB Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State and director of the FREEDM Center. “It can scale down voltage for use in homes and businesses, but it can also scale up voltage from solar panels or other residential-scale renewable sources in order to feed that power back into the grid.

“And because the SST is a smart technology, it can switch back and forth between those two functions as needed,” says Husain, who co-authored a paper on the new modeling work.

The idea is for these SSTs to work together throughout the larger power grid to coordinate power distribution efficiently.

“We know how individual SSTs work, but the question since 2010 has been how they might work as part of a microgrid – and how those microgrids may work in the context of the larger grid,” says Aranya Chakrabortty, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and co-author of the paper. “This is not something that the power industry can afford to get wrong, and we need to ensure that the concept improves efficiency – and is therefore worthy of investment – without adversely affecting the stability and reliability of the grid.”

To that end, researchers developed a complex model that simulates the behavior of a power distribution system, accounting for the SSTs, renewable energy sources, and energy storage. The model is scalable, so can be used to predict the behavior of power distribution systems of any size.

“Using this model, we found that SSTs can greatly enhance the functionalities of tomorrow’s power grid,” Chakrabortty says. “However, certain operational boundaries would need to be maintained.”

Essentially, system designers and operators would need to ensure that the system – at every level – is taking into account customer power demand, power generation from renewable sources and energy storage capacity, in order to avoid providing too much or too little power.

“Addressing that challenge is one of the things that SSTs are designed to address,” Husain says. “Now that we know the grid would work better with SSTs, our next step is to develop the algorithms necessary for SSTs to make the split-second decisions needed to keep a system within its operational bounds – something we’re already working on. We plan to demonstrate this capability in less than a year, and hopefully within the next six months.”

The paper, “Equilibrium Point Analysis and Power Sharing Methods for Distribution Systems Driven by Solid-State Transformers,” is published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Power Systems. Lead author of the paper is Alireza Afiat Milani, a Ph.D. student at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Md Tanvir Arafat Khan, a Ph.D. student at NC State.

The work was done with support from the NSF through the FREEDM Systems Center, under award number EEC-0812121.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Equilibrium Point Analysis and Power Sharing Methods for Distribution Systems Driven by Solid-State Transformers”

Authors: Alireza Afiat Milani, Md Tanvir Arafat Khan, Aranya Chakrabortty and Iqbal Husain, North Carolina State University

Published: June 27, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems

DOI: 10.1109/TPWRS.2017.2720540

Abstract: The feasible equilibria of operation of distribution-level power system models interfaced with solid-state transformers (SST) are analyzed and presented through a set of analytical relationships. The active and reactive power balances in the SST are realized through control of power electronic converters with appropriate choices for voltage and current setpoints. These setpoints parameterize the nonlinear model of the SST. Therefore, choosing them appropriately in sync with the generation and load profiles in the system is critical for maintaining a feasible equilibrium. These equilibrium sets are derived by first considering a fundamental physics-based model of a single-SST system, and thereafter, by extending them to systems with multiple SSTs connected to a radial distribution feeder. Power sharing methods are developed by which multiple SSTs can share a given change in load by generating an appropriate set of feasible setpoints for their input stage rectifiers. A control architecture is proposed for executing these load-sharing methods for both instantaneous and predictive load commands. The algorithms are verified by simulations on a representative distribution test system with nine SSTs.

University Communications <![CDATA[BOT Welcomes New and Familiar Faces]]> 2017-07-05T14:53:16Z 2017-07-03T15:27:41Z NC State’s Board of Trustees welcomes both new and returning members for terms ending in 2021. The newly appointed members are James A. “Jim” Harrell III of Raleigh, David R. Nimocks III of Fayetteville and Edward “Ed” Weisiger Jr. of Charlotte. Returning for their second four-year terms are Thomas E. Cabaniss of Richmond, Virginia; Wendell H. Murphy, formerly of Rose Hill; and Ronald W. Prestage of Camden, South Carolina.

Meet the New Trustees

Harrell is a partner in the law firm of Bode & Harrell, LLP and specializes in government affairs. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and received his Juris Doctor from Emory University School of Law. He was elected to three terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 90th District from 2003 to 2008. During his tenure in the House, he chaired the Ways and Means Committee, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the House Select Committee on Economic Development. In addition, he has served on numerous boards, including the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center board of directors, the North Carolina Outdoor Heritage Council and the Appalachian State University Board of Visitors.

Nimocks is an NC State alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a long record of service to the university. As a member of the C.W. Dabney Lifetime Giving Society, he has provided funds for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Poole College of Management, NCSU Libraries and other campus organizations. He established the David R. Nimocks Jr. Fellowship in Indoor Urban Entomology in 1994 in honor of his father. He has served as a manager or managing member at multiple businesses across North Carolina. He is the founder and chairman of Ensystex Inc., a worldwide manufacturer of pest management products, and the former president of both MSC Inc. and Terminix. Two of his children are also NC State alumni.

Weisiger is president and CEO of CTE in Charlotte. He formerly served as a member of the NC State Engineering Foundation and the Student Aid Association board of directors. He is a member of the W.H. Page Lifetime Giving Society and an honorary lifetime member of the NC State Alumni Association. He established the Edward I. Weisiger Professorship in the area of construction engineering and management. He also established an endowed scholarship with his father in 1997 to aid students from Western North Carolina enrolled in mechanical or civil engineering. He is the 2006 recipient of the ISE Distinguished Alumni Award. He received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from NC State and his Master of Business Administration from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.

About the Board

NC State’s Board of Trustees is composed of 13 members. In every odd-numbered year, four individuals are elected by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, and the General Assembly appoints one person on the recommendation of the president pro tempore of the Senate and one person on the recommendation of the speaker of the House of Representatives. The student body president serves as an ex-officio member.