Texas A&M University awarded $20 million in GURI grants

Texas A&M University is the top beneficiary in a major new initiative announced recently by Gov. Greg Abbott that has resulted in attracting 10 distinguished researchers to the state. Five of the renowned faculty members recruited through the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI) will join Texas A&M, three will join the University of Houston and two will join the University of Texas at Austin.  

The grant awarded to Texas A&M total more than $20 million.

Three of the researchers heading to Texas A&M will join the college of engineering — Dr. Richard B. Miles (aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering); Dr. Thomas J. Overbye (electrical and computer engineering); and Dr. George M. Pharr IV (materials science and engineering).

“Texas is the home of innovation, and with the addition of these world-class scholars to our university faculties, we will continue to lead the nation in cutting-edge research,” said Gov. Abbott. “This strategic investment in higher education will further elevate future generations of students and faculty at Texas universities while spearheading new breakthroughs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, all of which are crucial to the long-term success of the Texas economy.”

The GURI program was one of Gov. Abbott’s priorities in the most recent legislative session, aimed at bringing the best and brightest researchers in the world to Texas. The program’s goal is to attract transformative researchers who will in turn serve as economic catalysts to the Texas economy for years to come.

GURI is patterned in part by a similar initiative for The Texas A&M University System established under the leadership of Chancellor John Sharp.

“I hope all Texans will join me in thanking Gov. Abbott for the leadership and vision demonstrated through his university research initiative,” Chancellor Sharp said. “The state’s ability to attract new companies to grow our economy, bring in top scholars to educate our students, and develop new concepts and technologies to improve our quality of life will all depend on the innovative research conducted at our universities. These generous awards, which will bring five nationally and internationally renowned researchers to Texas A&M University, are smart, strategic investments that will have a huge pay off for the people of Texas. Gov. Abbott clearly understands the value of our research mission, and I applaud his commitment to it.”

Texas A&M President Michael K. Young joined in thanking Gov. Abbott and in underscoring the significance of GURI.

“This is great news – for higher education in Texas and for the global impact of Texas on the world,” President Young said. “We at Texas A&M thank Gov. Abbott for his leadership and vision in making the GURI initiative a reality. These new additions to our faculty will unquestionably help us in our quest to address pressing problems facing the state, nation and world through world-class research and innovation and will help us do an even better job of preparing leaders for the future.”

The GURI grant awards total $34,292,550 with one-to-one matching grant commitments from each university. Applications to the grant program are accepted on a rolling basis and eligible institutions can apply for matching grants of up to $5 million per distinguished researcher. Grant funds will be used for recruitment costs, including the purchase of research equipment and construction or renovation of facilities necessary to support the distinguished researchers.

The recipients of the grants feature researchers hailing from across the nation and world, each of whom are members of national honorific societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and The Royal Society in the United Kingdom.

 “I look forward to joining the esteemed Texas A&M University engineering program in January as a result of this initiative, and to working with colleagues and students to advance research in nanomaterials,” said Pharr.


Dr. Richard B. Miles, who will establish and lead a Center of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Optical and Laser Detection Systems for National Security and Safety at Texas A&M, will join as a faculty member in the Departments of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering on Feb. 15, 2017. He is currently a senior scholar at Princeton University and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. One such application of his innovative research is the development of state-of-the-art instrumentation for remote detection that will identify hazardous gases and dangerous contaminants such as anthrax or the Ebola virus, hidden explosives such as IEDs, and/or greenhouse gases and pollutants. His teaching of undergraduates and graduate students will begin in the fall of 2017 on optics, spectroscopy and thermodynamics. Texas A&M has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $5,000,000.

Dr. Thomas J. Overbye is currently the Fox Family Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research interests are in the domains of Smart Grid Cyber Security, Renewable Electric Energy Systems, Power System Visualization, Power System Analysis by Computer Methods, Power System Stability, and Power Systems Operation and Control. He will join the Texas A&M faculty beginning Jan. 1, 2017. In the fall of 2017, he will begin teaching in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering on topics related to power distribution and generation. Texas A&M has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $4,500,000.

Dr. George M. Pharr IV currently serves as the Chancellor’s Professor and McKamey Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. His research will be in the creation and testing of nanomaterials. He will join the Texas A&M faculty beginning Jan. 1, 2017. In the fall of 2017, Pharr will begin teaching in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at both graduate and undergraduate levels on nanomaterials and properties of materials. Texas A&M has been awarded a GURI grant totaling $5,000,000.

To read the governor’s official announcement about the GURI program, visit http://gov.texas.gov/news/press-release/22500.

More information on the GURI grant program is available at: http://gov.texas.gov/guri.