Chancellor John Sharp on President Young’s Decision to Step Down

The Texas A&M University System News Release
Chancellor Asks Professor John L. Junkins to Serve as Interim President
 
BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Today I accepted Michael K. Young’s resignation as President, effective December 31, 2020. I want to thank him for his service to Texas A&M University and I look forward to seeing him fulfill his passion to create an institute addressing the issues of religious freedom and international affairs.
 
During his tenure, the university increased research expenditures nearly 13 percent, to almost $1 billion a year; concluded a $4 billion Lead by Example fundraising campaign; and experienced a rise in national and world rankings.
 
President Young faced a critical final year because of the pandemic, but he and the campus leadership have navigated it well. They deserve our thanks.
 

To continue that stewardship, I am recommending Dr. John L. Junkins as Interim President. He is a Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering and the holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker Chair in Innovation in the College of Engineering as well Founding Director of the Hagler Institute of Advanced Study.

 
Dr. Junkins is an accomplished researcher, outstanding teacher and an innovator whose Institute has transformed our faculty. He also will bring a steady hand to the tiller to ensure that Texas A&M successfully navigates the next few months until a successor is named.
 

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The Texas A&M System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Systemwide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

A&M System, Worlds Inc. Collaborate on COVID-19 Breathalyzer

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Testing of Aggies Starts Thursday Using Artificial Intelligence-Based Detector

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The simple act of blowing through a straw could soon come to symbolize a breathtaking leap forward in the COVID-19 fight – and in combating other public health threats, including pathogens that could cause future pandemics.

That simple exhaled breath is key to a new device that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect whether individuals should be tested for COVID-19. The sophisticated breathalyzer is being developed and tested through a collaboration among a Dallas-based company, Worlds Inc., the U.S. Air Force and The Texas A&M University System.

Called Worlds Protect, the device takes the form of a kiosk where a person uses a disposable straw to blow into a copper inlet. In less than a minute, test results can be sent to the person’s smartphone.

Worlds Inc. co-founders Dave Copps and Chris Rohde envision Worlds Protect kiosks being placed outside of factories, schools, military bases — anywhere large groups of people need to be screened for COVID-19 or other infectious diseases.

“People can walk up and, literally, just breathe into the device,” said Rohde, president of Worlds Inc. “It’s completely noninvasive. There’s no amount of touching. And you quickly get a result. You get a yay or nay.”

The Texas A&M System has invested $1 million in the project’s development. It is assisting Worlds Inc. with engineering and design, prototype building and the mapping of a commercial manufacturing process. Five prototypes will be tried out this fall on the Texas A&M campus.

“Getting tech innovations to market is one of our sweet spots,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “This breakthrough could have lasting impact on global public health.”

One of the prototypes was set up Thursday on the Texas A&M campus to test students and others. Aggies will be tested using both Worlds Protect and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Results will be compared to test the accuracy of Worlds Protect and refine its system.

About 650 individuals have been tested with Worlds Protect already at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and Brigham Young University (BYU). Results so far suggest that the accuracy of Worlds Protect is comparable to PCR tests, which are considered the best type of test available for diagnosing COVID-19.

“By applying AI, we are able to achieve a high level of accuracy and improve every day as more results are analyzed,” said Copps, CEO of Worlds Inc. “We are using PCR tests as our yardstick to see and understand our progress.”

Copps and Rohde are working with the Food and Drug Administration to obtain Emergency Use Authorization, that eventually could allow Worlds Protect to become an alternative to PCR tests. 

Texas A&M System experts are involved from the Texas A&M College of Engineering, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and the SecureAmerica Institute, an organization headquartered on the RELLIS Campus that assists with high-tech manufacturing.

Rob Gorham, executive director of SecureAmerica, said the Texas A&M System specializes in helping businesses like Worlds Inc. get through the so-called “valley of death” between an invention and commercial viability.

“There’s a lot of work that has to happen,” Gorham said. “You have to think about standards. You have to actually be able to rapidly and with agility circulate your design as well as think through all of the different supply-chain requirements.”

Inside the Worlds Protect kiosk, a person’s breath is examined for the specific volatile organic compounds that are generated by the body when someone is fighting the virus. The test is done with advanced mass spectrometry technology, a chemical analysis made smarter by AI. Worlds Inc. uses AI software to map the chemical code of a body reacting to the infection.

