May Updates from the Forty Acres

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As we reach the end of the 2013-14 school year, I’d like to share some good news. This weekend UT celebrates its 131st spring commencement. More than 8,686 Longhorn students are about to become graduates of The University of Texas at Austin. Of those, 5,832 will be getting their bachelor’s degrees, 1,900 their master’s degrees, and 954 their doctoral degrees. Among those graduating with bachelor’s degrees, our three most popular majors this year, in order, are psychology, economics, and finance. I’m proud of all of our new UT graduates, and I welcome their families and friends to our campus on this joyful weekend.

This spring, we have lit the Tower orange for a number of scholarly achievements. Four of our engineering faculty members were inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, the most of any university: Thomas Edgar, Yale Patt, Bob Schutz, and our provost, Greg Fenves. We also honored mathematics professor Luis Caffarelli, winner of the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research, and chemistry and chemical engineering professor Grant Willson, who won the Japan Prize for his development of a process now used to manufacture nearly all microprocessors and memory chips. And, as I mentioned last month, we broke ground on three buildings for our new Dell Medical School.

The Campaign for Texas continues to break records for philanthropy as we rapidly approach our August 31 deadline to bring the eight-year, $3 billion effort to a successful close. As of today, we have raised $2,855,986,626. That leaves $144,013,374 left to raise in 110 days. That is a lot, but I know that if we pull together, we can make history. Join us!

Finally, I’d like to recognize some of this year’s athletics successes. For the 2013-14 athletics season, six Longhorn teams captured Big 12 Conference championships: Volleyball, Men’s Swimming and Diving, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Women’s Indoor Track and Field, Men’s Tennis and Men’s Golf. I also want to congratulate Kevin Durant, who last Tuesday became the first Texas Ex in history to be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. In winning his fourth scoring title in five years, he joins only Michael Jordan, George Gervin, and Wilt Chamberlain. Hook ’em!

Kevin’s hard-won achievements are emblematic of what Longhorns do every day across society. From teaching to nursing, accounting to the arts, engineering to journalism, and in so much else, what starts here changes the world.

Here’s to another great school year.

Bill's Signature

Tower glows orange for prize-winning faculty

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Grant Willson and Luis Caffarelli

Last night, the Tower glowed orange in honor of Dr. Grant Willson, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering and winner of the prestigious Japan Prize. He won the prize for his development of a process now used to manufacture nearly all of the microprocessors and memory chips in the world. Grant joined the faculties of the Departments of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at UT Austin in 1993. His previous honors include the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

Tonight, we light the Tower again, this time for Dr. Luis Caffarelli, professor of mathematics and winner of the 2014 American Mathematical Society Leroy P. Steele Prize for Seminal Contribution to Research. Caffarelli, a native Argentinian, joined our faculty in 1997. His previous prizes include the Wolf Prize, the Bôcher Memorial Prize, and the Rolf Schock Prize. This is his second Steele Prize; in 2009 he won the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement.

I know you share my immense pride in Grant, Luis, and our entire faculty, both for the world-class education they give our students and the honor they bring to The University of Texas through achievements like these.

What starts here changes the world.

Bill's Signature

Mathematics soars at Texas

Mathematics department awards - Tower souvenirs 2012
From left, professors Caffarelli, Babuska, and Engquist are joined by their wives in front of the Tower lit in their honor. Photo by Marsha Miller

Einstein said, “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”

If so, then last Tuesday evening we held a reception and lit the Tower orange to honor three of UT’s greatest poets, all of whom recently have won extremely prestigious awards in mathematics.

  • Ivo M. Babuska won the 2012 AMS Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement “for his many pioneering advances in the numerical solution of partial differential equations over the last half century.” Dr. Babuska hails from Prague, previously taught at the University of Maryland, and is a professor of aerospace engineering, holding the Trull Chair in Engineering.
  • Luis Caffarelli won Israel’s 2012 Wolf Prize, along with seven other American, British, and Israeli recipients. The Math Department now has two Wolf Prize winners on faculty, the other being John Tate, who won in 2002. Originally from Buenos Aires, Dr. Caffarelli taught at Minnesota, Chicago, NYU, and Princeton before coming to UT, where he holds the Sid Richardson Chair in Mathematics. His research interests include nonlinear analysis, partial differential equations and their applications, calculus of variations and optimization.
  • Bjorn Engquist won the 2012 AMS-SIAM George David Birkhoff Prize in Applied Mathematics, “for his contributions to a wide range of powerful computational methods over more than three decades.” (SIAM=Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics). From Stockholm, Dr. Engquist has taught at UCLA, Princeton, and the Royal Inst. of Technology in Stockholm and now holds the Computational and Applied Mathematics Chair at UT.

All three are also affiliated with UT’s Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences.

Adding to the stature of mathematics at UT, the department is in the rare situation of now hosting four concurrent National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellows – truly a hallmark of an elite group. I congratulate all these winners and department chair Alan Reid for his leadership of such a groundbreaking program.

Hook ’em Horns,

Bill's Signature