Newsletter Issue 14
From the Founding Director
My friends, we are living through some dramatic changes and uncertain times as a nation, that’s for sure. How a sailor sets sails is much more significant during a storm than when sailing is smooth. We get that. You can rest assured that the Hagler Institute is functioning as well as possible under the circumstances, and with our staff working mainly from home. You can also be 100% certain that our compass still points to true north, our goals remain invariant, and our progress continues.

Much of our recent focus has been on assisting colleges with recruitment of the new Fellows for the Institute – helping draft agreements and, sometimes, assembling the proper help to solve some special contract issues. The good news is that the pandemic has not dented interest by prospective Fellows in coming to Texas A&M University, though visit times are uncertain at this point. 

As in prior years, we are recruiting an outstanding group of world-class scholars. We are also accommodating existing Fellows with adjustments in the duration of their appointments to the Hagler Institute given interruptions in visits caused by the COVID-19 virus.  All of our in-person interactions with Fellows, faculty, and students, including special lectures through mid-fall have been replaced, where possible, by virtual zoom interaction. We are optimistic that the full range of Hagler Institute activities can resume in the spring.

The Hagler Institute is undeterred in its role to keep new ideas and excellence in frontier research collaborations flowing into Texas A&M. Whatever the future state of the pandemic turns out to be, the Hagler Institute will continue optimizing operations to deliver the best results possible. Looking at the quality I can easily extrapolate for this next class, we are very excited as we anticipate the continuing opportunities to elevate this great American University.

Best wishes to all,
Hagler Fellow Updates
Dr. Peter Hotez , 2019-2020 Fellow of the Hagler Institute, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, has been too busy for us to even keep up with in this newsletter. We could devote each newsletter to his activities without giving them proper due. He is at the forefront of the coronavirus battle in bringing a new vaccine into clinical trials. This summer, he has spoken to the nation on various news programs, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Univision, Telemundo, and others. Almost every work day he has a major Zoom conference briefing with national and international groups, including various scientific societies, about the COVID -19 outbreak. He and his co-authors had publications in a variety of scientific journals. He published a book with Johns Hopkins University Press titled Poverty and the Impact of COVID-19: A Blue Marble Approach . Dr. Hotez has participated in numerous radio and print interviews and on-line journalism briefings. He spoke at the annual meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Turn on your television or radio. You are likely to hear him. You can also follow Dr. Hotez on Twitter: @PeterHotez .
Dr. Vijay Dhir , 2017-2018 Fellow of the Hagler Institute, former Dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at University of California, Los Angeles, and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Conference on Computational and Experimental Engineering, continues to come to Texas A&M as an active Fellow. Dr. Dhir has published a new graduate level text in a field in which he has been a significant pioneer. The book, co-authored with Gautam Biswas and Amaresh Dalal is titled Fundamentals of Convective Heat Transfer , published by CRC Press, LLC, an American publishing group that specializes in producing technical books. There are many engineering applications where eliminating heat, or more generally establishing precise temperature control, is important to the proper functioning of a component or a system. Convective heat transfer focuses on the transfer of heat from one place to another using fluids, with or without phase change. Professor Dhir is world famous for his seminal research on the heat transfer physics of boiling and associated applications. His lecture to students and faculty on this subject, including experiments done in space, were very stimulating.
Professor Vanderlei S. Bagnato historically has worked at the intersection of physics and materials science, so who would have thought that he would help patients with Parkinson’s disease or COVID-19? Professor Bagnato – that’s who. The work of this scientist is unique and inspiring. 

Professor Bagnato is recognized world-wide for his major scientific contributions. He is member of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S., the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican, the World Academy of Sciences, and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences where, in his home country, he also holds the prestigious title of Commander of Brazil’s National Order of Scientific Merit.  
The interdisciplinary nature of frontier research is heavily on display with this individual.While primarily a physicist, faculty in Texas A&M’s Department of Biomedical Engineering nominated and recruited Professor Bagnato as a Fellow of the Hagler Institute. Dr. Bagnato also works with a Hagler Fellowship recipient and PhD student, Jace Willis, from Texas A&M’s College of Medicine.

