Today is my final day as president of The University of Texas at Austin. Serving in this office for the past nine and a half years has been the highest honor of my career, and I will miss it. Words are not enough to thank you all for the Texas spirit you have shown as, together, we have moved the University forward. And the support and friendship you have shown Kim and me has changed our lives forever.
As Greg Fenves begins his service as president of this great institution tomorrow, I take comfort knowing that UT is in great hands. I am very optimistic about the future.
UT will always be a big part of my life. After some time off, I will resume teaching at the law school. And I expect to see many of you at football and volleyball games, museum exhibits, and dozens of other events in the life of this amazing place.
Thank you for all you have done for The University of Texas.
Photo by Brian Birzer
As you all know, for the first time in many years, our university-wide spring commencement ceremony had to be cancelled on account of dangerous weather. All of our college and school graduation ceremonies took place. And we convened a small ceremony inside the Main Building, where our keynote speaker, Darren Walker, delivered an inspiring address for our graduates to watch online. You can watch or read his speech here.
On Sunday night, the weather cleared enough for us to invite graduates to the Main Mall, where I “conferred” their degrees and we all enjoyed the traditional fireworks show. (You have your degree whether you were there or not.)
I’m always impressed by our graduates’ stories of achievement and persistence. And I’d like to share just three of those many stories with you here:
Josh Aldred is receiving his PhD in civil and environmental engineering from the Cockrell School of Engineering. Josh studied the benefits of using activated carbon air filters to improve health in buildings. By collaborating with UT Austin Environmental Health and Safety on improvements in one campus building, he was able to cut indoor ozone levels by nearly half while simultaneously saving $50,000 a year. This strategy might be used in new campus construction such as the Engineering Education and Research Center and the Dell Medical School.
Josh is also a major in the Air Force and has been deployed in Afghanistan, Qatar, Oman, and Iraq, where he led a work-training and education mission called The Village of Hope, teaching young men who were former militants to read and do basic math. Josh is headed to Korea this summer for a one-year tour and then plans to teach civil engineering at the Air Force Academy. Thank you, Josh, for all you’ve done, and congratulations!
Brianna Connelly earned a degree in computer science from the College of Natural Sciences. Bri led a team of 13 students in the IBM Watson competition to win $100,000 in seed funding. They used the money to develop an app that uses artificial intelligence to help Texas residents find health care, food assistance, and other social services. That class project has now become a company, and Bri, who was the only female in some of her computer science classes, is the CEO.
She was an officer in the Women in Computer Science organization and helped found what is probably the first co-ed computer science fraternity in the country. She also was a member of the prestigious Turing Scholars program. She starts this summer as a product manager at Google. We’re looking forward to watching your success. Congratulations, Bri!
Ten years ago, on the night of August 13th, 12-year-old Esperance Nasezerano of Congo and her family were huddled in a U.N. refugee camp in Burundi when armed soldiers began shooting and setting fire to the tents in which they were sleeping. One hundred sixty-six people died that night in front of her, and Espy herself was shot in the back.
She recovered from her injury, and two years later, her family moved to the United States and settled in Fort Worth. She began learning English at 16, graduated high school, and enrolled in a community college. As a junior, she transferred to UT. Here, she majored in international relations and global studies in the College of Liberal Arts and worked in our International Office.
Espy has seen the worst of humanity, but she lives with optimism. She wants to attend graduate school and then work for the U.N. in human rights advocacy. Espy says, “I am just so thankful to God and America for giving me a second chance to live again and have the opportunity to do things that most of my friends will never have the chance to do.” Esperance, you give us all hope for a brighter future. Congratulations!
Like Josh, Bri, and Espy, each of our graduates has a unique story. But they all share the common experience of being graduates of one of the finest institutions in the world, The University of Texas at Austin. You can find more profiles of our outstanding new alumni here.
I hope all of you were able to be with your loved ones and celebrate graduation in your own special way. Our thoughts and prayers are with those throughout Texas who are recovering from the extraordinary weather of the past week.
As UT Austin’s 132nd Commencement approaches this weekend, I want to send my sincere congratulations to our graduates and their families. Graduating from The University of Texas is a tremendous achievement and a profound milestone in your lives. I’m proud of every one of you.
I’d like to share a few statistics about our graduates this year you might find interesting:
- • Some 9,007 degrees will be awarded this weekend to a total of 8,667 graduates. The majority are women, who outnumber men by more than 200.
• We will award 6,104 bachelor’s degrees, 2,042 master’s degrees, and 861 doctoral degrees.
• Harris (Houston), Travis (Austin), and Dallas counties sent the most students to this year’s graduating class.
• California, Illinois, and New York are the top contributors of out-of-state students.
• China, India, and Korea are the top contributors of foreign students.
• There are eight degree candidates under the age of 20 and 10 over the age of 60.
• Our College of Liberal Arts has the most graduates of any of our 17 colleges and schools.
• The most popular major in the Class of 2015 is Business Administration.
Again, my warmest congratulations to all of our graduates. I hope to see you all at our University-wide Commencement Ceremony on the Main Mall Saturday night at 8 p.m. This year’s keynote speaker will be Darren Walker, an inspirational UT alumnus and president of the Ford Foundation.
What starts here changes the world.
Guy P. Raffa and his contribution to Signature Course Stories
One of the most important developments at the University during my nine years as president has been the formation of Signature Courses. Taught by seasoned faculty and required for all freshmen, Signature Courses are administered by the School of Undergraduate Studies and immerse students in the culture of higher learning as they arrive on our campus.
Now, a new book, written by the teachers of these courses, has painted a vivid picture of how they’re changing lives. Signature Course Stories is a collection of essays that describe how these groundbreaking courses connect the University’s freshmen with its most distinguished faculty members.
Written by outstanding professors from across many disciplines, and with a foreword by me, the essays are organized by the goals of Signature Courses: critical thinking, information literacy, oral communication, writing improvement, interdisciplinary approaches, experiential learning, and contemporary content.
Below is a short excerpt from Ben Carrington’s essay “Postracial America: Race and Culture in Contemporary America,” describing the scene in his classroom after showing a photo of the Marion, Indiana, lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abraham Smith, and playing Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”:
As I turned on the lights my suspicion was confirmed, at least three of the class were crying, a few more trying to hold back tears. The rest were silent. I took a few moments to let the students reflect and process. In truth, I needed the time myself. “Is everyone okay?”
