By Mike Anderson Tribune-Herald staff writer
Monday, September 19, 2005
Baylor University has been awarded membership in a prestigious national research consortium, a move which university officials say will boost research and education opportunities at the Waco campus and beyond.
Baylor has been accepted into the Universities Space Research Association, a private nonprofit organization established by the National Academy of Sciences in 1969. The 97-member organization counts among its participants the University of Texas, Yale, Harvard and Stanford universities as well as the California and Massachusetts institutes of technology.
Member institutions work together in a council that gives research guidance to NASA, which in return offers the grants and contracts that fund most of the USRA activities.
Truell Hyde, Baylor vice provost for research and the university's representative on the council, said joining the association brings Baylor not only the opportunity for more collaborative efforts with other institutions, but also frees access to research funding available only to USRA members.
Membership also provides the opportunity for USRA scholarship and fellowship opportunities that Baylor students could not have taken advantage of before, Hyde said.
"We are certainly excited that we were admitted on our first try," said Hyde, who also serves as director of a joint project between Baylor and Texas State Technical College: the Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research. "It's a good thing they believe the way I do: you have to have good research and good education and believe in good public outreach, and they believe all of those ought to be linked. It's a neat opportunity for our faculty, researchers and students."
Hyde said the association also promotes educational outreach programs that could be of benefit to area primary schools. As an example he pointed to the SOFIA project, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. L-3 Communications in Waco has been installing a telescope in a 747 at TSTC as part of a NASA project aiming for scientific trips into the stratosphere.
Hyde said USRA lobbied successfully for NASA to add seats to the aircraft for students and teachers to ride along, an action he said demonstrates the association's commitment to educational outreach.
"So when the plane is flying and taking research data, there's going to be middle school and high school teachers and students sitting right there at consoles next to researchers. It's pretty cool," Hyde said.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.