Vice Chancellor and Dean Kathy Banks Named Sole Finalist to be Texas A&M President

The Texas A&M University System News Release

A decade of accomplishments at Texas A&M leads to promotion to top job

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents today named Dr. M. Katherine Banks as the sole finalist for the position of President of Texas A&M University.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Banks said. “The core values of Texas A&M, its rich traditions, unique culture and commitment to the greater good is the very foundation of this great university and resonates deeply with me. I hope to build upon that framework in our pursuit of preeminence, without losing what makes Texas A&M so special. Texas A&M is one of a kind and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

Banks is currently Vice Chancellor of Engineering and National Laboratories and Dean of the Texas A&M College of Engineering.

In those roles, she spurred unprecedented growth in the College of Engineering while also being a pivotal leader in some of the A&M System’s greater accomplishments, including recruiting the Army Futures Command to the RELLIS Campus and winning a federal contract to help manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.

On Wednesday, Chancellor John Sharp recommended Banks as sole finalist and the Board approved. Under state law, regents name a finalist for at least 21 days before making the appointment at a subsequent meeting.

“The Board was excited to know the search yielded tremendous interest and many qualified candidates,” said Elaine Mendoza, Chairman of the Board of Regents. “This speaks to the stellar reputation, credibility and positive momentum of Texas A&M University.  The Board is confident that Dr. Banks will lead the university to even greater heights while celebrating the traditions and spirit that make Texas A&M unique.”

Chancellor Sharp said Banks’ decade-long record at Texas A&M prompted today’s decision.

“Where is there a dean in the U.S. who has accomplished what Dean Banks has accomplished?” asked Chancellor Sharp. “If she can do for the university what she did for engineering, imagine what the university can achieve!”

Banks is a Distinguished Professor and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Banks obtained her Ph.D. at Duke University. She studied and worked at three land-grant universities before coming to Texas A&M.

When she was hired as Vice Chancellor and Dean in 2011, the enrollment in the College of Engineering was 11,113 students, with about 425 faculty members. Today, there are 21,250 engineering students and 710 faculty members.

That growth has been intentional. Banks sought to enhance educational delivery, expand research and teaching facilities and improve faculty recruitment and retention.

A prodigious fundraiser, Banks doubled engineering facilities to two million square feet, including the reconstruction of the Zachry Engineering Education Complex. That 525,000 square-foot, state-of-the art facility allows for hands-on, experiential undergraduate engineering education, including a 65,000 square foot maker space.

Through her growth program, Banks increased access to qualified engineering students while reducing the number of students in each class. No engineering class has more than 100 students and more than half of the classes do not exceed 50 students.

Banks also addressed the cost of higher education by creating engineering academies with community colleges around the state. Students are co-enrolled in Texas A&M engineering courses while taking their basics at their local community colleges. By living at home, the students can shave thousands of dollars from their education costs before transitioning to College Station.

Banks said faculty and staff engagement was critically important to the college’s success. She increased the number of faculty advisory groups and created the first engineering staff advisory council providing input to college leadership. 

In addition to leading the College of Engineering at the flagship, Banks as vice chancellor also oversees engineering educational programs at seven universities throughout the A&M System, as well as three state agencies: the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), the Texas A&M Extension Service (TEEX) and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). 

In 2020, engineering program research expenditures eclipsed $300 million – an all-time high – as the college transitioned from mostly small research grants to successfully securing large, multi-partner strategic opportunities.

In particular, Banks led the A&M System’s competition to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2018, a bid by the Texas A&M System, the University of California and Battelle Memorial Institute won the management contract worth $2.5 billion per year. 

A year later, Dean Banks was critical in developing the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex on the RELLIS Campus in Bryan, and facilitating research and testing partnerships with the Army Futures Command. The complex includes what will become the nation’s largest hypersonic testing tube, one kilometer long and two meters wide.