It’s at moments like these that our role as educators seeking to enhance not just knowledge acquisition but the humanistic desire to understand and make sense of the world, with a view to change it, becomes apparent. These moments remind me what we’re about as professors, as teachers, or at least why I came into the profession. A reminder that, despite what some may claim, my students are not “customers,” and I am not providing a service to please and satisfy preexisting wants. The mall and cable TV can do that. A necessary precondition for being a better student, for being a more ﬂuent writer, a more critical thinker, is to care about the subjects we engage. This does not mean losing sight of objectivity or placing politics before robust scholarship, but rather recognizing that passion, emotion, and empathetic recognition with diﬀerent histories, cultures, and peoples can be an important basis for learning. We ultimately understand ourselves and our own histories better as a result. An aﬀective pedagogy helps us to humanize and make real what can sometimes come across to students as a series of worthy but disembodied facts and historical markers.
I’d like to congratulate Dean Brent Iverson of the School of Undergraduate Studies, as well as editor Lori Holleran Steiker, on an outstanding job. Thank you for capturing and sharing this important moment in American higher education. The book is available from the University of Texas Press.
What starts here changes the world.
One of the key institutions in Longhorn life has a new leader. Scott Hanna has been named director of the Longhorn Band and will begin this summer. Scott has been the band’s associate director for the past 16 years and also will be promoted to associate director of bands in the Butler School of Music.
Robert Carnochan, who directed the Longhorn Band for the past 13 years, will become the University of Miami’s director of wind studies and conductor of the Frost Wind Ensemble.
Scott will be just the 12th director of the Longhorn Band. He earned his master’s in music and human learning and doctorate in wind conducting here at UT. He received his undergraduate degrees in music education and instrumental music performance from LSU.
The Longhorn Band, also known as the Showband of the Southwest, was founded in 1900 and now includes more than 380 students from across many majors.
Congratulations, Scott, and Hook ’em Horns!
I’d like to congratulate the newest members of UT’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
- Richard Corsi, Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Mechele Dickerson, School of Law
- John Markert, Department of Physics, College of Natural Sciences
The academy was created in 1995 to recognize tenured faculty members who throughout their careers have maintained significant contributions to education, particularly at the undergraduate level. Academy members receive the title of “Distinguished Teaching Professor” and a $7,500 increase in annual academic salary, effective the following academic year.
Moreover, the academy serves as an advisory group to the executive vice president and provost on teaching excellence and will provide institutional leadership and guidance for the distinctive undergraduate experience available in our research university environment.
I’m proud of professors Corsi, Dickerson, and Markert. They’re the best of the best.
I want to share with you the results of a recently completed study that examined UT Austin’s impact on the economy of the state. The study, conducted by the firm Economic Modeling Specialists International, found that in fiscal year 2013, human capital creation, start-up and spin-off companies, operations spending, and payroll at UT Austin, together with the spending of our students and visitors, generated $8.8 billion in added income to the Texas economy.
This constitutes a 15-to-1 return on investment by the state, and is the equivalent in economic activity of creating 133,000 jobs every year.
Perhaps the most striking number in the report is the long-term economic impact. UT’s enrolled students in 2013 (the year studied) will generate an estimated $23.5 billion for the state’s economy over the course of their careers. And Texas communities will realize $2.8 billion in savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment, and increased health and well being across the state due to benefits associated with UT Austin.
We know from many anecdotes how important the state’s flagship university is to the Texas economy. These numbers corroborate those stories. A summary of the report can be viewed here. The full, 67-page report can be viewed here.
What starts here changes the world.
Certain technologies go from being almost unimaginable to commonplace in what seems like the blink of an eye.
For example, it was a relatively short time between when microwave ovens were introduced and when they became a standard appliance. Similar changes were brought about by the introduction of refrigerators, televisions, cellphones and personal computers.
One of the next technologies that is likely to have similarly large and unforeseen effects is self-driving, or autonomous, cars. When it comes to driverless cars, the question is no longer “if” but “when.”
How will autonomous cars change our lives?
As a computer science professor at The University of Texas at Austin specializing in artificial intelligence, I have been conducting research on autonomous vehicles since 2003. I don’t pretend to have all the answers — nobody knows for sure — but it’s clear that we won’t simply treat the cars as driverless versions of our current cars.
For one thing, people who are not currently independently mobile will be able to “drive.” The elderly and the vision-impaired will have increased independence when it comes to transportation, as will children. I’m sure that more than one parent will relish the thought of the children getting to soccer practice on their own.
But perhaps more importantly there are more far-reaching effects that may emerge, and road project managers and policymakers would be wise to take notice.
My colleagues and I have been actively considering the possible opportunities for reducing traffic congestion, and thus indirectly fuel usage and emissions.
At intersections, driverless cars may be able to coordinate so finely with one another that cars barely need to decelerate when approaching an intersection, and seldom, if ever, need to stop.
The direction of lanes could be changed dynamically on a minute-by-minute timeframe based on how many cars are travelling in each direction on a road. And novel pricing mechanisms may make it possible to incentivize more off-peak travel, and to encourage distribution of trips such that fewer roads get clogged.
Similarly, on highways, reliable vehicle-to-vehicle communication could allow for reduced spacing between vehicles, and speed harmonization.
Advances such as these could significantly increase the capacity of our current roadway infrastructure, some say by as much as 50 percent. Though hard to envision such a change, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and tollway authorities across Texas would be well-advised to consider all of these possible changes when planning new infrastructure in the coming years, such as the proposed Trinity Parkway project.
Of course there are many other benefits and questions as autonomous vehicles become more commonplace.
If cars can drive themselves, will we still need parking garages downtown? Or will unused cars make their way to parking lots in more remote locations? Will the cars even need to park? Car sharing services such as Car2Go may become much more appealing if the car can meet you at your trip’s origin. Perhaps many more people will forego private ownership in favor of car sharing.
If drivers don’t need to pay attention when driving, commuting by car may become more like commuting by train, providing extra time for reading or work. Will this effect encourage more people to live farther out in the suburbs since they won’t mind the long commute?
During the past few years, Texans along with the rest of the nation have gradually begun to realize that self-driving cars are an impending reality. It is no longer just Hollywood that is considering the potential implications, but now legislators, lobbyists and insurance companies.
Although it’s hard to predict the future with driverless cars, I do believe strongly that autonomous cars will be on the market before long; that once they are, they will quickly become commonplace; that they will bring about many changes to our Texas cities, roadways and lifestyles; and that we all must adapt quickly. We will tell our disbelieving children and grandchildren that we remember when cars needed to be driven by people.
Peter Stone is a professor of computer science at The University of Texas at Austin.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Dallas Morning News.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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Share this story on Twitter:April 16, 2015
AUSTIN, Texas — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Andrea Alù, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, the prestigious 2015 Waterman Award, which comes with $1 million of research funding. Alù is the first recipient from a Texas university.
An associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a former recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, Alù is renowned for groundbreaking discoveries and technological innovations in the defense and communications sectors.
