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First Grants From Abbott Initiative Bringing 10 Top Researchers to Texas

Ten renowned researchers are coming to Texas as a result of the inaugural grants under Gov. Greg Abbott's university research initiative, his office announced Thursday.

Gov. Greg Abbott annouces several emergency legislative items in his first State of the State speech on Feb. 17, 2015.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

Ten renowned researchers are coming to Texas universities as a result of the inaugural grants under Gov. Greg Abbott's university research initiative, his office announced Thursday.

Throughout the next year, the researchers will join the faculty at three schools: Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. The researchers' positions are being backed by more than $34 million in one-to-one matching grant commitments from each college. 

They represent the first recipients of the Governor's University Research Initiative, a new effort under Abbott to lure Nobel Laureates and other world-class academics to the Lone Star State. Among the 10 researchers named Thursday are members of The Royal Society in the United Kingdom, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences.

"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 in a news release. "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." 

Under Abbott's initiative, universities can apply for matching grants of as much as $5 million per researcher. The grant money covers costs such as buying research equipment or building new facilities to help researchers. 

Texas A&M is the biggest beneficiary of the inaugural grants, receiving half the researchers. In a statement, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp lavished praise on Abbott for the "leadership and vision" of his research initiative and called the researchers bound for Texas A&M "smart, strategic investments that will have a huge pay off for the people of Texas."

The Governor's University Research Initiative was one of Abbott's top higher education priorities during the last legislative session. The initiative was started with half the money left over from the Emerging Technology Fund, a now-defunct program to boost technology startups in Texas that had drawn criticism for a lack of transparency. The other half of the money went to the Texas Enterprise Fund, which is used to attract businesses to relocate to the state. 

Here are the 10 researchers headed to Texas universities:

Girish Saran Agarwal

School: Texas A&M

Start date: Sept. 1

Background: Chair, Noble Foundation; professor of physics, Oklahoma State University; and member, Royal Society

Grant total: $4,612,000

Leif Andersson

School: Texas A&M

Start date: Sept. 1

Background: animal geneticist; foreign associate, National Academy of Sciences

Grant total: $1,568,000

Joan Frances Brennecke

School: UT-Austin

Start date: Aug. 1, 2017

Background: professor of chemical and bimolecular engineering, University of Notre Dame, and member, National Academy of Engineering

Grant total: $1.8 million

Richard B. Miles

School: Texas A&M

Start date: Feb. 15, 2017

Background: senior scholar, mechanical and aerospace engineering, Princeton University, and member, National Academy of Engineering

Grant total: $5 million

Thomas J. Overbye

School: Texas A&M

Start date: Jan. 31, 2017

Background: professor of electrical and computer engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and member, National Academy of Engineering

Grant total: $4.5 million

George M. Pharr IV

School: Texas A&M

Start date: Jan. 1, 2017

Background: professor of engineering, University of Tennessee, and member, National Academy of Engineering

Grant total: $5 million 

Andrea Prosperetti

School: University of Houston

Start date: July 1

Background: former professor of mechanical engineering, Johns Hopkins University and member, National Academy of Engineering

Grant total: $3,060,500

John Suppe

School: University of Houston

Start date: Sept. 1

Background: former geology professor, National Taiwan University, and member, National Academy of Sciences

Grant total: $2,427,700

Ganesh Thakur

School: University of Houston

Start date: Sept. 1

Background: president and global adviser, Thakur Services, and member, National Academy of Engineering

Total grant: $3,044,350

Wei Yang

School: UT-Austin

Start date: Aug. 1

Background: biologist; senior investigator and section chief, National Institutes of Health; and member, National Academy of Sciences

Total grant: $3,280,000

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and the University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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