Skip to main content

Eight Collaborations Over Eight Miles

Part of the Final Four 2022: History in the Making Series

The Final Four collision between Duke and the University of North Carolina is illuminating, again, the century-long rivalry. But the epic basketball showdown is really a side-note to the truly important and groundbreaking collaborations between the two universities.

Here are eight examples of Duke and UNC working together.

Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease
The NIH-funded Duke University and the University of North Carolina Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Duke/UNC ADRC) has a very clear focus: identifying effective methods of prevention and early intervention for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Planning North Carolina’s Clean Energy Future
Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the University of North Carolina’s Center for Climate, Energy, Environment, and Economics jointly conducted a 2021 study of policies the state might implement to accelerate reductions in climate-warming pollutants while also making power more affordable for homes and businesses. 

Scholars at Home on Both Campuses
Students in the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program enjoy a full-ride scholarship and the ability to take courses on both campuses. There’s even a shuttle bus that goes back and forth every day.

A Lab-Grown Mini-Lung to Study Covid
After Duke scientist Purushothama Rao Tata developed a fully human lung air sac in a lab dish, they needed a Covid expert to help test it. They looked no further than Chapel Hill to find Ralph Baric, a world authority on coronaviruses. 

A Three-Sided Approach to Nuclear Physics
The 60-year-old Triangle Universities Nuclear Lab – TUNL – studies nuclear physics with three advanced beam lines located on the Duke campus, including the world’s largest Compton gamma-ray beam. Leadership of the center is shared among Duke, UNC, N.C. Central and NC State, and generations of PhDs from all the schools have produced their data at the Department of Energy-funded center.    
Kick-Starting Entrepreneurship
Innovate Carolina and Duke New Ventures have partnered to create Kickstart Venture Services  with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help early-stage companies being produced by academic research on both campuses take root. Their goal is to launch 18 new companies in 18 months. 

Shared Research Funding and Faculty
Both Tier One research universities with leading academic medical centers, Duke and UNC perform a combined $2.3 Billion in research each year, much of it shared between campuses as sub-contracts. Duke and UNC have also established shared research centers on PFAS pollution, nanotechnology, autonomous vehicles, Cryo-EM microscopy, brain imaging, muscular dystrophy, clinical trials in medicine and more.

Turning The Rivalry Into Student Journalism
Student newspapers The Daily Tar Heel and The Duke Chronicle, joined forces five years ago to raise money for their journalism, via the DTH/Chron Fundraising Challenge, with the slogan “Hate Great Together.” (In 2022, the Chronicle came out slightly ahead!) 

More examples can be found in this 2020 story: "Rivals on the Court, Collaborators in Scholarship".