A&M launches Institute for Advanced Study
Feb 03, 2013 (Menafn - The Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Texas A&M has launched a program that university officials hope will make College Station a destination for esteemed scholars worldwide.
The Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study hosted a black-tie gala this month that honored the inaugural class of six National Academy- and Nobel-prize-caliber researchers from around the world.
The inductees included a Nobel Laureate and members of the National Academies of Engineering and of Science, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and one Fellow of the Royal Society.
Five of the six will temporarily relocate to College Station and one scholar will visit campus twice for lectures.
A&M hopes its program will emulate the Institute of Advance Study near Princeton, whose more famous members include Albert Einstein, Kurt Godel and Alan Turing. The gala formally set in motion what A&M officials hope will grow into a similarly renowned program.
The scholars are given a university stipend, the freedom to work on research of their choosing, the red carpet rolled out for them in College Station and the prestige of being named a TIAS scholar.
In return, A&M faculty get to research, learn and boost their own careers through partnerships with academia's elite, graduate students get to work with industry leaders and undergraduates can attend lectures from the scholars.
And maybe, just maybe, the scholars take a liking to A&M and consider relocating to College Station.
The scholars who attended the kickoff event were presented with an academic Heisman of sorts for the TIAS recognition -- a cast-metal replica of Rodin's The Thinker. The recipients were all smiles, had similar statements of being humbled by the recognition, and all touched on the uniqueness of A&M's TIAS program.
"It's a little hard to say what the significance is because it's the first class," said Jay C. Dunlap, one of the inaugural A&M scholars. "If you won the first Nobel Prize in 19-whatever-it-was, people would say 'Huh, that's interesting,' but now it's a really big deal. To be chosen for anything like this, especially to be chosen where people not only recognize but provide financial support for your actions, it's a very big deal. If TIAS develops the way it appears to be developing, then in the future this will really be a mark of real excellence on peoples' lists of credentials."
The university has allocated 2 million per year for five years to the institute, which pays for two-thirds of the scholars' stipends and the institute's administrative costs. The other third of the stipend is picked up by the college that the scholar will be working with.
University faculty across all 10 colleges nominate prospective scholars for the program. A university board selects a grouping of finalists, and will take on, depending on who accepts, between six and 10 scholars.
The institute will host the scholars for three-month to one-year periods beginning at different times within the 2012 academic year. Two of the scholars, Dunlap, Nathan Smith professor and chair of the Department of Genetics at Dartmouth Medical School and Alan Needleman, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of North Texas, are already on campus.
Prospective scholars are not given prior notice of their nomination.
"We let them know that they've won a lottery they didn't know they were entered in," joked John Junkins, the founding director of TIAS.
University administrators are already reviewing nominations for TIAS' sophomore class and plan to have selections by the summer.
The gala realized an effort that has been in the works for more than a decade. Junkins, along with a group of distinguished A&M professors, have worked to create the program since 2000. TIAS was approved by the Board of Regents in 2010 and received a 5 million endowment through the Academic Scholars Enhancement program from Chancellor John Sharp.
The result is A&M faculty and students are working with elite of academia on combating fungal infections in plants and animals and designing failure-resistant material systems.
Dunlap is working with A&M researchers to better understand internal body clocks and fungal infections. The bulk of his work at A&M is focused on studying the fungi Neurospora alongside A&M faculty members Deborah Bell-Pedersen and Matthew Sachs.
Dunlap has worked with Neurospora since 1979 and has authored and co-authored more than 150 research papers.
"If you get a heart transplant for instance ... or a kidney transplant, your chance of dying from a fungal infection is astronomically higher," Dunlap said.
The potential benefits from the research are reducing fatality rates in animals and plants such as corn, wheat or rice.
"Neurospora is not involved with any of those, but organisms very closely related to Neurospora are killers," Dunlap said. "We're studying Neurospora because it's the best understood example and it's much easier to find out things applicable to pathogens by studying models rather than the pathogens themselves."
The Dartmouth professor moved from New Hampshire to College Station in November, and will alternate between living in Aggieland and traveling back to the Northeast through 2013.
So far, Dunlap has found the area to his liking.
The South is exceptionally warmer, Dunlap said, and Aggies have a propensity to say "Howdy." He said College Station had a much more small-town and friendly atmosphere than what he initially anticipated.
"You get the sense that A&M, unlike many places in the country, they do have a vision for getting better -- a shared vision," Dunlap said. "There's a lot of great work going on at A&M. It's a nationally recognized center for research in many areas. In my sub-field of fungal biology, A&M has an oversized reputation that goes back for many years. These efforts will certainly help enhance that."
Needleman hasn't had as much time in town. He moved in January with his wife, Wanda, and their Peekapoo, Butu. The climate shift isn't too different from Denton, where Needleman relocated in 2009 to be closer to his daughter and her family after decades at MIT and Brown University. He will be here for six months.
Needleman will primarily work with A&M assistant professor Amine Benzerga in aerospace engineering.
"The most interesting thing for me in general is learning new things," Needleman said. "It's an opportunity to interact with different people in a different environment to stimulate a different way of thinking."
The UNT professor of materials science and engineering will work with A&M faculty on creating stronger materials, such as metals, ceramics, polymers or dynamic materials. The applications of the work, Needleman said, could be creating materials to withstand lighter and higher-temperature turbine blades in jet engines or aluminum alloys for automobiles that could decrease weight and increase fuel economy.
