Office of the Governor - Greg Abbott

Governor Abbott Announces Ten Governor’s University Research Initiative Grant Awards

Thursday, July 14, 2016  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release
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Governor Greg Abbott today announced that Texas has recruited ten distinguished researchers to Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston as part of the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI), an effort to lure nationally-recognized researchers to Texas institutions of higher education. The GURI program was one of Governor Abbott’s priorities in the most recent legislative session, aimed at bringing the best and brightest researchers in the world to Texas. Through the GURI program, the Lone Star State will welcome transformative researchers who will in turn serve as economic catalysts to the Texas economy for years to come.

"Texas is the home of innovation, and with the addition of these world-class scholars to our university faculties, we will continue to lead the nation in cutting-edge research," said Governor Abbott. "This strategic investment in higher education will further elevate future generations of students and faculty at Texas universities while spearheading new breakthroughs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, all of which are crucial to the long-term success of the Texas economy. I would like to thank GURI Advisory Board Chairman James Huffines and all our advisory board members for their outstanding work. I am proud and deeply honored to welcome these distinguished researchers to the Lone Star State."

The GURI grant awards announced today total $34,292,550 with one-to-one matching grant commitments from each university. Applications to the grant program are accepted on a rolling basis and eligible institutions can apply for matching grants of up to $5 million per distinguished researcher. Grant funds will be used for recruitment costs, including the purchase of research equipment and construction or renovation of facilities necessary to support the distinguished researchers.

The recipients of the grants announced today feature researchers hailing from across the nation and world, each of whom are members of national honorific societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society in the United Kingdom:

Dr. Girish Saran Agarwal will join the faculty of Texas A&M University beginning September 1, 2016. Currently, he is the Noble Foundation Chair and Regents Professor at Oklahoma State University. He is a member of The Royal Society in the United Kingdom. His research will be in theoretical quantum optics, particularly the interaction of laser light with atoms, and in developing applications for this technology. These applications will permit the identification of chemical compounds and will form the basis to detect pathogens and chemicals at a distance. In the spring of 2017, he will begin teaching a graduate course on Spectroscopy and will begin mentoring graduate students immediately upon arrival. Texas A&M University has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $4,612,000.

Dr. Leif Andersson will join the faculty of Texas A&M University beginning September 1, 2016. He is a Foreign Associate in the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Andersson’s research will be in the genetics of domesticated animals. Dr. Andersson will participate in graduate education programs of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University where he will teach graduate courses throughout the year and assist with undergraduate courses in College Station. Texas A&M University has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $1,568,000.

Dr. Joan Frances Brennecke will be a professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and holder of an endowed chair at the University of Texas at Austin starting August 1, 2017. Currently, she is a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. As a member of the UT Austin faculty, she will conduct research and engage in the teaching and training of graduate and undergraduate students. Dr. Brennecke’s research will focus on energy and sustainability, including the design of ionic liquid systems for safer, more reliable and longer-lasting batteries. Dr. Brennecke will work closely with the university’s office of technology commercialization to facilitate technology transfer from her lab to the marketplace thus benefiting the university and the state of Texas. The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $1,800,000.

Dr. Richard B. Miles will establish and lead a Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Optical and Laser Detection Systems for National Security and Safety at Texas A&M University and will join as a full-time faculty member in the Aerospace Engineering and the Mechanical Engineering Departments on February 15, 2017. He is currently a Senior Scholar at Princeton University and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. One such application of his innovative research is the development of state-of-the-art instrumentation for remote detection that will identify hazardous gases and dangerous contaminants such as anthrax or the Ebola virus, hidden explosives such as IEDs, and/or greenhouse gases and pollutants. His teaching of undergraduates and graduate students will begin in the fall of 2017 on optics, spectroscopy and thermodynamics. Texas A&M University has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $5,000,000.

Dr. Thomas J. Overbye will join Texas A&M University as a full-time faculty member on January 31, 2017. He is currently the Fox Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research interests are in the domains of: Smart Grid Cyber Security, Renewable Electric Energy Systems, Power System Visualization, Power System Analysis by Computer Methods, Power System Stability, and Power Systems Operation and Control. In the fall of 2017, he will begin teaching in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on topics related to power distribution and generation. Texas A&M has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $4,500,000.

Dr. George M. Pharr IV will join Texas A&M University as a full-time faculty member on January 1, 2017. He currently serves as the Chancellor’s Professor and McKamey Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research will be in the creation and testing of nanomaterials. Beginning in the fall of 2017, Dr. Pharr will begin teaching in the Material Sciences and Engineering Department at both graduate and undergraduate levels on nanomaterials and properties of materials. Texas A&M University has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $5,000,000.

Dr. Andrea Prosperetti joined the University of Houston on July 1, 2016, as a Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering.  He previously served as the Charles A. Miller, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Prosperetti will also lead the multi-disciplinary Center for Advanced Computing and Data Systems. This center represents efforts in high performance computing as it applies to important applications that will have significant impact on the State of Texas including energy, infrastructure, aerospace, health and national security.  Dr. Prosperetti’s research will be focused on multiphase flows and high performance computing. The University of Houston has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $3,060,500.

Dr. John Suppe will join the University of Houston on September 1, 2016 as a Distinguished Professor of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He was previously a Distinguished Chair and Research Professor at National Taiwan University, and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Suppe will establish and lead the multi-disciplinary Center for Tectonics and Tomography the (CTT) at the University of Houston. This center will yield fundamentally new insights into the interaction of past plate motions and the global circulation of Earth's mantle. Dr. Suppe’s research will be focused on seismic tomography as well as generation of new tomographic models. The University of Houston has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $2,427,700.

Dr. Ganesh Thakur will join the University of Houston on September 1, 2016 as a Distinguished Professor of Petroleum Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering. He is President and Global Advisor at Thakur Services, Inc. and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Thakur will also serve as the Director for Energy Industrial Partnerships at the University of Houston. This center represents efforts in upstream and midstream as it applies to important applications, and will have immense impact on the State of Texas in the field of energy.  Dr. Thakur’s research will be focused on waterflood management as applied to secondary recovery of oil. The University of Houston has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $3,044,350.

Dr. Wei Yang will join the University of Texas at Austin as a professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences and holder of the Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Arnold, Sr. Regents Chair in Molecular Biology beginning August 1, 2016. She is currently a Tenured Senior Investigator and Section Chief at the National Institutes of Health and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. As a member of the faculty, she will conduct research and engage in the teaching and training of graduate and undergraduate students. Dr. Yang’s research will focus on the mechanisms human cells use to detect and repair DNA mutations and lesions while carrying out the essential processes of DNA replication and recombination. Dr. Yang will work closely with the university’s office of technology commercialization to transfer any discoveries of new therapeutic agents to the marketplace, thus benefiting patients, the university, and the state of Texas. The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $3,280,000.

More information on the GURI grant program is available at: http://gov.texas.gov/guri