NSF director visits Texas A&M, tours facilities and discusses STEM

A26U2874France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), visited Texas A&M University, toured laboratories and visited with science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) thought leaders and students during her recent visit to Texas.

“We are honored to host Dr. Cordova on campus and are proud to showcase the impact that National Science Foundation funding for research is making within the A&M System universities and agencies,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “Texas A&M University receives more NSF funding than any other university in the state and we are very proud of our researchers who leverage these funds to improve the quality of life worldwide.”

The National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency created in 1950, is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering and is a major funding source for research at Texas A&M.

“NSF is the engine that drives scientific discovery in the U.S. and Texas A&M has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with the agency,” said Interim President Mark A. Hussey. “With more than $820 million in research expenditures generated by our researchers each year, roughly one-third of that is funded by the NSF and places us among the top 10 NSF collaborators in the nation. We appreciate Director Cordova making time to visit Texas A&M and meet with our faculty and students.”

The university's largest NSF-funded research award, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), receives more than $55 million per year over a 10-year contract and was featured on the director’s tour. The IODP is an international research collaboration that coordinates seagoing expeditions to study the history of the Earth recorded in sediments and rocks beneath the ocean floor. The JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO) operates the scientific drillship JOIDES Resolution on behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation.

“The Texas A&M System is uniquely configured with universities and state agencies that work cohesively across the full spectrum of technical capabilities and competencies to maximize the teaching, research and service mission,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. “Knowing Dr. Cordova’s commitment to student success, I invited her to Texas A&M to experience firsthand our culture of innovation and transformation and our excellent stewardship of NSF dollars.”

During the visit, Cordova also met with undergraduate students who showcased unique Texas A&M research and entrepreneurship programs Startup Aggieland, among the nation’s first student-designed, student-operated business accelerators for student startup companies; AggiE Challenge, a contest for multidisciplinary teams to design and build solutions to society’s grand challenges and Aggies Invent, a series of 48-hour hardware “maker” challenges.

“NSF has long supported programs that excite and engage underrepresented groups in STEM,” said Córdova. “As the only federal agency funding all fields of fundamental science and engineering, NSF recognizes that increasing diversity in STEM drives innovation and benefits society as a whole.”

Cordova also toured Disaster City, a 52-acre emergency response training and testing facility featuring full-scale, collapsible structures designed to simulate various levels of disaster and wreckage. Along with her students, Dr. Robin R. Murphy, Raytheon Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and director of the Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) demonstrated multiple uses for robots ranging from rescue to protection of Ebola workers.