Articles tagged as: innovation

December 2, 2014

Innovation: An Aggie Way Of Life

Innovation has long been a Texas A&M strength–institutionally and on an individual basis—and now more than ever before.

a student looks through a microscope

That bright prospect is underscored by the vast array of experiments and studies being conducted as part of the broad-based research program being conducted by the university and its associated agencies, including Texas AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.  Combined, their investments in research total more than $820 million annually, ranking among the leaders nationally and tops in Texas.

“The Chancellor’s Research Initiative was created to stimulate and encourage innovation across multiple disciplines,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System.  “Aggie leadership on creative solutions to a wide variety of challenges has literally made the world a better place. Research and innovation will always be a major part of the Texas A&M mission.”

Institutionally, Texas A&M and its related agencies—through the work over the years of thousands of faculty, staff and, in some instances, students—have been instrumental in producing a host of developments that have helped improve the quality of life– and have saved countless lives.

They include numerous advances led by agricultural scientists in crops and livestock production. Perhaps the best example from a layman’s perspective was the development by what is now Texas A&M AgriLife Research of the “10-15” onion, which, because of its more advantageous growing period and marketability, has had a major impact on the South Texas economy. In the life-saving category, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute engineers’ concept to use bundled 55-gallon oil drums as crash bearers at major concrete dividing points on freeways represented a major safety milestone, along with the break-away highway signs they developed for use along the sides of interstate and other major highways.

Former Students–Trailblazers

Individually, scores of Texas A&M graduates could be cited for their trailblazing work in a variety of fields and under various circumstances, underscoring their creative and critical-thinking abilities and commitment to lifelong learning—and innovative application of what they’ve learned through real-world experience.

The late George Mitchell, a 1940 graduate, is a prime example. He was, for decades, a legend in oil and gas exploration and, in the twilight of his career, introduced transformational technology in the recovery of shale gas and perfected fracking techniques that hold high promise for making the United States energy self-sufficient. On still another front, he was a visionary leader in urban development, attested by his building from scratch The Woodlands, the model suburb community north of Houston.

Then there’s Greg Hall, a 1982 Texas A&M graduate, who developed and implemented the faster and more efficient drilling operation to rescue 32 Chilean coal miners in the accident that attracted worldwide attention in 2010. Government officials had estimated it would take six months to rescue the miners. Using Hall’s new drilling techniques and operating under his direction, the rescue effort was accomplished in 69 days.

Numerous other examples of highly innovative and creative work by former students abound, with many of them recorded in accounts regarding recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award that are posted at

Innovative Help On Campus

Today the university stands even more ready to nurture innovation in a variety of ways.

The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship in Mays Business School, for example, provides encouragement, education and assistance to entrepreneurially-minded students, faculty, alumni and Texas businesses through an array of programs designed for various individuals and groups, including disabled veterans.

Also, there’s Startup Aggieland, a student-run business accelerator for students that is affiliated with the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. Now in its second year of operation, Startup Aggieland students have already come forth with concepts and ideas that are judged to have real potential for marketplace success.

One of the faculty advisors for Startup Aggieland is Professor of Architecture Rodney Hill. He teaches a class on creativity—a class for which an over-abundance of students seek to take each year. Also it’s a class for which students must sign in advance a non-disclosure agreement so as to protect classmates who conceive ideas that could be transformed into marketable products or processes.

The Dwight Look College of Engineering sponsors a new innovative series of programs titled “Aggies Invent.” It involves 48-hour programs to promote innovation and build an entrepreneurial mindset among students at Texas A&M. It’s held once a semester in the Engineering Innovation Center and each session focuses on a different theme. The inaugural Aggies Invent program focused on healthcare technologies and the most recent one focused on helping first responders. To learn more about Aggies Invent, go to:

There’s even an office to help Texas A&M inventors protect their ideas through patents and copyrights, as well as providing licensing assistance in helping them link up with entities that could manufacture their products or market their ideas. That would be the Texas A&M System Technology Commercialization (TCC). It provides the link between the laboratories where innovative new technologies are being developed and industry partners that will bring them to fruition as a product. The TTC protects these new innovations developed by A&M System researchers through patents and copyrights and seeks to transfer the intellectual property to industry by royalty-bearing license agreements for commercial products that result in economic development and public benefit. It interacts with hundreds of companies each year as it seeks to find commercial partners to commercialize A&M System innovations. As a result, more than 700 license agreements have been executed since the TTC was established in 1992.

