UMN and N.C. A&T Kick Off Research Partnership Program

Four people stand outside a nanoscience and nanoengineering building, next to a car carrying equipment on its roof.

Three N.C. A&T students talk with a visitor about an autonomous vehicle outside the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

University of Minnesota officials today announced a new research partnership program with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), the largest of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), located in Greensboro, NC.

“Solving complex grand challenge problems requires research universities like ours to actively seek out collaborators and talent to pursue field leading research,” said Shashank Priya, UMN vice president for research and innovation and one of the organizers of the partnership. “That work leads to the development of innovative solutions and trained workforce with hands-on experience on cutting-edge interdisciplinary technologies, for our respective states and the country more broadly."

“The research and innovation enterprises at both our universities can benefit from combined strengths in basic science and the infrastructure that supports it,“ said Eric Roger Muth, Vice Chancellor for N.C. A&T’s Division of Research and Economic Development. “For example, N.C. A&T and UMN both have extensive strengths in nanoscience and engineering that can be combined to identify promising pathways for new material innovations that will impact applications in microelectronics, medical technologies, and sustainable engineering. And, as the nation’s leading producer of African American graduates in engineering and agriculture, N.C. A&T has a large pool of talented and skilled students that through research their work are eager to demonstrate impact on society and environment.”

Following wide-ranging discussions and a visit by UMN officials to North Carolina last July, Priya, and the UMN Office for Student Affairs and the UMN Office for Equity and Diversity began planning for a two-phase UMN-N.C. A&T research partnership program.

In the first phase, the UMN Research and Innovation Office (RIO) will annually award five proposals to initiate collaboration with N.C. A&T peer researchers. This phase aims to build trusted partnerships between individual researchers and the two institutions through researcher exchange, seminars, classroom lectures, lab visits, organization of hybrid workshops, and other activities. The second phase is planned starting in year three, when additional funding will be allocated to initiate at least three research programs per year between the two institutions that ideally build on phase one projects.

UMN and N.C. A&T faculty interested in the program can review the RFP on RIO’s funding and awards page. The competition will be conducted in the fall. Current inquiries can be directed to RIO's Research Advancement team,

The two-phase research partnership program is the beginning of what UMN leaders hope will be a larger collaboration with N.C. A&T that may include research opportunities for undergraduate students, training opportunities for UMN President's Postdoctoral Fellows, and development of 3 + 2 programs in disciplines that are available at only N.C. A&T or UMN. For the University of Minnesota, collaborations with N.C. A&T could open the door to work with well-regarded faculty and talented students that will enrich its ongoing research and educational activities and expose Minnesota students to new exciting opportunities.

Four people in full-body PPE work around a table in a red-lit room.
N.C. A&T students and a faculty member work in a clean room at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

For N.C. A&T, connections and collaborations with the University of Minnesota could expand its research enterprise in disciplines that are complementary to its offerings and grow the opportunity for its researchers to engage in large team projects that cover basic to applied sciences. N.C. A&T scholars will also have access to more core facilities and shared infrastructure that could accelerate projects that require capital instrumentation and technical support services. Minnesota’s thriving economy, which includes headquarters for 15 Fortune 500 companies, also provides promising opportunities for students and graduates of N.C. A&T to begin to build professional careers—opportunities they may have otherwise been unaware of or unconnected to.

Reflecting the excitement for broader collaboration, UMN Associate Vice President Dr. Keisha Varma is already partnering with N.C. A&T to invite four students to spend their summer at the University of Minnesota to work in research labs and assist faculty with research projects.

“This is an excellent opportunity for students at both UMN and N.C. A&T to make connections, advance their careers, and explore new opportunities,” Varma said. “And I see great potential for innovative collaborations in years to come.”