Professor Bagnato and his co-authors have published several insightful papers in just the last few months, in fields such as quantum physics (“Intra-scales energy transfer during the evolution of turbulence in a trapped Bose – Einstein condensate”, in the May 2020 Euro Physics Letter ). Here, however, we present a brief overview of his recent contributions to coping with major medical disorders.  

In the Volume 10, Issue 3 of the 2020 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinsonism, Bagnato and his co-authors report on promising help for those struggling with Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is characterized by tremors, stiffness, and impaired movement, and it often includes pain associated with the muscle stiffness or spasms. Involuntary movements also make falls more likely.

Prior research confirms that laser therapy can increase cellular energy metabolism and help to reestablish metabolic balance. Prior research also demonstrates that vacuum therapy improves blood circulation and cellular metabolism and detoxification. Bagnato and team have used a machine (the biomedical engineering aspect) that allows simultaneous use of negative pressure (vacuum therapy) and laser therapy on the same spot of application. They compared the results with vacuum and laser therapies used separately.

In their paper, “Can the Associated use of Negative Pressure and Laser Therapy Be a New and Efficient Treatment for Parkinson’s Pain? A Comparative Study,” the researchers show that laser therapy in combination with vacuum therapy significantly reduces pain, reduces muscle stiffness, and brings substantial improvements in the quality of life for Parkinsonian patients. Their findings demonstrate benefits that significantly surpasses the benefits of either therapy applied separately. 

Professor Bagnato’s recent research also contributes to treatments of lung infections, and he is working with Jace Willis on these issues. This international research cooperation spawned by the Hagler Institute may prove Photodynamic Action to be a fascinating new and non-invasive technique to treat respiratory infections, even lung infections connected with the COVID-19 virus. 
Student Spotlight
A global concern is how to neutralize harmful bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. Jace Willis , a PhD student in the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology in Texas A&M’s College of Medicine, is working to solve this problem, and the progress is impressive.  

Jace is collaborating with Professor Bagnato and Professor V. Yakovlev, a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M. Their research, which builds on recent findings by Bagnato and some of his colleagues at the São Carlos Institute of Physics in Brazil, focuses on the use of Photodynamic Action for microbiological control , or what we might think of as light-activated molecules. Thus far the research has been on mice models, where the subjects inhale a substance followed by lighting from outside the body of the thoracic area. Mice that received this treatment have fully recovered from pneumonia with no sign of tissue damage or inflammation. The team hopes to investigate the safety and effectiveness of their approach in additional clinical trials in larger animals. 

The Hagler Institute offers potentially career changing opportunities to students who team with Fellows of the Institute. This may well be the case for Jace Willis, as the Photodynamic Action research is promising to provide a prospective very efficient and non-invasive method for treating persistent pneumonia, also a dangerous symptom for some people who contract COVID-19. 
Thomas W. Powell ’62:
A Hagler Hero
Thomas Powell ’62 exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of Texas. On a uniquely beautiful Texas ranch near Giddings, Tom Powell also exemplifies the spirit of a Texan who lives a life of freedom. His life of freedom is as productive as his generosity is great.

As CEO and Chairman, Mr. Powell built Powell Industries from a relatively small business supporting the petrochemical industry in Texas into a large successful international enterprise. His business is innovative in its provision of custom-designed complex products while simultaneously devoted to safety and support of its customers. Powell industries is the “go-to” firm for the provision of highly complex and integrated systems for distribution and control of electrical energy and other critical processes. Their products are custom designed circuit breakers and switchgear, bus ducts, power control rooms, and power automation, among many other offerings, used in the energy, water, and transportation industries. 

Tom Powell has long been a supporter of programs at A&M’s College Station and Galveston campuses, and he has been an early advocate for the Hagler Institute. In 2015, supplemented in 2017, Powell made significant gifts to A&M’s College of Science. In those gift agreements prepared with the A&M Foundation, he carved out a $1.5 million gift, matched by the Hagler Institute, for a Powell-Heep Hagler Institute Chair for Science. His gift endowment supports world-class scholars, Fellows of the Hagler Institute in A&M’s College of Science. Academic visionaries in the fields of mathematics, biology, statistics, chemistry, physics and astronomy, and materials science and engineering are eligible to be underwritten by the Powell endowment. 

