In 2017, UGA Regents Professor Michael R. Strand earned one of the highest honors a scientist can receive, election to the National Academy of Sciences. Strand, an entomologist engaged in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, is UGA’s eighth member of the National Academies.

The challenges facing our global society are daunting, and by harnessing vast resources in teaching, research, and service, the University of Georgia is facing them head-on. Nowhere is the unyielding commitment of UGA faculty, staff, and students to solving the grand challenges of our time more evident than in their efforts to improve human health, alleviate food insecurity, and promote economic vitality.

Combatting Threats to Human Health

Today nearly one in three deaths is caused by heart disease, and nearly one in six deaths results from cancer. The University is playing a leading role in responding to these and other threats to human health through interdisciplinary research centers across campus.

Searching for Therapies and Cures

Led by Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar of Molecular Biology Stephen Dalton, the Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM) was established in 2012 to develop interdisciplinary teams of faculty who work collaboratively to advance understanding of various lifethreatening diseases—impacting many areas of the body—with the ultimate goal of creating new diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative agents. Now in its fifth year, the center continues to evolve as faculty pursue new ways to leverage molecular and cellular science against major human health challenges.

Stephen Dalton
Stephen Dalton
Center for Molecular Medicine Director

This fall, the University opened a state-of-the-art home for the CMM to allow its critical research to expand to new areas of focus. The new $25 million facility—supported by $17 million in state funds—is located next to UGA’s renowned Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, allowing for enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists in these vital centers. The building provides space for up to 10 teams of faculty to conduct research that ultimately will help to improve lives and communities in Georgia and around the world.

UGA Center for Molecular Medicine

Striving to Translate Discoveries into Treatments
body diagram

Tackling Infectious Diseases across the Globe

Dennis Kyle
Dennis Kyle
CTEGD Director

Nearly 20 years ago, the University established the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases to help turn research into medical and public health interventions that save lives around the globe. Today, with more than $135 million in research funding and several patents for drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests, this center is thriving with 25 faculty from eight departments across four colleges and schools. Scientists in the center are working diligently to find solutions to malaria, Zika, Chagas, and other geo-specific diseases on six of the world’s continents—all but Antarctica.

This year, the center welcomed a new director: GRA Eminent Scholar in Antiparasitic Drug Discovery Dennis Kyle, one of two GRA Eminent Scholars recruited to UGA in 2017, along with GRA Eminent Scholar in Immunology and Translational Biomedical Research Karen Norris.

The Center for Tropical and Emerging Diseases

Promoting Global Health through Research

Promoting Diversity in STEM Fields

The Graduate School secured funding for a program—Bridges to the Doctorate—to increase underrepresented minority enrollment in graduate programs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The new program builds on the University’s longstanding Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program—an initiative that has helped to triple the enrollment of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

With the support of a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Bridges to the Doctorate program will help underrepresented students complete a doctorate in a STEM field at UGA, providing financial support, mentoring, and professional development. This exciting new program, which launched this summer, will help the state of Georgia to meet the rising demand for advanced training and education in the STEM workforce.

Leveraging Technology to Feed the World

Scientists estimate the global population will increase by 30 percent within the next 30 years, requiring the world to double its food supply. This rapid growth presents significant challenges to the agriculture industry, which must produce twice the amount of food without increasing natural resources, such as land and water.

UGA is committed to helping Georgia’s agriculture industry—the state’s largest industry—to navigate these critical challenges and remain competitive in a global market. Toward that end, faculty are developing high-tech devices and leveraging big data to create efficiencies in the agricultural production process and to help entrepreneurs develop and market new food products on a global scale.

Sending Rovers and Drones to the Rescue

Accurate data on the physical characteristics of crops are vital to scientists and farmers who are working to increase agricultural production to meet rapid population growth. However, the current process for obtaining data—manually measuring one crop at a time—is expensive and time-consuming.

To improve this process, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Charlie Li and his team advanced their work to develop a fleet of all-terrain rovers and unmanned aerial drones. This innovative equipment will remove the need to manually measure crops and allow researchers to compile data on entire fields throughout the growing season. Regular data collection, which is currently impossible to conduct manually, will improve farming efficiency and advance important plant research. The increased quantity and quality of data obtained by the rovers and drones will help scientists to develop high-quality, high-yield, and adaptable plants—critical elements in expanding agricultural production across the globe.