Building upon engineering research expertise in hypersonics, Banks helped position the Texas A&M System to become the nation’s hypersonic research capital, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense’s selection of TEES to lead its national hypersonics consortium with $100 million in funding over five years.

In addition to being named President, she will retain the title of Vice Chancellor of National Laboratories and National Security Strategic Initiatives. In that role, she will continue to serve on the board of Triad National Security, LLC, which manages the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and provide oversight for the Bush Combat Development Complex at the RELLIS Campus.

Kathy and her husband Paul, a soil and crop sciences professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, have six children and four grandchildren, with a son, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law who graduated from Texas A&M. 

Vice Chancellor and Dean Kathy Banks speaks about the Aggie Spirit at https://www.tamus.edu/sole-finalist/


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

Texas A&M Signs Research Deal with Matica Biotechnology Inc.

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Cell and gene therapy manufacturer adds to CIADM array of bio tech partners

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System announced today it has a new private sector partner in advanced medical manufacturing — Matica Biotechnology, Inc.

Matica Bio specializes in the clinical and commercial production of cell and gene therapies. It has signed a master research agreement with the Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) at Texas A&M University Health Science Center (TAMHSC).  The agreement covers joint research and development projects.

“Texas A&M University is internationally renowned for its research programs developing novel vaccines and therapies to improve public health”, said Dr. Byung Se So, CEO of Matica Bio. “Matica Bio is excited to partner with the TAMHSC CIADM staff as we strive to innovate manufacturing solutions for our clients.”

Matica Bio broke ground last week on its new bio manufacturing facility within the Westinghouse building of Providence Park in College Station. It is expected to open this summer. Matica Bio’s parent company, CHA Biotech, is based in South Korea.

“Matica Bio’s clients are at the forefront of advanced therapy development,” said Dr. William Jay Treat, Principle Investigator for the CIADM. “We welcome the opportunity to collaborate through research studies to bring these potentially lifesaving medicines to patients.”

Matica Bio joins the ranks of bio tech companies partnering with the CIADM, which was started about a decade ago by The Texas A&M University System at the request of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The CIADM was set up to accelerate biotech research, development and commercial manufacturing through public-private partnerships. It also safeguards bio manufacturing capacity for the federal government to ensure there is rapid surge capacity in times of national crisis.

Currently the CIADM is working on mass manufacturing of two COVID-19 vaccines for the nation through one of its subcontractors, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB.)

Separately, the CIADM also works closely with Zoetis Inc., a global animal health company; and iBio Inc., a plant-based biotech innovator and contract manufacturing organization. Like Matica Bio and FDB, Zoetis and iBio have invested in manufacturing centers near the Texas A&M campus.

“We welcome Matica Bio to our ranks of private-sector partners helping discover the next medical miracles,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “These agreements are making College Station the biotech hub of Texas.”


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

Regents to Consider Sole Finalist for President of Texas A&M

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents will discuss and consider possible action in naming a sole finalist for the position of President of Texas A&M University.

The Board will convene at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Century Ballroom, Doug Pitcock ’49 Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, 177 Joe Routt Boulevard, College Station.

It is anticipated that the Board will recess to executive session for discussion as permitted by Chapter 551, Sections 71, 72 and 74, Texas Government Code.

To comply with state law and System COVID-19 standards, social distancing and face covering requirements will be in effect. There will be limited seating but members of the public may also access the public portion of the meeting at https://www.tamus.edu/regents/live-streams/

Under state law, university governing boards name a sole finalist for at least 21 days before meeting again to consider final approval of the candidate.


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

Texas A&M System brings vaccine to underserved rural areas

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System is giving vaccination efforts in rural Texas a shot in the arm, rushing COVID-19 vaccinations to underserved communities. The vaccine push is targeting homebound Texans 65 years or older.

