Category Archives: Best of the blog 2014

Hypoallergenic peanuts developed by N.C. A&T licensed for use in food products, immunotherapy

Hypoallergenic peanuts, peanut butter, and other peanut products are a step closer to grocery stores with the signing of an exclusive licensing agreement for the patented process that reduces allergens in peanuts by 98 percent.

Head shot of Dr. Yu

Dr. Jianmei Yu

N.C. A&T signed the agreement with Xemerge, a Toronto-based firm that commercializes emerging technologies in food, agriculture, and a variety of other fields. Xemerge has opened an office at the Gateway University Research Park south campus in Greensboro.

“This is one of the best technologies in the food and nutrition space we have seen,” said Johnny Rodrigues, Chief Commercialization Officer of Xemerge.

“It checks all the boxes: non-GMO, patented, human clinical data, does not change physical characteristics of the peanut along with maintaining the nutrition and functionality needed, ready for industry integration from processing and manufacturing to consumer products.”

The process was developed by Dr. Jianmei Yu, a food and nutrition researcher in A&T’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and two former A&T faculty members, Dr. Mohamed Ahmedna and Dr. Ipek Goktepe, both of whom are now at Qatar University.

“Treated peanuts can be used as whole peanuts, in pieces or as flour to make foods containing peanuts safer for many people who are allergic,” Dr. Yu said.

“Treated peanuts also can be used in immunotherapy,” she said. “Under a doctor’s supervision, the hypoallergenic peanuts can build up a patient’s resistance to the allergens.”

Research funding was provided by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Continue reading

Sen. Hagan tours Engineering Research Center, promotes her bill to support innovation at HBCUs

Sen. Hagan speaking to reporters

Sen. Kay Hagan speaks to reporters at the Fort IRC.

Sen. Hagan and news media photographers in research lab

Sen. Hagan listens to Wayne Szafranski of A&T in the Engineering Research Center’s  Material Processing and Characterization Lab.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is promoting innovation at historically black universities, and on Monday she brought the news media to N.C. A&T for a close-up look at what she’s talking about.

Accompanied by a group of national and local reporters and, photographers, and videographers, Sen. Hagan toured the NSF Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials and then held a news conference to talk about her bill to create a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Innovation Fund.

The Engineering Research Center is developing an advanced magnesium alloy to make screws, plates, and other implantable devices that could hold broken or surgically repaired bones in place for healing and then dissolve and pass out of the body when they’re no longer needed.

The technology could eliminate the need in many cases for either surgical removal or for patients to carry metal parts in their bones for a lifetime.

Sen. Hagan was joined in her news conference by Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. and two A&T bioengineering grad students, Adrienne Daley and Roman Blount.

Continue reading

A&T researcher’s work on COPD among ag workers wins support from NC TraCS program for scholars

Dr. Jenora Waterman has made one key discovery toward improving the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among agricultural workers, and now she’s been accepted into a prestigious career development program to advance her research.

Headshot of Dr. Waterman

Dr. Jenora Waterman

Dr. Waterman is an assistant professor of functional genomics in the Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. COPD is a major cause of death in the United States, most typically found among smokers. A less studied aspect of the disease is the 7% of its U.S. victims who are agricultural workers. They can develop COPD as a result of long-term exposure to animal production facilities containing dust that contributes to respiratory diseases.

High-density swine production houses are one example of such facilities.

Dr. Waterman’s first key finding came from comparing pigs raised indoors with those raised outdoors. Pigs aren’t as severely affected by the dust as humans are, but her work demonstrated that their respiratory systems are uniquely adapted to their housing type.

“My lab recently showed for the first time that pigs reared indoors and those raised outdoors exhibit structural and cellular differences in their respiratory systems,” Dr. Waterman says.

“The next step will be studying those differences to identify potential biomarkers that could serve as diagnostic or prognostic markers of agriculture-related COPD in humans.”

Dr. Waterman will take that step as an NC TraCS K-Scholar, a professional development honor for junior faculty members funded through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program of the National Institutes of Health.

