Texas A&M System’s TV show expands to more markets

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

Season Three of Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp debuts in October

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Chancellor John Sharp of The Texas A&M University System is coming to living rooms all around the state.

Around Texas with Chancellor John Sharp will appear in 18 media markets across Texas (and one in Louisiana) when Season Three of the show premieres in the first full week in October. Last year, the show aired in eight Texas markets.

“The more we can share our stories about the cool people and interesting initiatives of the Texas A&M System, the better,” Chancellor Sharp said. “It is a real privilege to showcase how much the Texas A&M System contributes to our great state.”

Each episode in the 12-show season includes two segments and two in-studio interviews with the chancellor and a guest.

This season includes stories about: Robert Earl Keen, who graduated from Texas A&M in 1978; a former graduate student from Texas A&M who had to be snuck out of Afghanistan because the Taliban wanted her dead; a sea turtle rescue program; a dance instructor from Texas A&M -Corpus Christi who had to re-learn how to walk and how to teach dance after an accident in the surf; a former NASA scientist who is now teaching students about robots; and the challenges of being on the front lines of wildfires.

For a weekly schedule, already-aired episodes and more, please visit https://www.sharparoundtexas.com.


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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help 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 professor pleads guilty for hiding connections with China

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A criminal investigation conducted by the FBI – with help from The Texas A&M University System – led to a former professor’s guilty plea Thursday in connection to charges related to lying about his connections to China.

A federal judge in Houston accepted a guilty plea from Zhengdong Cheng, a chemical engineering professor at Texas A&M University, on two separate counts. The plea deal followed Cheng’s arrest in 2020 on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and wire fraud.

Authorities had accused Cheng, who conducted research for NASA while at Texas A&M, of hiding his connections to a so-called talent program of the Chinese government that sought to take research from American institutions and use it to advance military and other programs in China.

As part of the plea agreement, Cheng agreed to pay $86,876 in restitution to NASA; he will also pay a fine of $20,000, according to court documents. Cheng and prosecutors further agreed that the 13 months Cheng spent in jail is “an appropriate sentence in the matter,” according to court documents.

“Texas A&M and the Texas A&M System take security very seriously, and we constantly are on the look-out for vulnerabilities, especially when national security is involved,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System. “We will continue to work with our federal partners to keep our intellectual property secure and out of the hands of foreign governments who seek to do us harm.”

The investigation into Cheng involved the officials with the Texas A&M System’s Research Security Office working closely with the FBI and other federal partners.

Following the investigation, Cheng was arrested in 2020, and Texas A&M terminated his employment that same year.

In a tweet Friday, FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge James Smith mentioned that the FBI’s work with Texas A&M.

He said: “The FBI prioritizes investigating threats to academia as part of our commitment to preventing intellectual property theft at U.S. research institutions and companies. We faithfully protect the integrity of federally funded research and prevent the loss of billions of dollars from the American economy by collaborating with all community, private, and public sector partners, such as Texas A&M University. Dr. Cheng’s conviction in this case demonstrates both the critical importance of the cutting-edge technology developed at Texas A&M University and the university’s partnership with the FBI Bryan Resident Agency and NASA Office of Inspector General to protect it.”

Smith’s words echoed those of FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2019 when he testified in a Senate Judiciary hearing. At the time, the director called out Texas A&M as an example of an institution of higher education that understands modern day threats. Wray said the FBI has done “some very good work with Texas A&M recently, to try to raise awareness in the university space.”

Cheng’s time at Texas A&M began in May 2004. At that time, Texas A&M University hired him as a faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Later, he conducted research for NASA as part of a 2013 grant titled “Research Opportunities in Complex Fluids and Macromolecular Biophysics, Liquid Crystals of Nanoplates.”

Texas A&M has – and had at the time of Cheng’s employment – a requirement to disclose conflicts of interest. The university also requires faculty members to submit financial disclosure statements that would outline other sources of income and employment.

Cheng also was compelled to comply with NASA’s regulations, including one in which NASA specifically prohibits researchers who receive grants to collaborate with China.

However, the investigation showed that Cheng was not forthcoming with NASA and the university, according to court documents.

While Cheng repeatedly certified to NASA that he was in compliance with the space administration’s policies, it turned out that he “intentionally submitted materially false and misleading information” about his connections and intended collaboration with China, according to the plea agreement released Thursday.

Cheng also submitted “false or misleading affirmations” to and through Texas A&M in the preparation of the grant application to NASA.

The court document summed up Cheng’s actions by saying that he “concealed his affiliation and employment with multiple Chinese corporations, including Chinese universities.”

The Texas A&M System has one of the most effective programs in place to thwart the theft of intellectual property. The Research Security Office, which is headed by Dr. Kevin Gamache, actively reviews contracts, connections and affiliations that faculty and researchers might have with foreign governments, particularly those in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Under Gamache, the Texas A&M System’s security program has amassed a record of seven straight “superior” ratings during annual Security Vulnerability Assessments conducted by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). DCSA also recognized the System in 2015 and 2020 with the Colonel James S. Cogswell Outstanding Industrial Security Achievement Award as one of 40 from more than 12,000 defense contractors. DCSA also recognized the System with their 2017 and 2019 Awards for Excellence in Counterintelligence, given to contractors and universities that best demonstrate the ability to stop foreign theft of US defense and national security technology.