The annual award, one of the highest given to scientists and engineers in the United States, recognizes an outstanding young researcher (35 years old or younger) in any field of science or engineering supported by the NSF. In addition to a medal, the awardee receives $1 million over a five-year period for scientific research at the institution of the recipient's choice. Awardees are selected based on originality and innovation of their research and their overall impact on the field.
The 2015 Waterman Award will be presented to Alù at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 5.
“Andrea is unquestionably one of the leading researchers in metamaterials and plasmonics, regardless of age, and he is an excellent teacher,” said Ahmed Tewfik, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “I do not know of other researchers who have introduced as many seminal concepts in engineering, applied physics, electromagnetics and optics as he has at this stage in his career.”
The award will enable Alù to continue his groundbreaking research in cloaking, transparency, metamaterials, plasmonics, optics, photonics, acoustic devices, electromagnetics, nanocircuits and nanoantennas.
“The Waterman Award was created 40 years ago to recognize outstanding young researchers,” said NSF Director France A. Córdova. “Dr. Alù’s research is an example of the type of pioneering spirit the award seeks to identify. His research has already advanced our understanding of artificial materials and their wave interactions and promises to yield further significant results.
Alù joined the Cockrell School’s faculty in 2009 and became the David and Doris Lybarger Endowed Faculty Fellow in Engineering and an associate professor in 2013.
At UT Austin, he has developed trailblazing technologies, including the first freestanding 3-D invisibility cloak capable of camouflaging objects from microwaves and the first nonreciprocal acoustic circulator (or one-way sound device). He is a member of the Cockrell School’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group and the Metamaterials and Plasmonic Research Laboratory.
Alù is a past recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Microwave Theory and Techniques Society’s Outstanding Young Engineer Award (2014), the International Union of Pure Applied Physics Young Scientist Prize in Optics (2013), The Optical Society’s Adolph Lomb Medal (2013), the International Union of Radio Science’s Issac Koga Gold Medal (2011), the NSF CAREER Award (2010), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award (2010) and the Leopold B. Felsen Award for Excellence in Electrodynamics (2008).
Alù earned his Ph.D., master of science and laurea degrees from the University of Roma Tre in Rome, and he conducted his postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania. He has co-authored more than 400 frequently cited contributions to scientific literature and serves as associate editor of several international journals, including IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, Optics Express and Nanophotonics. Alù sits on the editorial boards of Advanced Optical Materials, Scientific Reports and Physical Review B.
McDonald’s was never meant to be a place to stay. Although the company celebrates its 75th birthday on April 15 — the date the first franchise opened — the first genuine McDonald’s restaurant opened in San Bernardino, California, 15 years earlier.
And it had with no indoor seating. A few stools leaned against a steel counter outside an octagonal building. The McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice — Dick and Mac to all who knew them — had a vision of teenagers driving in, eating in their cars, and then driving off into the California sunset.
The clientele had different ideas. They loitered. Twenty carhops brought food to customers’ automobiles. More than 120 cars fit in the lot during the weekends. Customers flirted, lingered and caused long backups of waiting cars down the street.
“Our whole concept was based on speed, lower prices and volume” said Dick McDonald in John Love’s unauthorized history of the company. So in the fall of 1948, they closed their first restaurant, ditched their initial barbecue-heavy concept, trimmed the menu, fired the 20 carhops and slashed the price of burgers from 30 cents to 15 cents.
Business dropped 20 percent. Prospective diners might have been intimidated by the jeers of recently unemployed carhops. But then came the recovery. Instead of car-bound middle class teenagers came families looking for a budget meal. The first sale in the rebranded store was to a 9-year-old girl. She bought a bag of burgers at a self-service window, and then she left. As she was supposed to.
The McDonalds applied themselves to the store’s operation with equal ruthlessness. The arts of short-order cooking had no place in a kitchen reinvented, with custom-built machinery, to behave like a factory. Workers could be paid less. At the time, the U.S. minimum wage was 40 cents — equivalent to $3.90 today.
The swiftness of entry and exit for customers has also been, at least in theory, mirrored in its attitudes toward its workforce. Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” quoted the company’s own estimates: 1 out of every 8 working Americans has clocked-in there.
But even in the 1970s, there were workers who didn’t conform to the idealized version, who huddled under the golden arches, waiting for work shifts to be able to feed their families. McDonald’s busted more than 400 attempts by employees to unionize during those years.
We know this because McDonald’s admitted as much in the famed McLibel trial, the longest-running court case in British legal history. It ran from 1994 to 1996 and involved a mail carrier and gardener sued by the Fortune 500 company over claims that McDonald’s posed a health risk to regular customers, “exploited children” and campaigned against unions — claims the judge found meritorious. (Other claims about environmental destruction were not substantiated in the leaflet handed out by the campaigners, the judge said.)
Today, McDonald’s is facing a variety of threats. With people increasingly concerned about the health effects of regular junk food consumption, the numbers are down. The past year has seen falling sales and the departure of its CEO. Ronald McDonald and happy meals are coming under attack (from parents like me) for making sensible eating choices for children harder.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the way McDonald’s operates is the demand for dignity from its workers, prompting a recent announcement of a wage increase to $9.90 an hour for the 90,000 restaurant workers directly employed by the company.
The 750,000 franchisee employees won’t get the raise, though. Many in the “Fight for 15” campaign are still pointing out how far short of a living wage they’ll earn, even after getting a whole dollar more per hour.
But with higher wages, something else also becomes possible: better food. Cheap food is only necessary because workers are paid so little. Pay more and it becomes possible for everyone to enjoy sustainable, worker-, environment- and family-friendly food. Richer consumers may see to it that McDonald’s doesn’t celebrate its 100th birthday.
And that’s OK. McDonald’s was never meant to be a place to stay.
Rajeev Patel is a research professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin who studies the global food system and alternatives to it.
A version of this op-ed appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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This silicon wafer contains dozens of computer chips, each with billions of transistors. Image courtesy of Advanced Micro Devices.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Moore’s Law, an observation that every couple of years, computer chip manufacturers manage to squeeze twice as many transistors onto a computer chip. Moore’s Law embodies the exponential increase in raw computing power that unleashed a blizzard of tech innovations.
From the Internet to electronic prosthetic legs to smart phones, many wonderful things became possible because, for decades, each time the number of transistors — the tiny on-off switches that perform calculations and temporarily store information — increased, the resulting chip was faster.
But that all changed about a decade ago.
As the chips became more and more dense, the more electric power they used and the more heat they generated. An Intel executive predicted in 2001 that, unless something changed, by 2010 chips would be as hot as nuclear reactors. But long before they reach those temperatures, chips cease to function properly. To work around that problem, chip designers throttled back the voltages driving the chips.In 2001, Patrick Gelsinger, an Intel executive, predicted that unless something changed, computer chips would become hotter than nuclear reactors within a few years. Illustration by Jenna Luecke.
