NC State News News from NC State University 2017-05-30T07:00:27Z https://news.ncsu.edu/feed/atom/ WordPress Tim Peeler <![CDATA[Above the Battlefields of World War I]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=450641 2017-05-28T14:58:16Z 2017-05-27T01:53:01Z The Memorial Tower | World War I Transformed NC State | The Names in the Belltower

No one had a better view of the battlefields of France during the First World War than NC State civil engineering alum Jimmy Higgs.

And few people survived the danger he faced, as the leader of one of 17 U.S. balloon observation companies that served on the Western front.

James Allen Higgs Jr., a native of Raleigh and a two-time graduate of the North Carolina College for Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (1906, ’10), signed up for duty at the mature age of 29, intent on going to war, just like his slightly younger classmate Frank Martin Thompson (1910).

Higgs was a slight fellow of 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches, weighing 120 pounds in a cold sweat. His greatest ambition, he said just before his graduation, was “to grow.” He knew that if he signed up as an infantryman, he likely would not survive more than a few days in the trenches that bisected the open fields of France, Belgium and Germany.

“I was a little guy, and I couldn’t fancy myself swapping bayonet thrusts with those big Germans,” Higgs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1968 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the First World War. “When the call went out to be balloon observers, I volunteered.

“They took us to Washington and put us in a machine and spun us around until we were thoroughly dizzy, then measured the time it took to regain our equilibrium. I was one of the winners.”

Being a “balloon spy,” as he was often called, was a position unique to the Civil War and World War I. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, it was Higgs’ assignment to crawl into a two-man basket tethered by cable to the front of a truck. Armed with binoculars, topographical maps and a telephone, he would fly high (up to 5,000 feet) over the battlefield and report troop activity to his commanders on the ground. Usually, he was with a French observer who was relaying similar information to his superiors.

As if flying unprotected over the battlefield wasn’t dangerous enough, the sausage-shaped gasbags were filled with highly flammable hydrogen, making them susceptible to fires started by the hot rounds coming from guns below. They were also sitting-duck targets for the biplanes that attacked from behind the clouds overhead.

Four times over the course of four months, Higgs was shot down, jumping out of the basket and praying that the parachute stuffed on the outside of the balloon basket and harnessed to his back automatically deployed after he cleared 300 feet.

Each time, he went right back up.

Once, he was trying to coerce his partner to escape for his life and was met only with a blank stare from a non-English speaking partner. He quickly ran through his memory banks to find the French word for “jump.”

Jimmy Higgs in 1968.

“We were supposed to stay in the balloon until our telephone man on the ground told us to jump,” Higgs told the AJC. “Noise carries upward much louder than along the surface. The guns were making such a racket I couldn’t hear over the phone.

“Finally, I made out the words ‘Jump! Jump!’”

When he relayed the order to the French sergeant, he got no response.

“I realized he didn’t understand English, and hollered, ‘Sautez! Sautez!’ and pointed the way he was to go. He went over the side and I followed him.”

It was anything but a peaceful trip to the ground.

“We were each wearing parachute harnesses with a rope attached to the ‘chute that was stuffed into a bag hanging outside the basket. Our weight would pull the ‘chutes out of the bags. They were supposed to open when we dropped 300 feet. It takes nearly five seconds to fall 300 feet from a standing start, and that is a long time to wonder whether you are going to live or die.

“The parachute opened with a considerable jolt, but it was a very pleasant feeling. I closed my eyes until the parachute popped, but I kept them open on subsequent jumps.”

Higgs’ only compensation for jumping out of a falling balloon on four occasions? Each time, he was awarded 48 hours of leave in Paris to “settle his nerves and get ready to go back up again.”

Which he did until Nov. 11, 1918, when the bells of Paris signaled the pre-arranged armistice between the warring forces. Weather did not allow Higgs to go up at the time of the ceasefire, but the following day he did up to 5,000 feet — the limit of his balloon’s steel cable — to make sure German forces were pulling out as promised.

“The end was an amazing thing,” he said. “I had been hearing guns roaring around and under me, and sometimes, enemy shells and bombs bursting in our camp, for almost a year,” Higgs said. “Sharp at the stroke of 11, they all stopped. There were no birds or animals in the war zones to make the usual noises, and no machines moved.

“I found myself listening for just any sound, but there was none.”

Higgs chronicled his balloon exploits in detailed letters to his mother, Mattie A. Higgs, who lived on Raleigh’s North Blount Street from 1889 to 1964. They were retold many times through the years to his NC State brethren during his visits from Atlanta, where Higgs settled after the war, to Raleigh, where his family remained.

Higgs was a loyal and devoted NC State alum and served as the president of the Alumni Association in 1938. A vice president and regional manager of the Massey Concrete Products Corp., Higgs never missed an Atlanta-area alumni meeting.

He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest honor given by the U.S. Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life during his daily work as a balloon observer.

While Higgs survived his 18-month service, unlike so many who are celebrated annually on Memorial Day, he did know the tragedy of war. His father and three uncles were part of the 3rd North Carolina Cavalry in the Civil War.

And he and wife Mary Marbury — a descendant of North Carolina’s first governor, Richard Caswell — were the proud parents of two sons, James Allen Higgs III and Caswell Marbury Higgs. The younger son followed his father’s footsteps as a military hero, enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942 as a second lieutenant, shortly after completely his sophomore year at the Citadel in Charleston.

A machine-gun platoon leader, Caswell Higgs was shipped overseas in 1944 and landed on Normandy’s Utah Beach two months after D-Day. Serving in the Army under Gen. George S. Patton, the younger Higgs was killed in action five months later, leading his men across the Rhine River. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for bravery on the battlefield, making him a second generation war hero.

Higgs’ grandson, James Allen Higgs IV, was an Army Ranger in Vietnam.

Higgs died June 30, 1971, at the age of 83 and was buried in a private cemetery in Atlanta. But he never forgot his Raleigh roots, his NC State education or his fallen comrades.

In March 1919, just weeks after returning from France, Higgs was among the first alumni to donate to the proposed Memorial Tower to honor the NC State soldiers who perished in Europe’s Great War, by sending a check for $5 to director E.B. Owen in the Alumni Office.

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[You May Be A Scientist And Not Know It]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=450411 2017-05-25T16:57:59Z 2017-05-25T16:57:59Z Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Anne McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at NC State. This is one of a series of posts from NC State researchers that address the value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Many people think about science as a collection of facts: A cheetah can achieve speeds of 75 mph; the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell; E=mc2. But all of these facts, as interesting as they are, are just the outcome of science.

Anne McLaughlin

Science is a process – a way of thinking – and scientists are just people who adhere to that process. I have recently seen a lot of people who preface their statements with “I’m not a scientist, but…” What they mean is that they don’t have a career where they are explicitly paid to follow the scientific method in a particular domain, like biology or chemistry or psychology. They see “scientists” as people who wear lab coats, do things with test tubes, peer down microscopes, and wear glasses with heavy frames. I’d like to sit down with people who say they’re not scientists and really talk about their jobs, how they approach problems in their own lives. They may be scientists and not know it.

I often use my mom as an example. She majored in home economics back in the 1960s. She was an interior decorator for a number of years with her own company, later bought decrepit homes and fixed them up, and has lately found her passion making jewelry and selling it online. Science isn’t a word she uses or would claim any interest in.

Yet she is absolutely a scientist.

In the late 1980s, when I was about twelve, I came home to find signs taped to lamps around the house. The signs read “DO NOT TURN OFF.”

My mother had a hypothesis: Turning light bulbs on and off made the bulbs burn out more quickly. She thought she had noticed this through the years, but wanted to be sure. To test her hypothesis, she had replaced all the bulbs and put signs on some of the lamps to keep them from being turned off. Others could be turned on and off normally. This was a long-term project and we got used to a bright living room.

As someone who gets paid to carefully control variables, I might have set times where all the normal bulbs were turned off, then on again, so their total light time might be compared. I’d also want enough bulbs involved so that a defect in one or two wouldn’t affect the conclusions. But no experiment is perfect and she did set it up well in one regard – if the bulbs that spent little time turned on (but were turned on and off normally) tended to burn out faster, that would be a pretty good indication that the stress of on/off was detrimental. When my mom wanted to know something, she came up with a way to collect data and figure it out.

My mom developed her experiments to help her make real-world decisions in her house. In that, I follow her lead. I study human factors psychology, which is an “applied” field, meaning that the results of our studies and experiments can immediately affect people and the world around us. For example, one recent study from my lab examined some of the reasons checklists help keep us on track toward achieving our objectives.

If I said a checklist would help you get a job done better, many people may say “Well, of course. It helps you remember what to do.” I might get a few eye rolls, either from people who think this observation is obvious or from those who feel they don’t need checklists to remember what to do. Until the last decade or so that was the response from many doctors when it was suggested that they use checklists during their procedures.

But doctors and patients started to pay more attention after 2001, when Dr. Peter Pronovost released a study that found checklists drastically reduced infection rates in his hospital. Pronovost said in a 2007 interview with NPR that, “if there had been a drug that reduced infections by 66 percent, which is just what this checklist did, we would have that drug in everybody’s hands in the country.”

It is a testament to our human stubbornness that even after Pronovost’s study, many people still treat the checklist as obvious and unnecessary for anyone good at their job. However, the medical field did take note of Pronovost’s findings, and since 2001, medical checklists have taken off and improved health outcomes the world over.

But why?

Most people, when I ask that question, are quite certain it’s because a checklist is a memory aid. It helps everyone on the team remember what they are doing, what they’ve done and what they need to do. This is certainly important, but it’s hardly the most interesting reason a checklist works.

The checklist McLaughlin’s group developed for cardiac catheterization procedures at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. (Click to enlarge.)

A few years ago, my lab worked to create a checklist for cardiac catheterization procedures at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. We followed the guidelines put down by the World Health Organization (WHO), including getting commitment and buy-in at all levels of the surgical and anesthesia teams and designing a checklist that was easy to follow. But one thing that struck us in every conversation about the procedures was the importance of social interaction. As highly trained as they were, these techs, cardiologists and anesthesiologist were not robots. They really liked the parts of the checklist that requested them to interact with each other. These experts knew all of the steps, but with team members ducking in and out weekly, they often didn’t know everyone’s names or their roles. On top of that, it was clear that everyone came into the procedure with a mental picture of what to expect. But those pictures didn’t always match up, and it was often during the surgical procedure that each team member scrambled to understand or follow the expectations of another.

We then identified that one of the key aspects of the checklist was that it included items that made team members talk to each other. Like the WHO checklists, everyone had to pause before the first incision was made to check on the identity of the patient, the expected procedure, and give their names and roles. Then, the cardiologist reviewed “anticipated critical events and unexpected steps” and estimated how long he or she thought the procedure should take. This was important information – usually the cardiologist had a sense of these probabilities based on the age and health of the canine patient. But without a checklist item for the discussion, it could be easy for the cardiologist to assume that everyone on the team had the same expectations.

Thinking that others know the same things that we do is common. If you’d like to see it in action, try drumming a song onto a table and ask a friend to name it. Chances are you’ll be shocked at how poorly they do – after all, it’s so obvious to you what it sounds like! But that’s the problem. We can’t really put ourselves in another person’s mind. Thus, having some low-tech help from a checklist that reminds us to be clear about what we are thinking can help others understand what to expect.

The development of this checklist was not an experiment. It was an application using theory derived from previous experiments. We’ll be following up after a couple years of use to see whether the checklist changed complication rates and surgical outcomes when compared to the previous two years. Like my mom was with her light-bulb experiment, I was constrained by the applied nature of this work: there aren’t enough procedures or veterinary colleges willing to participate to have randomly assigned checklist sites compared to non-checklist sites, so I couldn’t entirely control for all potential influences (such as which residents were assisting on procedures before and after the checklist intervention). In many of my studies I have more control, but often the most interesting and impactful questions can’t be addressed with a “perfect” research design.

This kind of applied research is common in my area of human factors psychology. In human factors, we always have an eye toward directly applying our results in ways that people can see and feel in their everyday lives. The most traditional example of this was changing cockpit designs for aircraft so that pilots would make fewer mistakes – such as pulling up the landing gear instead of the flaps (which made for an exciting touchdown).

You’ve also seen human factors in the design of warnings – a colleague of mine discovered that a large percentage of people misinterpreted the outline of a pregnant woman with a line across her to mean “taking this pill will keep you from being pregnant.” Since the actual warning was “Do not take if pregnant – causes birth defects,” this was a terrifying misunderstanding that needed correcting!