Needleman said he is honored to be part of the inaugural TIAS class.
"It's an opportunity to participate in something that could bring intellectual excitement to area," Needleman said. "I view this, as not being from Texas, as something that's not just important for Texas A&M, but it's important for the state of Texas, for highlighting the importance of education and research for the future of the state."
Below are the bios of the inagural class of TIAS faculty fellows, courtesy of Texas A&M University. Jay C. Dunlap Jay C. Dunlap holds the Nathan Smith Chair in the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. He is professor of genetics and biochemistry and chairman of the Department of Genetics, which he founded in 1999. Dunlap has authored and co-authored more than 150 research papers, as well as a widely used textbook on biological clocks, Chronobiology: Biological Timekeeping. In addition to receiving a 1998 National Institutes of Health Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award, his research has been recognized with the Honma International Prize for Biological Rhythms Research (1991), the Genetics Society of America's Robert L. Metzenberg Award (2005), and the George W. Beadle Medal (2009). He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2010) along with the American Academy of Microbiology (2010). Dunlap works with Matthew Sachs, professor of biology; Deborah Bell-Pedersen, professor of biology; and Paul Hardin, distinguished professor of biology, in the College of Science. Peter S. Liss Peter S. Liss has been on the faculty of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England for more than 40 years and is a fellow of the Royal Society. Liss was the first recipient of the Challenger Society Medal, has been awarded the Plymouth Marine Sciences Medal, and the John Jeyes Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and is guest professor of the Ocean University of Qingdao, China. Liss has recently been elected a member of Academia Europaea (The Academy of Europe). Liss will collaborate with Piers Chapman, department head and professor of oceanography, and other faculty-researchers in the College of Geosciences. He will join TIAS in the spring of 2013. Alan Needleman Alan Needleman is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is the recipient of several top honors in his field. Following a more than 40 year career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brown University, he recently joined the University of North Texas. Needleman was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1977, and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been awarded the Timoshenko Medal--widely regarded as the highest international award in the field of applied mechanics--from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Prager Medal by the Society of Engineering Science, the Drucker Medal by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) as a Highly Cited Author in both the fields of engineering and materials science. Needleman also holds honorary doctorates from the Technical University of Denmark and Ecole Normale Superior de Cachan (France). Needleman works with Amine Benzerga, assistant professor of aerospace engineering; Ray Arroyave, associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Haiyan Wang, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, in the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M. Aleda V. Roth Aleda V. Roth is the Burlington Industries Distinguished Professor at Clemson University. With over 200 publications (92 in refereed journals), Roth's work ranks in the top one percent of production and operations management scholars in the U.S. and seventh worldwide in service management research. Over her career, she has received over 2.75 million in external research funding. Roth has received over 70 research and teaching awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Production and Operations Management Society's College of Service Operations in 2009. Roth will collaborate with Mays Business School's Greg Heim and Michael Ketzenberg, associate professors of information and operations management and will explore relationships with Texas A&M's scholarly programs in agriculture and life sciences. She will also collaborate with Rich Metters, Tenneco professor and department head of information and operations management, and other faculty and students in the Mays Business School when she joins TIAS in the summer of 2013. Vernon L. Smith (visiting scholar) Vernon L. Smith holds joint appointments with the Argyros School of Business and Economics and the School of Law and helps operate the new Economic Science Institute at Chapman University. Smith was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in economic sciences for his groundbreaking work in experimental economics and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Smith is a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association, an Andersen Consulting Professor of the Year, and the 1995 Adam Smith Award recipient conferred by the Association for Private Enterprise Education. He received the California Institute of Technology's distinguished alumni award in 1996. He has served as a consultant on the privatization of electric power in Australia and New Zealand and participated in numerous private and public discussions of energy deregulation in the United States. In 1997, he served as a Blue Ribbon Panel Member on the National Electric Reliability Council. Smith will visit Texas A&M on two occasions and offer lectures on economics. These lectures will be relevant to the current international economic challenges. Katepalli R. Sreenivasan Katepalli R. Sreenivasan is senior vice provost for science/technology for the Global Network University, and provost for the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU). He is also university professor, Department of Physics at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU. His honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Otto Laporte Memorial Award of American Physical Society, the TWAS Medal Lecture in Engineering Science, the Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Centennial Professorship of the Indian Institute of Science, the Sir C.V. Raman Visiting Professorship of the Indian Academy of Sciences, the International Prize and Gold Medal in memory of Professors Modesto Panetti and Carlo Ferrari, the Academia delle Scienze di Torino, Italy, the National Order of Scientific Merit by the Brazilian Government and the Academy of Sciences, the UNESCO Medal for Promoting International Scientific Cooperation and World Peace from the World Heritage Centre, Florence, Italy, the President Dr. Zakir Husain Memorial Award from the Duty Society and the Indian Society of Applied and Industrial Mathematics, an honorary member, Academia Torre e Tasso, Duino-Aurisina, Trieste, Italy, the Melvin Jones Fellow of the Lions Club (for humanitarian service), the Dwight Nicholson Medal of the American Physical Society for human outreach, and the 2009 Nusselt-Reynolds Prize from the Assembly of World Conference on Experimental Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, and Thermodynamics. Sreenivasan will collaborate with Diego Donzis, assistant professor of aerospace engineering; Devesh Ranjan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Adonios Karpetis, associate professor of aerospace engineering, in the Dwight Look College Engineering as well as several faculty members from the College of Science.
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