N.C. A&T On Point Newsletter

VOL. 3 / NO. 4/ APRIL 2020  

Chancellor's Message
Chancellor's Message

Light at the End of the Tunnel
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N.C. A&T Chancellor Martin Sr.Focus, discipline and diligence have always been necessary ingredients for success in higher education. As North Carolina A&T has sought to meet the challenges of coronavirus over the past two months, those familiar attributes have made the difference for our university.

Our students’ and faculty members’ rapid transition of in-person instruction and learning to the online environment allowed the Spring 2020 semester to continue largely uninterrupted, despite the threat of the pandemic. Students missed only two days of instruction to give those living in university housing time to move out to enable the social distancing necessary to prevent the spread of the disease on our campus.

They now are preparing for final exams, and some 1,500 students are looking forward to completing the coursework for their degrees. While they won’t be able to participate in commencement at the usual time, we are making preparations for a virtual graduation celebration and an in-person ceremony later this year to honor their accomplishments.

Even as we do, we are engaging on new direction from the president of the UNC System, Dr. William Roper, who recently announced our collective intention to reopen campuses across the state this fall. Thanks to statewide adherence to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order and social distancing, we are slowing the virus’ spread: In the beginning of the pandemic, the number of infections doubled every four days across our state; that rate has now slowed to more than 11 days.

We are planning with eyes wide open. A return to campus will not represent a return to normal. With no approved vaccine or treatment for coronavirus on the near horizon, social distancing, face coverings and other once-foreign steps are will be part of our lives for some time to come.

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff, I have appointed a planning committee comprised of five working groups to focus on the areas most essential to a successful reopening of campus. From academic affairs to budget and finance to communications, those working groups will provide the information, insight and guidance that will enable us to bring our campus back to life. For more on our plan, please see my message to campus from April 29 and listen to an audio interview from this week with HBCU Digest Radio.

I’m optimistic about the ways in which we will meet those challenges, and excited for the opportunity to be back in the extraordinary environment that has made A&T a leading land grant university and the top-rated public HBCU in the nation.  

As you all seek to move forward and thrive under similar circumstances, I wish you the best of success, health and wellbeing. 

- Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr.

The N.C. A&T Student Health Center continues to be a major campus resource for those manifesting flu-like symptoms.
+ To learn more about North Carolina A&T, please visit iTunes and subscribe to the On Point with Chancellor Harold L. Martin podcast.
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A&T Professor Solves Major Physics Question
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Gasparian’s team conducted its groundbreaking experiment in Hall B of the Jefferson Lab, shown here.

A North Carolina A&T physics professor led a team at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility that recently helped resolve one of physics’ most interesting mysteries over the past decade: What is the actual size of a proton’s radius?

The question has engaged leading physicists at top institutions around the world for years. Why? Gizmodo’s Ryan F. Mandelbaum broke it down in a late 2019 feature:

“The proton is arguably the most important particle to our everyday lives, forming one of the three core components of atoms and determining elements’ identities. That makes the values of its various properties extra important. Experimental disagreement over one of those properties, called the charge radius, kicked off a decade of increasingly precise measurements. Scientists have now released the results of a new measurement method, and they suggest the uncertainty is approaching an end.”

Beginning in 2010, scientists thought they might be zeroing in on a new, more accurate measure of the proton radius. But measurements using different techniques yielded differing results over the ensuing 10 years. That’s where Professor Ashot Gasparian of N.C. A&T’s College of Science and Technology comes in.

Using electron scattering, Gasparian’s team in the Proton Radius (PRad) Experiment at Jefferson Lab tried a new experiment that employed a novel way to measure the scattering. The experiment enabled a more precise means of zeroing in on the proton’s radius – no small feat, given that the proton does not have definite boundaries.

The breakthrough was met with enthusiasm in the global physics community. Physics Today proclaimed that with Gasparian’s success, “two different techniques now confirm a consistent value for the proton radius.” Interesting Engineering was more succinct: “Researchers Just Resolved the Proton Radius Puzzle,” stated their headline.

This is not Gasparian’s first significant contribution to the field of physics. In 2011, he led work on a project that solved another longstanding measurement dilemma: The precise lifetime of the pi-zero meson. Since mesons are composed of quarks, they participate in the strong interactions that hold atomic nuclei together. The pi-meson was the first of three to actually be confirmed in 1945.

Dr. Gasparian has a unique ability to figure out how to measure things more precisely than others,” said Sekazi K. Mtingwa, a theoretical high-energy physicist, who was a co-recipient – the first African American -- of the 2017 Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators and co-founder of the National Society of Black Physicists.

These Three Things: three arrows
These Three Things

Giving Back During the Pandemic
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A scene from a N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension video on how to build a portable hand-washing station to help prevent virus spread in farming operations.