Capitalizing On Aggie Research

Examples abound of spinoff companies based on research conducted at Texas A&M. One of the older and more established ones, RBC Technologies, was recently featured in an article in the Bryan/College Station Eagle.  The material sciences and engineering firm, which opened in College Station in 1989, initially focused on making better batteries for such devices as hearing aids, now specializes in air-activated chemical heat devices that have several potential civilian and military applications. These include warming of thermoformable splints that become flexible when heated for both battlefield and civilian field injuries and for warming prepared food or cosmetics or pre-moistened towelettes for both civilian and military applications. The firm has maintained close ties with the university, employing Aggies and recently offering its first student internship.

The university, through the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, keeps track of Aggie-owned and operated companies—some of which were established on the basis of Texas A&M research—and recognizes the fastest-growing with the “Aggie 100” competition each year, honoring the Aggie owners and operators each year at a big campus banquet.

Innovation Overview

Innovations and related endeavors emanating from Aggieland total in the hundreds, so any attempt to list them all would be unwieldy at best. However, here is a sampling of recently highlighted research-related projects from around the university:

  • When it comes to state spending and success rates, cost savings, and overall bang-for-your-buck bottom lines, it’s hard to beat the TABS buoy system that relays vital information all along the Texas gulf coast. With support from the Texas General Land Office, Texas A&M researchers have developed the only buoy system of its kind in the United States and one of the few of its kind in the world.  The Texas Automated Buoy System (TABS) supplies critical data allowing modelers to accurately predict the movement of oil spills and provides other current data that helps protect the 367-mile Texas coastline. Now in its 20th year of operation, the buoy system operated by researchers at the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) in the College of Geosciences has proved to be extremely valuable in the fight against oil spill damage. “The buoys have more than paid for themselves many times over,” John Walpert, senior research associate, explains.