You may not know, for example, that any medical device you might get from a doctor, such as a blood glucose monitor or a pacemaker, has to be tested and refined by a human factors psychologist. The FDA made this a mandate after a number of studies showed how difficult these devices were to use and how often patients made errors due to poor design.

And more and more human factors psychologists are being hired in entertainment fields, such as video games. Aside from running “playtesting” studies where they collect data on how players interact with games that are in development, these psychologists use their knowledge of human perception, cognition and movement control to advise designers on how best to create entertaining challenges while reducing frustration with game interfaces.

In human factors the first rule is to acknowledge the limitations of human beings. We can’t read 6 point font, or see in the dark, or read red text on a blue background, to name a few of our shortcomings. We also can’t react fast enough to take over a self-driving car if there’s a deer in the road. We can’t pick out the most important alarm in a cacophony of alarms at a nuclear plant. Thus, we have to design those systems to work with our limitations, not assume we’ll overcome them through (literally) superhuman efforts. It may not sound superhuman to be able to do two things at once, but when those things are texting and driving, it’s beyond human capacity. Identifying these problems and developing solutions is the domain of the scientist-practitioner.

I wish I had a satisfying end to the light bulb story, but alas it ended up being an illustration of how decent science can be foiled by meddling. My dad thought it would be funny to replace any burned-out bulb to make my mother think that bulbs would last forever if not turned off. But perhaps my mom has the last laugh, since her hypothesis on light bulbs was supported by research and is used as an example in physics classes for conveying the impact of the initial voltage stress on light bulb filaments.

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University Communications <![CDATA[Sign Up for Summer OIT Classes]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=450201 2017-05-25T12:49:23Z 2017-05-25T12:49:23Z Register now for workshops offered by the Office of Information Technology. OIT has a variety of training opportunities planned this summer in topics ranging from WordPress to Google apps. To find out more or register for a session, click on the workshop title below. To view a list of all OIT workshops, visit REPORTER.

Lunch and Learn

Cisco Jabber | June 20, July 19, Aug. 8

Cisco WebEx | June 27, July 25, Aug. 15

Google Keep Overview (online) | June 28

Team Drives at NC State (online) | Aug. 9

Google Training

Accelerated Gmail | July 19

Google Calendar | June 14, Aug. 10

Create, Collaborate and Get Organized With Google Drive | June 6, July 26, Aug. 30

Docs: More Than a Text Editor | Aug. 8

Forms: Data Collection and Analysis | June 22

Gmail: More Than Your Inbox | June 1, Aug. 3

Gmail: Advanced Productivity | June 20, Aug. 24

Hangouts: Video Conferencing and More | July 13

Introduction to the NEW Google Sites | July 11

Sheets | Aug. 23

Slides: Create, Collaborate and Publish Presentations | June 29

WordPress Training

Basics of WordPress | June 21

WordPress Content Management | July 27

Accessibility

Using NC State’s Accessibility Scanner | June 7, July 12

Other

CrashPlan for NCSU Sub-Org Administrators | June 7

Managing Apple Devices with Jamf Pro | Aug. 10

PCR360 Customer Service Training | July 19-20, Aug. 16-17

Two Factor Authentication at NC State | June 15, July 20, Aug. 22

Visit OIT Training Workshops for additional training opportunities and workshop materials. For more information about customized training for your department, unit or classroom, see Custom Training.

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Researchers Find New Way to Control Light with Electric Fields]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=450171 2017-05-25T18:57:57Z 2017-05-25T10:00:23Z Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered a technique for controlling light with electric fields.

“Our method is similar to the technique used to provide the computing capabilities of computers,” says Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the work. “In computers, an electric field is used to turn electric current on or off, which corresponds to logic 1 and logic 0, the basis of binary code. With this new discovery, a light may be controlled to be strong or weak, spread or focused, pointing one direction or others by an electric field. We think that, just as computers have changed our way of thinking, this new technique will likely change our way of watching. For instance, it may shape a light into arbitrary patterns, which may find applications in goggle-free virtual reality lenses and projectors, the animation movie industry or camouflage.”

Controlling light with electric fields is difficult. Photons, the basic units of light, are neutral – they have no charge, so they usually do not respond to electric fields. Instead, light may be controlled by tuning the refractive index of materials. Refractive index refers to the way materials reflect, transmit, scatter and absorb light. The more one can control a material’s refractive index, the more control you have over the light that interacts with that material.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult to tune refractive index with electric fields,” Cao says.  “Previous techniques could only change the index for visible light by between 0.1 and 1 percent at the maximum.”

Cao and his collaborators have developed a technique that allows them to change the refractive index for visible light in some semiconductor materials by 60 percent – two orders of magnitude better than previous results. The researchers worked with a class of atomically thin semiconductor materials called transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers. Specifically, they worked with thin films of molybdenum sulfide, tungsten sulfide and tungsten selenide.

“We changed the refractive index by applying charge to two-dimensional semiconductor materials in the same way one would apply charge to transistors in a computer chip,” Cao says. “Using this technique, we achieved significant, tunable changes in the index within the red range of the visible spectrum.”

Currently, the new technique allows researchers to tune the refractive index by any amount up to 60 percent – the greater the voltage applied to the material, the greater the degree of change in the index. And, because the researchers are using the same techniques found in existing computational transistor technologies, these changes are dynamic and can be made billions of times per second.

“This technique may provide capabilities to control the amplitude and phase of light pixel by pixel in a way as fast as modern computers,” says Yiling Yu, a recent graduate of NC State and lead author of the paper.

“This is only a first step,” Cao says. “We think we can optimize the technique to achieve even larger changes in the refractive index. And we also plan to explore whether this could work at other wavelengths in the visual spectrum.”

Cao and his team are also looking for industry partners to develop new applications for the discovery.

The paper, “Giant Gating Tunability of Optical Refractive Index in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Monolayers,” is published in the journal Nano Letters. Lead author of the paper is Yiling Yu, a Ph.D. student at NC State. Co-authors include Yifei Yu and Lujun Huang of NC State; Haowei Peng of Temple University; and Liwei Xiong of Wuhan Institute of Technology. The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation under grant ECCS-1508856, and from the Center for the Computational Design of Functional Layered Materials at Temple University, which is funded by the Department of Energy under grant DESC0012575.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Giant Gating Tunability of Optical Refractive Index in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Monolayers”

Authors: Yiling Yu, Yifei Yu, Lujun Huang and Linyou Cao, North Carolina State University; Haowei Peng, Temple University; and Liwei Xiong, Wuhan Institute of Technology

Published: May 15, Nano Letters

DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b00768

Abstract: We report that the refractive index of transition metal dichacolgenide (TMDC) monolayers, such as MoS2, WS2, and WSe2, can be substantially tuned by > 60% in the imaginary part and > 20% in the real part around exciton resonances using CMOS-compatible electrical gating. This giant tunablility is rooted in the dominance of excitonic effects in the refractive index of the monolayers and the strong susceptibility of the excitons to the influence of injected charge carriers. The tunability mainly results from the effects of injected charge carriers to broaden the spectral width of excitonic interband transitions and to facilitate the interconversion of neutral and charged excitons. The other effects of the injected charge carriers, such as renormalizing bandgap and changing exciton binding energy, only play negligible roles. We also demonstrate that the atomically thin monolayers, when combined with photonic structures, can enable the efficiencies of optical absorption (reflection) tuned from 40% (60%) to 80% (20%) due to the giant tunability of refractive index. This work may pave the way towards the development of field-effect photonics in which the optical functionality can be controlled with CMOS circuits.

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University Communications <![CDATA[Cal Poly’s Beaton to Talk on Cyber Threats]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=450141 2017-05-24T16:31:33Z 2017-05-24T16:31:33Z Brian Beaton, director of the Center for Expressive Technologies at California Polytechnic State University, will address the unique cybersecurity threats facing research communities as the featured speaker at the 2017 I.T. Littleton Seminar.

This seminar will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, June 13, in the Hunt Library auditorium. The event, sponsored by the NCSU Librarians’ Association, is free and open to the public.

In his address, Beaton will call for research universities to give greater attention to the cybersecurity dimensions of attacks and advocate for a deeper conversation about the material and infrastructural vulnerabilities facing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) institutions.

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Staff <![CDATA[Learn About REPORTER at NC State]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=449801 2017-05-30T07:00:05Z 2017-05-24T15:46:49Z WolfWhat is REPORTER?

NC State’s Registration Platform for Non-Credit Activity and Required Training: REPORTER, is a cross-university solution for tracking, managing and reporting non-degree credit activities. It measures external outreach, internal training and non-credit activities, to assess their impact across the university and beyond.

REPORTER is an evolving enterprise application developed at NC State from the ground up using the Mendix Business Modeler. As a result, highly customizable features were tailored to meet the requirements of both existing and future NC State business and education systems. REPORTER is built on a cloud-based platform-as-a-service, which allows the development team to create, integrate and deploy new functionality to REPORTER‘s web and mobile applications.

REPORTER provides the solution to support non-credit activities. Innovative and flexible, REPORTER is designed to increase the profile and efficiency of programs and is a secure and Payment Card Industry compliant registration system. REPORTER supports free enterprise, innovation and economic development while enhancing the institution’s ability to manage data and information to drive strategy and new business models.

What are the uses of REPORTER?

REPORTER is much more than a registration system. It is an application that provides enterprise-level non-credit activity, billing and reporting, focusing on three-prong use. The first is required training, typically safety, financial and regulatory compliance-related training such as Payment Card Industry (PCI), Conflicts of Interest and Uniform Guidance Certification Training for principal investigators.

The second use is for professional development, such as university-sponsored programs including New Employee Orientation, faculty work sessions and additional training.  

Finally, outreach, extension and engagement programs and activities that leverage the academic resources of the university that market to external participants will use REPORTER to allow registrations and provide a way to track engagements and professional credits.

How does DELTA fit into REPORTER?

The goal for DELTA is to use REPORTER as the designated registration system for WolfWare Outreach enrollments. DELTA’s Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) group is working with REPORTER developers to integrate WolfWare Outreach for online courses. While DELTA is not doing any direct development, ETS works with REPORTER developers on WolfWare Project and Outreach integration for online courses.

For example, REPORTER could be a great way to determine how many online non-credit courses are offered and participation counts and contact hours production information being utilized. REPORTER will improve information collection methods, improve awareness and visibility of non-credit education and allow us to understand the scope and impact of our engagement efforts.

With the close collaboration between the REPORTER development team and DELTA’s Moodle development team, REPORTER aims to be able to seamlessly share data and functionality with Moodle Outreach and Projects environments, including such features as Moodle student registration, course enrollment and course completion status. REPORTER also integrates with PeopleSoft Human Resources, as well as university financials and Student Information System data, which helps reduce data redundancy. REPORTER is also fully PCI compliant, ensuring secure encryption of user data and online payment transactions.

What are the future goals of REPORTER?

Based on Quarter 1 of 2017, REPORTER has successfully achieved completion in several areas including billing support and reports for departments, question/label bank and form builder, use of bulk data uploads and mobile uploads. From Quarter 2 projections, REPORTER hopes to continue to create form builders, focus on merchandise and order management and course instance improvements. Looking ahead, REPORTER developers set goals of certificates and programs, document management, user roles updates, task/workflow management and merge functionality for duplicate external accounts.

This post was originally published in DELTA News.

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Staff <![CDATA[60 Seconds With Neuroscientist John Meitzen]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=449811 2017-05-30T07:00:07Z 2017-05-24T15:45:18Z In addition to his teaching duties, John Meitzen runs a lab that uses rats to study a specific neuron in a region of the brain called the striatum. It’s part of his research on how neuron function differs between males and females. He’s also active in efforts to talk about science with the public, receiving the Society for Neuroscience’s Next Generation Award in 2016 for his work as one of the pioneers of Brain Awareness Night. It’s an annual event at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh that brings in neuroscientists to talk with everyone from young kids to seniors about how the brain works.

What attracted you to neuroscience? Neuroscience is the study of anything associated with the brain and behavior. How are we the people that we are? How do we see? How do we hear? There’s nobody who hasn’t been touched in some way by some problem with the nervous system. My own father has Alzheimer’s disease. If you visit our veterans, we’re talking about PTSD and traumatic brain injury. If you visit our seniors, they’re worried about Parkinson’s disease. Even on campus, we have mental health issues. So what attracted me to this field was this beautiful coupling of the bigger picture questions with a concrete and practical study of how it works.