The effort is part of the State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program, which has delivered the life-saving vaccine to 10 Texas counties, which include DeWitt, Glasscock, Kenedy, Marion, Motley, McMullen, Real, Sherman, Starr and Terrell counties.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Military Department, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas National Guard have teamed up to make the deliveries.

“The Texas A&M System has people on the ground who are already well-known by the communities they serve, in every county in the state, making us the perfect partner to assist with the State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We are proud to be a part of this life-saving effort to serve these rural communities in need.”

The Texas Military Department provides the medics to vaccinate individuals, and A&M System partners coordinate teams and transport vaccines via their “Pony Express” to the rural counties, just as they have done with COVID-19 tests since May.

Governor Greg Abbott first announced the State Mobile Vaccine Pilot Program in January.

“Thank you to our partners at TDEM, TMD, the Texas A&M Engineering Service and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for working together to ensure underserved counties have access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Gov. Abbott said in a statement. “The State Mobile Vaccine Program is an important part of our work to get more vaccines in arms and ensure the health and safety of our communities.

To download b-roll of vaccine deliveries to rural areas, please click here.


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

Bush Museum Readies for Spring Arrival of UP No. 4141 Engine

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Regents donate acreage for historic train and later landing of Marine One

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The historic Union Pacific No. 4141 Engine, a locomotive painted to match Air Force One, will arrive here this spring for a permanent home at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

On Thursday The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved $1 per-year lease, essentially donating two acres to expand the grounds of the museum. Eventually the acreage will house an exhibit area for a Marine One helicopter as well as the locomotive. They are to be part of a multi-million dollar expansion being planned by the George & Barbara Bush Presidential Foundation.

“Texas A&M is proud to host these icons of the Bush presidency,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “We do everything we can to keep alive the memory and accomplishments of this wonderful president and public servant.”

No. 4141 Engine led the Bush funeral train from Houston to College Station in December 2018, when the former president was laid to rest here alongside First Lady Barbara Bush.

A year later, Union Pacific announced it would donate the locomotive to the museum. The railroad had surprised Bush in 2005 by painting it to resemble Air Force One in connection with a train exhibit there.

Former CEO of Union Pacific Dick Davidson was instrumental in creation of No. 4141. He and his wife Trish have made a significant lead gift to jumpstart private fund-raising for the museum expansion.

“It is fitting this significant piece of history will now make its permanent home at the Bush Center at Texas A&M,” said Max Angerholzer, CEO, George & Barbara Bush Foundation. “The train meant the world to President Bush. We are grateful to the entire Union Pacific team, especially Chairman and CEO Lance Fritz, for this special gift.”

The COVID 19 pandemic has slowed plans associated with the museum expansion, which is expected to also include new meeting space and a restaurant. Foundation officials want to complete the project in time for a celebration they plan in 2024 for the 100th anniversary of Bush’s birth.

Pandemic-related precautions will delay any public celebration associated with this spring’s arrival of No. 4141 Engine.  Due to security precautions, the arrival date will not be announced.

The arrival of Marine One is further in the future, Angerholzer said. Marine One is the call sign for any Marine Corps helicopter carrying the president. Some of the helicopters are being retired, which takes several months in part to remove the classified technology aboard.

In 2005 Bush said that if No. 4141 Engine had been around during his presidency, “I might have left Air Force One behind” and ridden the rails more often.

He had recalled fondly riding and sleeping on trains as a boy. Trains also carried Bush to his service as a naval aviator in World War II and back home.  He also used trains for “whistle stop” campaign events during his presidential runs in 1988 and 1992.

“Union Pacific is proud and honored that the UP 4141 is one step closer to being on permanent display at the Bush Library,” said Scott Moore, the Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Vice President of Union Pacific. “President Bush’s love of trains is well known and we are pleased that we can be a part of honoring his legacy.”

