TEXAS UNIVERSITY RESEARCH
To get a flavor of the kind of research that has been funded by these programs over the last few years, the American-Statesman examined federal grant records.
A $3 million Advanced Research Projects Agency grant awarded to a University of Texas chemical engineering professor paid for research into “smart windows” from 2013 through 2016. With buildings accounting for 40 percent of all energy used in the United States, and energy loss through windows boosting energy bills by as much as 25 percent, the research group experimented with low-cost coatings to block some sunlight to increase energy efficiency, cut energy bills and make people inside a building more comfortable. The research team, headed by UT professor Delia Milliron, has now attracted further federal and private investment as it tries to convert the technology into a commercial product.
A $900,000 EPA grant awarded in 2009 to a University of Texas team examined the best ways to monitor the storage of carbon, a key step in trying to clean up emissions from coal-fired power plants. “It’s hard to tell what’s efficient while sitting at a desk writing rules,” said UT research scientist Susan Hovorka, who worked on the project. “Someone has to get out the computer and field measurements and do an assessment to determine what’s efficient.”
Another EPA-grant-funded project, installing and testing small drinking water treatment stations in poor communities near El Paso, had practical and career implications for those involved. The project“was a major success in helping a marginalized group of people gain access to safe and reliable drinking water,” said Shane Walker, who teaches civil engineering at the University of Texas-El Paso. The work, he added, “had an enormous impact on me, personally, as a young faculty member. I became a professor because I wanted to inspire students to change the world through teaching and research. This research project was awarded in my second year as an assistant professor (a critical point in the life of an untenured faculty member), and it was instrumental in giving me the opportunity to mature as an interdisciplinary collaborator and as a research leader.”