Is the brain difficult to study? It’s basically like trying to study the engine of a car while it’s running. We know a lot about how the brain works, but there is a lot that we don’t know. Brain science is hard. But that is an opportunity and a challenge. There’s honor in studying something that is difficult.

How much do we know about the brain? There has been incredible progress in localization of function, like what brain regions control what. There’s been impressive progress in treating multiple brain diseases. So we know a lot, but there are challenges that remain. Obviously, our field hasn’t cured Alzheimer’s disease yet.

Why can’t we figure out Alzheimer’s? There are thousands of people — thousands of really smart, driven people — who have made it their life’s work to try to figure this out. And substantial progress has been made. We have medications now that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in many individuals. The reason why progress can sometimes be slow, especially to someone looking from the outside, is that it is hard. It is so hard. In the brain region that I study alone, there are 3 million medium spiny neurons — 3 million of them making who knows how many connections with each other.

Why do you participate in events such as Brain Awareness Night? It is incumbent upon practicing scientists to venture outside the lab every once in a while to try to explain these things that affect people’s daily lives. That is part of what we can do to improve scientific literacy in our community.

This article was originally published in NC State magazine.

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.

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Natalie Hampton <![CDATA[Students Share Value of Graduate Education With Legislators]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=449831 2017-05-30T07:00:08Z 2017-05-24T15:43:03Z Graduate Education Day at the N.C. General Assembly in mid-May featured the research work of more than 30 graduate students from across the state, from both public and private universities. Each year, the N.C. Council of Graduate Schools visits legislators to share the value of graduate education.

The event includes graduate poster presentations in the legislative building. Universities also schedule visits with their elected representatives.

Representing NC State were Tyler Allen, Ph.D. student in comparative biomedical sciences; Laurel Kayes, master’s student in forestry; and Brett Pearce, master’s student in aerospace engineering. They visited the offices of Sen. Jay Chaudhuri and Representatives Joe John, Rosa Gill and Grier Martin, along with Graduate School administrators Peter Harries and Mike Carter.

At the meetings, the NC State teams described the importance of student research, the need for more graduate degree recipients in the workforce and the importance of student funding. By 2022, the United States expects to see a 16 percent increase in the number of jobs requiring a doctoral or professional degree and an 18.4 percent increase in jobs requiring a master’s degree.

Here are some statistics on graduate education in North Carolina:

  • North Carolina is tied for 25th nationally (including the District of Columbia) in the percentage of residents with graduate or professional degrees (10.6 percent). These individuals help drive the state’s technically skilled and entrepreneurial workforce.
  • In 2013-14, North Carolina’s public and private colleges and universities awarded 4,419 doctoral degrees (2,332 from University of North Carolina institutions; 2,089 from private colleges and universities)
  • In 2013-14, North Carolina’s public and private colleges and universities awarded 18,168 master’s degrees (11,821 from UNC institutions and 6,347 from private colleges and universities)

This post was originally published in The Graduate School News.

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Staff <![CDATA[Daubert Named M.U. Vice Chancellor and Dean]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=449781 2017-05-30T07:00:01Z 2017-05-24T15:39:29Z Christopher R. Daubert, head of the NC State Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, has been named vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri (MU), effective August 1.

“Chris has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a faculty member, a department head and in helping make the North Carolina Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative a reality,” said Richard Linton, dean of the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “There is no question that the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences and CALS are better because of his tenure and leadership.”

Daubert joined NC State in 1996 and became department head in 2010. During that time, he directed a renowned food engineering research program that developed leaders for the food industry, established the bioprocessing science degree program, served as the first associate director of the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), and helped lead the NC State Dairy Enterprise System and Dairy Farm Research and Teaching Field Unit.

He also played a key role in securing $250,000 in legislative funding for the North Carolina Food Processing and Manufacturing Initiative and served on the governor’s task force.

MU officials said they were excited about the skills and experience that Daubert will bring to his new position.

“With a career spanning more than 20 years, Dr. Daubert has set himself apart as a dedicated administrator and teacher focused on the land-grant philosophy, agriculture and food research, and innovative economic development initiatives,” said MU Interim Chancellor and Provost Garnett Stokes. “He has experience building bridges across many constituent groups and is a perfect fit to lead CAFNR, which plays a key role in serving the needs of the state of Missouri.”

An internationally-recognized expert on food rheology and texture, Daubert has received many awards and honors, including being named a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists and a member of the NC State Academy of Outstanding Teachers.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from The Pennsylvania State University and a doctoral degree in agricultural engineering and food science from Michigan State University.

“I am blessed to have called North Carolina home for the last 21 years,” Daubert said. “I have seen first-hand how CALS has benefited from strong leadership fortified by critical statewide partnerships to advance a shared vision. Like NC State, the University of Missouri also has a deep and rich land-grant heritage. I am eager to contribute leadership to that land-grant mission in service to the students and stakeholders of MU’s College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources.”

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

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Field of ‘Sexting’ Research Finds Little to Worry About]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=449351 2017-05-22T12:41:08Z 2017-05-22T12:41:08Z A recent analysis of research into how so-called “sexting” may affect sexual behavior finds that it has little impact on sexual activity – but highlights significant shortcomings in the research itself.

“There’s a lot of work being done on the phenomenon of sexting and how it may influence sexual behavior, but the work is being done in a wide variety of populations by researchers from many different backgrounds,” says Kami Kosenko, an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the meta-analysis. “We wanted to analyze this broad body of work to see what, if anything, can be gleaned from all of these studies.”

The researchers found 234 journal articles that looked at sexting, but then removed studies that didn’t look at the relationship between sexting and behavior, as well as any studies that didn’t include clearly defined quantitative measures of sexting or sexual behavior.

Ultimately, this process winnowed it down to 15 studies that looked at whether there was any link between sexting and: sexual activity; unprotected sex; and/or the number of sex partners one has.

The researchers found that there was a weak statistical relationship between sexting and all of those categories – and that was when looking solely at correlation. It was impossible to tell if sexting actually influenced behavior at all.

In fact, there’s not even an agreed-upon definition for sexting. Does sexting consist only of sexually-oriented text messages? Does it include photos? Video? Definitions varied widely from paper to paper.

“There are two take-home messages here,” says Andrew Binder, co-author of the review and an associate professor of communication at NC State. “First is that sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth – so don’t panic. Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies. For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by sexting, as well as more robust survey questions and methods.”

The paper, “Sexting and Sexual Behavior, 2011-2015: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of a Growing Literature,” is published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The paper was co-authored by Geoffrey Luurs, a Ph.D. student at NC State.

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Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Sexting and Sexual Behavior, 2011-2015: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of a Growing Literature”

Authors: Kami Kosenko, Geoffrey Luurs and Andrew Binder, North Carolina State University

Published: May 15, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12187

Abstract: Sexting and its potential links to sexual behavior, including risky sexual practices, have received scholarly scrutiny, but this literature is marked by divergent perspectives and disparate findings. To assess claims regarding the nature of the relationship between sexting and sexual behavior, we conducted a critical review of the literature and analyzed data from 15 articles via quantitative meta-analytic techniques. Sexting behavior was positively related to sexual activity, unprotected sex, and one’s number of sexual partners, but the relationship was weak to moderate. Additional information, gleaned from a critical review of included studies, helped contextualize these findings and point to specific limitations and directions for future research.

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Brent Winter <![CDATA[Theatrefest 2017 Adds Drama to Summer]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448441 2017-05-19T13:31:11Z 2017-05-18T16:02:01Z Classes may be over, but NC State’s arts scene is revving up for the summer with University Theatre’s presentation of Theatrefest 2017: A Season of Style, a series of three theatrical productions that will run June 1-25.

The festival kicks off with the regional premiere of Adam Pasen’s new work Tea With Edie and Fitz. Directed by Mia Self, the play presents a dramatic imagining of what might have happened in 1925 when literary icon Edith Wharton hosted superstar novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald for tea at her house outside Paris — after which they never spoke again. Tea With Edie and Fitz will be performed in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Thompson Hall on NC State’s campus.

Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, directed by University Theatre director John C. McIlwee, mixes a comedy of manners with high farce for a combustible evening of entertainment. Novelist David Bliss and his retired actress wife, Judith, hope for a quiet weekend in the country with their grown, high-spirited children, Simon and Sorel. However, each family member has invited a guest without telling the others, leading to fights, flirtations and a houseful of drama. Hay Fever will be staged in the Titmus Theatre in Thompson Hall.

Full Gallop is a one-act, one-woman show based on the life of Diana Vreeland, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue who stood at the center of American fashion for five decades as she chronicled the extraordinary people and events of her time. Performed by veteran Theatrefest actress Lynda Clark and directed by John C. McIlwee, Full Gallop is offered in conjunction with other special Theatrefest events, including on-stage set tours, high tea catered by The Lucky Teapot or an opening night gala including drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Full Gallop will be presented in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Thompson Hall, with associated special events held in Thompson’s Grand Thiem Lobby.

Tickets for Tea With Edie and Fitz and Hay Fever can be purchased online or from Ticket Central, either in person at Thompson Hall or by phone at 919-515-1100. Ticket Central’s hours are Monday-Friday, 1-5 p.m. To purchase Full Gallop tickets or to make a reservation for a special Full Gallop event, call Ticket Central at 919-515-1100 or visit the box office in person.

Faculty and staff receive a discount on admission to all University Theatre productions.

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D'Lyn Ford <![CDATA[Big Reveal for Nonwovens]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448511 2017-05-22T14:55:06Z 2017-05-18T16:00:51Z This week, NC State welcomes movers and shakers from a global, multibillion-dollar industry as part of the grand opening for a new nonwovens facility on campus.

Nonwovens may be the best hidden industry we have,” says Behnam Pourdeyhimi, executive director of the Nonwovens Institute. “We’ve been using advanced manufacturing and automation for 60-plus years.”

However, an understanding of the finer points of SpunMelt and hydroentangling technologies isn’t necessary to appreciate the power of nonwovens.

Tom Daugherty, deputy director of the Nonwovens Institute, points out that engineered fabrics are not only an economic force but also a part of our daily lives through consumer products, medical and hygiene supplies, soil-stabilizing geosynthetics, automotive components, filtration systems, wipes and many other products. Daugherty is a new addition to NC State after many years at Procter & Gamble.

You may not know it, but you come into contact with nonwovens every morning. Perhaps you reach into the refrigerator for a drink from a water-filtering pitcher to start your day. (Water filters of all sizes, from pitchers to swimming pools, are nonwovens.)

North Carolina has the largest concentration of nonwovens companies, users and suppliers in the country.

Behnam Pourdeyhimi, executive director of the Nonwovens Institute

If you clean up a spill in the kitchen with a Swiffer, you’re using one of the most recognizable nonwoven consumer products, now approaching “a billion-dollar brand,” Pourdeyhimi notes.

But nonwovens don’t always look like filters, wipes, diapers or cleaning pads. The synthetic leather you touch as you lace up your sports shoes is also an engineered fabric.

When you climb into your car, you’re surrounded by nonwovens, which make up dozens of vehicle components, including headliners, carpet backing, and custom-shaped leather- and plastic-like materials. And you may drive to work on an asphalt highway that has a nonwovens layer beneath it to help prevent cracking.

NC State’s new, one-of-a-kind manufacturing facility is a veritable United Nations of nonwovens: spunbond machinery from a Germany, a thermal calender from Austria, a hydroentangling system from France and a winder from Italy, boosted by bicomponent fiber technology from West Melbourne, Florida.

Nonwovens technologies have come together in innovative ways in North Carolina, providing a wealth of bragging rights. In fact, about 40 percent of the U.S. nonwovens industry is based in the Old North State, Pourdeyhimi says.

The nonwovens industry touches all 100 of the state’s counties. One example is Washington County’s Flanders plant, which manufactures HVAC filters for clean rooms. The vertically integrated company creates the filters and makes shells and housing for its products. Other notable examples include Freudenberg Performance Materials in Durham and Berry Global in Benson.

NC State has nurtured that nonwovens growth through research and industry partnerships for more than 25 years. It all began with the opening of a test facility on campus back in 1991, with seed funding from the National Science Foundation, the State of North Carolina and industry.

“With NSF funding, typically you shut down after eight to 10 years of government funding. We didn’t,” Pourdeyhimi says. The expansion hasn’t stopped since.

