Science & Tech

5 Aggie Research Innovations In 2013

Researchers at Texas A&M are making a global impact with cutting-edge investigation and innovative ideas to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges.
By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M Marketing & Communications December 10, 2013

Whether in health and medicine, education or law, science or engineering, the arts and architecture, business or public policy, researchers at Texas A&M University are making a global impact with cutting-edge investigation and innovative ideas to tackle humanity’s greatest challenges. Here are just five examples of this year’s many innovative Aggie research projects.

tamu cvmCow Antibodies Suggest New Therapies For People

There is perhaps no greater threat to humans and animals alike than infectious disease, and researchers at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM) helped make a major breakthrough this year in the fight against bacterial and viral infections. CVM researchers, in conjunction with The Scripps Research Institute, studied an extraordinary family of cow antibodies which gives cows an unusual immune defense, and found they’re also suited to defend against pathogens in humans, opening the potential for new breakthrough therapies. Aggie researchers Waithaka Mwangi, Michael F. Criscitiello and Terje Raudsepp co-authored the study, published in the June 6, 2013 issue of the journal Cell.

Using Chemistry To Clean Up Oil Spills

The world watched in April 2010 as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, caused unimaginable damage to the Gulf Coast environment. Research into the prevention and mitigation of future oil spills is widespread at Texas A&M, and one of those researchers, College of Science Chemistry Professor Karen Wooley and her team are creating nanoparticles that can be used to soak up spilled crude oil. The team continues to work with this “nano-solution,” finding new and innovative applications including the delivery of drugs to treat ailments such as cancer and lung infections, according to the college.

New Material May Improve Ultrasounds

Health research is thriving in many different colleges at Texas A&M, including the Dwight Look College of Engineering, where Biomedical Engineering Professor Vladislav Yakovlev and collaborators at three other universities developed a new material which converts ultrasound waves into optical signals that can be used to produce an image. The material, known as “metamaterial,” improves on conventional ultrasound technology which generates images by converting ultrasound waves into electrical signals, according to the college. This innovation shows the potential for producing high-quality images that show much greater detail, allowing medical professionals to see what they haven’t been able to see before.

Using Paint Guns To Deflect Asteroids

It might sound like something out of a sci-fi comedy, but rest assured, it’s real. Dave Hyland, professor of physics and astronomy and a faculty member in Texas A&M’s aerospace engineering department theorizes that “tribocharging powder dispensing,” or the high-pressured spreading of a thin layer of paint over an approaching asteroid, will shift it from its current orbit. NASA liked the idea so much, they’ve approached Hyland to develop a project to test the theory and just in time, as a 1,000-foot long asteroid called Apophis will come close to us in 2029 and again in 2036, when there is a small chance it will hit Earth.

Huge piles of sargassum have washed up on Texas beaches in recent years.


Using Seaweed To Fight Storm Surge

In addition to the main campus in College Station, research at Texas A&M’s branch campuses is thriving and a good example is the much-needed research into hurricane mitigation at Texas A&M-Galveston. One standout project teams TAMUG researchers with the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees for a pilot program to fight storm surge that may help save lives and protect property from rising sea levels and future hurricanes. The idea is to use the seaweed that washes ashore to fortify sand dunes to be more resilient to storm surges and high tides. This innovation may serve to prevent the massive damage seen in Galveston in 2008, when Hurricane Ike breached the seawall, flooding parts of the city. 

Other innovative projects this year have included building bi-pedal robots, a new method of treating aneurysms, improved imaging for diagnosing oral cancer, a natural substitute for artificial food dyes and turning nuclear waste into energy.

For more on Texas A&M research, visit the Division of Research online at

Media contact: Lesley Henton, Texas A&M Division of Marketing & Communications.

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