So it turns out Barack Obama and Holden Thorp share a love of science fairs.
In his State of the Union address earlier this year, Obama pushed for a smarter citizenry, saying he yearned for a day when science fair winners are held in the same regard as Super Bowl winners.
That rang true to Thorp, the UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor who snared a few science fair titles in his day.
The Fayetteville native was a science whiz kid growing up. Speaking to the UNC-CH Board of Trustees Thursday, he said Obama's words were inspirational.
"I spent the rest of the night looking through my closet for my old middle school science fair trophies," he joked.
Thorp also said he was heartened by Obama's hope that federal funding for academic research not be cut. UNC-CH is a research goliath, reeling in more than $800 million in grant-funded research last year.
And with projects paid through federal stimulus money now reaching their end, university researchers say it's critical that traditional sources of that grant money remain intact or even grow.
"I'm upbeat that research is going to be okay," Thorp said. "Obviously, the president is committed to it."
Research funding is high on the university's annual policy agenda, and Thorp said Thursday it is a key indicator of the university's level of national prominence.
It's a story the university tells often. With new leadership in the General Assembly, it'll get told even more often in weeks and months to come.
"With new people in the legislature, we think it's important to help them understand the research activity and impact on the economy," he said, adding that total grant-funded research last year totaled $803 million.
"That's money they don't have to provide," he said.