The Better World Project features inspiring stories about university technologies that make the world a better place. Stories that have been featured are listed below. This online only format began in July 2012. If you're looking for past stories from our print editions, check out the past reports page.
St Jude Children's Research Hospital
Assay Pinpoints Natural Killer Cells To Improve Transplant Outcomes
Of the roughly 25,000 patients who receive a stem cell transplant each year worldwide, only about half survive. And until recently, researchers could not accurately predict the outcome of the costly and high-risk transplant procedure. A technology developed at St. Jude Children's Hospital hopes to reduce that uncertainty and increase the success rate of stem cell transplants by offering a test to help identify the optimal stem cell donor.
North Carolina State University
Delivering Instant Feedback for Math and Science Students
Years ago, university math and science students often saw their homework fall into a predictably sluggish pattern. With hundreds of students in a single class, professors could take more than a week to return graded assignments. Today, technologies such as WebAssign are alleviating that backlog. With this online service for math and science courses, students each year receive instant feedback on their homework at nearly 2,000 universities, colleges and high schools around the world.
Software Allows Cancer Specialists to View Patient Images Together
Although imaging studies available to cancer treatment teams are each highly useful individually — CT and MR for anatomical detail and PET for functional activity with the body — Tim Fox, Ph.D., a medical physicist and associate professor of radiation oncology, knew that viewed collectively, and within the treatment planning system, they could be even more valuable. Here's what happened next.
North Carolina State University
As America Rediscovers the Sweet Potato, a New Variety Takes Root
With higher yields, a longer grocery shelf life and a uniform size, the North Carolina State University's Covington sweet potato has become a preferred variety of farmers, wholesalers and retailers — just in time to meet American's growing demand for this healthy root vegetable.
BloodCenter of Wisconsin
Consortium Uses Radiowaves to Track Blood From Donor to Patient
A consortium of academic institutions, healthcare organizations and commercial partners have created iTrace, a suite of web-based and mobile applications that uses high-requency radiofrequncy identification (RFID) to do for the blood supply chain what it has done for auto parts, apparel and even casino chips.
Tiny Teabag Filter Offers Tremendous Hope to World's Thirsty
According to the United Nations, 2 out of 10 people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, and millions of people, mostly children, die every year from related diseases. However, a small filter that resembles a teabag that sits on top of a reusable water bottle could change all that.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
A Novel Partnership Tackles Meningitis
In the middle of 2003, Marc LaForce was having trouble sleeping. As the director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), he was missing a vital piece of a difficult puzzle. The MVP sought to commercialize a vaccine that would prevent Africa’s devastating epidemics of meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection of the brain and spinal cord. To succeed, the MVP needed a production method with two essential qualities: very effective and very affordable. But in mid-2003, that search hit a dead end. Then, in June 2003, LaForce had a pivotal conversation with a FDA researcher that ultimately led to an unconventional licensing arrangement and a vaccine that could dramatically reduce the meningitis rate in Africa.
Portland State University
Educational Software Brings Nonusers Online One Step at a Time
Unlike everyday users of mobile devices and home computers, many adults don't see the Internet and computers as a positive in their lives — but rather a digital dead-end. Learner Web hopes to change that.
KU Leuven Research & Development
Improving Treatment for a Deadly Virus
For years, patients infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) had to take dozens of pills each day, with terrible side effects, for the rest of their lives. Now they have a better treatment option: a single pill, taken once a day thanks to a compound called tenofovir, the product of collaboration between the Rega Institute for Medical Research (at KU Leuven), the Institute for Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry at Prague's Academy of Sciences and Gilead Sciences.
University of Tennessee Research Foundation
Inventors Aim to Increase Availability of Eye Screening for Diabetes
Pressing public health problems rarely have easy and affordable solutions. In the case of diabetic retinopathy — a complication of diabetes melitus that can lead to blindness — myriad factors, from too many patients and too few health care providers to the cost and accessibility of routine car, keep millions of diabetics from getting an annual eye exam to screen for the disease. Researchers from the University of Tennessee hope to change that.