NC State’s Nonwovens Institute is home to the world’s first and only accredited academic program for interdisciplinary study of engineered fabrics. Faculty from the colleges of Textiles, Engineering and Natural Resources, along with colleagues from other universities, provide expertise in chemistry, mechanical and industrial engineering, bioengineering, chemical engineering, paper science and engineering, and fiber and polymer science.

The institute supported the work of 50 Ph.D. students last year across many programs at NC State as well as partner institutions both in the U.S. and United Kingdom. During their time on campus, all nonwovens graduate students rub shoulders with both academic and industry leaders and become familiar with advanced manufacturing facilities found nowhere else in the nation. That experience provides a “compelling advantage” over other candidates during job interviews, Pourdeyhimi says, recalling students recently hired with Kimberly Clark, 3M, Freudenberg and others.

Those companies are among the 68 industry partners in the Nonwovens Institute. More than 170 NC State alumni currently work in the nonwovens industry.

The new facility will provide additional space where industry partners can test-manufacture and refine products before bringing them to market.

Both new companies and new technologies have gotten their start at NC State, thanks to the Think and Do approach at the Nonwovens Institute.

Research and development here has generated 80 U.S. and international patents. “We create not only jobs, but new industries,” Pourdeyhimi says. “We make things that haven’t existed – new applications.”

The institute also serves as a business incubator, an economic development engine that helps bring new products to market.

Below, you can get a glimpse of what’s under those new 65-foot ceilings on Centennial Campus.

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Tim Peeler <![CDATA[Here Comes the Construction Equipment]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448911 2017-05-18T16:05:23Z 2017-05-18T15:46:03Z Students have moved out for the summer and construction equipment has moved in—as always.

A slew of projects has begun around campus and other high-profile projects are in the planning stages. There’s nothing this summer as dramatic as renovating Reynolds Coliseum or deconstructing Harrelson Hall, mind you, but there are a number of projects that will affect some traffic patterns (Map available here).

Most projects—such as bringing the entryway from Hillsborough Street to the Brickyard up to Americans With Disabilities Act standards and extending the sidewalk on the east side of Morrill Drive—are designed to improve safety for those who cross campus.

The primary traffic disruption will be on Hillsborough Street as the city of Raleigh continues phase 2 of the Hillsborough Street Renewal Project by upgrading curbs and landscaping and installing a roundabout near Brooks Avenue.

Beginning Saturday through May 29, no traffic will be allowed on the south side of Brooks Avenue and Founders Drive from Hillsborough Street. (Here’s the weekly update from the city.)

While the work at Founders Drive and Brooks Avenue is going on, the final portion of the underground telecommunication conduit will be run across Friendly Drive. When that is complete, the final brick sidewalk will be finished on that corner.

Work in the middle lane of Hillsborough Street between Daisy Street and Concord Street will resume next week to install a new sewer line.

Night work will also continue to install water service connections to businesses along the north side of the street.

Unless otherwise noted, most construction will be completed by the time students return in August.

A few highlights of central campus projects that could affect traffic and transportation:

  • A sidewalk addition to the south side of the Memorial Tower
  • A new transit stop at Wolf Village
  • Repairs to the Dan Allen Deck
  • Renovations at Bragaw, Owen and the tri-tower residence halls
  • New roof installation at Brooks Hall
  • Replacement stairs for Nelson Hall
  • Renovations to the Patterson Hall business center (through January 2018)
  • Phase II of the Winston Hall HVAC renovations
  • A new ADA crosswalk at Stinson and Yarborough drives
  • Expansion of the Weisiger-Brown parking lot

On Centennial Campus:

  • Expansions and additions to both the substation and cogeneration utility plant (through spring 2018)
  • The extension of Initiative Way from Centennial Parkway
  • Renovations to the Monteith Center cleanrooms
  • Continuation of the upgrades to Centennial Campus thermal utilities and infrastructure behind the newly opened Center for Technology and Innovation and the College of Textiles

Projects now in the planning stages—valued at some $360 million—include the Engineering Oval ($137 million), the Plant Sciences Initiative ($160 million), the Carmichael Gym addition and renovation ($45 million), the Academic Success Center at D.H. Hill Library ($9.3 million) and the Bureau of Mines renovation for the College of Sciences ($6 million).

Also ongoing is a Campus Capacity and Assessment Study, which is a top administrative priority to align the physical campus with the university mission and programs. It will be completed in late September.

  • Connecting Strategic Plan goals to the Physical Master Plan.
  • Clarifying opportunities, challenges and priorities
  • Enhancing connections and mix of uses
  • Identifying optimal sites for partnerships
  • Building consensus on a shared vision that guides development
  • Developing a communication tool to sustain implementation of the vision
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Carla Davis <![CDATA[Western Manor Apartments Lead Pack In Recycling Competition]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448551 2017-05-30T07:00:11Z 2017-05-18T15:32:32Z
Western Manor Apartments earned the 2017 Alpha award for the highest overall waste diversion during the 8-week RecycleMania competition. Western Manor’s Office Manager Michelle Strickland and Community Director Mandy Geiger accepted the award on behalf of residents.

Residents of NC State’s Western Manor Apartments led the Wolfpack to its strongest finish yet in a nationwide collegiate recycling competition this winter.

RecycleMania is a national competition of more than 300 universities competing to reduce campus landfill waste while also boosting recycling and composting rates. From February 5 through April 1, NC State’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Office measured weights of recycled, composted and landfilled materials from 28 campus residence hall locations.

The university topped a 35 percent waste diversion rate, which is a record high for NC State in this competition. The university also improved its rankings in the Per Capita Classic, which measures weights of recyclable material versus landfilled material, and in the total weights of recycled paper, cans, bottles and cardboard, as well as composted food waste.

With the ability to weigh the amount of landfilled and recycled materials at most residence halls, NC State layers a campus-based competition atop the national Recyclemania competition. Students are able to track their residence hall’s diversion rate online and challenge other residents to boost rates of recycling and composting.

Though Bowen Hall, Wood Hall, North Hall and Lee Hall residents topped the campus recycling leaderboard during certain weeks of the competition, Western Manor Apartments had the highest average diversion rate throughout the eight weeks of RecycleMania.

“While NC State does submit all of our campus data to be ranked nationally and compare ourselves to similar institutions, our competition is focused internally. This increases awareness of the impact that your recycling efforts can have on your building’s overall waste diversion rate,” said Lani St. Hill, outreach coordinator for Waste Reduction and Recycling.

Another reason for a campus-based competition is the variation in waste measurement among universities and colleges participating in RecycleMania. While NC State uses the actual weights of campus material delivered to local landfill, recycling and composting facilities, some schools without that capability have to estimate weights based on visual inspections.

“Participating in RecycleMania is an opportunity to track our progress from year to year and to benchmark our recycling rates to similar-sized universities,” St. Hill said. “We hope that next year we can increase our waste diversion rates even more.”

This post was originally published in Sustainability News.

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Staff <![CDATA[Spotlight on Giving: Kathryn Hair]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448531 2017-05-30T07:00:09Z 2017-05-18T14:15:38Z NC State connection: I’m a business and tech app analyst for NC State Advancement Services and a 2000 graduate with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Primary area of giving: I give to the Dean’s Academic Excellence Fund in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the All Gifts Great and Small Fund in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Both are unrestricted and help support the areas of greatest need within the colleges.

Why is the area you support extraordinary?
I have an extra special place in my heart for animals — I’ve always been an animal person and always will be. Every day our amazing researchers here at NC State are finding ways to make nutrition better for these animals and safer for consumer consumption. This research could be life changing to many all over the world.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with the amazing dermatology team at NC State Veterinary Hospital. My fur baby was battling a skin issue that my local vet just could not locate. Dr. Aurore Laprais and her team found the cause of Boss Hogg’s issues and made him happy again!

What connects you to the areas you’ve chosen to support? What kind of difference do you hope to make?
My love and passion for animals connects me to both the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Both of these colleges have been influential to my life from helping my dog to furthering my education and experiences. I hope that with my support, both of these schools will continue on paths of success. I enjoy knowing that my gifts contribute to NC State being able to attract top faculty and students from around the world — being ranked No. 1 best value among North Carolina public universities — and that my gifts help to make our Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign a huge success!

What was special about your experience at NC State?
Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian and I followed my dream to NC State after graduating from high school. I majored in animal science and agribusiness management in hopes of one day owning my own practice. However, one day while visiting my parents my daddy opened my eyes when he asked, “What are you going to do when someone brings in a really sick animal to you? How will you cope with the pain and suffering?” It was a reality check and lead me to the industry side of the animal world. My passion for animals continued as I worked for the NCSU Meat Goat and Forage Educational Unit one summer. It helped me realize the impact and benefits of research. To this day, my passion for the benefits of animal research still holds strong and leads me to give back to the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

How does private support impact your work? What’s special to you about Working at NC State?
My department is the backbone of fundraising for our great university. I train and support all development staff on Advance, our alumni and donor records database. I help my team prepare monthly reports for others to see the funds our amazing development officers and their support teams are raising for the betterment of NC State. We gather and hear stories about how private support help students obtain an education and provide resources in classrooms for technology and research. It makes me proud to be an NC State employee when I hear how this work changes lives, and I’m excited to be a part of that. NC State feels like a family and every employee is important in his or her own role and without them, we would not be complete.

What would you say to encourage faculty, staff or alumni to invest in NC State?
Every gift matters and every dollar makes an impact! We all have an opportunity to help solve the challenges of the world [by investing in the students and faculty at NC State].

– Sarah Keener ’18, Development Communications and Stewardship Student Writer

 

This post was originally published in Giving News.

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Staff <![CDATA[Don’t Miss Upcoming Farm to Fork Events]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448571 2017-05-30T07:00:13Z 2017-05-18T14:13:39Z The Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ Farm to Fork Weekend is coming soon.

The event kicks off Friday, June 2, with a Sustainable Supper featuring food writer and culinary historian Michael W. Twitty. The supper will take place at Market Hall in downtown Raleigh’s City Market.

While children enjoy family-friendly entertainment, grown-ups will hear from Twitty, whose long-awaited book, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South, will be published in August.

Since he launched his Southern Discomfort research project in North Carolina in 2012, the award-winning writer and TED Fellow has been on a personal mission to preserve and promote African American foodways through both its diaspora and its profound legacy in the food culture of the American South.

While Saturday’s Farm to Fork event, Five Chefs in Five Courses, is sold out, tickets remain for the Sustainable Supper, as they do for Sunday’s Farm to Fork Picnic at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro.

The picnic features more than three dozen Triangle chefs producing delectable, bite-size dishes featuring local, seasonal ingredients grown by a farmer specifically paired with that chef. It also spotlights more than two dozen local food artisans and breweries, each providing samples of their products, and local wine, coffee and tea companies.

For details and to buy tickets, visit www.farmtoforknc.com.

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

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Water Efficiency in Rural Areas is Getting Worse, Even as it Improves in Urban Centers]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448461 2017-05-18T14:01:41Z 2017-05-18T14:00:56Z A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

“Understanding water use is becoming increasingly important, given that climate change is likely to have a profound impact on the availability of water supplies,” says Sankar Arumugam, lead author of a paper on the work. “This research helps us identify those areas that need the most help, and highlights the types of action that may be best suited to helping those areas.” Arumugam is a University Faculty Scholar and professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University.

The new paper stems from a National Science Foundation-funded, interuniversity research project which focuses on understanding how water sustainability in the United States has changed over the past 30 years as a result of climate change and population growth.

For this paper, researchers evaluated water use data at the state and county level for the 48 contiguous states. Specifically, the researchers looked at water-use efficiency, measured as per capita consumption, in 5-year increments, from 1985 to 2010.

“This is the first systematic evaluation of water use across the continental U.S.,” Arumugam says. “And we found that some states – including Washington, Pennsylvania and Wyoming – were becoming more efficient every five years. Meanwhile, other states – such as South Carolina, Oklahoma and Mississippi – have gotten worse every five years.”

But a look at the county-level data reveals what may be the most important finding: most rural counties are getting less efficient, while most urban counties are getting more efficient.

“In other words, as we are facing a more uncertain future regarding water resources, rural counties are being left behind,” Arumugam says.

The researchers found that investment in new water-efficiency technologies, and retrofitting existing water infrastructure, are big reasons for the improvement in urban areas.

