$100 million Chancellor’s Research Initiative recruits four top scholars to Texas A&M Engineering

May 8, 2014
| By: Aubrey Bloom

A $100 million fund at The Texas A&M University System known as the Chancellor's Research Initiative (CRI) is credited for successfully attracting four world renowned scholars and researchers to elevate the engineering research portfolio: Christodoulos A. Floudas, professor of engineering and applied science, Princeton University; E.N. Pistikopoulos, professor of chemical engineering, Imperial College of London; Alan Needleman, professor of materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering, University of North Texas; and Peter M. Rentzepis, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, University of California at Irvine.

"These are superstars in the academic community in engineering research, respected by their peers as members of the prestigious national academies, and the caliber of scholar that every university aggressively courts," said Chancellor John Sharp. "The CRI seeks to find outstanding researchers who can not only produce amazing work, but also bring in some much needed funding to support that work."

Leveraging vast experience in developing and implementing large, multi-investigator, federally funded programs, each brings strength in key areas: Floudas and Pistikopoulos in the area of process control and optimization; Needleman in computational materials and Rentzepis in ultrafast spectroscopy and x-ray lasers.

"The impact that these scholars will have on our program is far-reaching," said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. "Each brings expertise in key research areas, which will attract other influential scholars and high quality students to our program. The CRI is an investment in our future that will pay enormous dividends in ways we cannot even calculate at this point."

Dr. Christodoulos A. Floudas will join the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University as a chair professor in February 2015. Also, he will be appointed as the director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute. Dr. Floudas is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Floudas is among the top leaders in the world in the area of process control and optimization, and conducts interdisciplinary research including contributions in energy, healthcare and other areas relevant to the Texas economy.

"Dr. Floudas will anchor our efforts to create an excellence cluster in multi-scale systems engineering for energy and the environment," said Dr. Nazmul Karim, head of the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering. "Building this excellence cluster will require hiring several faculty with specific expertise in addition to Dr. Floudas and one of these senior faculty has been identified as Dr. E.N. Pistikopoulos, who is currently a faculty member at Imperial College in London."

Dr. E.N. Pistikopoulos also among the top leaders in the world in the area of process control and optimization, and conducts interdisciplinary research including contributions in energy and healthcare. He will join the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering in November 2014 as a chair professor. Dr. Pistikopoulos is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

"Their presence in the department will elevate its stature in the academic community, making the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering one of the best departments in the country, and perhaps in the world. Their presence will attract the very best students to the campus and the intellectual conversation will be elevated to levels not seen before," said Karim.

Dr. Alan Needleman will join the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University as a tenured chair professor with a joint appointment as distinguished research professor in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station in 2015.  

Dr. Needleman is an internationally known researcher in the area of computational modeling of materials, dislocation dynamics, structure mechanics and theoretical and applied mechanics. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

"Dr. Needleman's accomplishments and agenda are synergistic with several strategic initiatives at Texas A&M: national security, transportation and energy, which have been identified among the Grand Challenge areas for the university," said Dr. Ibrahim Karaman, materials science and engineering department head. "In addition, Dr. Needleman's emphasis on computational materials science with strong links to the materials genome initiative will take Texas A&M's high performance computing environment to new horizons." 

Dr. Peter M. Rentzepis joined the department of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M in May 2014 and holds the title of professor and holder of the TEES Distinguished Research Professorship. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has many honors to his credit including The Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics.

Rentzepis is a pioneer in the field of ultrafast spectroscopy, especially its use in the study of transition states in chemical and biological reactions including photosynthesis. He also developed an ultrafast table-top X-ray laser which will have numerous applications to biology, chemistry, and material science.

"We are fortunate to have Dr. Rentzepis join our faculty, as he brings tremendous experience and leadership from his tenure as department head at Bell Labs and presidential chair and professor of chemistry and electrical engineering at the University of California, Irvine," said Chanan Singh, interim head of electrical and computer engineering. "His wealth of knowledge and experience from industry and academia will greatly enhance our research efforts in lasers and life sciences."

About the A&M System

The A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $3.8 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, seven state agencies, two service units and a comprehensive health science center, the A&M System educates more than 131,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Externally funded research expenditures exceed $820 million and help drive the state's economy.

Contact: Steven B. Moore
(979) 458-6023

About the Dwight Look College of Engineering
With more than 360 tenured/tenure-track faculty members and more than 12,000 students, the Look College is one of the largest engineering schools in the country, ranking third in undergraduate enrollment and ninth in graduate enrollment. The college is ranked seventh in graduate studies, eighth in undergraduate programs, and second in research expenditures among public institutions by U.S. News & World Report, with seven of the college's 13 departments ranked in the Top 10.

About the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES)
As an engineering research agency of Texas, TEES performs quality research driven by real-world problems; strengthens and expands the state's workforce through educational partnerships and training; and develops and transfers technology to industry. TEES partners with academic institutions, governmental agencies, industries, and communities to solve problems to help improve the quality of life, promote economic development, and enhance educational systems. TEES, a member of the Texas A&M University System is in its 100th year of engineering solutions.

Contact: Pam Green
(979) 845-4960

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