Drug Design, Environmental Sustainability, Oil Recovery Receive Private Grand Challenge Research Funds

Seven University of Texas at Austin researchers are confronting what the scientific community has defined as this century's grand challenges in drug design, environmental sustainability and improved oil recovery using Moncrief Grand Challenge Faculty awards for 2011-12.

The awards, funded by the private donations of oilman and philanthropist W. A. "Tex" Moncrief of Fort Worth and an anonymous donor, enable scientists and engineers to work at the Institute for Computational and Engineering Sciences (ICES) on challenges that affect the competitiveness and international standing of the United States.

The Moncrief researchers for 2011-12 and their projects are:

  • Todd Arbogast, professor in the Department of Mathematics, on methods for simulating long-term carbon sequestration.
  • Chandra Bajaj, professor in the Department of Computer Science and Mathematics, on three-dimensional imaging at the molecular level of therapeutic drug targets.
  • Tom Hughes, professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, on modeling the behavior of nanoparticles in blood vessels to design drug delivery systems.
  • Dmitrii Makarov, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, on the design of molecular-level biosensors.
  • Mark Mear, professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, on modeling reservoir stimulation techniques to improve recovery of oil and natural gas.
  • Tess Moon, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, on studying the ways mechanical loads are carried in proteins and their relationship to the progression of disease.
  • Pengyu Ren, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, on simulating drug binding to proteins to determine drug effectiveness.

Grand challenges are problems that must be addressed to achieve a sustainable, economically robust and politically stable future. These involve using computational methods to study such topics as cardiovascular engineering, water sustainability and weather. Other vitally important areas include carbon sequestration, drug design and delivery, advanced materials, rising seas modeling, national security, nano-science and engineering, and computational medicine and biomedicine.

Over the past three years the Moncrief Grand Challenge Awards Program has provided more than $1 million in funding for university faculty to pursue research in computational science and engineering.