Continue reading

A&T and UNC-CH researchers launch investigation into triple-negative breast cancer’s link to viral RNA

Researchers at N.C. A&T and UNC-Chapel Hill have been awarded a grant to investigate a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. The team will work to determine the role of viral factors in the virulent nature of triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer represents 15% to 20% of breast carcinomas. It is prevalent in younger women, African American women, and in women with BRCA1 gene mutations. This type of cancer is very aggressive, has a poor prognosis, fails to respond to conventional therapy, and appears in many forms. The causes and molecular basis of this cancer are currently unknown, though multiple factors, including viruses, may be involved.

Specifically, this pilot study will investigate the prevalence of three particular types of viral genetic material in triple negative breast tumors and determine what role these passenger virus genetic materials play in the cancer’s malignant properties and survival.

The study will be led by Dr. Perpetua Muganda, professor of biology at N.C. A&T. The team will include Dr. Scott Harrison, assistant professor of biology at A&T; Dr. Dukka KC, assistant professor of computational science and engineering at A&T; and Dr. Jan Prins, professor of computer science at UNC-CH.

Continue reading

Work on space ‘ice,’ inter-satellite communication wins Space Grant honors for two A&T researchers

Two new North Carolina A&T engineering professors have been honored by the North Carolina Space Grant program. Dr. Trisha Sain has been awarded the 2014-15 North Carolina Space Grant Award, and Dr. Fatemeh Afghah has received the N.C. Space Grant New Investigator Award.

headshot of Dr. Sain

Dr. Trisha Sain

Dr. Sain is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Her award will fund a research project titled, “Numerical modeling of constitutive behavior of ice at high strain rates.”  The study will focus on the development of a constitutive model for capturing high-rate response of “ice,” potential harmful debris that can damage aircraft and space structures.

Her research focuses on integrated computational materials engineering, including characterization of novel nanocomposite hydrogels, constitutive modeling of polymer nano-composite, computational modeling of curing kinetics and curing induced damage in thermosets under large deformation, mesoscale simulations of TiN thin film growth and 3D TiN nanostructures, and biomimetic material design.

She joined A&T last September. She had been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, Department of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering.

head shot of Dr. Afghah

Dr. Fatemeh Afghah

Dr. Afghah is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering,  She won the new investigator award for her research in inter-satellite communications in autonomous small satellite networks.

She is the director of Wireless Networking (WiNet) Laboratory in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Her research focuses on wireless communications, dynamic spectrum sharing, game theory optimization, and biomedical data analysis.

Dr. Afghah also came to A&T last fall. she received her Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Maine in 2013.

The New Investigators Program is designed to strengthen North Carolina’s aerospace-related research infrastructure by providing start-up funding to early-career faculty conducting research aligned with NASA’s strategic research.

Aggie students are minding their own businesses

Montage of Aggie entrepreneurs' website screenshots

Aggie entrepreneurs on the Internet

Meet Allan, Adey J, Jayrello and Justin — four undergraduates with the talent, drive and ambition to be entrepreneurs. So why wait until graduation? All four have created their own businesses as undergraduates. Anyone who says they don’t have time to live their dreams, talk to these four. You can find them on the Aggie Entrepreneurs page on the A&T website. And if you’re an enrolled A&T student operating your own business, you’re awesome, too. Tell us about it, and we’ll add you to the list.

The metallic biomaterials revolution will be televised and it’s going to be on tonight, actually, on UNC-TV

Screenshot of UNC-TV webpage with video

Watch it tonight on UNC-TV or why not watch it now by clicking the picture to go to the network’s website.

UNC-TV is offering viewers of “North Carolina Now” an inside look at the revolutionary developments being fomented in the Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials.  Next-generation implantable medical devices … bioresorbable magnesium alloys … A&T faculty and student researchers … great stuff.

The report will air tonight on the program, which is on at 7:30 on UNC-TV stations across the state.

But those of us who live in the 21st century and are no longer accustomed to waiting around for TV shows to come on can watch it now at the UNC-TV website.  Note: The video works just fine on most browsers (including Android, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari), but your results may vary on Firefox or the Lotus Notes Browser.

