Archive for June, 2012

NCCU Physicist’s Team Gets Patent For High-Tech Scanning Device

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Dr. Igor V. Bondarev, associate professor of physics at North Carolina Central University, and two other scientists have been awarded a patent for a device to scan extremely smooth surfaces to identify the tiniest flaws. The device, called a carbon nanotube oscillator, has a wide range of potential applications in industrial, research and university laboratories and in manufacturing.

“When you need an extremely clean, flat solid surface, you can never get it, even if you polish,” Bondarev says. “Our device is able to sense surface roughness with a resolution that is two to three orders of magnitude better than that of currently available atomic force microscopes. That will make it possible to sort out ‘dirty’ sample surfaces from ‘clean’ ones.”

The new machine does not yet physically exist, Bondarev emphasizes. “The patent is for the concept,” he says. But there is good reason to think the oscillator has the potential to improve significantly on the performance of atomic force microscopes now in use. Many thousands of such microscopes are employed in laboratory and industrial settings around the world, and they range in price from $20,000 to more than $1 million.

Sharing in the patent with Bondarev are his long-term collaborators, University of South Florida (USF) physicists Adrian Popescu and Lilia Woods. The three scientists are named as the inventors, and the patent is assigned to their respective universities.

Carbon nanotubes are tiny long hollow structures, their walls formed by one-atom-thick sheets of carbon called graphene. They are among the stiffest and strongest fibers known, with remarkable electronic properties, and they have attracted huge academic and industrial interest.

In atomic force microscopes, a tiny, needle-like piece of metal functions as a mechanical probe, “feeling” a surface to detect flaws. The device developed by Bondarev and his USF collaborators replaces the metal piece with a double-walled carbon nanotube oscillator in which one cylindrical nanotube is contained and moves within another one of slightly larger diameter. The device will be able to measure a given surface profile at a resolution on the order of one nanometer — one billionth of a meter. A single molecule of water has a size of slightly less than one nanometer; a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

Any commercial payoff from the patent is likely to be years away. Dr. Undi Hoffler, NCCU’s director of research compliance, said NCCU and USF expect to explore options for licensing the concept to a manufacturer. “This is a long-term prospect,” Hoffler said, “but this invention should stand for awhile.”

Bondarev joined the NCCU faculty in 2005. A native of Belarus, the former Soviet republic, he holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the Belarusian State University in Minsk, and a Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) degree in theoretical solid-state physics from the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Belarus.

Bondarev said he’ll be pleased to see the machine he helped conceive become reality. “I’m a theoretical physicist. I’ve done my part of the job,” he said. “The experimentalists now need to build it and use it.”

Phyliss Craig-Taylor Named Dean of NCCU School of Law

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

North Carolina Central University will welcome a new dean of the School of Law, Phyliss Craig-Taylor, in July. Craig-Taylor most recently served as associate dean for academics at Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte. Assuming the dean’s office marks a return to NCCU for Craig-Taylor, who served as a law professor from 2000 to 2006.

Craig-Taylor has more than 22 years of experience in legal education and administration. She has been an active faculty member at the University of Florida College of Law, a visiting professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and a professor in residence at the University of Warsaw College of Law in Poland. Her areas of teaching include property, real estate finance, advanced issues in poverty, land use, land loss, women and the law, and professional responsibility.

“The appointment of Craig-Taylor signifies a continuation of the school’s mission to create a challenging educational program that will produce competent and responsible members of the legal profession,” NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms said.

A certified green belt in Six Sigma process management, Craig-Taylor was responsible for the establishment of a bar preparation program that increased the bar passage rate for targeted groups from 30 percent to 100 percent. A support program focused on study skills, reading comprehension, time management and examination preparation were also established under her leadership.

As an executive in residence at the Central Administration office in Naples, Fla., Craig-Taylor provided leadership and oversight to academic affairs and academic outcomes teams for the Charlotte School of Law, Phoenix School of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law.

Through her involvement with the American Bar Association, Craig-Taylor has held several leadership positions in the Section of Litigation, including serving as a division director. She has served on the N.C. State Bar Ethics Committee and the N.C. Bar Association Minorities in the Profession Committee.

