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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Creativity Hubs Awards accelerate solutions to societal challenges

What if data on the devastating impacts of extreme storms and floods could inform and predict future problems for people who live along a coast? What if scientists could develop a therapeutic capable of suppressing a wide variety of viral infections, saving lives and billions of dollars in direct medical and economic costs? What if powerful chemical and genetic tools are combined to alter how genes are modified to treat human disease? And what if artificial intelligence could help identify the best way to harness solar fuels?

These are the questions being explored by the winning teams of this year’s Creativity Hubs awards. Managed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research in support of Carolina’s Blueprint for Next Strategic Framework, the Creativity Hubs award program encourages and supports diverse, interdisciplinary teams that pursue answers to complex societal problems.

“So multifaceted are these challenges, that the only way to solve them is through the diverse perspectives offered by scientists from diverse fields,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Terry Magnuson. “Supporting these teams through the Creativity Hubs awards yields solutions.”

This year, in partnership with the College of Arts & Sciences’ Institute for Convergent Science, the UNC School of Medicine, and the Eshelman Institute for Innovation, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research was able to award three teams with two years of funding worth up to $500,000. An additional one-year award was given to a team to encourage further development of their proposal.

The 2019 awardees of two-year funding are:

Additionally, the AI Accelerated Discovery of Solar Energy Materials project has been awarded one year of Creativity Hubs funding for further development. The project seeks to capitalize on recent advances in data science and artificial intelligence to analyze existing data and devise completely new ways to enhance current solar fuel technology.

The Creativity Hubs award program was developed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research to foster fluid, cross-disciplinary research, to establish campus networks that nurture research innovation and risk-taking, and to promote a pervasive culture that drives discovery and curiosity. This year’s winners of the Creativity Hubs awards were selected from 23 proposals, involving 207 UNC-Chapel Hill researchers representing 46 departments across 11 schools and the College of Arts & Sciences.