The net result: Even though chips keep getting denser, the parts that do the calculations — the processors — aren’t getting any faster. Chip designers have eked out modest improvements in processing power, but heat remains a central challenge.
Scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin are exploring some clever ways to beat the heat and help make the next great leap in processor speeds. They’re attempting to create low-power transistors, smarter software and chips that can be reconfigured for specific applications.Less is Moore
Transistors get hot because they use electrons, subatomic particles that carry an electric charge, to perform calculations and transfer information. As electrons flow, they bump into atoms and — just like rubbing two hands together — give off heat.Allan MacDonald
“I try to invent new states of matter,” he says, “ones that haven’t been studied before.”
According to theoretical predictions, these states of matter, called exciton condensates, should be possible to cook up. But so far, no one has found the right recipe. MacDonald is a member of the UT Austin-based South West Academy of Nanoelectronics (SWAN), an industry-funded consortium focused on developing new materials for low-power transistors to replace the traditional ones made of silicon. He uses the tools of quantum physics to predict which materials might have the right properties for a better transistor. Other members of the SWAN team try to create these states of matter and see how well their properties match the predictions.Sanjay Banerjee
“At the end of the day, you hope to make an impact,” says Sanjay Banerjee, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of SWAN. “If I could be part of a team that invented the next transistor, that would be extremely gratifying.”
Another strategy they’re trying exploits the fact that electrons don’t just carry an electric charge, they also have a spin. Just as a spinning top can go clockwise or counterclockwise, an electron in a magnetic field can have one of two different spins. So instead of the zeros and ones of computer logic being represented by electron charges, they could be represented by electron spins. Because the electrons wouldn’t have to flow through an electric circuit, they wouldn’t encounter the same frictional forces as they would in traditional transistors and wouldn’t generate as much heat.
This new class of circuits made using electron spins is known as spintronics. Physicists have found materials with these properties, but turning them into functioning devices has proven devilishly hard.Close Enough Keshav Pingali
Another way to keep computer chips cooler, while getting more work done, is through smarter software. Keshav Pingali, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, says that for many applications, computers don’t have to be perfectly precise. For example, rendering an image on a cell phone.
“You could render that image precisely, but maybe you could produce an image that looks just as good to the human eye with half the energy,” says Pingali. “If your eye can’t tell the difference, why bother? It’s just a waste of power and energy.”
Other ideas include streamlining Internet search engines so that they produce three or four pages of highly ranked and useful results, plenty for everyday use, without attempting to generate thousands of increasingly less useful results.
Pingali and graduate student Xin Sui are evaluating a dozen computer programs that do a range of tasks, from machine learning to rendering images, in order to find the places where “close enough” still gives a good result and significantly cuts energy consumption and heat.Shorter Commutes
To hear Derek Chiou tell it, even the simplest instruction performed on a computer — say adding two numbers together — is a big complicated mess of breaking that instruction down into subtasks, figuring out how to time the subtasks so that they finish in the right order, storing and retrieving little chunks of information scattered across many physical locations, and more.Derek Chiou
All this running around is a terrible waste of time and energy. It’s the price we pay for having general-purpose computers, the kind that can run pretty much any kind of software you want.
Chiou, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, says if you were only running one application and could wire together the appropriate functional units in the order in which they are needed, you could cut out a lot of waste. You could design a little widget that implements that application in the most efficient way. You could do things perhaps a thousand times more efficiently than executing the same application on a general-purpose computer. But a specialized chip is expensive to make and it would only run the application it was designed to run.
So Chiou and his colleagues are developing computer systems that are a compromise between these two extremes of completely general-purpose and completely specialized computers.
One way to do that is to implement applications using chips that contain something called reconfigurable logic. You can think of a general-purpose computer chip as a microscopic city with houses, stores, hospitals and fire stations all connected by a series of roads. With a standard computer chip, those roads and buildings are permanent. Thus, if your house and your work are far apart, you are in for a long commute every day.
With reconfigurable logic, you can put different buildings and roads on any piece of land so that cars (or data) flow more efficiently. You could rearrange where your home is relative to your work to minimize your commute.
Chiou, currently on leave from the university, is working at Microsoft using reconfigurable logic to improve the speed and energy efficiency of the company’s data centers.Fast Enough?
You might well ask, “Why should I care if computers keep getting faster? They’re fast enough to type documents, play video games and watch streaming videos.”
“Sure, for these conventional applications, today’s computers are fast enough,” acknowledges Banerjee. “But what people don’t realize is that, as you go up the performance curve, new applications become possible.”
He points to efforts to emulate an entire human brain inside a computer, develop automated image-recognition systems, improve weather forecasts and create new medical diagnostics. He also speaks of the “Internet of Things,” a vision for the future in which many of the everyday objects around us have the ability to sense the environment, communicate with each other and work together for the benefit of society.
Banerjee says these applications — and many more we can’t even begin to dream of — will rely on even more compact and speedy computers.According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles roughly every couple of years. Each one is also proportionally smaller. In this conceptual illustration, each rod-shaped feature forms part of two transistors. Source: Chris Mack. Illustration by Jenna Luecke. Stretched Thin Last February, UT Austin researchers announced the creation of the first transistors made of silicene, an atom-thin form of silicon. Electrons can cruise through silicene without encountering as many obstacles as in thicker blocks of silicon, which could lead to dramatically faster and more energy-efficient computer chips. But challenges remain, according to team leader Deji Akinwande. Silicene is notoriously difficult to work with because of its complexity and instability when exposed to air. Lab to Market In 2012, the university established a center to develop new ways to manufacture high-tech products such as energy-efficient computer chips, implantable medical devices, wearable sensors or flexible computers and batteries. The National Science Foundation awarded the university an $18.5 million grant over five years to create and lead the Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) center. Roger Bonnecaze and S.V. Sreenivasan, professors in the Cockrell School of Engineering, lead the center. The overarching goal is to create high speed, low cost nanomanufacturing systems and take these advances from the lab to the marketplace.
This close-up look at energy research at UT is the first in a series of stories examining our strengths as the energy university. #UTEnergyU
Energy is such a constant presence in our lives, we often take it for granted. Like the clean water that runs from our taps, we just expect energy to be cheap and ever-present, whether it’s the electricity that charges our phones, the natural gas that heats our houses or the oil that makes our cars run.
But the fact is all of this energy has to come from somewhere.
We do it all. Across campus, there is a tremendous depth of expertise and world-class interdisciplinary research in a broad spectrum of energy areas.” — Tom Edgar, director of the UT Energy Institute
A surprising amount flows to us thanks to major accomplishments by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. Over the years, UT scholars invented the batteries that power our cell phones and electric cars. They helped unlock some of the world’s largest oil and gas fields. They led some of the first field tests showing we could safely store greenhouse gases underground. And they pioneered core technology that makes our electrical grids safer and more efficient.