  • Anti-terrorism efforts could receive a major boost from technology developed at Texas A&M University that enables the identification of explosives, biological agents or hazardous chemicals from distances of a half mile and farther. The technology, which was developed by a team of researchers that includes Professor Vladislav Yakovlev of the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, makes use of lasers to traverse long distances and identify dangerous materials present within powders that commonly act as carriers for explosive nitrates and lethal biological agents such as anthrax and ricin. In addition, the laser-guided system has agricultural applications, particularly as a tool for precision farming, and forensic capabilities.
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, ranked No. 1 in agricultural sciences expenditures by the National Science Foundation, continued its century-old success in developing new varieties of food, fiber and flora with the release of many new varieties. Two new wheat varieties were developed: TAM 114 which has excellent milling and baking qualities for bread making, and TAM 204 which is a bounteous feed for cattle because its seed head doesn’t have the awns, or stiff “hair,” that makes other wheat hard to swallow. A new white clover, Neches, was developed to produce higher yields and much earlier flowering and seed production than any heretofore variety adapted to East Texas and the southeastern U.S. AgriLife Research scientists also played a role in the release of the first peanut genome sequences to the public, an effort that should have major effects on Texas peanut production for years to come and help with releasing new varieties to improve grower profitability and consumer health.  For landscapes, five winter-hardy hibiscus lines should hit the market in 2015. The research aimed at hibiscus varieties with very unusual flower color, shape and leaf color previously unavailable on the market.
  • Researchers in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB) at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences are working to understand parasite infection and discover possible preventions and treatments. Dr. Karen Snowden, a professor, and her graduate student, Dr. Jessica Rodriguez, are studying Heterobilharzia americana, a waterborne flatworm trematode parasite, commonly thought to affect wildlife that can also infect both dogs and horses.
  • With the K-12 learning landscape constantly changing, many teachers are searching for innovative ways to keep students engaged–and keeping their attention is only part of the equation in designing effective lessons. To address these concerns and better prepare pre-service math teachers, an interdisciplinary team of professors in the College of Education and Human Development initiated the Knowledge for Algebra Teaching for Equity (KATE) Project in 2010 with funding from the National Science Foundation. The KATE research team includes Gerald Kulm, Trina Davis, Donald Allen, Kathryn McKenzie and Chance Lewis. The project enriches STEM teacher education by using emergent technology to provide early teaching experiences in a simulated classroom environment. The project’s goal is to help pre-service, middle school mathematics teachers design, implement and critically evaluate lessons that address topics in algebra and equity.
  • Finding innovative ways to satisfy today’s consumers is at the heart of what they do at The Center For Retailing Studies (CRS) in Mays Business School. This year, CRS partnered with GameStop and IBM in founding the GameStop Technology Institute (GTI), a consortium of leading technology corporations and academic institutions focused on discovering and delivering business innovation and technology solutions to better address the needs of today’s empowered consumer. The CRS brings to the table its in-depth retail research, consulting projects and classroom case studies, providing the GTI with a level of retail expertise rarely seen from academia.
  • Researchers in the Chemical Engineering Department have identified a new way for the optimal isolation of propylene from propane, producing only propylene. The process, called counter diffusion, involves individual applications of metal ions and organic ligands to the film, instead of using a mixture to coat it. With high metal ion concentration inside the film, ligands remain highly concentrated outside the film, while counter diffusing in various directions. Chemical engineering Associate Professor Hae-Kwon Jeong said: “This is the first report where we demonstrate that a very high selectivity and a very high flux of these gas molecules is possible.”
  • If an interdisciplinary team of Texas A&M faculty has its way, video game-based learning will become an integral part of education, enhancing critical thinking skills and learning outcomes for students at all levels. The Learning Interactive Visualizations Experience Lab, a new group led by André Thomas, a new faculty member in the Department of Visualization, is comprised of faculty and student designers, coders, and educational specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering departments who, through research and a rigorous scientific process, are collaborating with the video game industry to create and champion a new, exciting genre of innovative, interactive educational software.
  • Many futurists envision a world where computing isn’t limited to desktops and mobile devices but rather a ubiquitous function of everyday items — appliances, cars, coffee mugs, clothing, sprinkler systems — all networked into an “Internet of everything.” Prototypes of the software-based electronic devices that will define this emerging world are being built and tested in the College of Architecture’s Embodied Interaction Laboratory. Established with a $326,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the new lab is headed by Francis Quek, professor of visualization.
  • Professor of Economics Li Gan of the College of Liberal Arts initiated and currently serves as the director of the China Household Finance Survey (CHFS), providing the first substantial step in understanding China’s economy at the household level. This information can play a vital role in both the creation of Chinese public policy and further research on the world’s second-largest economy. “People of academia, industry and public policy want to know how Chinese households behave financially, and this understanding can only be gained through a household level survey,” Gan said. Founded by The Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, the Research Center for China Household Finance biennially conducts the CHFS, which gathers micro-level data about Chinese household financial information such as business assets, income, insurance, and expenditure. Gan notes that detailed household level research is typical in the United States and collectively provides the information needed to explore scholarly, industrial and public questions about American households.