“Rural counties appear to lack the resources, the political will, or both, to keep pace,” Arumugam says.

Another important finding is that technologies and strategies focused on efficiency – as opposed to large-scale projects, such as building new reservoirs – have been extremely successful. These efforts have allowed urban areas to avoid sharp increases in water use, even as their populations have grown significantly.

“There may be a role for huge infrastructure projects at some point, but these findings underscore the value of focusing on efficiency measures – and the need to pursue those measures in rural counties,” Arumugam says.

The paper, “Synthesis of Public Water Supply Use in the U.S.: Spatio-temporal Patterns and Socio-Economic Controls,” is published in the American Geophysical Union open-access journal Earth’s Future. The paper was co-authored by S.B. Seo, R. Bhowmik, G. Mahinthakumar, and E.Z. Berglund of NC State; K. Kunkel of the Cooperative Institute of Satellites and Climate at NC State; J.L. Sabo, K.L. Larson and A. Ruhi Vidal of Arizona State University; T. Sinha of Texas A&M University; and J. Kominoski of Florida International University. The work was done with funding from NSF’s Water Sustainability and Climate program under grant number 1204368.

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Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Synthesis of Public Water Supply Use in the U.S.: Spatio-temporal Patterns and Socio-Economic Controls”

Authors: A. Sankarasubramanian, S.B. Seo, R. Bhowmik, G. Mahinthakumar and E.Z. Berglund, North Carolina State University; J.L. Sabo and K.L. Larson, Arizona State University; T. Sinha, Texas A&M University; K. Kunkel, Cooperative Institute of Satellites and Climate, North Carolina State University; J. Kominoski, Florida International University

Published: May 18, Earth’s Future

DOI: 10.1002/2016EF000511

Abstract: Recent USGS water use reports suggest that increasing water-use efficiency could mitigate the supply-and-demand imbalance arising from changing climate and growing population.  However, this rich data has not been analyzed to understand the underlying patterns, nor have they been investigated to identify the factors contributing to this increased efficiency. A national-scale synthesis of public supply withdrawals (“withdrawals”) reveals a strong North-South gradient in public supply water use with the increasing population in the South contributing to increased withdrawal. Contrastingly, a reverse South-North gradient exists in per-capita withdrawals (“efficiency”), with northern states consistently improving the efficiency, while the southern states’ efficiency declined. Our analyses of spatial patterns of per-capita withdrawals further demonstrate that urban counties exhibit improved efficiency over rural counties. Improved efficiency is also demonstrated over high-income and well-educated counties. Given the potential implications of the findings in developing long-term water conservation measures (i.e., increasing block rates), we argue the need for frequent updates, perhaps monthly to annual, of water use data for identifying effective strategies that control the water-use efficiency in various geographic settings under a changing climate.

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D'Lyn Ford <![CDATA[Forests in Flux]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448261 2017-05-17T18:39:38Z 2017-05-17T18:35:42Z Climate change shifted the trees in U.S. forests over the last 30 years, drawing hardwood species westward toward more abundant rainfall and evergreens northward to seek out cooler temperatures, a comprehensive new study shows.

Researchers with Purdue, North Carolina State University and the U.S. Forest Service analyzed data for 86 tree species over three decades, finding differences in tree distribution because of climate change, with precipitation having a more powerful influence than temperature.

Researchers found that evergreen trees such as longleaf pines have been moving north in response to rising temperatures.

Scientists found that evergreen trees such as longleaf pine generally have been moving north in response to rising temperatures. In contrast, most hardwoods like tulip-poplar are shifting westward following changes in rainfall patterns, the team, led by Purdue’s Songlin Fei, finds. Precipitation increased in the central U.S. but dropped in the Southeast, where droughts were more frequent during the study period from 1980 to 2015.

“The surprise was in the hardwood trees wanting to move inland,” says Kevin Potter, an NC State research associate professor and co-author of the research in Science Advances. “In the short term, precipitation had a much stronger effect on abundance of forest tree species than temperature.”

The study uses long-term data from the U.S. Forest Inventory and Analysis program collected from tens of thousands of plots across the country, beginning in 1980. After Forest Service researcher Chris Oswalt assembled the older data in usable form, the team turned to a method Potter developed that uses hexagonal grids to create comparable samples.

“Harvesting data like this is a big challenge, but it’s something we need to do more of to detect broad-scale patterns in the U.S.,” Potter says.

Overall, 73 percent of tree species studied made a shift toward the west, while 62 percent moved toward the north. The westward shift took place 1.4 times faster than the northward movement, showing the importance of available moisture for trees.

“Although many factors are involved in climate change, models tend to be more temperature-driven than precipitation-driven, because temperature is more certain and precipitation is less so,” Potter says.

Does the study mean that forests will change measurably in ways most people will notice?

“Not in the short term,” Potter says. “But it does mean that climate change could have an impact over the lifespan of a tree.

“In the Southeast, we need to think about economically important species such as the loblolly pine, which we grow on a 20- to 30-year rotation in plantations, to make sure that the seed is well-adapted to conditions at the site.”

Pine plantations cover about 15 percent of forested land in the South with almost a billion loblolly seedlings planted each year, according to NC State’s Cooperative Tree Improvement Program, home to tree breeding programs for more than 60 years.

While trees in general are “pretty adaptable, robust organisms,” climate change can affect biodiversity and sustainability of whole ecosystems, Potter says.

“We don’t mean to be alarmist, but this goes to show that the system is dynamic and unpredictable. We need to keep a close eye on what’s happening in our forests.”

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[The Boll Weevil War, or How Farmers and Scientists Saved Cotton in the South]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=448121 2017-05-17T15:17:54Z 2017-05-17T14:01:28Z Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dominic Reisig, an associate professor of entomology at NC State. This is one of a series of posts from NC State researchers that address the value of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) is not much to look at – just a grayish, little beetle with an impressively long snout. But this particular beetle, and its hunger for cotton, was powerful enough to forge an unprecedented partnership between farmers, legislators and scientists. And that partnership showed how much can be accomplished when scientists and farmers work together.

Boll Weevil (Anthonomus grandis). Photo credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service. Click for more information.

What adult boll weevils lack in size they make up for with their larvae’s ability to feed on and destroy cotton. Boll weevils entered the U.S. from Mexico in the late 1800s, when they were first spotted in Texas. By the 1920s they had spread through all of the major cotton-producing areas in the country. The scope of the damage was breathtaking, as were the control efforts thrown at this insect: at one time, one-third of the insecticide used in the U.S. was used to combat boll weevils.

In 1903, the chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) testified before Congress that the insect’s outbreaks were a “wave of evil,” and that afflicted areas in Mexico had abandoned cotton production altogether. Indeed, many scholars agree that the impact was so great on the rural South’s cotton-dependent economy that it was one of the causes of the “Great Migration,” when African Americans moved en masse to the northern U.S. during the early 1900s.

Despite the arrival of the boll weevil, cotton production at first actually increased in the U.S., because the price of cotton increased as the boll weevil ran some cotton growers out of business. Cotton production moved in advance of the weevil, creating a boom in cotton plantings in areas that were weevil-free. But as the cotton spread, so did the boll weevil – costing cotton growers billions in revenue.

Declaring War on the Weevil

Then, in 1958, something novel happened. The National Cotton Council of America unanimously agreed, for the first time ever, on a piece of farm legislation. Among other things, that legislation called for cotton research to be expanded – and the boll weevil to be eliminated.

Dominic Reisig

This was an unusual step for many reasons. First, efforts had been made to eradicate insects in livestock before, but no one had ever tried it with a crop pest; this was breaking new ground. Second, this was going to cost a lot of money, which would require the support of the federal government. Third, nobody had yet come up with a way to eradicate the insect. Finally, once eradication began, the eradication process would become a common pool resource. Because of this, cooperation would be vital, given that there would be a temptation for individuals, or whole regions, to get a free ride, relying on the contributions of their neighbors to the eradication effort. So mandatory farmer participation was a must. One by one, each of the challenges were addressed, requiring close collaboration at every step.

Insect eradication was not an entirely new concept. The promoter of eradication was a USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) scientist named Edward Knipling, who had come up with an idea called the sterile insect technique. This technique was pioneered in the 1950s to eliminate screwworm, a parasitic insect pest of cattle. The sterile insect technique relies on flooding the environment with lots of sterile males. Those males then mate with females, but don’t produce any offspring. Knipling now envisioned eradication of the boll weevil, recognizing that it had two chinks in its armor. First, it was an exotic species, which meant that it could be present without some of the parasites and predators that weakened populations in its native Mexico. Second, it was reliant on a single host plant, cotton, which was also not native to the U.S.

Unfortunately, the sterile insect technique bombed. One million sterile boll weevil males were released in a trial. But the sterile males couldn’t compete with their virile wild counterparts and the trial was unsuccessful.

If eradication was going to take place, scientists would have to develop a new method. To that end, the federal government, state governments, and various cotton foundations and associations appropriated millions of dollars to support the research needed to develop the necessary tools for eradication.

For example, Congress funded USDA-ARS laboratories in many states, including one on the campus of Mississippi State University that was critical to creating many of the tools needed for eradication. This support continued through the eradication effort, ensuring that the insect could be eliminated beginning in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, and moving steadily southward.

But the researchers of eradication faced a significant challenge up front. They knew that, for eradication to be successful, there had to be a very effective method of controlling boll weevils – one with a success rate of close to 100 percent. And that would require a significant leap over the available control techniques.

During the 1950s, controlling boll weevil infestations required multiple applications of very harsh and toxic insecticides (e.g., aldrin, azinphosmethyl, benzene hexachloride, chlordane, dieldrin, toxaphene, malathion, methyl parathion, and parathion). But a separate scientific advance was just around the corner.

New Weapons

In the 1960s, researchers were just beginning to understand the importance of insect pheromones, the chemicals produced by insect species that change behavior of other individuals in the species. USDA-ARS scientists discovered the sex attractant pheromones of the boll weevil – the combination of chemicals that allowed male boll weevils to find female boll weevils. These researchers were able to perfect a synthetic attractant pheromone blend, creating a lure that could be used to trap the amorous boll weevils. This advance would prove to be the linchpin for successful eradication, as weevils could be attracted, trapped, and monitored.

Another major breakthrough was the discovery of a method of control that increased success from 85-90 percent control to 98-99 percent.

Insect development is dependent on temperature, and lower temperatures slow down weevil development and reproduction. Mississippi scientists discovered that, by making multiple insecticide applications at short intervals during the autumn, they could both reduce the last reproductive generation of the weevils and significantly limit the survival of potentially overwintering adults. This was termed the reproduction-diapause control method.

The combination of the pheromone traps and the reproduction-diapause control method meant that, given cooperation on an area-wide basis, the boll weevil might be eradicated. And the pheromone traps cold also be used to confirm whether eradication efforts were successful. This one-two punch was tested in a pilot program in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana during the early 1970s. The pilot program couldn’t prove that this approach would eradicate boll weevils, but it was successful enough at reducing population levels that government, industry and research officials opted to proceed with a large-scale approach. This next step involved rolling out two companion trials in the late 1970s: one trial took place in Mississippi using the best known control methods for boll weevil at the time, while another trial tested the reproduction-diapause control method in North Carolina and Virginia.

Cooperation was critical to the North Carolina/Virginia trial. The federal government came through with enough funding to support 50 percent of the trial, while the state of North Carolina agreed to pick up another 25 percent of the cost. And more than three-quarters of North Carolina cotton growers approved of the eradication, agreeing to fund the remaining 25 percent. Meanwhile, a new insecticide had become available, diflubenzuron, which proved to make the eradication even more successful.

After three years, the reproduction-diapause method proved so successful that only one weevil was trapped in the North Carolina/Virginia eradication area. Moreover, this weevil was thought to be left over in a contaminated trap that hadn’t been cleaned properly. Insecticide use plummeted after eradication, but expansion and continuation of the program was not easy. Problems with funding, grower support in new eradication areas, and outbreaks of other pests, resulting from intensive insecticide applications used in eradication efforts – which obliterated beneficial insects that normally kept pests in check – slowed the process However, by 2009, the boll weevil was declared eradicated from all U.S. cotton-producing states, with one exception: Texas, which is the biggest cotton producer in the country.

