Texas A&M opts for Middle East research center

Texas A&M University will launch a $6 million marine research center that's expected to contribute to critical projects Israel is pursuing along the Mediterranean Sea.

Texas A&M University is known far and wide for its contributions to research, especially in areas involving agricultural development. Texas A&M is a leader among U.S. academic institutes when it comes to advanced research techniques and methodology and has pioneered unique and forward-thinking strategies for advancing research and development across the wide spectrum of science and engineering.

According to the university's website, as one of only 62 members of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada, Texas A&M boasts some of the top programs in academic research and scholarship.

It is one of only 17 institutions in the nation to hold the triple designation as a land grant, sea grant, and space grant university and remains an active member of the Association of Public and land grant universities (APLU) — a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

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It's little surprise then that Texas A&M leads the way in international research partnerships. The University's Division of Research supports international collaborations between Texas A&M faculty and researchers at several international institutions. The division has facilitated agreements to offer funding opportunities to A&M faculty that support collaborations involving international research partnerships abroad.

In October 2013, A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp and former Texas Governor Rick Perry announced plans to build a satellite location of the university in Nazareth with the intent of uniting Jews and Arabs in a multi-cultural research and education partnership. The plans were approved by then-Israeli President Shimon Peres, a major advocate for peace and coexistence between Jews and Arabs.

But Sharp told the Associated Press last week that those plans changed because political officials in Nazareth wanted to control purpose and direction of the campus.

“We’re not going to put our name on something we didn’t have total control over,” Sharp

CHANGING DIRECTION

Instead, the University changed its plan and direction and has opted instead to launch a $6 million marine research center that's expected to contribute to critical projects Israel is pursuing along the Mediterranean Sea.

The research center, which will open in February in collaboration with the University of Haifa, will study and provide research related to the large natural gas deposits that were discovered recently in the eastern Mediterranean. Sharp said part of the appeal for the research center in the northern city of Haifa was tapping into the "oil and gas segment in Israel." Work at the center will include monitoring ocean flow and is expected to help mitigate risks associated with offshore exploration.

"We're starting with a $6 million project there, but I don't have any doubt that it'll grow exponentially over the years," said Sharp. "They call it a startup nation."

University of Haifa Rector David Faraggi calls the partnership “a good one” and said the monitoring station being developed represents the first of its kind in the region.

Texas A&M officials say they are pleased to be moving into an area where technology research and development plays a major role in the region. Israel is noted for the exceptional large number of new high-tech companies that have sprouted in recent times with over 150 new start-ups reported this year alone.

The project will mark the second facility in the Middle East where Texas A&M has a presence. Nearly ten years ago the university established an engineering school in nearby Qatar.

In Texas, the Texas A&M System includes 11 universities with over 140,000 students and 28,000 faculty and staff, making it one of the largest schools in the U.S. University officials say with expansion into Israel, the reach and scope of the university system continues to grow and expand its influence worldwide.

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