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The fun of being a researcher

My Take | September 11, 2023 | By: Janet Preus

Scientists are often hesitant to speculate (publicly, at least) about future innovations that could impact our industry when the ability to accomplish that is little more than a fantasy. They are more than willing, however, to share information on known-but-very-new technologies or materials that could offer a better solution to a difficult existing problem. 

In the case of our most recent feature, it’s warfighter performance and protection that’s driving innovations. These new capabilities also have obvious benefits for many consumers, as well. We have the Dept. of Defense and its ongoing collaborations with research institutions and special programs to thank for some pretty exciting new products, either already launched or that are well into development.  

Some of these innovations are discussed in our feature, “Collaborations benefit warfighters—and consumers,” by Dr. Fiona Baxter and Michael Mullins, who lead NC State University’s Industry Expansion Solutions, a program that’s part of a wide-ranging consortium of entities offering partnership opportunities to entrepreneurs wishing to pursue new innovations and solutions.

This program, which administers the North Carolina Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (NC DMCSP), brings people and businesses together who have something in particular they want to accomplish, but they know it can’t be done on their own. The number of entities—businesses, research facilities, government agencies and others—is impressive, to say the least. 

Bringing together people with varied areas of expertise must be just plain fun. I can imagine conversations about a future development that none of them (on their own) thought was possible. 

Until it was. 

Wouldn’t it be great to be in the room when that breakthrough moment of possibility happens? For a scientist it must be a real adrenaline rush, much like a writer who finally gets the ending of a play right. (I know that feeling, at least!) You may think that’s not much of an accomplishment, compared to perfecting conductive fibers, for example. I’d like to suggest that perfecting anything anyone makes—a gluten-free bread with the consistency of one made with wheat (to date, impossible), an argument before a jury that saves an innocent defendant from prison, or a beautiful ending to a book, a story or a play—all these are enormously satisfying accomplishments, but these can often be accomplished by just one person.

There are other, more complex problems that are beyond the capabilities of any one researcher, entrepreneur, designer or manufacturer. These sorts of success stories are what you’ll find in our new feature. I hope you’ll look beyond these and find out more about how this program—and others around the country—can make your idea make the news. Please let me know when it does. I love a great scoop as much as a great ending for a play. And I definitely want break-through news on gluten-free bread.

Janet Preus is editor of Textile Technology Source. She can be reached at

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