  • Bush School Professor Valerie Hudson plays a critical role in an innovative project designed to ensure the safety and security of women globally. The WomanStats Project ( is the largest and most comprehensive database on the global status of women. Including issues such as violence against women, access to education, employment and healthcare, and freedom to participate in political institutions, the database helps researchers and policy-makers understand the link between the lives of women and the security of nation-states.
  • A new test for tuberculosis (TB) could dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis for one of the world’s deadliest diseases, enabling health care providers to report results to patients within minutes, according to a study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. TB REaD™ improves the speed and accuracy of a TB diagnosis, allowing health providers to deliver results in 10 minutes and begin treatment in the same patient session. Jeffrey Cirillo, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in collaboration with GBDbio, a Texas A&M spinoff company, and investigators at Stanford University, have identified a new chemical compound to spot the bacteria that cause TB with a level of sensitivity that currently takes months to produce.
  • Texas A&M University School of Law has been chosen to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. The program is part of the law school’s Center for Law and Intellectual Property (CLIP) and will give law school students a unique opportunity to practice as student attorneys before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the nation’s hub of innovation. Students provide legal counsel to individuals and small businesses regarding their patent and trademark needs, and engage personally with patent and trademark examiners regarding legal issues. Texas A&M Law School was one of five schools selected for both the patent program and the trademark program, based on its solid intellectual property curriculum, pro bono services to the public and community network and outreach.
  • Incidental capture in commercial and artisanal fisheries represents a serious threat to sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly Northwest Atlantic loggerheads. Turtle excluder devices, known as TEDs, reduce sea turtle deaths in shrimp trawls — but only when made and operated properly.  Texas Sea Grant, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), has launched a pilot program to help shrimpers correctly install and operate TEDs and to develop a process to certify those that do. This vessel certification will help consumers choose “turtle-safe” wild-caught Gulf shrimp at their local supermarkets.
  • Internal bleeding is a leading cause of death on the battlefield, but a new, injectable material developed by team of researchers from Texas A&M, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could buy wounded soldiers the time they need to survive by preventing blood loss from serious internal injuries. The potentially life-saving treatment comes in the form of a biodegradable gelatin substance that has been embedded with nano-sized silicate discs that aid in coagulation. Once injected, the material locks into place at the site of the injury and rapidly decreases the time it takes for blood to clot – in some instances by 77 percent, says Akhilesh Gaharwar, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M and member of the research team.
  • An obscure swatch of human DNA once thought to be nothing more than biological trash may actually offer a treasure trove of insight into complex genetic-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes, thanks to a novel sequencing technique developed by biologists in the College of Science.  The game-changing discovery was part of a study led by doctoral candidate John C. Aldrich and Dr. Keith A. Maggert, an associate professor in the Department of Biology, to measure variation in heterochromatin. This mysterious, tightly packed section of the vast, non-coding section of the human genome, widely dismissed by geneticists as “junk,” previously was thought by scientists to have no discernable function at all.  In the course of his otherwise routine analysis of DNA in fruit flies, Aldrich was able to monitor dynamics of the heterochromatic sequence by modifying a technique called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR), a process used to amplify specific DNA sequences from a relatively small amount of starting material. He then added a fluorescent dye, allowing him to monitor the fruit-fly DNA changes and to observe any variations.
  • An international collaboration with strong Aggie ties has figured out how to make a longer cotton fiber – information that  biologist Alan Pepper, an associate professor in the College of Science, believes could potentially have a multi-billion-dollar impact on the global cotton industry and help cotton farmers fend off increasing competition from synthetic fibers. The research, funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of International Research Programs, is published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature Communications. “This technology allows improvement of fiber quality in upland cotton, which is widely grown everywhere,” said Pepper, senior author of the paper that was led by a former Texas A&M graduate student now in Uzbekistan.
  • Globally more than one-quarter of all deaths and disease can be attributed to the environment.  A research team led by Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, along with partners from across Texas A&M and the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, is intent on altering that staggering statistic. Together, they have created an unprecedented, cross-institutional initiative known as the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR). Recently named by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the newest National Center of Excellence in Environmental Health Science, the center will serve as the cornerstone for integrated environmental health research, translation of research advances into practice and community outreach and engagement aimed at improving human health.
  • Researchers at Texas A&M University at Galveston have found a use for the hundreds of tons of stinky seaweed that have washed up on Texas and Louisiana beaches. They have devised a way to bale the stuff like common hay and have even found a way to possibly make it edible. Tom Linton and Robert Webster, researchers who have been studying the seaweed problem for years, have adapted a farm compactor to bale the seaweed, technically called sargassum, that floats atop the Gulf of Mexico waters in huge clumps that can be miles long. It can then be packed into blocks similar to how hay is bundled. Once baled, the sargassum can be mixed with sand and, combined with existing beach vegetation, help stop beach erosion that has plagued the area for decades, the researchers say. In addition, there is yet another twist to the seaweed problem: a way has been devised to take out iodine that is found in much of the sargassum and thereby possibly make it edible and, if so, perhaps opening up some additional opportunities for its use.

