Three faculty in the College of Science are among the 21 Texas A&M University faculty named to the second class of Presidential Impact Fellows, announced last week by President Michael K. Young and Provost and Executive Vice President Carol A. Fierke.
Dr. Wenshe R. Liu, professor of chemistry and holder of the Gradipore Chair in Chemistry; Dr. Saskia Mioduszewski, professor of physics and astronomy; and Dr. Eric C. Rowell, professor of mathematics, each received the coveted honor, created in 2017 to recognize the continued development of and excellence in one of the university’s greatest strengths — its faculty.
“Texas A&M University is proud to invest in our amazing faculty who continue to make significant impacts through teaching, research and service efforts,” Young said. “These rising stars are meeting the challenges in their field and demonstrating what influence they have toward creating a better world.”
Each member of the 2018 class — which collectively represents Texas A&M’s 16 colleges and schools, two branch campuses, and comprehensive University Libraries — will receive an annual stipend of $25,000 for the next three fiscal years to accelerate their teaching, research and service efforts. In addition to retaining the title of Presidential Impact Fellow for life, each will receive a glass art memento reflecting the synergy of transformational learning, discovery and impact achieved through Texas A&M’s commitment to creating a better world.
The Texas A&M Science trio and their fellow 2018 honorees were officially recognized at an October 25 ceremony on the Texas A&M campus attended by many of the Fellows’ senior mentors, the 2017 inaugural class of Presidential Impact Fellows, University Distinguished Professors and Texas A&M members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“This honor is clear recognition of the excellence of these faculty in their scholarly endeavors,” Fierke said. “They are among the nation’s very best and will continue for many years to make transformational impacts that reach far beyond the walls of Texas A&M.”
Recipients are identified by their deans and confirmed by academic leadership. They are considered candidates for continued or new national and international acclaim and will utilize this honor to participate in national dialogue, advance their scholarship and create new partnerships.
Liu joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty in 2007 after earning his doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Davis in 2005. A visible early career leader in the worldwide chemical biological community, he is a member of the Professional Program in Biotechnology and the Interdisciplinary Faculty of Toxicology at Texas A&M. Liu’s primary research focus is to develop chemical and biotechnological methods for producing proteins with unique functionalities. His research group has invented several novel approaches for the synthesis of proteins with specific posttranslational modifications and significantly expanded the genetically encoded amino acid inventory in living systems to include more than 50 unique noncanonical amino acids. Another grand invention from Liu’s group is to genetically install two different noncanonical amino acids into one protein in living cells. Liu’s techniques have opened up new avenues of research, including cancer epigenetics and drug discovery, meriting a host of publications in major research journals and recognition with a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER Award. His current research is funded by NSF, the National Institutes of Health and the Welch Foundation.
Mioduszewski, who joined the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy and Texas A&M Cyclotron Institute in 2005, is an expert in experimental nuclear physics with an emphasis on relativistic heavy ion collisions (RHIC). Since earning her doctorate in nuclear physics at the University of Tennessee in 1999, Mioduszewski has carried out her research using the RHIC at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where ions as heavy as gold are accelerated and smashed together at high energies to enable scientists to study nuclear matter and its atomic-level properties under extreme conditions simulating the Big Bang. A member of the STAR Collaboration at Brookhaven, Mioduszewski is an established world leader in the RHIC physics community recognized to date with the U.S. Department of Energy Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2004), Brookhaven’s Sambamurti Award (2005), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2006) and the American Physical Society’s Maria Goeppert Mayer Award (2009).
Rowell joined the Texas A&M Department of Mathematics in 2006 after earning his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California, San Diego in 2003 and completing a three-year VIGRE postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University. His research, based in algebra and focused on the mathematical foundations of topological phases of matter, has been funded primarily by the National Security Administration and National Science Foundation. Rowell is one of four principal investigators currently involved in a three-year, $1.3 million collaborative NSF grant with the potential to usher in the next big thing in quantum computing — a working topological quantum computer capable of fundamentally transforming the landscape of information science and technology as we know it. In addition to offering a topics class in topological quantum computation this past spring, Rowell co-organized a related international workshop hosted September 20-22 at Texas A&M and also is co-organizing a semester-long program on quantum symmetries at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, set for spring 2020. He has served since 2015 as a consultant for Microsoft Research Station Q and currently spends two months a year in residence at Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research (BICMR) at Peking University as a distinguished visiting professor.
President Young initiated the concept of the new title and related strategic imperative at his “State of the University” address in October 2016, calling on the students, faculty, staff, former students and partners of Texas A&M to embrace grand challenges, commit to core values and embody the unique “can-do” spirit that distinguishes Texas Aggies in service through education. Texas A&M chemist Dr. Karen L. Wooley and Texas A&M physicist Dr. Alexei V. Sokolov were among the inaugural class of Presidential Impact Fellows unveiled March 7, 2017.
To learn more about faculty in the College of Science, visit https://science.tamu.edu/faculty/.
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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2016), based on expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.
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