 

Clean-energy developer Adewuyi, other faculty honored with 2014 Research Excellence Awards

A nationally recognized pioneer in clean-energy development has been named Senior Researcher of the Year at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Over a career of more than 25 years, Dr. Yusuf “Debo” Adewuyi has skillfully fused chemical engineering and environmental science to explore new dimensions of energy production, including the use of nanoscale materials and sound-wave technology for pollution control.

Dr. Adewuyi is one of five individual researchers and one research team selected this year for N.C. A&T’s highest research honor, the Research Excellence Awards. In addition to Dr. Adewuyi, the honorees are:

  • Dr. Justin Zhan, Department of Computer Science, Outstanding Junior Researcher;
  • Dr. Stephanie Kelly, Department of Business Education, and Dr. Lifeng Zhang, Department of Nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, co-winners of the Rookie of the Year award;
  • Dr. Salil Desai, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Intellectual Property Award; and
  • The NSF CREST Bioenergy Center, Interdisciplinary Team Award.

They were chosen from a field consisting of faculty members selected as researchers of the year by their colleges and schools. The winners and nominees will be honored Friday April 11 at the annual Celebration of Faculty Excellence.

Details on the winners follow the jump.

Continue reading

Third annual Innovation Challenge brings out creative, high-tech thinking from undergraduates

Student Michael Baker and tech transfer director Louis Judge

Innovation Challenge winner Michael D. Baker III is congratulated by Louis Judge, N.C. A&T director of technology transfer.

Undergraduates come to college with a lot to learn, but many are already well prepared for one challenge: innovative thinking.

At N.C. A&T this year, the third annual Innovation Challenge produced ideas from 20 teams and individual undergraduates. A total of 43 students participated.

The panel of judges awarded first place to Michael D. Baker III, a junior from Raleigh, for a zero-emission, self-powered vehicle. The concept brings existing technologies together in a novel way to power a vehicle with no internal combustion engine. The first-place prize was an iPad.

Second place went to three sophomores – Mariyah Pressley from Newport News, Virginia; Maya Whitlow, from Germantown, Maryland; and Kendrea Young, from Houston, Texas – for “The SMART Bed,” a twin-, full-, queen-, or king-size bed that would include a variety of built-in systems for personal productivity and relaxation. Each second-place winner received a mini-projector.

Third place was awarded to Kevin Compton, a sophomore from Mebane, N.C., for “The Chameleon,” an electronic system that could render military vehicles virtually invisible. The third-place prize was $75.

Continue reading

N.C. A&T social work researcher aids UN agency with study of unaccompanied child refugees

Cover of UN reort on unaccompanied child refugeesAmong the distressed peoples of the world, few groups are more vulnerable than refugees.  And among refugees, few are more vulnerable than children, especially children on their own, without families.

Since 2011, the United States has experienced a surge in the number of unaccompanied children coming from Central America’s Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – and Mexico. In fiscal 2013, there were more than 40,000. More than 21,000 came from the three Central American countries, compared to 4,000 in 2011.

With the cooperation of the United States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees set out to learn why. The result was a report, released this month, “Children on the Run: Unaccompanied Children Leaving Central America and Mexico and the Need for International Protection.”

“While recognizing a significant contextual difference between the situation in Mexico and in the Northern Triangle of Central America, the common denominator is that all four countries are producing high numbers of unaccompanied and separated children seeking protection at the southern border of the United States,” the report says.

“UNHCR’s research was to ascertain the connection between the children’s stated reasons, the findings of recent studies on the increasing violence and insecurity in the region, and international protection needs.”

The project was a daunting one. To get a statistically meaningful sample, hundreds of children needed to be interviewed. Then the data from the interviews needed to be analyzed.

For help with that analysis, the U.N. agency consulted with Dr. Maura Busch Nsonwu of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, an assistant professor of social work and interim director of the social work bachelor’s degree program in the Department of Sociology and Social Work.

Dr. Nsonwu has worked with the U.N.’s refugee agency on a number of projects over the past three years.  Her research focuses on refugees and human trafficking.  She had conducted qualitative studies, so she had the necessary expertise. But this study had two dimensions unlike anything she had encountered.

Continue reading