This week, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine praised the Texas A&M System as Gamache testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Unfortunately, not every academic institution is as advanced as Texas A&M in having well-thought out policies and reporting requirements governing those potential vulnerabilities,” the senator 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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

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

From fires to floods, the Texas A&M Forest Service is very busy

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

This wildfire season is not over yet and will be one of the worst ever

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The recent rains around Texas have not provided much of a break for the firefighters of Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire danger might be lessened by the weather, but it just means the same people who respond to fires, now could be battling floodwaters in addition to flames.

“These people do it all,” Chancellor John Sharp said. “The responders of the Texas A&M Forest Service work harder than anyone to protect Texans and their properties. Whether they are battling blazes or fighting floods, these folks work relentlessly for all of us, and they deserve our total gratitude.”

Personnel with Texas A&M Forest Service, a state agency of The Texas A&M University System, have been combatting wildfires across the state since January. Fire environment conditions this year have been among the worst in Texas history. Since Jan. 1, local emergency responders and state agencies have responded to 8,600 wildfires for 643,840 acres.

Texas A&M Forest Service has mobilized all available agency firefighting personnel since the first of the year. They’ve also brought in 4,446 out-of-state personnel and 1,693 Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System (TIFMAS) firefighters. Additionally, Texas A&M Forest Service has mobilized 114 firefighting aircraft for 6,530 flight hours and has dropped 11.4 million gallons of water and retardant on wildfires.

Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to 1,682 wildfires on 542,393 acres this year. On average, the agency responds to 1,194 wildland fire incidents that burn 462,466 acres each year. So, with four months left in the year, Texas has seen a 40 percent increase in the number of fires, compared to the annual average.

“Amid the onerous challenges encountered during this fire season, there’s been a multitude of instances of professionalism, adaptability, resilience and teamwork shown by a diverse group of selfless servants at the state, local, interstate and federal levels,” said Interim Director for Texas A&M Forest Service Al Davis. “Our front-line firefighters, supported by their colleagues at various incident command system positions, have worked tirelessly to save lives, homes, other structures and the environment.”

Pervasive drought conditions, a strong ridge of high pressure positioned over the state that resulted in persistent temperatures over 100 degrees and an abundance of dry vegetation all contributed to the near-record number of fires.

Texas A&M Forest Service officials have warned Texans that the recent rain potentially may offer only a short-lived break from fire activity. If wildfires spark back up as the Texas sun returns and the land dries out, then Texas A&M Forest Service responders will shift their focus back to fires.


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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help 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 Adds Space in Fort Worth

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Aggieland North just got a little grander.

The members of the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System voted Wednesday to expand a lease of 10,630 square feet to make more room for the System’s growing footprint in Fort Worth.

The new Texas A&M University System offices will be located in the Burnett Plaza in downtown Fort Worth. Several member institutions will be moving into the lease space this fall. These include Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas A&M Engineering, the Mays Business School, Tarleton State University, and others. These Texas A&M System members will be among the first entities to join the Texas A&M University School of Law as part of recently planned expansion into Fort Worth.

The member institutions’ presence marks the realization of the vision to create an urban research campus in downtown Fort Worth, which has been dubbed “Aggieland North.”

Earlier this year, the regents approved $85 million for a Law and Education Building and another $85 million for a Research and Innovation Center in Fort Worth. The campus will be built on several blocks adjacent to the existing School of Law building, which is scheduled to be replaced as part of the campus expansion. The cost of the Law and Education Building, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2023, will be paid with proceeds from the Permanent University Fund. The Research and Innovation Center is expected to be built at approximately the same time.

“We just couldn’t wait,” John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System, said. “Our expansion into the nation’s fastest-growing large city is a game-changer for the A&M System, the city of Fort Worth and the entire North Texas region, and we want to get going as soon as possible.”

The System has already rented space in the Burnett Plaza, located at 801 Cherry Street in Fort Worth, but Wednesday’s action by the regents allows expansion of the lease to give the System plenty of room to grow.

“We are eager to grow the System’s presence in Fort Worth,” said Kim McCuistion, associate vice chancellor and inaugural director for the research and academic campus. “We have a lot of exciting work ahead, and the sooner we can get started, the better.”

Kevin Starbuck, Texas Division of Emergency Management’s assistant chief of Region 1, will lead his team in the new space as soon as it is ready. TDEM’s people in the area are spread out in different locations, but they will come together in the leased space as they await construction of the permanent facilities.

Under Starbuck, TDEM personnel will work on issues such as mitigation, recovery and preparedness. Region 1, which covers 42 counties from North Central Texas to the Piney Woods of East Texas, will focus largely on flooding, tornadoes, wildfires, drought and homeland security-related issues.

