Friday, October 6, 2023
  Around Campus, Research

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Oct. 5 with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to establish a collaborative agreement aimed at enhancing undergraduate education and research opportunities in STEM fields while strengthening UTRGV's academic programs.

The MOU was signed by Dr. Can (John) Saygin, senior vice president for research at UTRGV and dean of the Graduate College, and Dr. Susan Hubbard, deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL.

Hubbard emphasized the significance of this partnership in fostering the next generation of STEM leaders, stating, “It is a privilege to expose students to the National Laboratory system and the Department of Energy mission, and to help to create a STEM pipeline that is important for ORNL and our nation.”

She further added, “In collaboration with UTRGV, we are committed to attracting and nurturing diverse students who are driven to find innovative and effective solutions to the complex challenges we face today and in the future.”

Under this MOU, UTRGV faculty and students will actively engage in critical Department of Energy (DOE) mission areas, covering neutron scattering, national security research, renewable energy and materials, manufacturing, environmental sciences, and computer sciences.

Saygin highlighted the transformative impact of this collaboration on students and faculty through new research endeavors and educational programs.

“By engaging undergraduate students in materials science, computer science, and national security research, we are not only enhancing their academic journey but also contributing to the advancement of these critical fields," he said.

Moreover, this partnership provides UTRGV students access to world-class research staff and premier user facilities, including the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, home to Frontier, the world's fastest supercomputer, as well as the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

utrgv and ORNL signing mou
From left to right, Dr. Susan Hubbard, Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL, and Dr. Can (John) Saygin, Senior Vice President for Research at UTRGV and Dean of the Graduate College, signed an MOU yesterday to establish a partnership. The partnership aims to provide students in STEM fields with research and mentorship opportunities. (Photo courtesy by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy)

Dr. Jianzhi (James) Li, UTRGV professor of manufacturing engineering and director of CA2REERs, expressed his gratitude for ORNL's support in fostering student success at UTRGV. He said, “We extend our sincere thanks to our colleagues at ORNL for their unwavering support of UTRGV, one of the nation's largest Hispanic Serving Institutions.”

“We appreciate their efforts in ensuring the success of our students through internships, joint supervision, and career preparation; While it demands time and dedication, the impact on our students is immeasurable.”

He further emphasized the significance of experiential learning in education provided by ORNL through comprehensive programs, including summer internships, guest lectures by lab scientists, research seminars, joint student research supervision, and co-advising of senior design projects.

“As educators, we recognize that experiential learning, as a pedagogic approach, significantly enhances student learning when they can bridge classroom teaching with real-world applications," he said. "And ORNL, as one of the nation's leading research enterprises, has played a pivotal role in elevating UTRGV's educational philosophy.”

Together, UTRGV and ORNL are committed to preparing future generations of the workforce who will address scientific challenges and provide engineering solutions in our ever-changing world.


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.