The University of Texas at Austin

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

tx 4000 group with greg

Cockrell School Dean Gregory L. Fenves with Texas 4000 cyclists who traveled along the Sierra Route on their way to Anchorage, Alaska.

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 2013 team is made up of 69 UT Austin students, which includes eight 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 third 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.”

tx 4000 gift

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 more than 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.

In the last two years, Texas 4000 has given $180,000 in seed grants ($90,000 each year) to the biomedical engineering department for cancer research and the creation of a 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.”

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

Associate professor Dunn and professor Emelianov are developing a combined ultrasound and optical micrsocopy imaging system to deliver therapeutics to treat brain tumors.

Stachowiak, an assistant professor, is working on drug delivery systems that mimic cells. Stachowiak’s lab is creating cell-like systems that mimic the ability of healthy cells to connect with one another, helping to prevent the spread of cancer and to control the growth of tumors.

Assistant professor Aaron Baker is using his grant funding to apply vascular therapy to cancer cells. Initial results were so promising that he has now applied for funding from the National Institutes of Health.

"The seed funding we got from Texas 4000 let us enter a new direction in our research. We’re interested in how cancer cells interact with the vascular system," Baker said. "This project basically wouldn’t have happened without the funding. It gave us an opportunity to do things that are a little more on the edge, which may be hard to get traditional funding for."

The event at the Fallons also served as a meet-and-greet opportunity for Longhorn alumni as well as incoming students and their parents who live in the Bay Area. After the state of Texas, Northern California has the largest concentration of UT Austin alumni.

“It’s not just that we have a large quantity of Longhorns in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley area, we have exceptional quality, too,” said Cockrell School Dean Gregory L. Fenves, who attended the Texas 4000 Welcome Dinner. “Many of these alumni have started companies and are leaders in business, technology, the arts, venture capital, law, communication and more.”

The welcome dinner concluded with five students speaking about the Texas 4000 mission and impact. The organization, which was founded in 2003 by an engineering student at UT Austin, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year with a tribute gala on Aug. 24. Find more information at http://www.texas4000.org/tribute/home.