  • In a move that could have huge implications for national security, researchers have created a very sensitive and tiny detector that is capable of detecting radiation from various sources at room temperature. The detector is eight-to-nine orders of magnitude – 100 million to as high as 1 billion times faster than the existing technology, and a Texas A&M University at Galveston professor, Luke Nyakiti, is a key player in the discovery.
  • A research project led by a Texas A&M University at Qatar petroleum engineering faculty member could lead to safer, more environmentally friendly wells for the oil and gas industry. Dr. Mahmood Amani, associate professor in the Petroleum Engineering Program, says that a new testing procedure he and his colleagues developed could help the petroleum industry ensure the safety of their wells and to make sure the wells don’t leak chemicals into groundwater.
  • A research team that includes physicists from Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) is taking the “fiction” out of “science fiction”. Laser physicist Dr. Wieslaw Krolikowski, a professor in the Science Program, and his research team in Qatar and at Australian National University (ANU) have moved small glass spheres with a laser beam much like a tractor beam sci-fi fans have become accustomed to seeing on movie and television screens.
August 29, 2014

UT, Texas A&M, Rice Form NSF Hub to Move Ideas to Marketplace

The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and Texas A&M University have received a three-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to become a regional innovation hub that translates academic research into useful technologies with commercial applications.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program has designated three Texas tier-one research universities as the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node, charged with empowering teams of university scientists and industry experts to develop life-changing products. NSF supports all fields of fundamental science and engineering, as well as research into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The I-Corps program encourages scientists and engineers to consider how their federally funded, fundamental research projects may become commercial ventures.

“The I-Corps program is no doubt one of the nation’s signature programs for promoting entrepreneurship and startup creation, and we are, of course, honored by the designation,” said Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at UT Austin, which is the lead partner in the node. “Having an I-Corps Node established in Texas represents a unique opportunity for researchers and institutions across the state and region to leverage existing research efforts into new business initiatives that will benefit society at large.”

The node offers potential partnerships with 33 institutions in the southwest region representing more than $600 million of NSF funding in fields such as bioscience, K-12 education, materials energy research, geosciences, engineering, psychology, oil and gas, water filtration and entrepreneurism.

Dick Lester

Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Mays Business School

“NSF looks for broader impacts, so involving schools in our system and region is a way to broaden and advance the I-Corps initiative,” said Richard Lester, executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. “One of our far-reaching goals is to teach this process to other universities in the region.”

To participate, three-person teams composed of an NSF-funded researcher, a business mentor and a graduate student (known as the entrepreneurial lead) apply to the I-Corps Team program. If accepted, the team is entitled to a six-month, $50,000 grant from the NSF focused on exploring the commercialization of fundamental research ideas. The team will also attend official NSF I-Corps training at one of the National I-Corps Nodes.

Nodes, such as the one being created with the three Texas universities, then facilitate an innovation-enhancing training program for the teams and offer support during the process of moving valuable ideas beyond the lab.

“Universities are the birthplace of new ideas and epicenter of life-changing research,” said Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

“This new NSF I-Corps initiative is a paradigm shift that will facilitate a cultural change in universities and research centers designed to take researchers’ creativity and innovation to the commercial level. It will be a driver for higher education and university research to become much more entrepreneurial.”

Training begins with a three-day introductory workshop at an I-Corps Node and continues for about six weeks with weekly virtual team presentations and updates with National Node faculty members. Training ends with an in-person, two-day session to evaluate lessons learned and next steps. UT Austin will host the region’s first national cohort in October. The NSF I-Corps curriculum is derived from Stanford University’s Lean LaunchPad course that teaches students effective startup methods and technology commercialization.


Texas A&M offers students a bevy of programs and opportunities to grow their entrepreneurial spirit, including Startup Aggieland, an on-campus business accelerator.

Other regional I-Corps Nodes across the country are located in the Bay Area/Silicon Valley, the D.C./Maryland/Virginia region, southern California, New York City, Georgia and Michigan. The Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node will be the first node in the southwest/midcontinent region of the country.

The application for the node was a multiuniversity effort involving each of the three Texas schools. Key personnel at the universities include: Rice University’s Brad Burke, managing director for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and George McLendon, Howard H. Hughes Provost and professor of chemistry and biochemistry and cell biology; Texas A&M University’s Richard Lester, clinical associate professor and executive director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and Valerie Taylor, senior associate dean for academic affairs and the Royce E. Wisenbaker Professor; UT Austin’s Robert Peterson, associate vice president for research, and Juan Sanchez, vice president for research. The NSF grant for the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node is No. 1444045 and can be viewed here.