The copper inlet and other key interior elements are heated between each breath to clean and sanitize the device so one individual test does not contaminate another individual test. 

Dr. Guido Verbeck, a doctoral graduate of Texas A&M, has developed the device’s key technology.

Verbeck, a University of North Texas chemistry professor, has worked with Worlds Inc. software engineers since March. He is a widely known expert on innovative uses of mass spectrometry. His peer-reviewed research on using mass spectrometry to detect COVID-19 was accepted and published recently by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Dr. David Staack, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M, has partnered with Worlds Inc. on the development of the breath-capture system for the device. The system controls the variables in how people breathe so that the chemical compounds related to COVID-19 are more easily identified by the mass spectrometry technology.

SecureAmerica is building additional Worlds Protect prototypes for demonstration at U.S Air Force and other Department of Defense locations, including Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where the devices could help screen up to 900 airmen weekly who arrive for basic training.

Col. Charles Bris-Bois, leader of the Air Force Disruptive Technology Team at the Pentagon, will coordinate the screening of the airmen in Texas. He also helped arrange the device’s initial testing in Ohio and screening now underway at BYU.

Copps said additional device testing locations within Texas are also being discussed.

Worlds Protect software also could be engineered to detect other health problems, including future pandemics and bioterrorism threats.

“It is exciting for Texas A&M experts to be part of a project with so much potential,” Gorham said. “We could be saving people’s lives, and allow the economy to come back because there’s a way to detect COVID-19 rapidly. It means the world — literally.” 

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The Texas A&M System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Systemwide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

 

Texas A&M System Leaders Ask Students to Take a COVID Test before Thanksgiving Dinner

The Texas A&M University System News Release

System officials strive for healthier period between semesters

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The top official at The Texas A&M University System has a plan to minimize the spread of COVID-19 as students head home for the holidays.

Chancellor John Sharp is asking the presidents of the System’s 11 universities to encourage students to voluntarily get tested for COVID-19 before they leave campus for home. Chancellor Sharp said he wants to make sure the families and communities of the System’s more than 150,000 students feel safe and can avoid any unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus that has seen a spike in cases across the country.

“The greatest gift a student can give his or her family – including parents and grandparents – during this holiday season is the gift of a negative COVID test,” Chancellor Sharp said. “Let’s do all we can to stop this pandemic and get back to life as we knew it. Thanks to everyone who chooses to take a test before heading home.”

For students’ convenience, The Texas A&M System and the Texas Division of Emergency Management will increase the number of testing sites on System campuses in the days before Thanksgiving. Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University already have kiosks available to students, faculty and staff for free COVID-19 tests. And now, Chancellor Sharp has asked the Texas Division of Emergency Management, which is part of the Texas A&M System, to help the System get testing vans and tents to all of campuses before the holiday.

“As a parent and grandparent, I can imagine the peace of mind that a negative COVID-19 test can bring to the Thanksgiving table,” Chancellor Sharp said.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Tim Eaton
Executive Director, Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6018
teaton@tamus.edu

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Texas A&M System Regents Approve 22 Regents Professors and Regents Fellows

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has designated 15 faculty members and seven agency service, extension or research professionals within the A&M System as Regents Professors and Regents Fellows for 2019-2020.

“These individuals exemplify the commitment to excellence in research and service that sets A&M System employees apart,” Elaine Mendoza, Chairman of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents. “I hope their example will inspire others in their own endeavors.”

The Board established the Regents Professor Awards program in 1996 and the Regents Fellow Service Awards program in 1998 to recognize employees who have made extraordinary contributions to their university, or agency, as well as to the people of Texas.

This year’s recipients of the Regents Professor Award are:

  • Dr. Julia Ballenger, Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Dr. Frances Bernat, Texas A&M International University
  • Dr. Jane Bolin, Texas A&M University Health Science Center
  • Dr. Fred Bonner II, Prairie View A&M University
  • Dr. Yassin Hassan, Texas A&M University
  • Dr. Alex Hunt, West Texas A&M University
  • Dr. Patrick Louchouarn, Texas A&M University at Galveston
  • Dr. Bhimanagouda “Bhimu” Patil, Texas A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research 
  • Dr. Luz Mary Rincon, Texas A&M University-Texarkana
  • Dr. Susan Roberson, Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  • Dr. Christine Stanley, Texas A&M University
  • Dr. Gregory Stunz, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Dr. David Threadgill, Texas A&M University Health Science Center
  • Dr. Edward Westermann, Texas A&M University-San Antonio
  • Dr. Peter Yu, Texas A&M University

