Success Stories

North Carolina A&T research, outreach and partnership efforts support economic development across the state, making a difference for our state, its communities and its people. 

Helping Small Farmers Generate Income by Growing Hemp

Industrial hemp is making a comeback in North Carolina, and N.C. A&T is helping to lead the way. Following recent changes to federal and state laws, industrial hemp is again becoming a profitable crop in the United States with uses including food, dietary supplements, paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, biofuel and animal feed. Dr. Guochen Yang, a professor in the Natural Resources and Environmental Design department and a member of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission, is helping farmers understand the potential of this valuable crop. N.C A&T planted eight varieties of industrial hemp on almost half an acre at its research farm, offering insights about which varieties would work best for different uses, such as providing fiber, biomass, oil or seeds.

Developing New Approaches for Automated Monitoring of Smart Agricultural Systems

In order to accommodate rapidly-growing food demands and increase the quality and quantity of agricultural production, it is necessary to improve farming management practices and technological developments in agricultural fields. One of N.C. A&T’s new projects blends the university’s expertise in control, robotics, remote sensing and agricultural engineering to develop new approaches for automated monitoring of smart agricultural systems. Dr. Ali Karimoddini in the College of Engineering is the project principal investigator, focusing on cooperative control of systems of autonomous vehicles. Dr. Leila Hashemi-Beni from the College of Science and Technology is focusing on data processing of remote sensing data from unmanned autonomous vehicles, as well as airborne and satellite imagery for precision agriculture and environment management. Dr. Abolghasem Shahbazi in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences will use the remote sensing data to evaluate the crop and biomass yield produced at N.C. A&T's research farm.

Marrying Bioenergy Technologies with Energy and Agricultural Markets

Dr. Luba Kurkalova’s research programs have attracted in excess of $10 million of funding from the United States Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture. She is currently leading several multidisciplinary research projects assessing the interactions between bioenergy technologies and energy and agricultural markets. Fast-growing trees like poplar, sweetgum, sycamore and loblolly pine are grown productively throughout the state. Dr. Kurkalova’s work aims to develop economic feasibility maps for North Carolina’s short-rotation woody crops to help managers make the best decisions regarding which of those varieties to cultivate for their particular circumstances and needs.

Using Drones for Flood Mapping and Management

Dr. Leila Hashemi Beni, an assistant professor in the Geomatics Program in the Department of Built Environment in the College of Science and Technology, is using unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) as remote sensing mechanisms to develop flood mapping in the state of North Carolina. Supported by a three-year, $300,000 grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Beni’s project is designed to gain a fundamental understanding of UAV data processing and to develop a research program on remote sensing data processing for environmental management. Historically, scientists have used satellite-based techniques to develop flood mapping and modeling; however, cloud cover, satellite revisit time, viewing angle limitations and the complexity of urban landscapes have made this application somewhat unreliable. The recent development of UAVs has revolutionized data gathering and its use in geospatial research. Using UAVs to collect data with appropriate flight modes and optimized sensors allows researchers to overcome adverse issues associated with using satellite-based sensor data.

Humanitarian Organizations Collaborating with Government and the Private Sector

Dr. Lauren Davis and her cross-disciplinary team have secured a five-year, $3 million grant through the National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship Program. The grant supports food insecurity research; food insecurity occurs when individuals have limited access to safe and nutritious food. To address this issue, humanitarian organizations work collaboratively with government and the private sector, relying on uncertain sources of supply, responding to uneven and variable needs, and making decisions regarding scarce resources. This grant will develop an innovative, interdisciplinary training model in data science designed to grow the workforce that will help these organizations better analyze their efforts and improve the provision of food aid at the local, state, and federal level.

Studying the Opioid Epidemic through Social Media

Dr. Mohd Anwar, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science within the College of Engineering at N.C. A&T, is performing computational health research using the Twitter social media platform to study the opioid epidemic. With more than 50,000 opioid-related overdose deaths estimated in 2017 in the United States, the opioid epidemic has emerged as a major health crisis. Anwar began collaborating with other experts in this field in the fall of 2018 to study the extent to which social media data can be harnessed as an indicator of the opioid epidemic in the US. The collaboration explores the power of social media to inform the progression of the opioid crisis in near-real time, and to understand how data mined from social media platforms covary with ground truths such as drug overdoses. Dr. Anwar’s scope of work focuses on gathering, mining, and scientifically translating publicly available opioid-related Twitter data in the state of North Carolina, to understand and identify interventional opportunities.