Adding to Campus Initiatives

The NSF I-Corps program will build innovation programs already advancing breakthroughs at the three Texas institutions.

The University of Texas at Austin IC2 Institute fosters economic development locally and internationally through collaborations among the university, government and private sectors with programs such as the Austin Technology Incubator and the Global Commercialization Group. The Texas Advanced Computing Center’s high-performance computing tools accelerate research, and the Office of Industry Engagement works closely with the Office of Technology Commercialization to ensure fast and successful transfers of university discoveries to the marketplace.

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is Rice University’s globally recognized initiative devoted to the support of technology commercialization, entrepreneurial education and the launch of technology companies. Programs include the Rice Business Plan Competition for global student startups that awarded nearly $3 million in prizes in 2014; OwlSpark, a student startup accelerator; and three flagship technology venture capital forums in the areas of energy and clean technology, life science and information technology.

The CNVE, part of Mays’ Department of Management, is the hub of entrepreneurship across Texas A&M University. Last year, the center reached about 3,500 students. Startup Aggieland is a business incubator providing space for all Texas A&M students to apply classroom knowledge and explore entrepreneurship with assistance from faculty members, administrators, peers and mentors. The CNVE also hosts such efforts as the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, the MBA Venture Challenge competition for graduate students, the Start-Up 101 workshop series, and the campus-wide Ideas Challenge.



Media contact: Richard Lester, Mays Business School at Texas A&M University; 979.862.7091,

February 24, 2014

School of Law Summit Focuses On Intersection Of Law and Entrepreneurship

Texas A&M University School of Law will explore the role of higher education in nurturing future innovators and entrepreneurs, and how law firms can support this endeavor, on Friday (Feb. 28) at the “CLIP Innovation Summit: Shaping the Future of Law & Entrepreneurship.”

The CLIP (Center for Law and Intellectual Property) summit, in partnership with Startup Aggieland, will feature speakers from across the nation who will lead discussions about creative approaches to cultivating entrepreneurship in the university setting through an “education evolution” involving experiential learning and programs for entrepreneurs.

The keynote speaker will be John Schiller, chairman and CEO of Energy XXI, an oil and gas company based in Houston. Schiller graduated from Texas A&M’s flagship campus in College Station in 1981 with a degree in petroleum engineering and was inducted into the Texas A&M University Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 2008. He founded Energy XXI in 2005 and his career in the oil and gas industry spans more than 30 years.

Summit topics will include: encouraging entrepreneurship from idea to launch; universities as rocket fuel for entrepreneurs; programs for early-stage concepts and innovations; law firm models to support entrepreneurship; incubator programs for entrepreneurs at all stages; and working remotely with entrepreneurs and lawyers.

The summit will begin at 8 a.m. at the law school in Fort Worth. For more information or to register, click here.

About Texas A&M University School of Law: At Texas A&M University School of Law, academic excellence, leadership and service are the keys to student success. Fully accredited by the American Bar Association, the law school is committed to providing students with the strong theoretical foundation and practical lawyering skills necessary to traverse the dynamic legal landscape of the 21st century. The law school pursues its mission of excellence through outstanding teaching and scholarship, innovative academic and experiential learning programs, and a commitment to public service and community outreach. Ideally situated in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S., and home to one of the nation’s highest concentrations of corporate headquarters, students and graduates have incredible opportunities for professional advancement and mentorship.


Media contact: Regan Gilstrap, assistant director of External Affairs; 817-212-3932

December 17, 2013

Past US-Russia Partnership Can Serve As Model In Eliminating Syria’s WMDs, Says Texas A&M Prof

The partnership between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is promising, says a Texas A&M University national security professor. History, however, shows that strong international leadership, interagency collaboration and Congressional oversight are key for the plans to work.

