Holtzapple, Claridge to speak at inaugural SEC Symposium in Atlanta

Two Texas A&M University engineering professors, Drs. Mark Holtzapple  and David Claridge, will join faculty from across the Southeastern Conference member schools as presenters at the inaugural SEC Symposium in Atlanta Feb. 10-12. The three-day meeting, focusing on the academic expertise of the SEC’s 14 member universities, is titled “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future.”

HoltzappleHoltzapple, professor of chemical engineering, will speak at a session addressing “The Integrated Biorefinery.” Claridge, the Leland Jordan Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Laboratory, will make a presentation at a session titled “Better Use of Energy in the Built Environment: the Smart Grid and Efficiency.”

DclaridgeThe first-ever SEC Symposium is a component of “SECU,” the primary mechanism through which the collaborative academic endeavors and achievements of the league’s universities are promoted and advanced.

“This academic initiative provides an opportunity for our schools to work together to enhance and share academic resources,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. “(SECU) operates parallel to, but separate from, the athletic side of the conference.” Slive added that the SEC Symposium will showcase the academic excellence of SEC member institutions and underscores their educational and economic contributions to the vitality of the region, nation and world.

Texas A&M Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Karan L. Watson works with other academic leaders at the SEC member institutions, as well as the conference office staff, to collaborate on the SECU initiatives.

“We are all aware of the SEC’s efforts in showcasing student-athletes from each institution,” said Watson. “The SECU initiative uses the conference platform and resources to invest in the expertise of our faculty and showcase the high-quality academic excellence of the Southeast’s leading universities.”

In addition to each institution’s provost, faculty members also serve important direction-setting roles for SECU.  Four faculty members from Texas A&M serve as “faculty ambassadors” to the SECU initiative: Dr. Michael Benedik, Regents Professor of Biology; Dr. Blanca Lupiani, professor of veterinary medicine; Dr. Cesar Malave, professor and head of industrial engineering; and Dr. Cynthia Werner, associate professor and head of anthropology.

Giving a faculty perspective, Holtzapple, said: “As a professor, it is exciting to join the SEC in recognizing the success of our students, both those on the playing field and in our classrooms and laboratories. This symposium and other professional development opportunities showcase our students’ potential and our universities’ collective impact on our region.  The SEC region of the United States has abundant, productive agricultural land and well-established refining capacity, so it is natural for biofuels to be a major theme of this conference.”

The idea for the inaugural SEC Symposium originated with Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, who is the current vice president of the SEC Executive Committee and SECU liaison.

“We are excited about the inaugural SEC Symposium,” Zeppos said. “This will provide an outstanding way in which to showcase the academic accomplishments and research efforts of our SEC institutions.”

Led by the University of Georgia and its Bioenergy Systems Research Institute under the direction of Robert Scott, the initial symposium will feature a wide variety of presentations from faculty representing each SEC institution, an SEC university showcase, poster exhibitions and a reception with the SEC presidents, chancellors and provosts.

Joining Provost Watson, the faculty presenters and President R. Bowen Loftin at the symposium will be other Texas A&M participants, including four graduate students who work closely with Holtzapple. Two of the graduate students will represent Texas A&M as “university ambassadors” and work with symposium organizers.

The other two students will serve as hosts at a Texas A&M exhibit featuring teaching and research efforts in renewable energy across multiple colleges and Texas A&M’s partner agencies – the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and Texas A&M AgriLife Research.  Program Director Bob Avant will be in attendance to share some of the collaborative efforts of the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Bioenergy Program.

More information about the inaugural SEC Symposium and its participants is available on their website.