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Three Renowned Energy Researchers Join University of Houston

The University of Houston has recruited three renowned researchers working in the energy field – two members of the National Academy of Engineering and one member of the National Academy of Sciences – as part of the Governor’s University Research Initiative (GURI).

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the hires Thursday, part of an effort to recruit nationally recognized researchers to Texas institutions of higher education.

With annual research expenditures expected to top $150 million in 2016, UH is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university. The new hires will add to the University’s robust energy research efforts, which range from subsea engineering to materials research, clean energy and public policy.

UH President Renu Khator praised Abbott for his vision in implementing the initiative.

“These three highly accomplished individuals will be an invaluable addition to the team of dedicated researchers at the University of Houston, who are committed to expanding the frontiers of useful knowledge and providing real solutions to real-world problems,” she said. “We are grateful to Gov. Abbott for his vision in implementing this bold initiative and appreciate being among the first recipients of the program.”

The three researchers, she said “reflect the highest ideals of research, and we look forward to the important and innovative work they will undertake at the University, which will benefit our city, our state and our country.”

The GURI grant program was one of Abbott’s legislative priorities in the 2015 legislative session, with the goal of bringing more of the world’s top researchers to Texas. It offers matching grants to help eligible institutions of higher education in recruiting distinguished researchers. During the inaugural year, Texas institutions recruited 10 researchers, all members of national honorific societies including the National Academies and The Royal Society in the United Kingdom.

In addition to UH, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin also recruited new faculty with the GURI grants, which totaled $34 million, with one-to-one matching grant commitments from each university.

"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," Abbott said. "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 new hires at UH, made with $8.5 million in GURI funding, include:

  • Andrea Prosperetti. Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering. He previously was the Charles A. Miller, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and will lead the multidisciplinary Center for Advanced Computing and Data Systems, which applies high-performance computing to applications including energy, infrastructure, aerospace, health and national security.
  • Ganesh Thakur, Distinguished Professor of Petroleum Engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering. He is President and Global Advisor at Thakur Services, Inc. and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Thakur will also serve as Director for Energy Industrial Partnerships at UH. This center represents efforts in upstream and midstream as they apply to important applications.
  • John Suppe, Distinguished Professor of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). He was previously a Distinguished Chair and Research Professor at National Taiwan University and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Suppe will establish and lead the multidisciplinary Center for Tectonics and Tomography at UH. This center will yield fundamentally new insights into the interaction of past plate motions and the global circulation of Earth's mantle.

University administrators said the new faculty members will add to the University’s efforts in both teaching and research.

“This support from Gov. Abbot’s GURI grants has a tremendous impact on UH Engineering’s research enterprise, as well as our college’s ability to graduate a growing number of talented and entrepreneurial engineers,” said Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean of the UH Cullen College of Engineering. “We are able to graduate the best and brightest engineers in the world because our faculty members are the best and brightest engineering researchers and educators."

Dan E. Wells, dean of NSM, said Suppe’s work will have a similar impact.

“John Suppe is a preeminent scholar and teacher of structural geology and tectonics,” he said. “Establishment of the UH Center for Tectonics and Tomography will enrich our research program bringing additional emphasis to the area of seismic tomography and the development of new tomographic models.”

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

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