Thursday, February 16, 2023
  Around Campus, Science & Technology

By News and Internal Communications

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Heidi Shyu, the U.S. Department of Defense under secretary for research and engineering, on Feb. 16 launched the 2023 National Manufacturing Expo being hosted on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus.

Shyu serves as chief technology officer for the DoD and is mandated with ensuring the technological superiority of the U.S. military. She also is responsible for research, development and prototyping activities across the DoD enterprise. 

As part of her visit, the under secretary met with UTRGV leaders, community partners and representatives from a range of manufacturing organizations to discuss key topics that included UTRGV's research and development (R&D) portfolio, engineering programs, student success and workforce, and economic development.   

"There is so much talent in this region,” Shyu said. “It is incredibly important not just for the DoD, but for commercial companies, to put satellites facilities here to grow our STEM pipeline." 

Shyu then addressed an auditorium packed with members of the university community, as well as high school students from some 20 school districts, including Mission, Edinburg, Laredo, Progreso and Rio Hondo, to name a few.

Creating internship opportunities for students in the Rio Grande Valley is a priority, she said, in preparing future manufacturing engineering and STEM leaders “to increase the breadth of their knowledge and learn how to apply that knowledge" in their professional careers. 

"We have to figure out more opportunities for students to have an internship opportunity; that is a key thing I am taking from my visit,” she said. “I do need to go back and see what we can modify from our internship program, to expand the opportunities for students in this region." 

A charismatic speaker, Shyu shared some of the challenges she herself faced and the lessons learned that allowed her to advance in her career.

After receiving bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics, Shyu applied for work as a defense contractor. During the interview, a man looked over her resume and asked what made her think she was qualified to be an engineer without the relevant educational background.  

“I was shocked at that question,” she said. “I leaned into him and told him, ‘You know, I took a complex analysis course in my junior year, in which everyone else was an engineer? I was the only female in the class. And I came in No. 1 — by far.’”  

She got a job offer from the company just a few weeks later.  

Her visit to UTRGV concluded with a tour around the Engineering High Bay Laboratory, Center for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Cyber Systems (CAMICS), and Ballroom, where Shyu heard about UTRGV student internship projects. 

UTRGV's National Manufacturing Expo continues Friday, Feb. 17, with Texas manufacturers and regional partners sharing information sessions at a career and internship fair geared toward college students. 

Dr. Can (“John”) Saygin, senior vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate College, said UTRGV’s R&D portfolio is strongly aligned with federal priorities, and through partnerships with local economic development leaders, the university will be able to expand its federal awards portfolio.     

"What an eye-opening event,” Saygin said of the first day of the expo. This event has connected so many people from diverse backgrounds under the umbrella of STEM education, student success and workforce development with local economic impact. For UTRGV, this is just the beginning. More innovative ideas and R&D initiatives are underway to make an even bigger impact.” 

For more information on the 2023 National Manufacturing Expo & Exhibition at UTRGV,  visit

Guy Bailey and Heidi Shyu
(UTRGV Photos by Jesus Alferez)


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.