EAST GREENSBORO, NC (June 9, 2022) – The first winning teams of the Looking Forward funding program – co-created by Chancellor Harold L. Martin of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – have been announced. The program was created to encourage collaborative teams that represent and leverage the strengths of each institution equally, with the goal of more effectively providing solutions to complex issues facing citizens of North Carolina and beyond.

“Looking Forward builds on many years of partnership with our colleagues at UNC-Chapel Hill and greatly expands our commitment to finding solutions to important societal issues that directly affect the lives of people in our communities,” said Martin. “We expect this initiative to have a tremendous impact and continue to enhance opportunities for collaboration in the future.”

“Our goal with this partnership is to expand the research capabilities of our university and NC A&T and lay the foundation for the future,” Guskiewicz said. “We are proud of our culture of collaboration within the UNC system and these scholars embody that practice. Their projects will address the critical challenges facing our state.

Launched earlier this year, the Looking Forward program solicited proposals in four priority areas where meaningful improvements on issues across North Carolina can be made: data science and society, environment and environmental justice, healthcare and cancer and cancer research.

“It is important to note that the investment was made to establish Looking Forward before the RFP process even began,” said Eric Muth, Ph.D., A&T vice chancellor for research. and economic development. “This demonstrates Chancellors Martin and Guskiewicz’s commitment to this initiative, looking forward with intent in a spirit of collaboration and service.”

One team was selected from each priority area to receive funding of $200,000 over a two-year period. The first winning teams are:

Data science and society

G-FLOAT: graph-based operational flood analysis tools area

Team leaders:

  • Christoper Bizon, Renaissance Computing Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Leila Hashemi-Beni, Built Environment, College of Science and Technology, A&T

Using 34 complex data streams from sources such as weather, humans, built infrastructure and electricity, the team will pilot an emergency response data modeling tool that is generalizable enough to be useful in contexts inside and outside of North Carolina.

Flood Cyclone Chart
Environment, climate and environmental justice

Improving Tropical Cyclone Flood Forecasting in Eastern North Carolina

Team leaders:

  • Rick Luettich, Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Liping Liu, Mathematics, College of Science and Technology, A&T

Tropical cyclones are the primary environmental driver of catastrophic losses in low-lying coastal areas of eastern North Carolina. Building on data collected from previous storms, the team will develop a comprehensive model to produce more accurate plans for future catastrophic storm events and assess human well-being impacts for emergency planners.

COVID incarcerated graphic
Health disparities

COVID-19 testing and vaccination among those incarcerated at a large county jail

Team leaders:

  • Becky White, Division of Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Sharon Parker, Sociology and Social Work, College of Health and Human Sciences, A&T

By monitoring the prevalence of large clusters of infection in confined group settings, the research team will use survey tools to understand real-time testing and vaccination rates at a large jail in Wake County, Utah. North Carolina, as well as when survey respondents return to their home communities.

Endometrial Cancer Chart
cancer and cancer research

Functional characterization of endocrine disrupting pollutants in endometrial cancer

Team leaders:

  • Russell Broaddus, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Emmanuel Obeng-Gyasi, Built Environment, College of Science and Technology, A&T

Faced with an alarming increase in the prevalence and mortality of endometrial cancer – particularly among black women – the team will collect and analyze data on exposure to endocrine pollutants and try to determine if there is a relationship between the two.

Following the launch of the Looking Forward call for proposals earlier this year, the new program received 34 expressions of interest, representing more than 100 faculty between the two institutions, as well as non-academic collaborators and community partners like Research Triangle International Institute. After peer review of the initial submissions, 14 teams were invited to compete as finalists. Funding for Looking Forward was made possible by the chancellors’ offices at each institution and the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center.
Group photo