National Academy of Engineering welcomes four UT faculty

NationalEngineersNew inductees clockwise from top-left, Thomas Edgar, Greg Fenves, Yale Patt, and Bob Schutz. With them are, left, C.D.  Mote Jr., President, National Academy of Engineering, and right, Charles O. Holliday Jr., Chairman, National Academy of Engineering.

Last week, four professors from UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering traveled to Washington, D.C., for their induction into the National Academy of Engineering. UT Austin had the most new members of any university this year. The academy inducted 67 new members and 11 foreign associates. I’m especially proud that among them is our executive vice president and provost, Greg Fenves. They are:

  • Thomas Edgar, director of the Energy Institute at UT Austin and the George T. and Gladys H. Abell Chair in Engineering, who is recognized for contributions to mathematical modeling, optimization and automatic control of chemical and microelectronics processes, and for professional leadership.
  • Greg Fenves, executive vice president and provost of UT Austin, who is recognized for contributions to computational modeling, creation of open-source software for earthquake engineering analysis, and for academic leadership. Prior to becoming provost, Fenves served as the eighth dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.
  • Yale Patt, the Ernest Cockrell Jr. Centennial Chair in Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who was elected for contributions to high-performance microprocessor architecture.
  • Bob Schutz, the Joe J. King Chair of Engineering in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, who was elected for his contribution to the use of satellite laser ranging and GPS tracking to study Earth system dynamics.

Provost Fenves and Professors Edgar, Patt, and Schutz make us all proud.

Hook ’em!

Bill Powers signature

Sharon Wood becomes next dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering

Wood, Sharon 2013


I am delighted to announce that Sharon Wood — a distinguished engineering professor who has served as interim dean of our Cockrell School since October — is now the Cockrell School’s ninth dean. Sharon joins a select group of scholars to have led the school since T.U. Taylor taught our first engineering class in 1888. I am proud that she is the first female dean of this school, just as she was the first female department head within the Cockrell School. Sharon is a national expert in the performance of concrete structures during earthquakes.

The Cockrell School is ranked No. 10 in the nation, and best in Texas, by U.S. News & World Report. Sharon will lead its 270 faculty members and more than 7,500 students and oversee annual research expenditures exceeding $150 million. Leading the imminent construction of the Engineering Education and Research Center, which will elevate the Cockrell School even further, will be among her most important activities.

Sharon received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and her master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also served on the faculty for 10 years. She joined the Cockrell School faculty in 1996.

I look forward to seeing the new heights the Cockrell School of Engineering will attain because of Dean Wood’s leadership.

What starts here changes the world.

Bill's Signature

Tillersons give $5 million for new engineering building


From left : Provost Greg Fenves and his wife, Carmel; Cockrell School interim Dean Sharon Wood; Renda and Rex Tillerson; and my wife, Kim Heilbrun, and me

Distinguished Alumnus Rex Tillerson and his wife, Renda, have pledged $5 million to help build the Engineering Education and Research Center. Rex is chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil.

Rex and Renda have been loyal friends of the University, and I’m grateful for this generous gift in support of the research, teaching and collaboration that will thrive in the EERC. Their commitment demonstrates a strong belief in our ability to educate and develop engineering leaders who will change the world.

When completed in 2017, the EERC will house advanced teaching, research, and student project spaces that will foster collaboration among students and researchers in the Cockrell School’s seven departments and across the UT campus.

Rex earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering here in 1975, and his sons, Robert and Michael, are graduates of the Cockrell School as well. He’s a member of the school’s Engineering Advisory Board and of the UT Development Board. Beginning with his first gift in 1978, Rex has been a devoted supporter of many parts of the University.

The Tillersons’ gift moves us closer to crossing the $3 billion goal line of the Campaign for Texas. Our total now stands at $2,835,369,779. Thank you, Rex and Renda!

Bill's Signature

Mulvas pledge largest cash gift of the Campaign for Texas

MDAnderson-Jim & Miriam Mulva

Last week, we celebrated the largest gift of the Campaign for Texas and one of the largest gifts in the 135 year history of the University. Jim and Miriam Mulva, already among the largest donors to The University of Texas at Austin, have pledged $60 million to UT.

The historic gift will support two critical construction projects on the campus: $20 million will support the building of the Engineering Education and Research Center and the Cockrell School of Engineering. And $40 million will support the renovation of the College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Business buildings at the McCombs School of Business.

In recognition of this gift, we are dedicating the James J. and Miriam B. Mulva Conference Center and Auditorium, to be completed in 2017. And at the McCombs School, the CBA/GSB will be renamed James J. and Miriam B. Mulva Hall.

I know you will join me in thanking the Mulva family for this transformative gift. It will be exciting to watch our campus change and grow because of it, and our engineering and business students will be indebted to them for decades to come.

What starts here changes the world.

Bill's Signature




Photo by John Everett for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Nanotechnology center is a historic milestone for UT Austin


Nanotechnology like this plastic substrate roll will make flexible electronics commonplace

Any day UT Austin receives an $18.5 million grant is a good day. But the announcement that a grant in that amount from the National Science Foundation over the next five years was to create an NSF nanosystems engineering research center was much more significant than simply the receipt of even that impressive an amount.

When engineering dean Greg Fenves was new to his job, one of his earliest observations to me was that, unlike other top universities, UT Austin was not home to an NSF research center. These centers complement America’s system of national labs, and the fact that this particular center will be at UT speaks volumes about our leadership in the engineering sphere.

Nanotechnology is one of the most important frontiers there is. Nanoscale breakthroughs will usher in inventions and solutions we can only dream of today, and thanks to the National Science Foundation and our academic and corporate partners, The University of Texas at Austin will be right at the cutting edge. Those academic partners include the University of New Mexico and UC-Berkeley, and our corporate partners include Texas Instruments, 3M, Lockheed Martin, Applied Materials, and Corning Inc., among others.

The Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (to be known as NASCENT) will develop innovative nanomanufacturing, nanosculpting, and nanometrology systems that could lead to versatile mobile computing devices such as wearable sensors, foldable laptops, and rollable batteries.

Not only is this the first time UT Austin has been selected to lead a prestigious and highly competitive engineering research center (ERC), but it is the first time since 1986 that a Texas university has been selected to lead an ERC. As of November 2011, there were 17 active ERCs across the United States.

Cockrell School of Engineering professors Roger Bonnecaze and S.V. Sreenivasan will lead the center. My congratulations to Dean Fenves on turning his observation from a goal to a reality.

What starts here changes the world.