Joining TDEM, Texas A&M AgriLife’s Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Evidence Center also will be one of first tenants in the leased space. The new center will become a leading source for objective scientific evidence on agriculture, environment, natural resources and nutrition. The work of the team will help policymakers reach science-informed solutions for addressing malnutrition and diet-related chronic disease in a way that considers the environment and economy.


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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help 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 Regents Approve Expansion of Business School, Name Roadway after Late Astronaut

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A new business-focused education center is coming to Texas A&M University in College Station, and a roadway will be named for a late American hero.

The members of the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System voted Wednesday to approve key items, including an expansion of the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M and the naming of an entrance into Texas A&M-RELLIS in the honor of the late astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom.

“Business education and space exploration are two of the main areas that help define Texas A&M and the Texas A&M System,” Chancellor John Sharp said. “The Business Education Complex Project and Gus Grissom Boulevard represent a couple of ways we at the Texas A&M System look forward while also reflecting on our past.”

Renderings available at: https://www.tamus.edu/business-education-complex/

Business Education Complex Project

At the regular board meeting, Regents added the Business Education Complex Project to the FY 2021 – FY 2025 Texas A&M System Capital Plan. Construction on the project is scheduled to start in September 2022 with substantial completion in October 2024. The total project budget is $84,197,309, which will be paid for through a variety of sources including donations. The project will include a four-story, 82,000 square-foot building and an area dubbed the “Collaboration Plaza,” which will be located on Olsen Boulevard, northeast of the Wehner Building.

The Business Education Complex will provide spaces for active, collaborative and experiential learning. Further, the complex will include areas for research, and it will beautify the campus with stunning, contemporary architecture. It also is sure to attract and retain world-class faculty and students.

Gus Grissom Boulevard

Grissom, one of America’s first astronauts, will have his name on the Highway 21 entry drive into Texas A&M-RELLIS in Bryan. With the Regents’ approval, the roadway will be called “Gus Grissom Boulevard.”

Besides honoring one of America’s space pioneers, the newly christened entranceway will be easier for emergency vehicles and visitors to find on digital maps.

As a young Air Force pilot in the Korean War era, Grissom was familiar with the land that is now Texas A&M-RELLIS.

Grissom, who had flow missions in Korea, was assigned after his time in Korea to become a flight instructor at Bryan Air Force Base. While in Bryan, Grissom was honored for his service in Korea and honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross. A year later, his second son, Mark, was born at the Bryan Air Force Base hospital.

Gus Grissom eventually was chosen as one of America’s first astronauts. He flew missions in the one-man Mercury program and two-man Gemini program. He also was assigned as the commander of the first three-man Apollo mission. Later, Grissom, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee, tragically died in a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy, Florida, on January 27, 1967.

“We at the Texas A&M System and Texas A&M University have always sought to honor our past and our heroes,” Chancellor Sharp said. “Today, it is a privilege to pay homage to Gus Grissom for his sacrifices and accomplishments.”


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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

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

NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas A&M System sign Space Act Agreement

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — From public outreach to powerful research, The Texas A&M University System has been a faithful partner for years with NASA to explore our place in the universe.

Eight of the 11 Texas A&M System schools are space-grant institutions committed to participating in NASA’s aeronautics and space projects. And on May 3, NASA Johnson Space Center and the Texas A&M System signed a Space Act Agreement, an umbrella agreement that allows the agency to work with organizations that enable fulfillment of its mission, to expand collaborative efforts across all entities within the Texas A&M System.

“NASA employs its share of A&M System alumni, and we have many former astronauts teaching on our campuses,” John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M System, said. “So I think it is fair to say that the Texas A&M System is in a strong position to make a difference in space research and exploration.”

Through the Space Act Agreement, students enrolled in Texas A&M System schools benefit from educational outreach opportunities and gain real world experience through their interaction with NASA subject matter experts. Faculty in Texas A&M System schools will participate in NASA research and technology initiatives, technology transfer programs and have access to unique NASA facilities and laboratories.

“NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a long history of working with colleges and universities since the early days of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs to help us achieve our human spaceflight missions,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We are eager to partner and collaborate with the Texas A&M System in vital research and technology development initiatives that will enable us to meet our nation’s exploration goals and advance human spaceflight as we work to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis.”

This agreement will also allow the Texas A&M System and NASA to work collaboratively to facilitate joint research, technology development, and educational and outreach initiatives. These goals will be pursued through undergraduate and graduate programs and joint research programs focusing on science and technology topics of interest to NASA.

“We are proud of our long history with NASA and the Johnson Space Center and look forward to an even more productive and mutually beneficial collaboration,” said Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks.

By bringing together the best minds in the Texas A&M System with the best minds at NASA, this collaboration supports NASA’s goal to be an established global innovation leader in science and space exploration.

For more information about NASA Johnson Space Center’s University Relations efforts, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/external_relations/university-collaboration.


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 $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

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