> Let’s face it. The world can be a dangerous place. Whether it’s from a suspected terrorist trying to detonate explosives on a jet, tainted peanut butter killing dozens of people and sickening hundreds more, or hackers unleashing the latest virus on millions of computers and disrupting business transactions, today’s needs for protective measures require the efforts of the best and brightest in developing high-tech solutions.
> Mad Cow Disease jolted the United Kingdom in the 1980s, crippling the beef industry and panicking the public as scores of people—not just cattle—succumbed to the insidious infection known in humans as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
> Dozens of cruise ship passengers felled by gastrointestinal illness. Hundreds across the U.S. sickened by E. coli in spinach and Salmonella in tomatoes and peppers. Scores killed in Kenya by a toxin in moldy corn. The headlines in recent years have repeatedly ratcheted up concerns about food safety among consumers, regulators, and farmers.
> At least a million deaths occur every year due to malaria—90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa—because the very efficient Anopheles gambiae mosquito ensures high transmission. “It’s really, really hard to do anything to a mosquito to keep it from biting you,” says Dr. Marian McCord, an associate professor of textile engineering at NC State.
> Whenever Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock found themselves on strange planets in the old Star Trek television series, Spock would always check the readings on his trusty tricorder to see if potential threats were nearby. “What a tricorder did was give them total awareness of their surroundings, and that’s what we’re after,” says Dr. Michael Steer, Lampe Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, whose research at NC State is moving such a device closer to the realm of reality.
> The chaotic scenes were played out repeatedly nationwide in recent months. Panicky parents lined up with their children for hours at vaccination clinics to get immunized against the H1N1 virus, only to have the clinics run out of their limited supplies of the flu vaccine.
> As with real estate, the three most important considerations for some crimes appear to be location, location, and location. Drs. William Smith and Perver Baran have found strong correlations among locations like accessible streets and retail settings and crimes like burglary, robbery, larceny, and auto theft
> Crime scene investigators on television make it all look quick and easy, and NC State faculty are doing their best to turn that bit of TV fiction into reality.
> Wireless sensor networks increase flexibility in military and industrial settings, but they also raise the potential for nefarious elements to wreak havoc. Even Dr. Peng Ning, a good-natured associate professor of computer science at NC State not given to paranoia, sees threats everywhere.
> If not for their charred appearance, the model hands in Dr. Roger Barker’s lab could easily be advertising skin cream or jewelry. Instead, Barker uses the state-of-the-art PyroHands Fire Test System to ensure that firefighters’ gloves provide adequate protection.
> Inside a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) lab building tucked away in the west end of campus, a gray-haired man tinkers with equipment in a biofuels lab. Tim Turner is a baby boomer on a crusade, trying to refine a process that can turn animal fat and waste grease into hydrocarbon fuels.