And they’re not slowing down. Because of the university’s outstanding breadth and depth in nearly every energy-related field, UT is poised to help the world find better forms of energy for decades to come.More than Oil and Gas
It’s no surprise that UT researchers are leaders in oil and gas. Since the days of the first West Texas gushers, Longhorn geologists and engineers have been discovering new techniques to detect and produce hydrocarbons. The university was built on oil, thanks to royalties from the petroleum-rich lands it owns in West Texas. And, working in the oil business, many former students amassed fortunes that they have generously donated to the university to fund vital initiatives, projects and scholarships to ensure the research and education can continue.
But you may not realize that today, more than half of the energy research at the university is outside of oil and gas. (Check out examples of research at the bottom of this post.)
“We do it all,” says Tom Edgar, director of the University of Texas Energy Institute. “Across campus, there is a tremendous depth of expertise and world-class interdisciplinary research in a broad spectrum of energy areas.”
Today UT scientists and engineers are leaders in everything from nuclear energy to solar power. In energy storage and nanotechnology, UT researchers are on the verge of major new discoveries. Our environmental researchers are doing globally significant work that makes traditional forms of energy like coal and oil safer, cleaner and more sustainable.
The university also covers an array of other skill areas that advance the future of energy in business, law, architecture and even curriculum development and outreach. Energy is an international field, and UT has especially deep ties to Latin America. UT is also one of the only universities in the world to offer dedicated energy degrees, with an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Energy and Earth Resources, an undergraduate certificate program in energy and several dual degrees.
These broad and deep offerings add up to an institution ready to be “the energy university,” in the words of Jon Olson, chair of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.Collaboration is Key
In all of these efforts, UT’s graduate students play a pivotal role, working on cross-disciplinary teams on projects that often have major societal impact.
“Our students get to work with top researchers, often with government support or on industry problems, in cutting-edge labs and in global field locations,” says Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology, which annually employs about 60 graduate students working on energy and environmental projects. “And they get jobs when they graduate.”
In oil and gas, which is the largest employment sector for energy graduates, UT perennially ranks among the top schools where companies recruit, as Breaking Energy reported in 2014.
Olson adds that UT graduate students focused on particular disciplines benefit immensely from interacting with the broader UT energy community. By attending events like the UT Energy Week — a symposium bringing together alumni, students, faculty and outside experts — students learn the context that makes their work meaningful.
The wider perspective also helps faculty and researchers. With year-round opportunities to learn about developments in other energy fields, they gain “the knowledge to advance their particular research and the perspective to speak on what is achievable for America’s energy future,” notes Olson.
Working on interdisciplinary teams also gives students a glimpse into their professional future.
“Energy is a complex topic,” says Tinker. “Collaboration is not only beneficial, it is essential.”
Read on for examples of energy-related research happening now at UT.
Want to buy a gallon of solar energy paint at your local hardware store? Researchers working with Brian Korgel in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering are using nanotechnology to develop sprayable inks that could decrease the cost of photovoltaic solar cells — and might lead one day to commercially available paint that generates electricity from the sun.
A graduate student simulates working on an offshore rig in Eric van Oort’s state-of-the-art automated drilling lab in the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering. With only a few academic drilling simulators in the world, the hands-on experience better prepares students for successful careers in the oil and gas industry. Photo courtesy of Cockrell School of Engineering.
John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium-ion battery that powers the world’s laptops and many electric cars, received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2013. Goodenough hopes one of his greatest accomplishments is on the horizon — development of a “super-battery” that is efficient enough to make electric cars as practical as gas-powered vehicles. Photo courtesy of Ryan K Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation.
UT Austin has the world’s largest academic research group focused on capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions in deep, geologic reservoirs, anchored in the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center and the Cockrell School’s Luminant CO2 capture group. The concept of carbon capture and storage is especially crucial for coal, which generates more emissions per unit of energy than any other major resource. Illustration by Nicole Fuller for the Jackson School of Geosciences.
Partnering with Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany, students from many disciplines across campus are finalists in this year’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international contest to design energy efficient, green housing. UT’s NexusHaus is envisioned as a prototype for Austin’s Green Alley Flat Initiative, which proposes sustainable, green, affordable housing in the city’s underused alleyways. Image courtesy of UT/TUM Solar Decathlon team 2015.
Algae is one of the most promising sources of biofuels, and UT Austin has the largest, most diverse collection of algae in the world with 3,000 specimens housed at its Center for Electromechanics. Technical Director Rhykka Connelly (left) helps maintain the collection and works with startups seeking to commercialize university research to find new energy sources from algae. Center director Robert Hebner (right) and colleagues are working on identifying the most efficient ways to use algae to generate biofuels.
Hundreds of students make poster presentations to faculty, alumni and industry representatives during the annual Energy Week, a joint, campus-wide conference on energy put on by the Energy Institute and students across campus.
Methane hydrate, a possible new energy source of major significance, is found in vast quantities in the world’s oceans, where flammable methane is trapped within a crystal structure of ice. Peter Flemings at UT’s Institute for Geophysics is leading a $58 million effort, principally funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to understand how we can safely mine and work with the resource. Watch a video about Flemings’ work on methane hydrate. Photo courtesy of the Japanese government.
Researchers at the Bureau of Economic Geology use core description, subsurface log analysis and 3-D seismic imagery to visualize mature subsurface oil and gas reservoirs, like this formation in the giant Fullerton Field in West Texas. The work helps operators extend the life of old oil fields through a process known as enhanced oil recovery, which often involves pumping carbon dioxide into partially depleted reservoirs. Image from Anatomy of a Giant Carbonate Reservoir: Fullerton Clear Fork (Lower Permian) Field, Permian Basin, Texas, Bureau of Economic Geology Report of Investigations 276.
UT’s standing in energy is based on broad and deep expertise. Over the coming year, we’ll be looking at the university’s diverse strengths to show why The University of Texas at Austin is a great place to do energy research — and why we are truly the energy university.
In research of significance to the world’s expanding coastal populations, scientists have found that geology and infrastructure play key roles in determining whether aquifers that provide drinking water are inundated with seawater during a typhoon or hurricane and how long the contamination lasts.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, killing more than 6,000 people and destroying nearly $3 billion worth of property. While the country is still recovering from the storm, researchers with The University of Texas at Austin have found that an aquifer on the island of Samar inundated with salt water by the storm surge could remain undrinkable for up to 10 years. But a second aquifer on the island that was also inundated has recovered much more quickly.
The research was published online April 14 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It focused on aquifers used by the village of San Antonio on the island of Samar.
