Jointly Seeded Research Teams

The IMPACT Seed Fund created the opportunity for UNC Gillings and RTI, working together, to develop a powerhouse reputation in one or two technical areas; in other words, becoming the “go-to institutions” in a few defined areas, the first of which is Environment and Health. The awards sought to jumpstart teaming to lead large, impactful, interdisciplinary, collaborative projects attractive to federal and other funders in this area. The following projects were awarded.

Children’s Environmental Solutions Study (CHESS) [active]
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Dr. Rebecca Fry, Dr. Keith Levine
This joint project between RTI and UNC-CH will establish the North Carolina-CHildren’s Environmental Solutions Study (CHESS). The CHESS program will test the hypothesis that environmental toxicants are impacting the health of children in North Carolina with a focus on optimizing the utilization of dried blood spots as a critical resource for exposure and biomarker assessment. In an unparalleled resource, we will leverage ongoing studies: EPOCH, based at UNC’s high-risk pregnancy clinic, and Early Check, located throughout NC. We will (1) Determine levels of inorganic and organic contaminants (as mixtures) during pregnancy in newborns via dried blood spots (2) Identify geographic hot spots of exposure, and (3) Examine the association of contaminants alone or in mixtures with adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes. This proposal that leverages blood spots represents a scalable effort to enhance the understanding of children’s environmental health in NC.

Surveillance, Modeling, Analytics Risk Assessment Tool for Evidence-Responsive Antimicrobial Resistance (SMARTER-AMR) [closed]
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Dr. Jill Stewart, Dr. Juliana Ruzante
RTI’s expertise in bioinformatics, data science, geospatial analysis and strong QA/QC protocols combined with UNC’s field and laboratory microbiological expertise, biobanks and environmental health capabilities made this tool a model for high-quality AMR data visualization, management and decision support. Target users include state- and national-level agencies responsible for public health, water, agriculture and land use.

Toxicity of Complex Aerosols from Wood Burning Cook Stoves (TOCS) [active]
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Dr. William Vizuete, Dr. Prakash Doraiswamy
The proposed study will provide the data needed to better understand the scientific drivers of health impacts from cookstove emissions, thereby laying the foundation to inform field studies that will drive intervention and policy changes. The use of the portable, more sensitive and realistic air-liquid interface method enables studying true biological and chemical impacts. We expect this method to become the standard for fieldwork in the study of biomass burning emissions, and possibly in all measurements pertaining to airborne pollutants. Incorporating the compounds identified in this study into air quality models will improve model formulations to predict the location and abundance of the compounds of greatest health impact. Together, the findings will reduce uncertainties in air quality predictions and estimated health impacts that can then guide policies and global intervention methods.


The combined RTI International and UNC Chapel Hill research portfolio since July 1, 2014 is over $261M (through September 30, 2022).

Are you interested in exploring ways to become involved with the IMPACT Partnership?
Contact Anne Glauber ( or Katie Bowler Young (