After the Cold War, thousands of “loose nukes” remained in the former Soviet Union. Joint efforts between the U.S. and Russia to eliminate them were very successful, says Joseph Cerami, a senior lecturer at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, named for Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) who sponsored the 1992 initiative during the George H.W. Bush Administration, were designed to secure and dismantle WMDs in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Joseph Cerami

Joseph Cerami

“The Nunn-Lugar programs were, and continue to be, effective because they were cooperative U.S.-Russian efforts, with strong U.S. executive, bureaucratic and Congressional leadership,” says Cerami, who specializes in policymaking and leadership studies. “In particular, if you want an effective U.S. policy over the long run, you have to have Congress involved. Also William Perry, Clinton’s secretary of defense, was very effective and fully engaged; he took numerous trips to the former Soviet Union to oversee implementing the policies.”

In Cerami’s book “Leadership and Policy Innovation – From Clinton to Bush: Countering the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” he studied the policy effectiveness of the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and their Secretaries of Defense, in providing innovative policies for countering nuclear WMD proliferation. In addition to analyzing Nunn-Lugar, Cerami examined two other counterproliferation programs: the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework and U.S.-U.N efforts in Iraq after the First Persian Gulf War.

Cerami argues that where Nunn-Lugar succeeded, efforts in Iraq and North Korea mostly failed. “Under Nunn-Lugar, the role of engaged congressional leadership and oversight is more pronounced than in either the Agreed Framework or the Iraq case,” he writes in the book.

Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea pledged to dismantle their nuclear reactor that was suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program. In exchange, the U.S., South Korea, Japan and others were to build two “light water,” proliferation-resistant, nuclear power reactors.

“The negotiations were a success,” Cerami says, “and the diplomats involved worked effectively in producing the agreement. There were good intentions and a “framework,” but no effective follow-up. No one rose up within the U.S. Senate or Department of Defense to champion the efforts. You have to have champions for major policy implementation, such as Perry, Lugar and Nunn.”

He says North Korea did put one reactor out of action as agreed, but, “they had a separate program they didn’t tell us about. We know now that they have enough nuclear material to make bombs, but not the delivery capability. Nevertheless, North Korea is the most unpredictable regime on the planet.” He contends the framework would have been helped by stronger inspection efforts as well as more engaged administration officials, diplomats and Congress members to continue negotiations and strengthen the agreement over time. He adds that since the framework collapsed, there has been no progress in halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile development.

Cerami’s third case study involved counterproliferation efforts in Iraq after the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) during the Clinton Administration and continuing into George W. Bush’s first term, which resulted in the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, but failed to uncover any nuclear WMDs.

The professor says two U.N. inspection teams looked for WMDs in Iraq, the first led by Ambassador Richard Butler right after the Gulf War, “but Hussein kicked them out in ’98,” he says. “The second team was led by Hans Blix (from 2000 to 2003), former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Both U.N. inspections teams did their job remarkably well under very difficult conditions.”

One of the problems, Cerami contends, was that the Bush administration didn’t let the Blix team finish their inspections. “It seems reasonable to have waited for the inspectors to have completed the work,” he notes. “They were reporting that they couldn’t find any WMDs, but they weren’t able to complete inspections of all of the suspected sites. The backdrop was the failure with North Korea − that there were reasonable expectations that Saddam Hussein’s regime was able to hide their weapons from the U.N. and the U.S. Especially after 9/11, we didn’t want to be fooled again.”

Cerami, a retired Army colonel who taught at the Army War College and at West Point, says many would now argue there was a rush to war with Iraq without enough evidence of WMDs. “What I said at the time was that I’m was skeptical and I think the case needs to be stronger,” he recalls. “Blix was asking for more time and he should’ve gotten it. There wasn’t an imminent threat at the time. Hindsight is 20/20; it’s easy to say now ‘we should’ve known.’ But war should have been the last resort.”

In examining counterproliferation efforts during the Clinton and Bush terms, Cerami concludes there was an overall decline in effective policymaking, except in the case of Nunn-Lugar. Overall, he finds in the North Korea and Iraq cases, there were significant gaps in pursuing counterproliferation policy initiatives.

In future policymaking, Cerami says he hopes to see collaboration with academia. “There are good ideas in the academic community that policymakers can draw on and those academics need to be consulted when major policies and decisions are being made,” he notes.