A Fragile Victory

Which brings us to 2017. Eradication efforts have been stalled at the Texas-Mexico border, largely due to the instability created by illegal drug trafficking. That instability has effectively made large cotton farms in Mexico inaccessible for treatment, creating a welcoming habitat for boll weevil populations to rebound. Another problem in Mexico is the presence of non-cotton plant species that can host boll weevil. Further efforts to limit cooperation across the border, including the proposed border wall, ensure that the boll weevil’s “wave of evil” remains a looming threat. As a result, there is an ongoing battle to keep boll weevils in check in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, funded by an ongoing annual assessment from cotton-producing states, which is aimed at preventing – and tracking – the spread of boll weevil populations.

But this story also highlights the fact that that the boll weevil has been largely conquered in the U.S., thanks to cooperation among growers, scientists and government officials – and due, in large part, to federal research funding. For example, in the southeastern U.S., a boll weevil has not been captured in a pheromone trap in 14 years. And those federal investments, made across the South, continue to pay dividends in the form of new projects, which are poised to tackle today’s native and invasive insects due to the investments made from boll weevil eradication.

For example, those early investments by state and federal governments created the USDA-ARS research system that is still present today across the southern U.S., including the facility at Mississippi State. This system continues to make a difference for U.S. farms. Research units in areas that still have boll weevil populations are using cutting-edge technologies, such as population genetics and aerial infrared imaging, to track movement of the species and identify potential patches of host plants for destruction. As boll weevils have been slowly eradicated, state by state, these researchers and facilities have shifted research priorities to other issues and pests affecting crop production. No one wants to fight another hundred-year war with a plant pest.

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Mick Kulikowski <![CDATA[Commission Releases Report on Eradicating Hunger]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447912 2017-05-16T16:21:49Z 2017-05-16T15:40:27Z Facing a vast array of food and nutrition security problems in the U.S. and abroad that pose significant humanitarian, environmental, and national security risks, a commission of prominent researchers and leaders from public universities, government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector today announced a comprehensive, coordinated effort to solve these challenges.

While many important efforts are being undertaken to address the vast array of problems that comprise food and nutrition insecurity, a truly comprehensive, holistic approach that fully engages arguably the world’s greatest scientific and educational resource in food and nutrition security – public research universities – has been lacking until now. The Challenge of Change Commission, which the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities convened with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, began with the understanding that public research universities – with their broad academic, research, and community expertise and experience – were uniquely positioned to address the complex and diverse challenges of food and nutrition insecurity.

“The world’s food system is broken yet demand is increasing at a record pace,” said North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, who served as Chair of the Challenge of Change Commission.  “We can’t just grow our way out of this global crisis. Issues of infrastructure, food safety, distribution and more must be addressed as part of a long-term, sustainable solution if we are to effectively address global hunger.

“We believe public research universities are uniquely positioned to help solve this complex challenge through our vast expertise of faculty and research, our role as collaborators with government and industry, and our global reach.”

The Challenge of Change Commission is comprised of 34 members that include university leaders, subject matter experts, and current and former private and public sector officials from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In addition to the Commission members, more than 100 individuals from universities, the public and private sector, and non-governmental organizations were engaged in the project as members of interdisciplinary working groups or expert advisors. Similarly, more than 75 organizations were invited to provide comment and feedback throughout the process.

“Public research universities represent the world’s most powerful resource to address food and nutrition security,” said APLU President Peter McPherson, who is a former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. “The problems of food and nutrition insecurity are so complex and cut across so many areas of expertise. That vast array of expertise already exists at our institutions. The challenge is helping to bring public research universities together in a coordinated way, with support from the government and others, to make it a reality. Many view this as a problem of feeding a growing population by 2050, but the challenge is already upon us with far too many people suffering from food and nutrition insecurity. If we do not address these problems now, the solutions will become more intractable, the costs greater, and the human, social, economic and environmental damage irreparable.”

Nearly 1 in 9 people were food insecure in 2014-16, including 42.2 million people in the U.S. Food security problems – including hunger, obesity, malnutrition, low crop yields, inadequate food storage, poor sanitation, and the political instability they create – are poised to intensify unless there is a deliberate effort to create true global food and nutrition security. The search for sustainable solutions grows even more complicated in the face of a rapidly growing world population, limited natural resources, changing climates, and evolving diets that demand more high-value food products.

At an event in Washington, D.C., members of the Challenge of Change Commission unveiled their much-anticipated report and action plan, which centers on harnessing the vast academic, research, and leadership capabilities of public research universities to address the interdisciplinary challenges of food and nutrition security.

 The Commission report defines seven challenges for solving global food and nutrition insecurity and details the steps that public research universities, along with partners, must take to address them:

Challenge 1: Increase yields, profitability, and environmental sustainability simultaneously

Challenge 2: Develop the varieties and breeds needed for sustainable food systems

Challenge 3: Decrease food loss and waste through more efficient distribution systems

Challenge 4: Create and share resources that serve all populations

Challenge 5: Ensure inclusive and equitable food systems

Challenge 6: Address the dual burdens of undernutrition and obesity to ensure full human potential

Challenge 7: Ensure a safe and secure food supply that protects and improves public health

After spending a year identifying these challenges and pathways to achieving them, the Commission detailed its findings and recommendations, which are centered on the need for a transdisciplinary approach to break down silos that have too often prevented the issues surrounding food security to be fully addressed.

The Commission urges that specific attention must be paid to the following broader areas in order to achieve food and nutrition security:

  • Broaden the Focus Beyond Yields – More food must be produced, but there must be greater efficiencies in food storage and distribution, particularly in the context of limited natural resources.
  • Change the Food System’s Incentive Structure – Changing systems to meet future demands requires designing new incentive structures, including market forces affected by research on outcomes, regulations, or guidelines that promote food and nutrition security.
  • Develop the Capacity of Universities in Low-Income Countries – Helping low-income countries better address their own challenges will be critical in the global food security picture.
  • Leverage Technology, Big Data, and Information Science Information – The use of new sensor technologies, geographic information systems, and the rapidly increasing power of information storage and processing can be powerful contributors to sustainable production. Likewise, data from social media, purchasing patterns, and other online sources hold potential to understand the structure, behavior, and function within food systems.

With complex systems, the need for transdisciplinary science, and community engagement in mind, the Commission report lays a new foundation for action and recommends the following four steps:

  1. APLU Action – The association must play an important role in fostering discovery, engagement, and learning activities among its membership of more than 230 public research universities and university systems in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. This will require a major, sustained effort by APLU. The Commission recommends APLU and its members further develop recommendations for reducing institutional barriers to transdisciplinary research. The Commission recommends APLU, in close coordination with its members, develop and undertake advocacy efforts in support of this report, including making funding recommendations, as appropriate.
  2.  “Whole-of-Government” Action – A whole-of-government effort would encourage multiple federal departments and public agencies to work across their portfolios to achieve a significant goal. Such an approach would help focus existing resources and should allocate new resources, given the critical importance of domestic and global food security. An explicit goal of the whole-of-government approach – in collaboration with the university community and stakeholders, including the private sector – must be to mobilize private sector and foundation resources to address the challenges. Given current federal budget constraints, it is important to make the case for resources to tackle these consequential issues. The report does not quantify the amount of those resources, but it is clear the need will be substantial for this complex set of challenges.
  3. Mexican, Canadian, and U.S. Government Joint Action – The governments of the United States, Mexico, and Canada should together sponsor collaborative research partnerships with universities and their partners to advance the recommendations of this report. The Commission recommends the Canadian and Mexican governments work, as appropriate, with their universities and research entities to advance the recommendations of this report in their respective countries. A substantial amount of current research in the region is bilateral, but more trilaterally funded competitive grants, which would require involvement from universities in each of the three countries, would provide even greater impact.
  4. Public Research University Action – In addition to work already being undertaken, public universities and their partners are encouraged to identify challenges and related activities in the report that they might undertake. As noted in the first recommendation, APLU has an important role in fostering this work. Undoubtedly in that process, universities will further define or focus the challenges and activities set forth in this report. The Commission also recognizes public research universities alone will not solve the global food and nutrition security crisis. As universities work on the challenges, it will be important to partner with public and private entities in agriculture, public health, nutrition, health care, and beyond.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 236 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement.  Annually, member campuses enroll 4.9 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $43.8 billion in university-based research.

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Study: ‘Moral Enhancement’ Technologies Are Neither Feasible Nor Wise]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447882 2017-05-16T11:44:41Z 2017-05-16T11:44:41Z A recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University and the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) finds that “moral enhancement technologies” – which are discussed as ways of improving human behavior – are neither feasible nor wise, based on an assessment of existing research into these technologies.

The idea behind moral enhancement technologies is to use biomedical techniques to make people more moral. For example, using drugs or surgical techniques to treat criminals who have exhibited moral defects.

“There are existing ways that people have explored to manipulate morality, but the question we address in this paper is whether manipulating morality actually improves it,” says Veljko Dubljevic, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of philosophy at NC State who studies the ethics of neuroscience and technology.

Dubljevic and co-author Eric Racine of the IRCM reviewed the existing research on moral enhancement technologies that have been used in humans to assess the effects of these technologies and how they may apply in real-world circumstances.

Specifically, the researchers looked at four types of pharmaceutical interventions and three neurostimulation techniques:

  • Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that plays a critical role in social cognition, bonding and affiliative behaviors, sometimes called “the moral molecule”;
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for depression, but have also been found to make people less aggressive;
  • Amphetamines, which some have argued can be used to enhance motivation to take action;
  • Beta blockers are often prescribed to treat high blood pressure, but have also been found to decrease implicit racist responses;
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a type of neurostimulation that has been used to treat depression, but has also been reported as changing the way people respond to moral dilemmas;
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) is an experimental form of neurostimulation that has also been reported as making people more utilitarian; and
  • Deep brain stimulation is a neurosurgical intervention that some have hypothesized as having the potential to enhance motivation.

“What we found is that, yes, many of these techniques do have some effects,” Dubljevic says. “But these techniques are all blunt instruments, rather than finely tuned technologies that could be helpful. So, moral enhancement is really a bad idea.

“In short, moral enhancement is not feasible – and even if it were, history shows us that using science to in an attempt to manipulate morality is not wise,” Dubljevic says.

The researchers found different problems for each of the pharmaceutical approaches.

“Oxytocin does promote trust, but only in the in-group,” Dubljevic notes. “And it can decrease cooperation with out-group members of society, such as racial minorities, and selectively promote ethnocentrism, favoritism, and parochialism.”

The researchers also found that amphetamines boost motivation for all types of behavior, not just moral behavior. Moreover, there are significant risks of addiction associated with amphetamines. Beta blockers were found not only to decrease racism, but to blunt all emotional response which puts their usefulness into doubt. SSRIs reduce aggression, but have serious side-effects, including an increased risk of suicide.

In addition to physical side effects, the researchers also found a common problem with using either TMS or TCDS technologies.

“Even if we could find a way to make these technologies work consistently, there are significant questions about whether being more utilitarian in one’s decision-making actually makes one more moral,” Dubljevic says.

Lastly, the researchers found no evidence that deep brain stimulation had any effect whatsoever on moral behavior.

“Our goal here is to share a cautionary note with those who are discussing different techniques for moral enhancement,” Dubljevic says. “I am in favor of research that is done responsibly, but against dangerous social experiments.”

The paper, “Moral enhancement meets normative and empirical reality: Assessing the practical feasibility of moral enhancement neurotechnologies,” is published in the journal Bioethics. This work was partially funded by the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships Programme and a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Moral enhancement meets normative and empirical reality: Assessing the practical feasibility of moral enhancement neurotechnologies”

Authors: Veljko Dubljevic, North Carolina State University, and Eric Racine, Montreal Clinical Research Institute

Published: May 15, Bioethics

DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12355

Abstract: Moral enhancement refers to the possibility of making individuals and societies better from a moral standpoint. A fierce debate has emerged about the ethical aspects of moral enhancement, notably because steering moral enhancement in a particular direction involves choosing amongst a wide array of competing options, and these options entail deciding which moral theory or attributes of the moral agent would benefit from enhancement. Furthermore, the ability and effectiveness of different neurotechnologies to enhance morality have not been carefully examined. In this paper, we assess the practical feasibility of moral enhancement neurotechnologies. We reviewed the literature on neuroscience and cognitive science models of moral judgment and analyzed their implications for the specific target of intervention (cognition, volition or affect) in moral enhancement. We also reviewed and compared evidence on available neurotechnologies that could serve as tools of moral enhancement. We conclude that the predictions of rationalist, emotivist, and dual process models are at odds with evidence, while different intuitionist models of moral judgment are more likely to be aligned with it. Furthermore, the project of moral enhancement is not feasible in the near future as it rests on the use of neurointerventions, which have no moral enhancement effects or, worse, negative effects.