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Building a Better Earthquake Defense
Juan Carlos de la Llera is no stranger to the sight of toppled bookshelves, broken windows and crumbled buildings. At five years old, he experienced his first earthquake — the first of many. De la Llera lives in Chile, a country that’s endured more than a dozen earthquakes of 7.0 or higher on the Richter scale during the past 20 years. “My whole life was surrounded by earthquakes,” says De la Llera, Ph.D. “But from all my memories of these events, they were nothing like the one in 2010.”
University of Utah
Radio Tomography Sparks Next Wave in Security
The heist film is a Hollywood staple, entertaining moviegoers with ingenious plots to outsmart elaborate alarm systems to pull off the ultimate caper. In real life, criminals are all too often successful at evading laser beams, security cameras, infrared heat sensors and other alarm devices — costing homeowners and businesses billions of dollars in losses each year.Virtually hidden from the human eye and impervious to walls, a new technology developed at the University of Utah (U of U) named radio tomography may finally stymie the efforts of would-be thieves.
North Carolina State University
Improved Diagnostic Test Targets Hard-to-Detect Bacteria
By the time Edward Breitschwerdt was in 9th grade, he knew he wanted to become a veterinarian. After turning that childhood dream into a degree, Breitschwerdt, D.V.M., expected to spend his career taking care of the local animals in Maryland, where he had grown up on a small farm. Instead, his research has led to a diagnostic test that dramatically improves the detection of Bartonella — a bacteria that infects a range of animals. In humans, Bartonella infection has been documented in patients with a startling range of chronic disease.
ClearGlide Eases Vessel Harvesting for Coronary Bypass Surgery
Sixteen years ago, Alan Lumsden, M.D., FACS, was a heart surgeon and professor at Emory University, and he was troubled.
University of South Florida
New Testing Device Identifies Unseen Hazards Around the World
David Fries has dedicated his career to developing instrumentation that helps scientists see the unseen.
University of Minnesota
Smartphone App Steers Drivers Toward Safety
Alec Gorjestani, M.Sc., showed an early interest in transportation innovation — as a teenager, he built a go-cart from a lawnmower engine.
Argonne Natl Lab
Better Batteries, Better Automobiles and a Better Environment
When Argonne National Laboratory’s Michael Thackeray, Ph.D., talks about lithium ion (Li-ion) battery research, he sees the future.
Neurostar: Firing up Neurons to Treat Depression
The introduction of the antidepressant Prozac in the late ‘80s marked a new era in modern psychiatry. But Prozac did not prove to be a wonder drug for everyone.
Florida State University
nflatable Design Could Make Solar Energy More Affordable
In 1973, Ian Winger experienced the freedom of owning a car. But that year marked the beginning of the energy crisis of 1973.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Preserved Flowers Grow Jobs and Market Opportunities
A novel, eco-friendly flower preservation technique creates jobs in South Africa.
University of California, Davis (UC Davis)
Chemical-Free Strategy Keeps Food Pest-Free
scrappy startup uses a radio frequency system to make food safer.
University of Queensland, Australia
Spare the Rod and Save the Child: Positive Parenting Technique Reduces Maltreatment
A former newsanchor teams up with a researcher to launch an innovative public health model for improving parenting techniques.
BloodCenter of Wisconsin
BioArray BeadChip Types Platelets for Better Transfusion Outcomes
Identifying the molecular basis for platelet antigens leads to a platelet typing test that saves lives.
University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine)
Relief from Ringing in the Ears Gives Tinnitus Sufferers ‘Their Lives Back’
A desperate phone call to a cochlear implant expert leads to a device that helps tinnitus patients.
Pacific Northwest Natl Lab
Once a Fossil Fuel Product, Now from a Renewable Resource
A catalytic development makes the process of converting bio-based materials into a common commodity chemical-safe, sustainable and and cost-competitive--and helps reduce greenhouse emissions and petroleum dependency.
University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
Scientist’s Drive Puts the Brakes on Cancer
Researcher's work leads to a drug to treat the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Colorado State University Ventures
Hearth Health: Cooking Up a Safer Way to Prepare Meals
A new cookstove emits up to 80 percent less smoke and harmful gases, uses 60 percent less fuel and reduces cooking times by 40 percent.