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Two representatives of Texas A&M University join the University of Texas innovators profiled on the State of Tomorrow™ Web site. Chemical physicist Dudley R. Herschbach, 1986 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, believes children are the ideal scholars because they’re naturally curious and uninhibited about experimenting; he touts programs that make science more interesting and accessible to students and the general public alike. Before President George W. Bush appointed him Secretary of Defense and President Barack Obama retained him there, Robert M. Gates was the president of A&M; worried about declining enrollment figures for math and science students even as globalization was making these studies more crucial to our economy, he advocated an education push comparable to the nation’s successful 1960s drive to put a man on the moon.

The two Aggies are in good company. Citing the extent to which science students are forced nowadays to memorize information and regurgitate answers, former president of the National Academies of Science and current editor of the journal Science Bruce Alberts recently denounced such science education techniques. Alberts called for a teaching “revolution” that would de-emphasize the need for test-driven memorization in favor of inquiry-based learning. And the University of Houston has initiated an online program allowing middle-school math and science teachers to earn a master’s degree for free. The Integrated Science, Math and Reflective Thinking (iSMART) degree is yet another higher-education program, such as the University of Texas’ UTeach, designed to create better teachers to inspire and develop the scientists, engineers and technologists of tomorrow.

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Harvard’s Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation has named UT Austin’s UTeach Natural Sciences program one of the Top 50 Innovations in American Government. UTeach prevailed among some 600 applicants. Six of the 50 finalists will be honored with an Innovations in American Government Award. UTeach, a program to train K–12 math and science teachers, is recognized for the increased size of its graduating class (now up to 70 annually); a superior record of teacher performance and retention (80 percent of its graduates are still teaching after five years, 10 percent higher than the national average); and the national growth of replica programs (13 colleges and universities have received grants to start their own curricula patterned after UTeach).

Using modern learning theories and considerable hands-on classroom experience, UTeach prepares college math and science majors to become K–12 teachers as they themselves are advancing their own math and science educations. In The Best & the Brightest, UTeach creator Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin, and Austin middle school science teacher and UTeach graduate Elizabeth Abernathy explain the origins of UTeach and how the program works.

Travel around Texas with State of Tomorrow™ and meet higher education researchers working hard for your, well, tomorrow. They’re striving to improve our future with groundbreaking research in such areas as treatment of cancer and of emerging infectious diseases; training better math and science teachers; maximizing available energy resources while searching for viable alternatives; and expanding our understanding of genomes (DNA) so we can live longer.

Meet Ritsuko Komaki and James D. Cox, who were instrumental in bringing the Proton Therapy Center to UT M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Proton therapy — which has been described as more like a form of surgery than a form of radiation — is the most precise cancer treatment available, with the fewest side effects, making it a primary cancer-fighter of the future.

Explore the ultra-secure Galveston National Laboratory and the Robert E. Shope, M.D. Laboratory at UT Medical Branch – Galveston, where C. J. Peters leads a team of scientists studying the most exotic, dangerous and contagious viral diseases known to man. They’re looking for vaccines and cures for the likes of Rift Valley fever, SARS and the Marburg virus — both to protect people around the world from the diseases in their natural form and to defend against their possible use as bioterrorist weapons of mass destruction.

Hear why Dr. Scott W. Tinker, director of the UT Austin Bureau of Economic Geology, asserts that so-called “energy independence” is unattainable in a world where nations are growing more, not less, interdependent. But with the proper planning, preparation and compromising, “energy security,” a much more reasonable goal, is well within our reach.

Listen to an extended interview with Dr. Steven Austad, professor of cellular and structural biology at the UT Health Science Center – San Antonio, about what he’s doing to extend the lives of humans.

Learn why UTeach at UT Austin has become a national model for training more effective math, science and computer science teachers who, in turn, will attract more students to these crucial fields.

And see how students at the UT Health Science Center – Houston “practice medicine” on complex, computer-driven human patient simulators.

Together, these men and women help assure a better future for us all.

If you’ve watched State of Tomorrow™, you already know higher education means more than an advanced degree. It means groundbreaking cancer treatments, new sources of energy to power our world, educational programs that help our next generation and research that keeps us safe today and tomorrow.

It also means people. In fact, that’s what makes State of Tomorrow so powerful — the people we meet in the lab, in the classroom or in the field. We hear their stories — and stories from people whose lives are forever changed by university faculty and researchers.

In 21st Century Cancer Care, Dr. James Cox tells us “Academic environments lead to creativity. They put an emphasis on bringing new things to patients — to science in general. We can push the envelope and each other to succeed in ways that haven’t been done before.”

‘Ways that haven’t been done before.’ That is the heart of innovation — to rethink, to improve, to imagine. That’s exactly what we’ve tried to do on this new State of Tomorrow site. We’ve added videos that allow you to dig deeper into topics. We’ve caught up with scientists and researchers from the series and highlighted their progress with in-depth features. We’ve made sure everyone can watch the series online. And, we’ve made sure every educator has access to the State of Tomorrow teaching tools.

Our main goal, after all, is to get the word out about public higher education. So that every time you think about healthcare or environmental quality or national security, you think about higher education — and every time you think about higher ed, you think about people who are working to make our communities stronger, safer, healthier and prosperous.