UT Austin Alumni Host Texas 4000 Cyclists on Ride to Fight Cancer

Every summer, a group of students from The University of Texas at Austin set out on a more than 4,000-mile bike ride across the country to share hope, knowledge and charity in the fight against cancer. Cycling for 70 days from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, the Texas 4000 is the world’s longest annual charity bike ride.

The 2014 team is made up of 79 UT Austin students, which includes five students from the Cockrell School of Engineering. When they reach Alaska in mid-August, the cyclists will have pedaled thousands of miles along three different routes on a journey that takes “grit, determination and support, a metaphor for the battle against cancer,” as stated on the Texas 4000 website.

In June, team members traveling along the Sierra Route through California stopped in the Bay Area, where they were hosted by UT Austin alumni Tom and Shannon Fallon for the fourth year in a row.

“Shannon and I love to host these Longhorns every summer,” said Tom Fallon, who is a mechanical engineering alumnus. “Not only are we proud to support the extraordinary efforts of these students in the fight against cancer, we are proud to support UT’s support of them.”

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UT Austin alumni Shannon (BBA '85) and Tom (BSME '83; MBA '84) Fallon with a custom-made 3D sintered Tower created in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Selective Laser Sintering, the first of the 3D printing methods, was invented and developed at UT Austin in the 1980s.

With 150 people in attendance, the annual Texas 4000 Welcome Dinner celebrated the cyclists’ 24th day of their trek, as well as recognized the group’s contributions to the Cockrell School’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Each year, the riders raise more than $500,000 to distribute to research and medical organizations that they believe are essential in the fight against cancer.

Since 2011, Texas 4000 has given $200,000 in seed grants to the biomedical engineering department and has established the Texas 4000 Endowed Excellence Fund in Cancer Research.

“We are so proud to contribute to important cancer research projects right in our own backyard. UT is a fundamental part of who we are and how we began, so it’s only fitting that Texas 4000 provides critical research dollars, particularly in seed funding for initiatives that may have a hard time otherwise getting support,” said Jen Garza, executive director of Texas 4000. “We ride from Austin to Anchorage for an end to cancer. We know this will require dramatic and systemic change, and we believe the Cockrell School of Engineering is conducting research that will bring us one step closer to achieving this change.”

This spring, Texas 4000 gave its largest gift to date to the Department of Biomedical Engineering — $100,000, with $50,000 to the endowment and $50,000 in seed grants.

The cancer research grants have been awarded to biomedical engineering faculty members Mia Markey, Aaron Baker, Jeanne Stachowiak, Andrew Dunn, Stanislav Emelianov, Amy Brock and James Tunnell.

The organization, which was founded in 2004 by an engineering student at UT Austin — Chris Condit — will celebrate the riders homecoming with a tribute gala on Aug. 23. Find more information about the event at http://www.texas4000.org/event/tribute-gala.