The difference in recovery time is due to the two aquifer’s surrounding geology, said Bayani Cardenas, an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences, who led the research team. The shallower of the two aquifers is made up of beach sand about 10-15 feet deep, which allowed the salt water soaked up from the surge to percolate to the water table and move through the aquifer for years to come. In contrast, the other aquifer is largely shielded from seepage because of its depth and possibly an overlying layer of volcanic rock.
“There are two types of aquifers, contaminated in two different ways,” Cardenas said.
The findings are an important insight into what makes aquifers vulnerable to storm surge contamination and contamination’s lasting effects, a topic that’s expected to become especially important to coastal populations as storms become stronger and more frequent because of climate change, Cardenas said.
“Typically, when people think of flooding or sea level rise, they look at how it’s going to drown out villages and roads, but all these effects propagate underground where the aquifers are,” Cardenas said.
The UT Austin team also included geosciences professor Philip Bennett and graduate students Peter Zamora, Kevin Befus, Matt Kaufman and Aaron Jones. The team collaborated with Raymond Rodolfo, Hillel Cabria and Mark Lapus from a Filipino environmental consulting company, a local aid group, and leaders and residents from the village.
Sponsored in part by the Jackson School’s rapid response program, a fund that supports research in areas recently affected by natural disasters, the researchers arrived in San Antonio two months after the storm struck. The team took water samples from dozens of village wells that tapped into the aquifers.
The researchers found the wells contained a median seawater concentration of 4.5 percent, with some containing as much as 17 percent seawater. In comparison, U.S. environmental standards set the concentration for drinking water below 1.3 percent.
When the team returned six months later, thanks to support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, researchers found the salinity of the deeper aquifer was within drinkable levels, while wells to the shallower aquifer remained too salty to drink. Using a computer model and villager testimony, researchers determined that water reached the aquifers in different ways.
For the deeper aquifer, the contamination most likely came from salt water entering through wells flooded by the storm surge. However, the fact that the contamination came all at once enabled it to be mostly swept out of the area en masse by freshwater naturally flowing through the aquifer and out to sea. The majority of the village’s wells tap into the deeper aquifer, where water salinity now is largely within drinkable levels. However, bacterial contamination, which the storm surge may have contributed to, remains an issue.
For the shallower aquifer, the model showed contamination is occurring in gradual doses, as the saltwater seeps through the sand to the water table.
“It slowly percolates,” Cardenas said. “So that’s the one that will take longer to recover.”
The saltwater may also reach the deeper aquifer through percolation, but it will be at more dilute concentrations.
These findings show that coastal aquifers — and the people who depend on them — could be at risk of contamination in future storms.
“Since growing coastal populations will continue to rely on groundwater for their needs, strategies for reducing vulnerability to intense storm surge-caused groundwater contamination and mitigating its effects are needed,” the researchers stated in the study. “Below-ground aquifer devastation from storm surge is unseen but need not be unforeseen.”
The research can be read here.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) selected 35 students from The University of Texas at Austin for its prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships Program, giving UT Austin the 12th highest number of NSF graduate fellows in the country in 2015.
The NSF graduate fellowship program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics who are pursuing research-based master's degrees and doctorates at accredited institutions in the United States. Since the program’s inception in 1952, NSF has provided fellowships to individuals selected early in their graduate careers based on their academic achievements and potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.
The UT Austin fellowship recipients — 27 graduate students and eight undergraduates in the Cockrell School of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts, College of Natural Sciences and Jackson School of Geosciences — will receive three years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period for graduate study that leads to a research-based master’s or doctor’s degree in science or engineering. In addition to a $34,000 annual stipend, NSF will provide an annual $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to each recipient’s graduate school.
The 2015 class of graduate fellows comes from 456 baccalaureate institutions across the country. The NSF fellowship recipients from UT Austin and their schools are as follows:
- Luisa Aebersold, College of Liberal Arts
- Alicia Allen, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Douglas Edward Barber, Jackson School of Geosciences
- Rachel Eleanor Bernard, Jackson School of Geosciences
- Cheasequah Jolene Blevins, College of Natural Sciences
- Michelle Elizabeth Dose, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Edward James Evans, College of Natural Sciences
- Sarah George, Jackson School of Geosciences
- Adam Girard Gordon, College of Natural Sciences
- Devon Paul Humphreys, College of Natural Sciences
- Wiley Jennings, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Laura Estelle Lindzey, Jackson School of Geosciences
- Hannah Elizabeth Marti, College of Natural Sciences
- Kimberly Alison McCormack, Jackson School of Geosciences
- David Roger Miller, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Sharon Mina Noh, College of Liberal Arts
- Megan Christine O'Connell, College of Natural Sciences
- Todd Olson, College of Natural Sciences
- Matthew Brian Pomrenze, College of Natural Sciences
- Rebecca Buonavita Posa, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Bruno Rego, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Nicolas Z. Reyes, College of Natural Sciences
- Ann Kathryn Rockwell, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Sarah Seraj, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Jesse David Thomason, College of Natural Sciences
- James Michael Wagner, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Jonathan Taylor Webb, Cockrell School of Engineering
Undergraduate Students (Seniors)
- Matthew Carlson, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Chelsea Alexis Clark, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Eric Thomas Dawson, College of Natural Sciences
- Nikhil Garg, Cockrell School of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts
- Sai Prashanth Gourisankar, Cockrell School of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts
- Christina Allison Kent, College of Natural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts
- Connor Jeffrey McClellan, Cockrell School of Engineering
- Noor Momin, Cockrell School of Engineering
AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will recognize six esteemed leaders from law, business and public service with Presidential Citations this week, marking his final tribute as president to some of the university’s biggest supporters.
“The six individuals we honor this year have given of themselves to The University of Texas like very few others,” Powers said. “They are among the true elite of UT supporters, and it is my privilege to honor them with this award.”
Award winners are Linda L. Addison, a prominent lawyer and corporate adviser; Ricardo H. Hinojosa, chief judge of the Southern District of Texas; James C. Langdon Jr., international legal expert; Michael W. Perrin, attorney and civic leader; Martha E. Smiley, attorney and former member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents; Robert L. “Bobby” Stillwell, immediate past UT System regent and former director of Mesa Petroleum.
Powers will present the Presidential Citations along with other major university awards in a ceremony Thursday, April 16, as one of his final acts as president before leaving in June after serving a nine-year tenure.
The university created the citations in 1979 to recognize the extraordinary contributions of individuals who personify the university's commitment to transforming lives. The citations salute those whose service exemplifies the values shared by the university community and who have helped the institution to achieve its mission.
About the 2015 Presidential Citation recipients:
- Addison, working from Houston and New York, is managing partner of the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm’s U.S. practice and chair of the U.S. Management Committee. Addison advises CEOs, corporate boards and general counsel on risk assessment, litigation avoidance and resolution, corporate governance and ethics. She has been named among the “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” and the “50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America.” A UT Distinguished Alumna, Addison earned degrees in Plan II and law. She was the first female managing editor of the Texas Law Review, is a trustee of the UT Law School Foundation, and is co-founder and president of the Center for Women in Law.
