Carolina creates UNC Institute for Convergent Science

With the Institute for Convergent Science, Carolina will lead the world in bringing scientific expertise together to improve people’s lives, Chancellor Carol L. Folt said.

“The UNC Institute for Convergent Science will be at the heart of that vision, giving proven convergent thinkers both here and around the globe the tools and space they need to harness the tremendous amount of talent at their disposal,” Folt said. “The opportunity is to take that talent and channel it into impact that makes a true difference in the real world.”

The University announced the UNC Institute for Convergent Science when it launched its multiyear fundraising campaign, “For All Kind: The Campaign for Carolina,” on Oct. 6. The initiative includes the creation of an infrastructure endowment and a building fund to make the institute a reality. Folt said the investment in the Institute for Convergent Science will be returned many times over, on campus and far beyond.

The institute will allow Carolina to erase barriers, synthesize information and translate research into impact. The institute will also incubate a spirit of collaboration that raises the intellectual climate of the entire campus. With this multidisciplinary and collaborative approach, Carolina researchers will tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Carolina’s Virtual Lung Project is a key example of the benefits of a convergent science approach. Seeking a better way to treat cystic fibrosis, a team of 15 Carolina mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists, chemists, biomedical engineers and health sciences faculty came together to study the debilitating lung disease. This led to the development of drug therapies administered via inhalation and a deeper understanding of how gene-based defense mechanisms function. Having a variety of experts at the table enabled Carolina to create a different approach to understanding treatment issues that health scientists had not yet addressed.

“The new Institute for Convergent Science will take our cutting-edge research to the next level,” said Kevin M. Guskiewicz, dean of the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. “It will be a fast track for abstract concepts to become revolutionary applications. It will be the place where we move seamlessly from discovery to impact.”

The Institute for Convergent Science will be built on the remaining site of the Physical Sciences Complex. Part of the most ambitious building program in the University’s history, the complex has brought together chemists and computer scientists, physicists and materials experts for more than a decade.

The institute represents the crucial, culminating piece to this expansive vision, Folt said.

Eventually, the building will house approximately 45 faculty members and more than 100 graduate students, research fellows and research technicians. One floor will be devoted primarily to technology transfer and incubator space for Carolina faculty researchers. The building also will be the home of the Department of Applied Physical Sciences, which transcends traditional scientific boundaries by linking chemists with applied mathematicians, physicists and biologists to work on critical problems.

The ability to adapt to meet the needs of a changing world has been a powerful part of the Carolina spirit from the start.

“Carolina was the first model for public higher education in America, and we can do it again,” Folt said. “We will tap the power of intellectual centers across the country while at the same time serve as the home for a new way of translating research for the betterment of society.”

By Gary Moss, University Gazette
Published Oct. 10, 2017