As one of North Carolina’s two land grant universities, N.C. A&T has a mission of providing service to the state’s counties and people. That mission has been front and center during the current corona pandemic, even as the university has faced its own set of seismic changes.

Across A&T’s colleges and administrative divisions, university faculty, administrative staff, students and alumni have found ways to give back to people and communities around the state through sharing guidance and advice across a wide range of topics, making protective supplies, treating the sick and more.

Chancellor Harold L. Martin shared a comprehensive list of more than 30 different projects with the Board of Trustees at its April 24 meeting. Meanwhile the A&T Office of Alumni Relations has been sharing on social media a growing list of Aggies on the Front Lines of COVID-19 features, spotlighting various graduates working as physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, clinical assistants and more.

Among the many fascinating people and projects, these three are among the most memorable:

  • Registered Nurse Danielle Rodgers (’15) works in a Baltimore hospital intensive care unit that has been turned into a biohazard unit specifically for COVID-19 patients. Besides the stress of serving that challenging population, Rodgers must work in cumbersome personal protection equipment to keep herself infection free. “Working with them has been very demanding and requires constant monitoring, as they can quickly turn for the worse with challenges of recovering.” Even so, she remains upbeat. “Work on building a healthier immune system. Check on your loved ones. Stay positive!”

  • The N.C. A&T Cooperative Extension Service created a website for the public (https://www.ncat.edu/caes/cooperative-extension/covid-19/index.php) that makes expertise available for a wide range of needs to help consumers and famers manage limited resources and stay healthy. The site already includes more than 30 tutorials, videos and how-to guides for topics ranging from making meatless meals to building a portable handwashing station tips on avoiding coronavirus scams. Thousands of users around the state have been accessing the site. Specializing in small and family-owned farms and in rural communities, Extension Service maintains a physical presence in half of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
  • Alumnus Geoff Foster (BS ’90, MS ’96) and his Core Technology Molding Corp., an advanced, precision manufacturing firm, is supplying 800,000 protective face shields for use in hospitals and military bases around the country through a contract with the Gilero medical device company in Pittsboro, N.C. Core Tech is located in the Gateway Research Park, which is led by A&T in conjunction with UNC Greensboro. Core Tech serves clients around the world, from BMW to Rubbermaid, but with the demands of this contract, it is focusing heavily on North Carolina needs during the pandemic. Foster was recently named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Launch Greensboro initiative.
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Lab Report

Flying Taxis: A&T Research Takes to the Skies
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Dr. Abdollah Homaifar and two of his students at work at the Institute for Autonomous Control and Information Technology.

Powered by a four-year, $8-million grant from NASA, an interdisciplinary, multi-institution team led by researchers at North Carolina A&T is launching a project aimed at developing, testing and eventually deploying air passenger taxis for consumer use.

With the rapid development of autonomous flight vehicles – already in use for a variety of commercial purposes – industry experts predict it is only a matter of time before they are put to use to facilitate easy travel and decrease traffic congestion on the nation’s roads. A widely circulated research paper last year forecast that market to expand to $1.5 trillion globally over the next 20 years.

The new project aims to speed that evolution, drawing on the deep vein of A&T expertise in both road-based and flying autonomous vehicles. A&T is already home to the Institute for Autonomous Control and Information Technology, a Department of Defense Center of Excellence in Autonomy known as TECHLAV and a select team participating in the prestigious AutoDrive Challenge sponsored by General Motors and the Society for Automotive Engineering.

“We won’t have the luxury of physical space to build more roads as the populations in urban areas continue to grow,” said Abdollah Homaifar, Ph.D., principal investigator and a NASA Langley Distinguished Professor in the College of Engineering (COE). “I am excited for this collaboration as we are addressing real challenges in our society that require solutions that one group cannot provide alone.”

North Carolina A&T is the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to lead a project for the agency’s University Leadership Initiative. The grant is also the second-largest award the university has received in its history.

A&T researchers will collaborate with colleagues at Purdue University and Georgia Tech, as a well as industry leaders Aurora Flight Sciences, Alaka’i Technologies Corp., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Data Points
Data Points

The National Park Service announced more than $750,000 in funding this spring for renovation and upgrades to three historically significant buildings on the A&T campus.

Dudley Memorial Building
Morrison Hall and Murphy Hall

Dr. Harold L. Martin Sr.

Erin Hill Hart
Todd Hurst Simmons

Kimberly "Nikki" Pressley

Yvonne L. Halley

Tonya D. Dixon
Jordan M. Howse
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a land-grant university that is ranked by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as a Doctoral University: High Research Activity.

N.C. A&T does not discriminate against any person on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. For inquiries regarding non-discrimination policies, contact the Title IX Coordinator at titleixcoordinator@ncat.edu.

N.C. A&T is an AA/EEO employer, and it is an ADA compliant institution; thus, facilities are designed to provide accessibility to individuals with physical disabilities.