Gift for chemistry department aids top-tier pursuit.
By Melissa Ludwig | San Antonio Express
Friday, October 7, 2011
The University of Texas at San Antonio has landed a $1.5 million gift from the Houston-based Welch Foundation to fund an endowed chair in chemistry.
The university will match the gift to create a $3 million endowment for the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry, and plans to recruit an internationally recognized scholar who can contribute to the university's drive to reach top-tier research status.
Texas has three Tier One research universities, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University in Houston. Each has at least three Welch Chairs.
“Having a Welch Chair has become a symbol of achieving a high level of excellence in scholarly chemistry research. The foundation's directors recognize UTSA's progress and promise,” said George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences.
The Welch Foundation has given $4.2 million to UTSA's chemistry department since 1993 and is supporting the research projects of five professors, said Waldemar Gorski, chair of the chemistry department.
Gorski said he will be looking for a researcher focused on the interaction between chemistry and biology, the department's area of specialty.
For instance, one researcher is studying how to make small molecules interact with stem cells, prodding them to form heart tissue. Another is trying to synthesize large molecules that are hard to find in nature, but are good for use in medical applications.
The field of inquiry crosses scientific disciplines, and UTSA works in collaboration with the UT Health Science Center and the Southwest Research Institute.
To help with recruiting, the department has invited professors who hold the Welch chair at other Texas universities to speak at its weekly graduate seminars. Richard Schrock, the 2005 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, is also scheduled to attend.
“We will be trying to get help from them in the form of nominations,” Gorski said.
UTSA's chemistry department offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and has an enrollment of 350 students.
The Welch Foundation is one of the nation's largest and oldest private funding sources for basic chemistry research, and primarily supports researchers at Texas institutions of higher education. It was created in honor of Robert Alonzo Welch, who came to Houston as a youth and made a fortune in oil and minerals.
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