About the George & Barbara Bush Foundation
The George & Barbara Bush Foundation is dedicated to preserving the historic legacies of service best exemplified by President and Mrs. Bush through the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Find out more about the museum expansion and how to donate at: https://www.georgeandbarbarabush.org/up-4141/

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 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

Regents OK Building Detonation Testing Facility at RELLIS

The Texas A&M University System News Release

Governor and Chancellor Research Initiatives Support Study of Huge Explosions

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A new Detonation Research Test Facility (DRTF) will be built and opened next year on the RELLIS Campus, adding to its array of capabilities for solving complex global problems.

Dr. Elaine Oran

Dr. Elaine Oran

Dr. Elaine Oran, a world authority on the physics and chemistry of explosions, will lead a team at the DRTF examining how flammable gases and other materials interact and sometimes — though not always — detonate on a massive scale.

The discoveries could help prevent horrific mining, industrial and home accidents, predict the path of wildfires and make high-speed engines run more efficiently. It even could improve the understanding of supernovas.

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Thursday approved a plan to invest $5 million for construction of what is likely to be the largest university-based facility of its kind in the world.

The centerpiece is a 2-meter diameter, 200-meter-long detonation tube that is made of steel walls at least 3/4-inch thick. It will sit on concrete supports two feet above ground in a secure, isolated and open area near the runways of the former Air Force base.

Funding for the facility is split evenly between the Governor’s University Research Initiative, which Gov. Greg Abbott began in 2015, and the Chancellor’s Research Initiative, which Chancellor John Sharp began in 2013.

“This investment is bound to lead to remarkable breakthroughs,” Sharp said. “We’ll make Texas oil, gas and chemical industries, and the entire world safer from accidental explosions.”

The governor’s and chancellor’s research initiatives were designed to attract more top faculty to Texas, and they both played a role in the 2019 hiring of Oran. She is an aerospace engineering professor and the O’Donnell Foundation Chair VI in the Texas A&M College of Engineering.

She came from the University of Maryland and previously served as the Senior Scientist for Reactive Flow Physics at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. There she led a research team that used a smaller-scale detonation facility in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania (now closed) to measure how gases, liquids and solids interact and sometimes cause explosions. Researchers call these issues “reactive flow problems.”

Oran pioneered computational technology to address reactive flow problems, unifying concepts in chemistry, physics, engineering and computer science in a new methodology.

“We’re looking at explosions: the physics that cause accidental explosions and how to stop them; or in the case of high-speed engines, how to promote them quickly and control them,” Oran said. “It’s all about safety, control and advancing knowledge.”

She said she was attracted to Texas and Texas A&M by the willingness to invest in a detonation facility that could “get us to the next level of discovery and information.”

“It was just an amazing opportunity,” Oran said. “It’s the kind of thing you really couldn’t say no to.”

The DRTF will have a protective earth berm between the steel detonation tube and a control building for researchers. At the opposite end, a concrete wall and berms will surround a muffler pipe to keep the noise down.

The facility will be near two other testing ranges being assembled for the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC), in partnership with Army Futures Command, to advance warfare-related technology. One BCDC range is an enclosed highly instrumented tube for testing lasers and other materials traveling at hypersonic speed; the other is an outdoor range for experimenting with high-tech combat vehicles and their communication systems.

While the detonation facility is not part of the BCDC per se, discoveries there could have applications for the Department of Defense.

Detonation-related discoveries also could advance the work of the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center, which is operated by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) to promote safety in chemical processes in the oil, gas and pharmaceutical industries.

The safety center was established in memory of an employee killed in a 1989 explosion at the Phillips Petroleum Complex in Pasadena, Texas. The initial blast registered 3.5 on the Richter scale, and an ensuing conflagration took 10 hours to control. In all, 23 employees died and 314 were injured.

The DRTF will be operated by TEES as well. It will join a wide array of new, cutting-edge facilities at the RELLIS Campus on the western edge of Bryan, including the BCDC, the Center for Infrastructure Renewal, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the SecureAmerica Institute.

Engineering Facilities at RELLIS


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