NASA Solar System Ambassador, Dr. Thomas B. Spencer, Interviews UTRGV's Dr. Tian Y. Dong on Planetary Geomorphology

NASA Solar System Ambassador, Dr. Thomas B. Spencer, Interviews UTRGV's Dr. Tian Y. Dong on Planetary Geomorphology


By María González  

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS Dr. Thomas B. Spencer , Associate Vice President for Research Operations at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and NASA Solar System Ambassador recently held an interview with Dr. Tian Y. Dong , an Assistant Professor in Geomorphology at UTRGV's School of Earth, Environment, and Marine Sciences . The discussion is part of a series aimed at bringing space science closer to the community, offering insights into the latest research in space exploration and geomorphology.  

Dong discussed his research in geomorphology, focusing on how landscapes change over time due to physical and chemical processes. His work involves studying evidence of ancient water flows on Earth and other planets, such as Mars, to understand past hydrological cycles and climate conditions. This research has implications for both Earth and space science, highlighting the universal principles of physics that apply across the solar system.  

Additionally, Dong talked about a recent $1.2 million grant from NASA aimed at training the next generation of STEM professionals. This initiative will enhance UTRGV's curriculum in earth and environmental sciences and provide students with internship opportunities at NASA centers. The program is designed to improve students' skills and prepare them for careers in STEM fields.  

During the online interview, Dong also outlined his future research goals, including studying the Rio Grande's evolution and the impact of human activity on its geomorphology. This work relies on data from NASA satellites, emphasizing the link between space exploration and Earth science.  

The interview concluded with a discussion on the importance of STEM education and the role of science and art in understanding the world. Dong encouraged students to pursue STEM courses and highlighted the value of scientific knowledge in debunking misinformation.  

This interview with Dr. Dong reinforces UTRGV's commitment to research and education in space and Earth sciences, promoting scientific literacy within the community. Through Dr. Spencer's role as a NASA Solar System Ambassador, UTRGV serves as a bridge between NASA's missions and the Rio Grande Valley, enhancing understanding of our place in the cosmos.  

For more information about the NASA Solar System Ambassador program, visit, .




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.  


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