It's lunchtime on the brickyard plaza at North Carolina State University, and the chatter includes impassioned discussions of research and learning. A chemistry professor and a graduate student debate the meaning of their newest data, while a cluster of entomology and genetics students practice French conversation over sandwiches. Budding industrial engineers discuss information extraction from three-dimensional images.

Based on the conversations, any passerby would conclude that NC State's commitment to innovation in action is genuine. Yet the dialogue only hints at the high-powered research and learning taking place across campus. Since its inception as a land-grant institution in 1887, the university has embraced its commitment to solving real-world problems while taking a national lead in cutting-edge fields such as biotechnology, nanoscale physics, and biomedical engineering. It has brought these new technologies to bear on timeless and emerging problems in areas such as medicine, energy, pest control,...

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