Innovation in policymaking is critical, he says, explaining, “The landscape of national security changed after the Cold War and again after 9/11. Today we have concerns about WMDs in terrorist hands, cyber security, biological weapons, border security and other emerging threats. Policymakers must be innovative in developing and implementing new approaches as these new threats evolve.”

Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications, at 979-845-5591

About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit

December 10, 2013

5 Aggie Research Innovations In 2013

Whether in health and medicine, education or law, science or engineering, the arts and architecture, business or public policy, researchers at Texas A&M University are making a global impact with cutting-edge investigation and innovative ideas to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges. Here are just five examples of this year’s many innovative Aggie research projects.


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Cow Antibodies Suggest New Therapies For People
There is perhaps no greater threat to humans and animals alike than infectious disease, and researchers at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM) helped make a major breakthrough this year in the fight against bacterial and viral infections. CVM researchers, in conjunction with The Scripps Research Institute, studied an extraordinary family of cow antibodies which gives cows an unusual immune defense, and found they’re also suited to defend against pathogens in humans, opening the potential for new breakthrough therapies. Aggie researchers Waithaka Mwangi, Michael F. Criscitiello and Terje Raudsepp co-authored the study, published in the June 6, 2013 issue of the journal Cell.


bp oil spill signUsing Chemistry To Clean Up Oil Spills
The world watched in April 2010 as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, caused unimaginable damage to the Gulf Coast environment. Research into the prevention and mitigation of future oil spills is widespread at Texas A&M, and one of those researchers, College of Science Chemistry Professor Karen Wooley and her team are creating nanoparticles that can be used to soak up spilled crude oil. The team continues to work with this “nano-solution,” finding new and innovative applications including the delivery of drugs to treat ailments such as cancer and lung infections, according to the college.


ultrasoundNew Material May Improve Ultrasounds
Health research is thriving in many different colleges at Texas A&M, including the Dwight Look College of Engineering, where Biomedical Engineering Professor Vladislav Yakovlev and collaborators at three other universities developed a new material which converts ultrasound waves into optical signals that can be used to produce an image. The material, known as “metamaterial,” improves on conventional ultrasound technology which generates images by converting ultrasound waves into electrical signals, according to the college. This innovation shows the potential for producing high-quality images that show much greater detail, allowing medical professionals to see what they haven’t been able to see before.


asteroidUsing Paint Guns To Deflect Asteroids
It might sound like something out of a sci-fi comedy, but rest assured, it’s real. Dave Hyland, professor of physics and astronomy and a faculty member in Texas A&M’s aerospace engineering department theorizes that “tribocharging powder dispensing,” or the high-pressured spreading of a thin layer of paint over an approaching asteroid, will shift it from its current orbit. NASA liked the idea so much, they’ve approached Hyland to develop a project to test the theory and just in time, as a 1,000-foot long asteroid called Apophis will come close to us in 2029 and again in 2036, when there is a small chance it will hit Earth.


seaweedUsing Seaweed To Fight Storm Surge
In addition to the main campus in College Station, research at Texas A&M’s branch campuses is thriving and a good example is the much-needed research into hurricane mitigation at Texas A&M-Galveston. One standout project teams TAMUG researchers with the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees for a pilot program to fight storm surge that may help save lives and protect property from rising sea levels and future hurricanes. The idea is to use the seaweed that washes ashore to fortify sand dunes to be more resilient to storm surges and high tides. This innovation may serve to prevent the massive damage seen in Galveston in 2008, when Hurricane Ike breached the seawall, flooding parts of the city.

Other innovative projects this year have included building bi-pedal robots, a new method of treating aneurysms, improved imaging for diagnosing oral cancer, a natural substitute for artificial food dyes and turning nuclear waste into energy.

For more on Texas A&M research, visit the Division of Research online at


About 12 Impacts of the 12th Man: 12 Impacts of the 12th Man is an ongoing series throughout the year highlighting the significant contributions of Texas A&M University students, faculty, staff and former students on their community, state, nation and world. To learn more about the series and see additional impacts, visit

About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents annual expenditures of more than $780 million. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit


Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University;, 979-845-5591

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