The University of Texas at El Paso
From reducing the harmful effects of environmental pollution to discovering the next generation of high-performance materials, the research innovations of tomorrow are taking shape today at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The UTEP professors who hold the Mr. and Mrs. MacIntosh Murchison Endowed Chairs in Engineering, Drs. Ryan Wicker, Soheil Nazarian, Stephen Riter and Lawrence Murr, are at the leading edge of engineering science that is helping to position UTEP as a top-tier research institution.
Wicker has committed himself to involving undergraduate and graduate students in research experiences by founding three highly regarded laboratories: the Engines and Alternative Fuels Research Laboratory, the NASA Flow and Thermal Imaging Laboratory, and the W.M. Keck Border Biomedical Manufacturing and Engineering Laboratory. Under Wicker's direction, UTEP's undergraduate engineering students conduct advanced research in the development of environmentally friendly alternative fuels. Wicker also works with three-dimensional modeling technologies to create anatomically accurate replicas of human body parts, enabling researchers and health care professionals to examine illnesses without invasive procedures.
Nazarian, director of UTEP's Center for Transportation Infrastructure Systems (CTIS), is an internationally known expert in testing and evaluating transportation infrastructure. His work at UTEP has led to a new nondestructive testing device currently being manufactured and used throughout the United States and the world. Under his management, CTIS has grown into one of the premier transportation research centers in Texas. More than 50 graduate and undergraduate students work as research assistants at the center.
Murchison endowment funds continue to sustain UTEP's reputation as a leader in engineering education at public urban universities. Riter, Vice President for Information Resources and Planning, has leveraged Murchison funds to support activities associated with the recruitment of new faculty and administrators. Murchison support also enabled Riter to participate in symposia directed toward improving the evaluation of learning outcomes for engineering students.
Murr's research includes studying the potential health risks of atmospheric pollutants on the respiratory health of children and older adults. Murr also has fostered a unique collaboration among the UTEP departments of Music, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, and Physics. As part of this effort, students from the College of Engineering are investigating the structural characteristics of the Caribbean steel drum, as well as performing with the UTEP steel drum ensemble. Under the name Pandemonium, these talented UTEP students have entertained audiences worldwide.
The four endowed chairs are particularly meaningful because they were established by Louise B. Murchison, whose extended family has been one of the most influential in El Paso's history. Louise's father, Henry S. Beach, was a pioneer of the city's investment community, and her son-in-law, Jonathan W. Rogers, was a four-term mayor of El Paso. Louise and her husband, Samuel MacIntosh "Mac" Murchison, who passed away in 1963, were generous contributors to and active participants in many civic, cultural, medical and educational institutions.
With guidance from her son-in-law, Louise endowed the four UTEP chairs shortly before her death in 1986. The four endowments are invested in the Long Term Fund and have a market value of $4.6 million, as of August 31, 2004. The endowments will ensure that her faith in the university will continue to foster the conditions for progress, growth and prosperity in the community she and her family have cared about so deeply.