This year’s recipients of the Regents Fellow Service Awards are:

  • Dr. Diane Boellstorff, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
  • Mr. D. Lance Bullard, Jr., Texas A&M Transportation Institute
  • Dr. Susan Chrysler, Texas A&M Transportation Institute
  • Mr. John Crawford, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station
  • Col. Alphonse Gregory Davis, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service
  • Mr. Wes Moorehead, Texas A&M Forest Service
  • Dr. Ruben Saldaña, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The selection process for the awards begins with a call for nominations from the chancellor. Final nominations are put forth to the chief executive officer of each respective entity. They are then subject to a System-level review consisting of academic vice chancellors and past recipients of the awards. Finally, nominations are forwarded to the chancellor and the board for final approval.

To date, 268 A&M system faculty members have been recognized with the Regents Professor Award and 157 agency professionals have received the Regents Fellow Service Award.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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Texas A&M Regents OK World-Class Engineering Feat

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Hypersonic tunnel at Bush Combat Center to be built in two, half-kilometer phases

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Imagine you are engineering an enclosed, precisely instrumented, kilometer-long testing range to study objects as they travel faster than you could blink, at temperatures hotter than you could survive.

Imagine nobody has ever engineered or built anything before at such a large scale. Imagine that your success is widely seen as important to the future security of the United States.

You are imagining the real-world challenges faced by The Texas A&M University System as it prepares for construction of the Ballistic, Aero-optics and Materials (BAM) Test Range, part of the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) on the RELLIS Campus.

The Texas A&M System Board of Regents Thursday approved a plan to build BAM in two phases. Phase one is planned to be 500 meters long. Construction is scheduled to start in April and be substantially completed by the end of 2022. It will cost $38.6 million.

Phase one will be able to operate continuously while phase two is being built. Phase two, which will complete the kilometer length, is expected to cost about $22 million. It will be operational in late 2023 or early 2024.

U.S. military leaders eagerly await BAM to help advance innovation of hypersonic vehicle systems and laser technology.

“BAM will be a world-class engineering feat,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “It’s one of the big reasons the nation’s military and defense industry are turning to us for innovation.”

Completion of phase one alone will make BAM the largest enclosed hypersonics testing range in the U.S. It will give aerospace engineers and other experts in the field enormous new capacity for applied research and testing.

Phase-one experiments also will inform decision-making to ensure phase two is engineered in the best ways possible, ways that maximize the added capabilities that come with the full kilometer length.

“This two-phase approach is the responsible way ahead,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor for engineering and national laboratories of the Texas A&M System. “No one has ever constructed a kilometer-long facility like this before. It’s in the national interest that we proceed both quickly and carefully.”

BAM will bridge a critical gap in U.S. research capacity between lab-scale experiments and open-range tests, which can cost tens of millions of dollars per test.

Each phase of BAM will be two meters in diameter and contain a hypersonic rail-guided range; directed energy and laser diagnostics; and the capability to test how certain protective materials can withstand hypervelocity impacts.

BAM is one of the four interconnected facilities being built for the BCDC. They were designed in consultation with the military and the defense industry to create an ecosystem for innovation like no other in the U.S.

The BCDC will host experiments and demonstrations by researchers from Texas A&M University, other leading universities, the U.S. Army, other military branches, federal agencies, defense contractors and tech entrepreneurs.

The BCDC  is the result of a 2019 cooperative agreement between the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC) and The Texas A&M University System, the State of Texas and the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES.)

Last month the Department of Defense (DOD) selected TEES to lead a national consortium among more than 40 top U.S. universities to modernize hypersonic flight capabilities.

The University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics (UCAH) will work closely with key research institutions of government, national laboratories, federally funded research centers and industry. TEES will manage the DOD investment of up to $100 million over five years.

About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation with a budget of $6.3 billion. The System is a statewide network of 11 universities; a comprehensive health science center; eight state agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and the RELLIS Campus. The Texas A&M System educates more than 151,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceeded $1 billion in FY 2019 and helped drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

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