Officials from The University of Texas at Austin and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory signed a Strategic University Research Partnership agreement on Oct. 16 at the Cockrell School of Engineering. UT Austin is now one of only 12 universities that have become JPL research and education partners.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has selected The University of Texas at Austin for its Strategic University Research Partnership program — a federally funded program focused on advancing space exploration.

NASA and UT

The partnership will enable the university and JPL researchers to propose collaborative research and educational projects in strategic focus areas such as robotics, nanosatellites and high-precision mapping. The program also creates an employment pipeline for JPL's future workforce.

The University of Texas at Austin is one of 12 universities that have been selected for this partnership.

UT Austin and JPL officials signed the Strategic University Research Partnership (SURP) memorandum of understanding at a ceremony this morning at the Cockrell School of Engineering.

"Our partnership will enrich the educational experience of undergraduate and graduate students in science and engineering, as well as offer faculty members opportunities to collaborate on JPL's far-reaching projects of exploration," said Juan Sanchez, the university's vice president for research. "And, as a university, we are proud to join the high-ranking research partners that JPL has assembled."

The partnership will include initial projects conducted by students and faculty members from various research centers at the university, including:

  • Lightsey Research Group, Cockrell School/ Department of Aerospace Engineering
  • Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences
  • Microelectronics Research Center
  • Texas Advanced Computing Center

The university has a long history of working with JPL on various projects, including the GRACE Satellite Program, which has provided critical information about changes in the oceans and polar ice sheets, as well as regional aquifers.

"We have had a long, symbiotic relationship with JPL, but this agreement allows us to be proactive in focusing our joint research efforts and in planning for long-term projects," said Byron Tapley of the Center for Space Research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Srinivas Bettadpur, of the university's Center for Space Research, will serve as UT's SURP manager. UT-JPL research projects and educational initiatives will be eligible for JPL funding.

Neil Murphy, JPL's SURP manager, said JPL plans to step up collaborations with the university.

"We will leverage expertise, resources and programs — including the university's strong aerospace engineering and space science programs — that are relevant to the work being done at NASA and JPL," Murphy said. "We look forward to collaborating more closely with the university."

In signing the agreement, UT Austin will join Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan and the Georgia Institute of Technology as participants in the SURP program.

JPL is a federally funded research and development center based in Pasadena, Calif., that is managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA. The laboratory's active projects include the Mars Science Laboratory, the Cassini-Huygens Mission and the Mars Exploration Rovers.

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cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students
cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students