Dear Carolina Community,
Research universities like Carolina have two core missions — to preserve knowledge and to create more of it.
We take the best of what’s been thought and said in every discipline and pass it down to the next generation, making sure the hard-won wisdom of the ages isn’t lost. But we’re also in the business of discovery, of relentlessly questioning everything that has come before and seeking better or at least different ways of thinking about the world and its challenges.
We don’t just preserve; we innovate.
And innovation is important because it’s how societies make progress. It’s how economies grow, how diseases get cured, how people connect and communicate in ways that didn’t exist just a few years ago. An extraordinary range of things we take for granted in the modern world, from vaccine development to the computer chips making it possible for you to read this email, have their roots in university research.
Last week, I joined Carolina faculty, students and staff working with Innovate Carolina to help us do even more to support basic discovery and move those findings into the wider world. A giant university like ours is designed to bring smart people together so they can spark new thinking, often at the intersection of different disciplines. Most of the world’s problems don’t fit neatly into one school or department, which is why we’re focusing so heavily on convergent science.
Rahima Benhabbour is a fantastic example. She trained as a chemist, studied at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and is now an assistant professor with the UNC-NCSU Joint Biomedical Engineering Department. During last week’s discussion, she described how working across disciplines led her to the discovery of new, more reliable methods for delivering drug treatments to women. With the help of some Carolina seed funding, Benhabbour now heads a company to bring that technology to the people who need it. Supporting talented researchers from an initial idea to real-world application is what built North Carolina into a worldwide leader in biotechnology, data science, energy and much more.
I would love to see more students get involved in the research and discovery mission of the University before they graduate. Because innovation isn’t reserved for the sciences; it’s happening in journalism, in social work, in political science and literature. Across every discipline, we need to tap the energy of our students not just to learn but to create. The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship is putting this into practice by teaching students with a variety of backgrounds and interests to view the world with an entrepreneurial mindset.
If you have an idea, bring it forward. If you have a burning question about the world, keep asking until you discover a good answer. The tools to build something new are all here, and they’re ready for you.
Kevin M. Guskiewicz