Each scholar must be nominated by faculty in the College of Science and approved by a nine-panel board of A&M’s University Distinguished Professors to meet the high standards of excellence and path-breaking accomplishments that characterize a Fellow of the Hagler Institute. The Powell endowment supports scholars when they are active in the Hagler Institute.

Powell’s endowment will sustain for the life of Texas A&M a series of visits for up to a year in-residence by the world’s greatest scientific visionaries to collaborate on research with A&M’s outstanding faculty and students. The first recipient of the Powell-Heep Hagler Institute Chair for Science was Hagler Fellow, Dr. Cameron Jones , a Professor and holder of the R.L. Martin Distinguished Chair of Chemistry at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, who will be returning again to A&M in the coming year. 

Like the Institute’s namesake, Jon Hagler ’58, Thomas Powell ‘62 is one of those special Aggies who has generously given back to A&M throughout his career. For his generosity to Texas A&M, and for including the Hagler Institute in his endowment giving, Thomas Powell is officially named a Hagler Hero. 
Hagler Institute External Advisory Board Member Spotlight
Some people solve important problems, but very few truly shape the future with the strength of their ideas and abilities.  Ray Rothrock ’77 is one of those very few.   SPIRIT , the magazine of the Texas A&M Foundation, highlights Ray’s story in its Spring 2020 edition. It is a fascinating account of Ray’s unusual capacity to analyze trends important to the future and to focus his technological and business acumens to shape the future through his support of start-up companies that implement his visions.  

Ray combines knowledge of science, technology, and entrepreneurship based on an education in nuclear engineering (B.S. Texas A&M, M.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and business (M.B.A, Harvard) and his perpetual quest to learn while he innovates. He has remarkable ability to recognize challenges and trends, and he frequently pivots to meet important challenges by timely investments of his energy, ideas and resources. His concerns about cybersecurity and climate change motivated him to apply his considerable talents to drive toward solutions. His approach to cybersecurity, explained in his 2018 book, Digital Resilience: Is Your Company Ready for the Next Cyber Threat? , helps protect companies against cyber assaults by recognizing that even with the best defenses some fraction of the ever more sophisticated cyber intrusions will be successful. So his key focus is on developing strategies that promote resilience so that the enterprise in question can continue to function even in the face of successful cyber-attacks.  

He is also laying the foundation for a future with clean energy through his promotion of technologies that can enable nuclear fusion. Fusion is in sharp contrast with the current approach, fission, that underlies virtually all current nuclear power stations. Fission generates energy by splitting atoms, whereas fusion generates energy by fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms to make one lighter helium atom. The “lost mass” results in a tremendous release of heat. Fusion uses cheap fuel sources, creates no radioactivity, carries no threat of reactor meltdown, generates negligible waste and obviates the need for long-lived radioactive waste storage challenges that are a huge drawback of nuclear fission. However, there are many technological challenges to make fusion practical, not the least of which is finding a practical way to contain the fusion reaction which generates so much heat that it can melt steel. In spite of the difficulties, significant progress is being made. Rothrock’s pursuit of fusion-based nuclear power is the holy grail of clean energy. The stakes could not be higher. Successful realization of practical fusion electrical power generation will simultaneously provide a near infinite supply of energy while dramatically reducing reliance on fossil fuels and, thereby, dramatically improving the health of planet earth. 

We are blessed that Ray Rothrock has recently joined the External Advisory Board (EAB) of the Hagler Institute. His presence on our EAB speaks to his commitment to elevating Texas A&M University.  Ray Rothrock and the other visionaries who have joined our External Advisory Board speak volumes about their collective understanding of the importance of this Institute.  Ray, we truly appreciate your commitment of time, energy, ideas and advice to the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study. We look forward to working with you to reshape the future of academic excellence at Texas A&M University.  
If you have news to share, please send articles, suggestions, or other information to:
Dr. Clifford L. Fry, Associate Director
Hagler Institute for Advanced Study at Texas A&M University