“The law school has long been noted for its focus on public service and on meeting the needs of people and communities that are underserved by the legal profession,” said NCCU Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Debbie Thomas. “We are confident that Dean Craig-Taylor will continue this commitment.”

Craig-Taylor has published numerous articles on land loss in the African-American community and discrimination in the application of laws for minority groups, including women. She is currently writing a book, “Open Door Days on the Last Plantation: An Analysis of Property Loss, Race and Citizenship.”

A graduate of the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, where she completed both her undergraduate degree and law degree, she later served as a partner in the law firm of England & Bivens and as a judicial clerk for the Alabama Supreme Court. She later earned a Master of Laws degree at Columbia University.

She succeeds Raymond C. Pierce, who has been dean of the School of Law since 2005 and is returning to private practice.

Opening its doors in 1940, the NCCU School of Law has been recognized as a “best-value” law school by preLaw magazine, a National Jurist publication, in rankings based on affordability, bar passage rates and job placement. Last year, its award-winning clinical program was ranked fourth in the nation. The Elder Law Project, working with seniors in North Carolina, received the 2012 North Carolina Bar Association’s Pro Bono Service Award. Among the nation’s most diverse law schools, the school received Association of American Law Schools (AALS) membership in January 2012, and was only the third law school at a historically black university to join the association.

NCCU Research Center Receives $5.7 million NIH Grant for Health Disparities Projects

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

North Carolina Central University’s Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI) has received a National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Exploratory Center of Excellence grant for $5.7 million. Originally funded in 2002 as Project EXPORT, this is a five-year competitive renewal of the longest-funded National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant at BBRI.

Research involving health disparities — the gaps between the health status of racial and ethnic minorities compared with the population as a whole — is explicitly part of BBRI’s mission, and the projects funded by the NIH grant all focus on cardio-metabolic diseases that disproportionately affect African-Americans.
The projects will be administered by the newly named Center for Translational Health Equality Research (CTHER), led by K. Sean Kimbro, Ph.D., director of BBRI, and Mildred A. Pointer, Ph.D., FAHA, associate professor. CTHER consists of four key projects:

Adiponectin in Cardio-metabolic Health Disparities: Sujoy Ghosh, Ph.D., senior scientist, will lead an investigation of the role of adiponectin, a substance that helps the body regulate insulin, in health disparities. Low levels of adiponectin are associated with diabetes and obesity.

Calcium in Metabolic Syndrome: Emmanuel Awumey, Ph.D., assistant professor and research scientist, and Mildred Pointer, Ph.D., FAHA, both in the Cardio-Metabolic Research Program at BBRI, will lead an investigation of the role of calcium in diabetes, hypertension and obesity. This project will combine laboratory and community approaches, conducted by the Community Engagement group, to gain a better understanding of the role of calcium in these diseases.

Training and Education: Saundra Delauder, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, will direct a project to support minority students in health disparities research. The aims are to recruit and increase the number of future health disparities researchers from the fields of biomedical sciences, nursing, psychology, and public health education.

Community Engagement: Natasha Greene Leathers, Ph.D., RN, FNP, BC, assistant professor of nursing, will oversee community-based culturally sensitive interventions aimed at helping African-American communities in Halifax County, N.C., and surrounding counties to adopt healthy behaviors. This project will develop a partnership between a rural population and academic researchers to evaluate and refine a family-focused intervention for African-Americans with Type 2 Diabetes.

“For the renewal of this grant, we targeted diseases that profoundly impact minority communities,” BBRI director Kimbro said. “With an investment of approximately $5 million over five years, the National Institutes of Health and the scientific community have given a strong statement of support and confidence in our research.”

Pointer emphasized the translational aspect of the projects — finding ways to use the research to directly improve health outcomes. “We really wanted to combine expertise from the various disciplines to make sure that our research conclusions can be directly applied in North Carolina communities,” she said. “This ‘bench-to-curbside’ philosophy is at the heart of CTHER.”

CTHER will partner with organizations and communities to conduct these four projects, working toward an ultimate goal of eliminating cardio-metabolic health disparities. BBRI is part of NCCU’s Division of Research and Economic Development.