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Drew Sykes <![CDATA[#NCState17]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447741 2017-05-15T21:06:37Z 2017-05-15T19:53:32Z On Saturday, May 13, we conferred 5,871 degrees to the graduating class of 2017. We couldn’t be more proud of our newest alumni and can’t wait to see what they Think and Do next.

While the main celebrations have ended and our new graduates are headed out into the world to pursue their extraordinary futures, the excitement of commencement lives on through social media. Relive the moments through our graduation roundup, and join the conversation with the hashtag #NCState17.

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Tracey Peake <![CDATA[Researchers Use Molecular Dynamics and Machine Learning to Create ‘Hyper-predictive’ Computer Models for Drug Discovery]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447601 2017-05-15T20:31:43Z 2017-05-15T17:53:41Z Researchers from North Carolina State University have demonstrated that molecular dynamics simulations and machine learning techniques could be integrated to create more accurate computer prediction models. These “hyper-predictive” models could be used to quickly predict which new chemical compounds could be promising drug candidates.

Drug development is a costly and time-consuming process. To narrow down the number of chemical compounds that could be potential drug candidates, scientists utilize computer models that can predict how a particular chemical compound might interact with a biological target of interest – for example, a key protein that might be involved with a disease process. Traditionally, this is done via quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) modeling and molecular docking, which rely on 2- and 3-D information about those chemicals.

Denis Fourches, assistant professor of computational chemistry, wanted to improve upon the accuracy of these QSAR models. “When you’re screening a set of 30 million compounds, you don’t necessarily need a very high reliability with your model – you’re just getting a ballpark idea about the top 5 or 10 percent of that virtual library. But if you’re attempting to narrow a field of 200 analogues down to 10, which is more commonly the case in drug development, your modeling technique must be extremely accurate. Current techniques are definitely not reliable enough.”

Fourches and Jeremy Ash, a graduate student in bioinformatics, decided to incorporate the results of molecular dynamics calculations – all-atom simulations of how a particular compound moves in the binding pocket of a protein – into prediction models based on machine learning.

“Most models only use the two-dimensional structures of molecules,” Fourches says. “But in reality, chemicals are complex three-dimensional objects that move, vibrate and have dynamic intermolecular interactions with the protein once docked in its binding site. You cannot see that if you just look at the 2-D or 3-D structure of a given molecule.”

In a proof-of-concept study, Fourches and Ash looked at the ERK2 kinase – an enzyme associated with several types of cancer – and a group of 87 known ERK2 inhibitors, ranging from very active to inactive. They ran independent molecular dynamics (MD) simulations for each of those 87 compounds and computed critical information about the flexibility of each compound once in the ERK2 pocket. Then they analyzed the MD descriptors using cheminformatics techniques and machine learning. The MD descriptors were able to accurately distinguish active ERK2 inhibitors from weakly actives and inactives, which was not the case when the models used only 2-D and 3-D structural information.

“We already had data about these 87 molecules and their activity at ERK2,” Fourches says. “So we tested to see if our model was able to reliably find the most active compounds. Indeed, it accurately distinguished between strong and weak ERK2 inhibitors, and because MD descriptors encoded the interactions those compounds create in the pocket of ERK2, it also gave us more insight into why the strong inhibitors worked well.

“Before computing advances allowed us to simulate this kind of data, it would have taken us six months to simulate one single molecule in the pocket of ERK2. Thanks to GPU acceleration, now it only takes three hours. That is a game changer. I’m hopeful that incorporating data extracted from molecular dynamics into QSAR models will enable a new generation of hyper-predictive models that will help bringing novel, effective drugs onto the market even faster. It’s artificial intelligence working for us to discover the drugs of tomorrow.”

The work appears in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling. Ash is first author of the paper and is funded by an NIEHS grant (T32ES007329). Other funding was provided by the NC State Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program.

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Note to editors: An abstract of the paper follows.

“Characterizing the Chemical Space of ERK2 Kinase Inhibitors Using Descriptors Computed from Molecular Dynamics Trajectories”

DOI:  10.1021/acs.jcim.7b00048

Authors: Jeremy Ash, Denis Fourches, North Carolina State University
Published: Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling

Abstract:
Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) models typically rely on 2D and 3D molecular descriptors to characterize chemicals and forecast their experimental activities. Previously, we showed that even the most reliable 2D QSAR models and structure-based 3D molecular docking techniques were not capable of accurately ranking a set of known inhibitors for the ERK2 kinase, a key player in various types of cancer. Herein, we calculated and analyzed a series of chemical descriptors computed from the molecular dynamics (MD) trajectories of ERK2-ligand complexes. First, the docking of 87 ERK2 ligands with known binding affinities was accomplished using Schrodinger’s Glide software; then, solvent-explicit MD simulations (20 ns, NPT, 300K, TIP3P, 1fs) were performed using the GPU-accelerated Desmond program. Second, we calculated a series of MD descriptors based on the distributions of 3D descriptors computed for representative samples of the ligand’s conformations over the MD simulations. Third, we analyzed the dataset of 87 inhibitors in the MD chemical descriptor space. We showed that MD descriptors (i) had little correlation with conventionally used 2D/3D descriptors, (ii) were able to distinguish the most active ERK2 inhibitors from the moderate/weak actives and inactives, and (iii) provided key and complementary information about the unique characteristics of active ligands. This study represents the largest attempt to utilize MD-extracted chemical descriptors to characterize and model a series of bioactive molecules. MD descriptors could enable the next generation of hyper-predictive MD-QSAR models for computer-aided lead optimization and analogue prioritization.

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Mick Kulikowski <![CDATA[Goodnight Scholars Program Announces First Transfer Class]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447261 2017-05-15T15:03:15Z 2017-05-15T15:03:15Z North Carolina State University’s Goodnight Scholars Program revealed the 10 recipients for its historic transfer class of 2019.

The cohort represents seven North Carolina community colleges and six NC State majors. Recipients were selected from a pool of 20 finalists who participated in an extensive application and interview process which included evaluation from NC State faculty, staff and Goodnight Scholars Program alumni.

“Interviewing the transfer finalists was an inspiring and humbling experience,” said Allison Medlin, director of the Goodnight Scholars Program. “The 10 students selected are distinguished by both their talent and tenacity. With the education they receive at NC State, they are dedicated to benefiting not only their own lives, but the lives of their families and communities. We are thrilled to welcome them to the Goodnight Scholars community this fall!”

Bios of the Goodnight Scholars Program transfer class of 2019 are available.

NC State announced this January that the Goodnight Scholars Program would extend to high-achieving students with financial need who hail from North Carolina community colleges. The extension came at the request of the program’s founders, Ann and Jim Goodnight, who wished to have “a profound impact on the lives of transfer students for whom a bachelor’s degree may be out of reach.”

With the addition of transfer students, which will increase the total number of undergraduate Goodnight Scholars to 210 in fall 2017, the Goodnight Scholars Program is one of the first scholarship programs in the U.S. to offer a generous scholarship and comprehensive developmental programming catered toward transfer students attending a four-year public university.

The Goodnight Scholars Program was established in 2008 out of the philanthropic generosity of North Carolina natives and NC State alumni Jim Goodnight, co-founder of global business analytic software leader, SAS Institute, and Ann Goodnight, director of community relations at SAS Institute and secretary for the NC State Board of Trustees.

The Goodnight Scholars Program is targeted at North Carolina residents from low- and middle-income families who aspire to study in a science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) or STEM education discipline at NC State. The value of the scholarship is $19,500 and is renewable for up to four years for first-year students and two years for transfer students. In addition to the scholarship, Goodnight Scholars have access to an assortment of developmental programming focused on their professional and personal growth.

The program has evolved into a comprehensive student development program focused on cultivating professional and personal skills for 210 current Goodnight Scholars through a series of programming initiatives. Scholars receive guidance from local and national STEM industry leaders and entrepreneurs; participate in professional development workshops; and engage in local, national, and international outreach efforts. These efforts include STEM education outreach to Triangle elementary schools, as well as service trips to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Each programming initiative sponsored by the Goodnight Scholars Program strives to develop critical skills and habits necessary for academic achievement; expose and educate students to current trends and advancement in the STEM and education industries; and establish strong personal and/or professional relationships with fellow Goodnight Scholars, NC State faculty/staff, NC State alumni, and STEM/education professionals.

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Matt Shipman <![CDATA[Pig Model to Help Research on Human Knee Growth, Injury Treatment]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447501 2017-05-15T13:26:50Z 2017-05-15T12:12:07Z Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have published research on how the knees of pigs compare to human knees at various stages of maturity – a finding that will advance research by this group and others on injury treatment in young people.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about how human knees work at different stages of maturity,” says Matthew Fisher, corresponding author of a paper on the research.

“What we’ve developed is a model that will allow us – or any research team – to study changes in the knee joint using pig knees,” says Fisher, who is an assistant professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve clinical treatment of joint injuries in children and teens, given the increased participation in sports and rise of injuries, such as to the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL,” Fisher says. “We’re specifically focused on changes that take place during the growth process – such as changes in the placement and orientation of ligaments during growth.”

Previous research had established that adult pig knees serve as a good model for research into adult human knees. However, less was known about how comparable pig and human knees were at various stages of growth.

For this study, researchers examined pig knees at six stages of growth, between birth and 18 months – which is comparable to early adulthood in humans. The researchers then compared the growth stages found in pigs to the available data on human knee growth.

“We focused on how the orientation of knee ligaments changes over time,” says Stephanie Cone, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. student in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. “And we found that the transitions in ligament orientation we saw in pig knees at various stages of maturity mapped very closely to the existing research on humans at comparable stages of maturity.”

“We’re excited about the potential for this model, but tracking ligament orientation using MRIs is really only a starting point,” Fisher says. “Our next steps include testing the pig knees mechanically in order to help us better understand how they move at various stages of growth: which joint components bear load, how these elements interact, and so on. A number of things change as we mature, but we are still trying to clarify the details – and those details can eventually inform future clinical practice. In fact, surgeons can use the pig model to test new surgical approaches for children and adolescents.”

The work was a collaborative effort involving the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine, and the Comparative Medicine Institute at NC State and the departments of orthopaedics and radiology in the UNC School of Medicine.

“Being able to form a team with expertise in engineering, comparative biology, pediatric imaging and orthopaedics has been extremely valuable to this research and will continue to be important as we move forward,” Fisher says.

The paper, “Orientation changes in the cruciate ligaments of the knee during skeletal growth: a porcine model,” is published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research. The paper was co-authored by Sean Simpson and Jorge Piedrahita of NC State and Drs. Lynn Fordham and Jeffrey Spang of UNC. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, under grant R03 AR068112, and the National Science Foundation, under a graduate research fellowship grant DGE-1252376.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Orientation changes in the cruciate ligaments of the knee during skeletal growth: a porcine model”

Authors: Stephanie G. Cone and Matthew B. Fisher, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sean G. Simpson and Jorge A. Piedrahita, North Carolina State University; Lynn A. Fordham and Jeffrey T. Spang, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Published: May 4, Journal of Orthopaedic Research

DOI: 10.1002/jor.23594

Abstract: Musculoskeletal injuries in pediatric patients are on the rise, including significant increases in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Previous studies have found major anatomical changes during skeletal growth in the soft tissues of the knee. Specifically, the ACL and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) change in their relative orientation to the tibial plateau throughout growth. In order to develop age-specific treatments for ACL injuries, the purpose of this study was to characterize orientation changes in the cruciate ligaments of the Yorkshire pig, a common pre-clinical model, during skeletal growth in order to verify the applicability of this model for pediatric musculoskeletal studies. Hind limbs were isolated from female Yorkshire pigs ranging in age from newborn to late adolescence and were then imaged using high field strength magnetic resonance imaging. Orientation changes were quantified from the magnetic resonance images using image segmentation software. Statistically significant increases were found in the coronal and sagittal angles of the ACL relative to the tibial plateau during pre-adolescent growth. Additional changes were observed in the PCL angle, Blumensaat angle, intercondylar roof angle, and the aspect ratio of the intercondylar notch. Only the sagittal angle of the ACL relative to the tibial plateau experienced statistically significant changes through late adolescence. The age-dependent properties of the ACL and PCL in the female pig mirrored results found in female human patients, suggesting that the porcine model may provide a pre-clinical platform to study the cruciate ligaments during skeletal growth. This article is protected by copyright.

