By Louie Horvath
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Back during the Jazz Age in New York City, you took the A Train to get to Harlem. But to get most everywhere in Carrboro, you take the J Bus. In the spirit of Charles Kuralt’s dictum that everyone has a story, Commons reporter Louie Horvath jumped on the J Bus and selected a rider to interview at random.
As a newly minted graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s doctoral program, Emily Buss thought she would be participating in a brief two-year fellowship at UNC – Chapel Hill. Twelve years later, she is still here.
Now an associate professor at the UNC department of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery, Buss said she views Carrboro and Chapel Hill as the same place she originally fell in love with — including its transit system.
Part of the appeal was the transit system, Buss said.
“I like being able to take the bus,” Buss said. “I don’t like having to drive every day. It seems like a waste of time, gas and money. I like living in a town where you can get from one side of the town to the other in a reasonable amount of time.”
“You can get your hands around a town this size,” Buss said.
She has done just that, meanwhile giving the entire Chapel Hill-Carrboro area a warm embrace.
“Hopefully, I can stay here forever,” Buss said.
An avid gardener, she pointed out that the Carrboro climate is more conducive to a garden than both the Philadelphia area where she went to college and her Richardson, Texas, childhood home.
Buss said that during the summer she can create her own salad made out of only garden-grown food with lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.
“You can’t grow that in Philadelphia,” Buss said.
Even though she does not interact much with students as an associate professor at UNC-CH, she seems more than happy to spend most days in the lab searching for new discoveries in the ear, nose and throat field.
“I spend most of my time in the lab,” Buss said. “I’ll give occasional lectures, but most of the time when I work with students, they are coming to do projects in our lab.”
She said on that day, she spent most of her time trying to figure out how Cochlear implants are able to give deaf people the ability to hear, even though the implants are sending only rudimentary signals to the brain.
“It has been around for a while, but there is very little that is understood about how they work,” Buss said. “Some of the studies that I’m looking at have to do with which conditions they work best under.”
People associated with the university comprise the majority of riders on the J Bus since teachers, students and workers alike all take the J Bus to get back and forth to campus.
It is a distinction that Buss seems to relish and her excitement about going into the office every day is evident in the way she talks about her job.
“Every day it’s something different,” Buss said. “The bread and butter of research is what you don’t know the answer to. It’s always a challenge, and I like discovering new things.”
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