- Chief Judge Hinojosa in McAllen was appointed in 1983 to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and has served since 2009 as the chief judge of the district. A native of Rio Grande City, he earned a bachelor’s degree in government at UT Austin and a law degree from Harvard University. A past president of the Texas Exes, Hinojosa also received the group’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. He served on the university’s presidential search committees in 1997 and 2005 and, more recently, served on the search committees for athletics director and head football coach.
- Langdon splits his time between Washington, Texas and Moscow as a senior executive partner at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, with a bachelor of business administration and law degree from UT Austin. He has spent most of his career working on energy law around the world and has held federal positions with organizations such as the Department of Energy, the Department of the Treasury, the Cost of Living Council, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board. He has served on the Governing Committee of UT Austin’s Strauss Center for International Security and Law.
- Houston’s Perrin earned a bachelor of arts in mathematics and a law degree from UT Austin, where he was a Longhorn football letterman during the late 1960s. He is owner of Michael W. Perrin PLLC and is a member of numerous professional organizations including the American College of Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the International Society of Barristers and the American Board of Trial Advocates. Perrin was appointed by the UT System Board of Regents to the Council for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and also led fundraising campaigns at the law school for the Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts and "The Texas Campaign: An Investment in Students."
- In Austin, Smiley is a counsel to the law firm Enoch Kever and has extensive experience in public utility law, having earned her bachelor’s from Baylor University and her law degree from UT Austin. Founder of Grande Communications, Smiley also has a long history of community service that includes membership on the UT Board of Regents and on the boards of SafePlace Foundation, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Area Research Organization. At UT Austin, she is a founding member of the Center for Women in Law, serves on the Advisory Board of the Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies and was a recent president of the Longhorn Foundation.
- Bobby Stillwell is a retired partner of the Houston law firm Baker Botts and an immediate past UT System regent who chaired four committees and served on the board of the University of Texas Investment Management Company during his tenure. With an undergraduate and law degree from UT Austin, he joined with T. Boone Pickens as an original director of Mesa Petroleum in 1964, continuing his directorship until 2001. As a trustee of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, Stillwell helped direct $700 million in educational, scientific and health care gifts to nonprofit organizations.
For many, the recent trial of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has relit the inevitable question: “How could they?”
One answer lies within something called familial ties, and they’re more powerful and prevalent than most people realize.
Although the trial and sentencing may bring some closure, we should also not forget the overwhelmingly spontaneous humanity displayed by so many Americans in the immediate aftermath of the bombings on April 15, 2013.
From the first responders in Boston to patriots across the country, the generosity of Americans following the tragedy was nothing short of extraordinary. What motivates such selfless giving?
As psychology researchers, we conducted a study recently that found consistent support for one key predictor of giving — whether one considered Americans to be “family.” That is, some people extend the boundaries of psychological family beyond biological kin to larger groups such as America.
Our studies showed that Americans who perceived victims of the attack as if they were their kin were most likely to provide financial and social support as well as endorse making extreme sacrifices for the victims.
Of course, not everyone is inclined to see other Americans as kin. Those who feel that who they are as individuals (i.e., the qualities that make you, you) are “fused with” America are much more inclined to think of other Americans as family.
Identity fusion turns out to be a powerful predictor of pro-group behavior. Across dozens of studies, we have found that people who are strongly fused to a group, whether their nation, religion or military unit, report an especially strong willingness to go beyond the call of duty and make personal sacrifices that benefit their group.
In some instances, one’s bond to a certain group may be stronger than even one’s familial ties. For instance, a survey of almost 200 rebel combatants during the Libyan revolution in 2011 found that nearly half of those who fought on the front lines felt a stronger connection to their brothers in arms than to their own families.
Yet if identity fusion and a deep sense of kinship underlie self-sacrifice for a positive outcome in some cases (e.g., helping victims, fighting against oppressive regimes), these same forces may also lead to horrific consequences in other cases. After all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were brothers, and Dzhokhar’s lawyer claimed that he was merely doing the bidding of his older brother.
Perhaps even more troubling are stories of close friends and families moving into ISIS-controlled areas based on false promises of a “family-friendly” environment.
At the end of the day, identity fusion and a sense of familial ties are, of themselves, neither panacea nor toxin. Rather, they are potent psychological motivators that can promote good or evil.
In the past, persuasion attempts have often turned on offering people material, economic or practical incentives to behave in the desired fashion. We believe that the emotional force associated with family ties often trumps all of these incentives.
And in fact, many people seem to have some awareness of this. In the wake of the Boston bombings, the nation watched President Barack Obama empathize with the specific families suffering from the attacks. Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” reflected on the kin-like bonds of New Yorkers and Bostonians, and other spokespersons for the victims spontaneously turned to the language of family ties to rally support for the victims.
Although we abhor the actions of terrorists, the instinct to automatically question their humanity (or the humanity of their religious faith) may be off the mark.
Although there are surely psychopaths in the world who perpetrate heinous crimes, we should not overlook the possibility that at least some of these individuals may be prioritizing the same familial ties that we ourselves value so dearly.
Perhaps rather than psychologically distancing ourselves from the inhumanity of others, we should lean in more closely to find out what in their all-too-human lives brought about such tragedy. In doing so, we might prevent the unthinkable in the future.
William B. Swann Jr. is a professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Michael D. Buhrmester is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford.
To view more op-eds from Texas Perspectives, click here.
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AUSTIN, Texas — You may not suspect that a senior majoring in anthropology and radio-television-film is shaping the future of Texas engineering, but then, you haven’t met Coleman Tharpe, a marketing and communication student employee with the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Webber Energy Group at The University of Texas at Austin.
Today, Tharpe received the UT Austin President’s Student Employee of the Year Award at an annual luncheon hosted by Human Resources and the Division of Student Affairs. But the big surprise came when Desiree Noah, president of the National Student Employment Association, appeared at the podium to present Tharpe with an additional award — National Student Employee of the Year. To advance to the national competition, Coleman also won a regional competition.
This singular honor is the result of Tharpe’s groundbreaking work on a massive online course (MOOC) for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“While I did the (course) content, he really managed the strategic communications plan on how to get students to enroll and keep them engaged,” said Dr. Michael Webber, deputy director of UT Austin’s Energy Institute and MOOC instructor.
The MOOC, Energy 101, is now one of the most successful to date. According to nomination documents, Tharpe planned and managed a social media presence that allowed over 44,000 students from six continents to connect with Webber. This online connectivity influenced and allowed an unprecedented 4,700 students to earn their certificates. Tharpe then worked with Webber to repackage the Energy 101 content into an innovative “course app,” a first for UT Austin.
