Texas A&M Lands Major International Science Research Center

By: Texas A&M University Email
By: Texas A&M University Email

COLLEGE STATION, Texas A&M University is one of four international institutions selected by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia to host an inaugural quartet of interdisciplinary scientific research centers dedicated to collaborative excellence on a global scale.

Texas A&M, along with Cornell University, the University of Oxford and Stanford University, stands to receive as much as $25 million during the next five years under KAUST's Global Research Partnership (GRP) to help support a new research center for applied mathematics and computational science, one of four priority areas identified by KAUST, a new graduate-level university under development in Saudi Arabia set to open in September 2009.

"We chose these first KAUST GRP centers from an exceptionally competitive pool of proposals, which represented some of the most talented research teams in the world," said KAUST President-designate Choon Fong Shih. "Following a highly rigorous technical review process, we selected four very top-quality proposals that best complement KAUST's institutional priorities at this time in its development."

The four were selected from a pool of 17 finalists narrowed down from 41 applications initially submitted to KAUST last fall. According to KAUST officials, each was chosen on the basis of scientific merit, quality of the proposed research, demonstrated research center capability, five-year organizational plan for research execution, ability to collaborate in a team environment and direct relevance and benefit to KAUST's overall mission. A total of 65 international experts drawn from the community of academic and industrial researchers around the world contributed reviews.

"The final 17 proposals were all from institutions that KAUST would like to have as partners and all of a quality we would be proud to be associated with," said KAUST Interim Vice President for Research Dr. Mohamed Samaha. "Given the exceptionally high quality of all of the final proposals, it was a challenge to pick the ones that best fit KAUST's vision, mission and current needs."

Texas A&M President Dr. Elsa A. Murano attributes Texas A&M's selection to its renowned reputation in international research and evident flair for collaboration and teamwork, both in the initial proposal and in the eventual research center it hoped to create.

"We truly live in a global society, and finding solutions to some of the world?s greatest challenges will require collaborations not only from across academia, but across international boundaries," Murano said.
"Texas A&M is appreciative of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology recognizing the tremendous value of our interdisciplinary research approach, as well as the impact that our research has around the world."

Dr. James A. Calvin, Texas A&M interim vice president for research and a professor of statistics, will serve as principal investigator for the proposed Texas A&M Institute for Applied Mathematics and Computational Science (IAMCS), which will be formally presented to The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents for approval this summer. The institute is intended to stimulate collaborative research and graduate education in all related areas through joint development and pursuit of annual research themes, weekly seminars and semi-annual and annual research working sessions between Texas A&M and KAUST.

"Our partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will provide an opportunity to work on significant problems of global importance," Calvin said. "We believe that the expertise in our partnership brings a cohesive approach to addressing issues in science and engineering. As a part of the research program, we will develop new paradigms in training future researchers and give them a broad perspective to solve complex problems. This approach is a testament to KAUST's strong vision for the future of international collaborative research, and we look forward to our partnership in this area."

Calvin said the new institute will engage mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists on problems that span the earth sciences, materials science and the bio-sciences. Applications include reservoir modeling, thermo-acoustic and photo-acoustic imaging related to disease diagnosis, gene expression modeling and complex data, including seismic and genomic information.

In addition to basic and applied research activity, Texas A&M plans to offer graduate and post-graduate fellowships to help encourage graduate students and post-doctoral researchers in their pursuit of advanced degrees and group and individual research projects at both Texas A&M and KAUST.

Dr. Raymond J. Carroll, distinguished professor of statistics, nutrition and toxicology and deputy director for IAMCS research, credited KAUST for its global vision and the breadth of opportunities it creates for the actual researchers involved and their broader professions.

"The unique aspect of our institute is in bringing mathematicians, statisticians and computational scientists together to solve problems of practical importance, " Carroll said. "We are very excited about the discoveries that this multidisciplinary group will make over the next few years."

Dr. Jay R. Walton, professor of mathematics and aerospace engineering, will serve as deputy director for education within the new institute. Like Carroll, he emphasized the importance of a team approach, from institutions to disciplines, to making global progress on today's increasingly complex scientific issues.

"Finding solutions for many of the grand challenge problems in the earth sciences, materials science and engineering, and the life sciences requires an interdisciplinary approach including mathematicians, statisticians and computational scientists," Walton said. "This institute holds the promise of creating the necessary interdisciplinary critical mass needed to make significant progress on these problems as it offers a new paradigm for training students to work in such an interdisciplinary setting."

Institute research will be focused in three thematic areas: multiscale modeling and simulation, led by Dr. Yalchin Efendiev, associate professor of mathematics; deterministic and statistical methods, led by Dr. Peter Kuchment, professor of mathematics; and data-driven computational sciences and visualization, led by Dr. Marvin Adams, professor of nuclear engineering.

KAUST officials said each of the four centers will work with partners from industry and other institutions, assist in setting up laboratories at KAUST, spend time on the KAUST campus, open classrooms to KAUST students via the Internet, conduct joint seminars, training and workshops for junior faculty, exchange faculty and students for teaching and learning opportunities, and participate in curriculum development.

As one of the United States' leading public research universities, Texas A&M University invests nearly $570 million each year in research projects throughout the world, ranking it among the top 20 research universities nationwide. In addition, Texas A&M is one of a select few U.S. universities to hold land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant designations, reflecting the broad scope of its basic and applied research mission.

For more information on KAUST and the four inaugural GRP centers, click on the link below.

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