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Tracey Peake <![CDATA[Tracking the Protein Patrollers]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447201 2017-05-11T17:39:28Z 2017-05-11T17:39:28Z A nanoprobe developed by biophysicists at NC State could allow researchers to trace the movements of different proteins along DNA – without the drawbacks of current methods.

A host of proteins patrol your DNA helix like cops on a beat. These proteins have individual functions, including identifying damaged areas on the DNA strand and initiating repairs. To study these proteins, researchers commonly attach nanoprobes to them. The probes fluoresce under certain types of light, allowing their movements to be traced.

The problem? According to biophysicist Shuang Lim, “We know that DNA is helical in shape – it’s a spiral. When we observe these proteins moving along the strand, we should be able to tell if they’re moving around the DNA as well as along it. Unfortunately, the technology we have now doesn’t really allow us to do that.

“The most common probes right now are quantum dots and gold nanorods,” Lim continues. “Quantum dots blink, which makes it difficult to determine where they are or what they may be doing at any given time. Imagine trying to watch a movie, but with random dark frames popping up as you watch. You can’t get the complete picture. Gold nanorods, on the other hand, tend to wobble. The wobble also affects our ability to get an accurate idea of where these proteins are and how they may be interacting with the DNA strand.”

Lim, along with graduate student Kory Green and former postdoctoral scholar Janina Wirth, developed a nanoprobe that addresses these issues. Their probe – a nanoplasmonic upconverting nanoparticle – changes fluorescent intensity based upon its orientation.

“These particles are disc shaped. When they’re lying flat, they are bright, and when they’re on edge, they’re dark,” Green says. “They don’t blink and they don’t wobble, so it’s much easier to get accurate measurements from them.”

“Another advantage is that they are excited by – or show up when – exposed to infrared light,” says Lim. “Many of the quantum dot probes use material that is excited by blue, or ultraviolet (UV) light. UV exposure damages the samples that we want to study. But infrared light doesn’t.”

Lim, Green and Wirth conducted a proof-of-concept study with their probe by observing it on a flat substrate and in a sucrose solution, to see if they could accurately detect how the nanoprobe was moving. The preliminary results were promising, so Lim and the team are moving toward their next steps, which include testing the probe on a DNA-patrolling protein.

“All of these proteins do different things for our DNA, but we don’t know exactly what they’re doing,” Lim says. “We’re hoping to use this probe to build a library that characterizes all of these proteins, so that we can determine their function.”

Lim’s nanoprobe research was recently published in Nature Scientific Reports, and was funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (CBET 106750) and the National Institutes of Health (1R21ES027641-01).

Watch the nanoprobes in real time below:  Wide field fluorescence of nanoplasmonic upconverting nanoparticles in 50% sucrose showing 3 particles (1 to 3). On the right is  a corresponding positional time trace of the selected particles where Particles 1 and 2, both single particles, demonstrate mixed translational and rotational motion.

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Tim Peeler <![CDATA[Sign Up to Be Wellness Champion]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=447141 2017-05-11T15:10:34Z 2017-05-11T15:10:34Z Faculty and staff dedicated to facilitating a culture and environment of wellness are needed as NC State Wellness Champion volunteers to lead their college, unit or department for the 2017-18 academic year. Registration is open until June 15.

Wellness champions help make their organization a healthier workplace by promoting wellness, leading activities for colleagues, sharing health and wellness resources and encouraging and motivating peers to make healthy lifestyle choices.

In order to be eligible to be a NC State Wellness Champion, employees must meet the following criteria:

  • Classified as SHRA, EHRA, EHRA-Faculty with greater than 0.749 FTE and have a nine-month contract/appointment or greater with NC State.
  • Receive approval of supervisor and department head.
  • Must be in good standing with no active/pending disciplinary actions or documented disciplinary actions within the preceding 18 months.
  • Attend and complete the mandatory NC State Wellness Champion Training.
  • Commit to being a NC State Wellness Champion for the upcoming academic year.
Apply to be a NC State Wellness Champion by visiting Wolfpack Wellness.
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Nicholas Langhorne <![CDATA[Building a Legacy]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=446981 2017-05-30T07:00:20Z 2017-05-11T14:25:11Z Clare Jordan fell in love with nonprofit work as an NC State University student. She even founded the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. She has dedicated her career to nonprofit work and remains a loyal supporter of her alma mater.

“My career was definitely built on experiences I had at NC State, in and out of the classroom,” she said. Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the university in 1991.

Jordan’s gifts to NC State support the Clare Stone Jordan Internship Endowment, and a provision in her will provides more substantial support for the endowment. She established the fund to benefit students minoring in nonprofit studies who are completing nonprofit internships.

“With four children and only the oldest in college so far, this is not the best time for me to make a large cash gift. But I know that my invested assets will be there to support a more significant gift in the future, and planned giving is just the tool to make that happen now. People need to know how easy it is to make a planned gift, and that there is no reason to put it off,” she said.

Jordan is excited to support the nonprofit sector, which means so much to her, while also making a long-term impact on NC State and student interns and the nonprofits they serve.

“There really could be no more perfect reflection of what is important to me than to have the privilege of leaving this kind of legacy,” she said. “Leadership is critical, and without our individual, corporate and foundation investments, institutions would really struggle. Support like the endowment I started, however small, affects not only the university’s ability to provide the opportunities students need to learn in the real world, but also greatly impacts a student’s life and future career.”

Jordan’s passion for the university grew when her daughter, now a rising senior in the College of Design, enrolled at NC State. She wants others to know that anyone — no matter your age or assets — can create a planned gift to support NC State’s future.

“As the product of two Duke alumni, I never thought I’d be so excited to be a part of NC State, but it really has become home for me, and I am very proud of my school and its many advances and advantages,” Jordan said.

This post was originally published in Giving News.

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Emily Packard <![CDATA[Path Forward for Prague]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=446961 2017-05-30T07:00:18Z 2017-05-11T14:18:13Z Expanding NC State’s global reach means growing study abroad and other international opportunities for students and faculty alike. The university’s European footprint took a step forward in 1992 with the College of Design’s establishment of a summer program in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic.

From then until 2004, the College of Design maintained a successful summer program, but further growth was on the horizon. Professor Art Rice, with the support of then-Dean Marvin Malecha, sought to establish a year-round study abroad destination due to the program’s popularity. In January 2005, the Prague Institute officially opened to further serve the needs of design students.

“The College of Design established the Prague Institute to strengthen students’ academic experience while preparing them to participate in an increasingly global society,” said College of Design Dean Mark Hoversten. “We’re excited about the future in Prague, especially since all NC State students and faculty will gain new and greater opportunities to study and conduct research abroad.”

This fall, the Institute will move to a new location and become the NC State European Center in Prague (NC State Prague for short). Management will shift effective July 1 from the College of Design to NC State’s Office of International Affairs (OIA), offering further experiential education to NC State students, along with more teaching and research opportunities for university faculty.
“International Affairs looks forward to building upon its current success to broaden the scope of programming to benefit the university as a whole,” said Vice Provost for International Affairs Bailian Li. “We’re proud to support and strengthen NC State’s reputation as a world-class academic institution in the U.S. and around the world.”

Prague’s Past and Present

When the Prague Institute opened in 2005, Professor Art Rice served as interim director. In 2006, after the selection of the Institute’s first full-time director, Dana Bartelt, and after a visit by then-Provost Larry Nielsen, the Institute was renamed the NC State Prague Institute and its mission was broadened to serve the entire university.  

At that time it was determined that the “NC State Prague Institute: An Initiative of the College of Design” would be managed by the college in a way that serves the full university. In addition to attracting strong European faculty holding appointments in almost every college in the university, the institute has grown to serve nearly 200 students per year under Director Peter Kjaer, who began his position in 2013. From 2010-2017, the institute served more than 1,100 NC State students.

“While design students still make up a majority of enrollment, we have seen a substantial increase in participation from students in other majors over the past few years,” said Kjaer. “With the move to new premises, the NC State European Center in Prague will have 20 percent greater capacity for hosting study abroad students, allowing up to 120 students at a time.”

To fully serve students and faculty, Kjaer will continue to direct NC State Prague and will maintain a full staff based in Prague. An associate director and staff, including program administrators, will remain on NC State’s campus under International Affairs.

Plans for Expansion

NC State Prague’s growth reflects the increased interest in international education at the university.

“As a university of choice for high-performing students and faculty from around the world, we want our campus community to experience the world as much as possible,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Warwick Arden.” “Students, faculty and staff from all of NC State’s colleges will help lead the charge to developing new program models and contribute to the growth of the institute.”

New and recent offerings include a First Year Inquiry Program, designed for incoming freshmen to experience Prague before beginning their first semester. These students come to campus for a few days and then spend two weeks exploring the city and the Czech Republic while pursuing a General Education Program course. The program, which debuted in August 2016, is designed to help students have an exciting yet smooth transition into college life.

Beyond study abroad, the Prague Institute is developing seminars and symposiums in collaboration with various NC State colleges and departments. The first offering, a collaboration with the Department of History, will be a two-week course for graduate students. Additionally, short-term Maymester courses in music and within the College of Design will be developed over the next two years.

Another part of NC State Prague’s vision includes continuous professional development for academics in different disciplines. The first course will focus on virtual reality in design and architecture; all opportunities will integrate new knowledge into current education and academic practices. Continuing education and research opportunities will serve not only the NC State community, but also the university’s research partners at Czech Technical University, the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, and in the future, Charles University.

“Global collaborations and faculty research are key elements to the expansion plans,” said Li. “This will be facilitated in part by engaging with partner universities in the area and serving as a gateway to NC State’s other strategic partners in the European region.”

NC State Prague will open doors for teaching, research, leadership and service. Expansion will take NC State’s international engagement to a new level for students and faculty alike.

Learn more about how NC State Prague supports a number of ongoing European international activities and serves as a catalyst for a rich variety of new international teaching and research opportunities.

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

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Tim Peeler <![CDATA[WolfTime Is On Its Way]]> https://news.ncsu.edu/?p=446861 2017-05-11T15:25:04Z 2017-05-11T13:04:41Z Soon, we’ll all be on WolfTime.

That’s the name of the new Web-based timekeeping and leave-tracking system that will go live on July 1.

Yes, it will be new and completely different, creating many questions as human resources rolls out plans through departmental contacts.

And yes, there are already plans for multiple upcoming informational and preview sessions for those who have questions about the new system. The first will be June 15 at 10 a.m. in the Witherspoon Theater and the second will be June 19 at 2 p.m. in the Hunt Library Auditorium.

The electronic timekeeping system will ensure compliance with pay laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and ensure the accuracy of pay for non-exempt employees (those subject to overtime rules).

It will eliminate the use of paper timesheets and provide a more streamlined process that will no longer require the complex manual calculation of multiple earnings pay codes.

For Timekeeping

WolfTime will mandate daily entry of hours worked for all SHRA and EHRA employees who are non-exempt (subject to overtime who currently use paper timesheets), requiring employees to record their arrival, when they leave for lunch, when they return to work and when they leave for the day. (There is a seven-minute grace period to allow for traffic and other potential minor delays.)

The Web-based system, which will track all types of leave for both SHRA and EHRA employees, is unique to NC State but similar to those used by other UNC system schools and our peer institutions.

Each department will decide how time will be entered into WolfTime for their employees, using

  • Wall-mounted time clocks
  • Computer kiosks
  • Desktop computers
  • Mobile devices

Employees will be able to clock in and out through MyPack Portal into WolfTime. Employees and supervisors are encouraged to attend training offered by human resources to learn more about WolfTime.

For Leave Tracking

Beginning July 10, all SHRA and EHRA employees will be required to track their vacation, sick, bonus, community service, comp time and other leave in WolfTime.

All managers and supervisors will approve time and/or leave requests weekly through the manager dashboard in MyPack Portal.

For now, during the transition to the new system, no leave requests after July 1 can be entered into MyPack Portal. There will also be a blackout from July 1-July 10 to validate and migrate current leave balances from the old system into WolfTime.

Employees who want request time off during the blackout period should email their managers for approval. Once the new system is up and running, employees can retroactively enter the information into WolfTime.

More information about the implementation of the new WolfTime system, as well as frequently asked questions, are available at this page on the NC State Human Resources website.

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