Making Irrigation Smart

Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences George Vellidis and his team are approaching challenges in the agriculture industry by employing a device that is found in nearly every person’s pocket today: the smartphone. Applying decades of relevant research, Vellidis developed an app that alerts farmers of the best time of day to irrigate crops as well as the precise amount of water to use. The user-friendly app helps farmers to lower the cost of irrigation and increase profitability.

Vellidis also is working to enhance the water use of large irrigation equipment. His team has developed a system of smart sensors that connect to the equipment. Pulling in large quantities of data on weather and soil conditions, the censors correspond with cloud computing to determine the specific amount of water to apply to individual regions of a field—another research-based solution that is creating efficiencies in agricultural production and improving the quality and quantity of crops.

Cultivating Food Innovation

The University’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center (FoodPIC) on the Griffin campus provides technical expertise and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to help food industry entrepreneurs create new food products, improve food textures and flavors, and expand the market for some of the state’s most commercially relevant crops.

Recognizing the value of this center to Georgia’s economy, the state and local community joined with the University to build a $7.4 million new home for FoodPIC, which opened in January. In just six months of operation, the investment in this facility is paying off: FoodPIC experienced an 86 percent increase in contacts from potential new clients over the previous year.

Promoting Economic Vitality

With a $5.25 billion economic impact on its home state last year, UGA is promoting prosperity across Georgia. From the Coast to the Plains to the Piedmont to the Blue Ridge and all points in between, the University is a catalyst for economic growth and vitality, providing advanced training and support to elected officials, assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners, and empowering community members to address self-identified needs and issues. Indeed, UGA is more invested now than ever before in the economic development of this state.

Partnering with Local Leaders

When local officials in the city of Macon and Bibb County began considering consolidation, they turned to experts at UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The Vinson Institute—with its team of highly trained demographers, researchers, and economic analysts—conducted two consolidation feasibility studies. A merger took place in 2014, creating Macon-Bibb County, and faculty in the Vinson Institute jumped in to help integrate budgets and ordinances and to organize strategic planning efforts. Macon officials began working in January with Vinson faculty on a new strategic plan at a retreat in Athens.

UGA continues to support the community and is engaged in efforts to increase the economic impact of the area’s manufacturing industry. Vinson Institute professionals are connecting manufacturing companies to local stakeholders to identify in-demand occupations and discuss critical skills sought by businesses in the area. They also provide the technical assistance to support local officials who are helping to train workers for skilled manufacturing positions. In addition, consultants from UGA’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) have worked with more than 1,000 entrepreneurs over the past five years, helping to create more than 130 new businesses in the Macon-Bibb community.

Laying the Foundation for Economic Growth

Twelve years ago, the Archway Partnership was born at UGA to provide resources and empower leaders across the state to address their communities’ most pressing needs. The first partnership—formed with Moultrie-Colquitt County—began with that community’s need to create capacity to accommodate the population growth associated with opening a large agricultural processing plant.

With UGA support, county officials created a zoning plan for population growth; education leaders formed a support structure for youth development; and the YMCA established the Healthy Colquitt Coalition to improve community wellness. These efforts laid a strong foundation to support the new plant, which today is a significant contributor to the Moultrie-Colquitt economy.

After Moultrie-Colquitt graduated from the Archway Partnership program in 2011, community members wanted to maintain their strong relationship with UGA. County officials secured a grant through UGA’s College of Public Health to hire a full-time Archway professional to promote health and wellness. Today, UGA students and faculty continue to travel to the region to conduct research that informs community improvement efforts.

More than a decade after Moultrie-Colquitt became the birthplace of the Archway Partnership, the program’s impact is clear. UGA’s efforts have contributed to an estimated $227 millioneconomic impact on the community. Building upon this success, UGA has established 11 other Archway communities across Georgia.

Sparking a Downtown Revival

Downtowns are the heart of our communities and integral to the economic prosperity of the state. In recent decades, some of Georgia’s downtowns have gone dormant. To revive these important commercial areas, in 2013 UGA partnered with the state to launch the Renaissance Partnership. The program leverages UGA’s expertise to provide cities with strategic planning and design and technical services. To date, partnerships have enhanced more than 30 downtown communities across Georgia.

Recently, the Downtown Renaissance Partnership began working with Walker County to redevelop a 27-acre shuttered textile mill in downtown Rossville. Through this collaboration, 18 UGA landscape architecture students, working in teams of three, prepared proposals to redevelop the site to house business ventures. These proposals included site planning and fundraising efforts. By working with city officials in this capacity, UGA students gained important knowledge and skills while helping community leaders restore a vital part of their economy.