National Student Employee of the Year is just one in a series of accolades Tharpe has received. This time last year he was a finalist for UT Austin's President’s Student Employee of the Year Award, and in December 2014 he was awarded the President’s Leadership Award from the Texas Exes.
“He’s achieving at a level you might expect from someone who has decades more experience,” said Webber. “He has a much broader vision about the way the world works...a much longer term strategic view of how to get things done.”
Webber said he believes there is no question that Tharpe will be an entrepreneur, a business leader, a thought leader.
“He’s going to make his mark on society,” Webber said.
Background: Tharpe was selected for the national award from a field of 2,539 nominees from four regions across the country.
The National Student Employment Association (NSEA) is a nonprofit association of professionals involved with programs for students who work while attending college. The organization supports and promotes student employment through research, professional development and the exchange of information.
Last night, we lit the Tower orange for Texas Ex Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, finishing 18-under-par. Jordan helped lead the Longhorns to the 2012 National Championship. At 21, he became the youngest to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 1997.
It was Jordan’s third win on the PGA Tour and fifth win worldwide. He is now ranked No. 2 in the world. Jordan’s win was the first by a former Texas player in a major championship since Justin Leonard won the British Open in 1997. He is the second Texas Ex to win the Masters, joining Ben Crenshaw, who won in 1984 and 1995. And Jordan is now the fifth former Texas player to win a major championship, joining Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Justin Leonard, and Mark Brooks.
Congratulations, Jordan, and Hook ’em Horns!
Photo UT Athletics
EVENT: “Blast off ATX: Launching Austin’s Space Economy,” featuring Gary Cadenhead, director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Master of Science in Technology Commercialization program (MSTC), and panelists, hosted by the McCombs School of Business MSTC program.
- Paul Baffes, Founder, Greater Austin Space Economy Task Force
- C. Barton Bollfrass, Founder, Fathom Academy
- Brendan O’Connor, Vice President of Technical Services and Chief Software Architect, Emergent Space Technologies
- Michele Skelding, Senior Vice President, Global Technology and Innovation, Austin Chamber of Commerce
- Rick N. Tumlinson, Co-Founder, Deep Space Industries
WHEN: 5:30–7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 15.
WHERE: AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. Map and directions can be found here.
WHO MAY ATTEND: Open to the public. RSVP required, click here.
The emphasis will be tailored to students interested in combining space exploration and technology commercialization. The first students accepted into the MSTC program under the space entrepreneurship emphasis will begin April 27.
Students will work on a variety of space technologies including satellites, launch providers, space components, in-space services, software and robotics – from small startups to organizations such as Space X.
The addition to the program stems from Opportunity Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s five-county economic development initiative. The Austin Chamber of Commerce announced at their annual meeting in January that they were expanding the initiative to include Space Technology & Exploration as one of their key industries for future economic development.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Gary Cadenhead and panelists are available to take questions from the media at 7 p.m. in Room 203 of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.
Visual Arts Center Participates in Exhibition Exploring Experiential Art Organized by The Contemporary Austin
AUSTIN, Texas — The Contemporary Austin will present “Strange Pilgrims” — the museum’s first large-scale, thematic group exhibition — Sept. 27-Jan. 24, with special venue support and artist-in-residence partnership from the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin (VAC).
Featuring works by 14 artists, this ambitious exhibition activates the entirety of The Contemporary Austin’s two sites — the Jones Center in downtown Austin and the 14-acre grounds, Driscoll Villa and Gatehouse Gallery at the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria — and the VAC. With this expansive reach through the city, the exhibition advances the museum’s commitment to serve as a “museum without walls.” Hours will vary among venues. Updated hours for each will be posted on The Contemporary Austin website at thecontemporaryaustin.org.
Taking its title from a collection of 12 short stories of the same name by the author Gabriel García Márquez, the exhibition threads together a set of ideas and projects linked by the metaphor of a pilgrimage through time and space. Organized by The Contemporary Austin’s Senior Curator Heather Pesanti, “Strange Pilgrims” explores experiential art through a presentation of works that are immersive, participatory, collaborative and kinetic in nature. The exhibition leads visitors through overlapping and intersecting aspects of art that can be walked in, around and through, and is organized around three thematic sections: Environment & Place, Performance & Process and Technology & Information. The project is primarily contemporary in focus, with each of the three thematic sections featuring a combination of newly commissioned works, site-specific refabrications and existing works by a range of artists, including:
- Charles Atlas (American, New York)
- Trisha Baga (American, born 1985 in Venice, Florida; lives in New York City)
- Millie Chen (Canadian, born 1962 in Taipei, Taiwan; lives in Buffalo, New York, and Ridgeway, Ontario)
- Phil Collins (British, born 1970 in Runcorn, England; lives in Berlin and Cologne, Germany)
- Andy Coolquitt (American, born 1964 in Mesquite, Texas; lives in Austin)
- Ayşe Erkmen (Turkish, born 1949 in Istanbul; lives in Istanbul and Berlin)
- Nancy Holt (American, born 1938 in Worcester, Massachusetts; died 2014 in New York City)
- Roger Hiorns (British, born 1975 in Birmingham, England; lives in London)
- Lakes Were Rivers (founded 2008 in Austin)
- Angelbert Metoyer (American, born 1977 in Houston; lives in Houston and Rotterdam, Netherlands)
- Bruce Nauman (American, born 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana; lives near Galisteo, New Mexico)
- Yoko Ono (Japanese, born 1933 in Tokyo)
- Paul Sharits (American, born 1943 in Denver, Colorado; died 1993 in Buffalo, New York)
- Sofía Táboas (Mexican, born 1968 in Mexico City; lives in Mexico City).
As a historical component to the exhibition, key works by pioneers in the field — Nancy Holt, Bruce Nauman, Yoko Ono and Paul Sharits — serve as anchors and points of resonance for each section. And in a unique partnership on the occasion of this exhibition, Trisha Baga will be the first artist-in-residence hosted jointly by The Contemporary Austin and the VAC.
“Strange Pilgrims” is organized by The Contemporary Austin. Special venue support and the artist-in-residence partnership have been provided through the VAC. The exhibition is accompanied by a 250-page, full-color, hardbound catalog with a curatorial essay by Pesanti; a scholarly essay by UT Austin art history Associate Professor Ann Reynolds; a conversation between philosopher Alva Noë and writer and critic Lawrence Weschler; and artists’ contributions by Trisha Baga and Jessie Stead, Roger Hiorns and Lakes Were Rivers. The catalog also includes 500-word texts, short biographies and full-color plates for each artist in the exhibition, providing additional creative and critical context for the exhibition. The exhibition catalog for “Strange Pilgrims” will be published in September and will be distributed by University of Texas Press.