$5M NSF Grant Funds New TAMU-CC Research Center that Focuses on Coastal Research, Resilience, and Innovation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is continuing its mission to support research in coastal resilience and innovation through a newly awarded grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Valued at $4,995,354, the grant is part of the Centers of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST) – an award that will be used to fund the CREST Center for Geospatial and Environmental Informatics, Modeling, and Simulation, located in the Dr. Robert R. Furgason Engineering Building at TAMU-CC.

Funding began in December 2021 and will continue over a five-year period. A collaborative effort, the CREST center will complement research into coastal resilience conducted at a new NSF Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institute led by the University of Oklahoma in partnership with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Conrad Blucher Institute. The research conducted at the center will improve coastal zone monitoring and resiliency decision-making by developing new approaches to integrate remote and autonomous sensing (e.g., data analytics of satellite and drone imageries) with geospatial computing and AI.

Dr. Lea-Der Chen, Principal Investigator, CREST, Associate Dean and School of Engineering Director, says the results of their work will lead to a better understanding of the urban water cycle and resilience of the water infrastructure. The center will also investigate how advanced geospatial computing and other sources of information can be applied to evaluate, assist, and improve a coastal community’s physical, behavioral, and social health after disasters.

“Our team is leveraging research outcomes from other grants and conducting cutting-edge research in areas important to our community,” Chen said.

Recruitment, mentorship, and STEM outreach will be integrated into the center’s three research subprojects. The center will recruit under-represented minority (URM) students to research subproject areas. Faculty from the center will mentor and support the center’s graduate research assistants and Center Fellows to pursue doctoral degrees such as geospatial computer science at TAMU-CC. All undergraduate students, including URM students, will also gain experience as Center Undergraduate Research Assistants, working in the laboratories directed by the center PI, Co-PIs, and Senior Personnel. Partnering with local high schools for STEM outreach begins this summer.

“As a Minority-Serving Institution, we know this grant will be transformative because it will help us increase the participation of students of color in STEM fields and prepare them for research careers,” Dr. Clarenda Phillips, TAMU-CC Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “By supporting the integration of education and research with a focus on coastal resilience, the grant will assist our faculty and students in creating new knowledge and advancing innovative research."

Alongside Chen, research programs will be led by TAMU-CC Co-Principal Investigators, Drs. Jose Baca, Lucy Huang, Mike Starek, Hua Zhang, and Senior Personnel, Dr. Chen Pan. Collaborators include scientists, faculty, and prestigious research organizations including the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Dartmouth College, Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas A&M Center for Applied Technology, and Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and Innovation.