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We will change the world in our pursuits of transformative research.

Texas is uniquely poised to address some of the world's greatest challenges in energy and the environment, health and wellbeing and technology and society. With our support, our faculty can take advantage of the synergy between Texas and their potential research impact. Initiatives in this area involve:

Leveraging what is uniquely possible as Texass flagship institution

Work Underway:

  • Understanding and Preserving Unique Biodiversity in Texas and Beyond
  • Researchers are seeking to create knowledge that leads to healthier lives through more sustainable and resilient sources of food, water and energy and world-changing scientific breakthroughs that promote the vibrancy of Texas and our planet.

  • Propelling Research Advances with the Machine Learning Lab

  • Machine learning harnesses technology-driven systems for artificial intelligence able to learn from real-world experience and make predictions in complex environments, relevant to many research areas. UT Austin is a world leader in related research and home to the National Science Foundation-funded Institute for the Foundations of Machine Learning based within the MLL. 

  • Exploring the Universe and its Beginnings

  • UT Austin is a founding partner in the Giant Magellan Telescope, which will be the largest land-based telescope ever created, enabling a new era of discovery. Researchers at UT Austin are likewise involved in international research consortia and efforts pertaining to gravitation and exploration of the cosmos in areas such as dark matter and dark energy, including through the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HET-DEX).

  • Investigating Opportunities for New Materials 

  • With support from the National Science Foundation and in partnership with the Cockrell School of Engineering, chemists, physicists and molecular bioscientists are conducting cutting-edge research relevant for the development of new materials that can play a role in new technologies and the clean energy revolution ahead.

New Ideas in Progress:

  • Pursuing Insights in Computational Health and Medicine

  • Big data, artificial intelligence and computational science are transforming health and medicine, changing the way diseases are understood, diagnosed and treated. Faculty in Texas computing, data science and the Oden Institute partner with life sciences researchers in Dell Medical and Natural Sciences to develop new tools and techniques to improve health outcomes for patients and communities.

  • Working towards New Therapeutics and Vaccines through Texas Biologics
    Texas Biologics builds on UT Austin’s long history of success in protein therapeutics, by bringing together researchers in the College of Natural Sciences and Cockrell School of Engineering with cross-disciplinary strengths related to the discovery, development and clinical translation of related medicines and treatments. This effort will leverage the structural biology capabilities of the Sauer Lab, the college's cryo-electron microscopy facility.

The College of Natural Sciences must provide strategic support of our faculty as they advance bold research and tackle society's greatest challenges. The college continues to implement the CNS Master Space Plan for facilities development. In addition, we aim for:

Supporting our researchers to help foster first-class scientific discovery

Work Underway:

  • Advance Higher-Risk/Higher-Reward Research with Spark Grants

CNS Spark Grants is a new internal funding mechanism open to associate professors who seek to explore new research questions or experimental approaches. The goal is to support new ideas that are typically too early-stage in their development to be appropriate for routine funding opportunities, encouraging high-risk/high-reward projects of many stripes, from developing new methods to gathering preliminary data for new vanguards in research.

  • Continue Interdisciplinary Research Projects Supported by CNS Catalyst Grants

The CNS Catalyst Grant program is a College of Natural Sciences (CNS) internal funding mechanism meant to inspire interdisciplinary research collaborations that will seed efforts to secure external funding. 

New Ideas in Progress:

  • Introduce New Proto Center Competitions

CNS is exploring the idea of creating a college-wide annual competition for new centers to support innovative interdisciplinary research. Proto Centers will be launched with college funding for a finite amount of time. This program would create regenerating support structures at the intersection of multiple disciplines and foster cutting-edge discovery.

 

 

 

We will change the world in our pursuits of transformative education.

We aim to deliver a Texas Science education that reflects close partnerships with learners, programs that integrate instruction with experiences and a culture supportive of inclusive instructional practices. This will require:

Multiple new and sustained efforts aimed at catalyzing teaching excellence

Work Underway:

TIDES Instruct provides comprehensive support of CNS faculty and teaching assistants in implementing evidence-based teaching and mentoring practices. Professional development opportunities include workshops and events centered around cutting-edge pedagogical practices, training and support for in-classroom teaching assistants and course design consultation.

  • 21st Century Undergraduate and Graduate Education Initiatives

Curriculum Redesign is an ongoing initiative aimed at engaging departments in a collective process of designing and structuring their undergraduate degrees around a common set of principles. This work aims to: 

      • Define critical outcomes related to content knowledge and essential skills in the CNS disciplines.
      • Intentionally structure degrees and course offerings to make explicit how students achieve outcomes as they progress through the degree.
      • Encourage cooperation among faculty within departments to standardize different sections of the same course and to align objectives of courses students take in sequence.
      • Facilitate communication between departments to coordinate links between courses students often take simultaneously.
      • Make recommendations for changes to degree plans and courses to simplify the path to graduation, while also improving student achievement and satisfaction.

Experiential Learning (EL) aims to make engaged learning processes whereby students “learn by doing” and then reflect on the experiences a defining feature throughout the undergraduate experience. The primary goals include:

      • Establishing a set of EL student outcomes.
      • Requiring all CNS students complete at least one immersive EL activity aimed at meeting a subset of defined learning outcomes.
      • Encouraging broad implementation of EL within the classroom, giving students frequent exposure to experiential learning as part of their standard undergraduate coursework.

Graduate Education initiatives commit the college to helping today’s students prepare for the multitude of career choices they’ll have after graduation and success across many domains. Primary goals include:

      • Streamline and enhance students' paths to degree.
      • Make graduate education more flexible and efficient.
      • Ensure that all students explore and prepare for desired careers.
      • Ensure that all Ph.D. students acquire big data skills.
  • Catalyzing Culture Change

TIDES leads several initiatives throughout the year aimed at catalyzing culture change towards a college that values high-quality teaching, is open and committed to iterated and evolving teaching practices in alignment with evidence-based approaches and views teaching and student success as a shared responsibility of all educators. Examples of culture change initiatives include Teaching Discovery Days and other similar facilitated discussions, Course Design Institutes, Graduate Student Concentration in Teaching and Mentoring and programs for new faculty onboarding.

New Ideas in Progress:

  • Communities of Practice

The college is piloting fellowship-like experiences that invite select faculty to come together in cohorts centered around timely and impactful themes such as growth mindset, quantitative curriculum modules, digital open-resource curriculum design or inclusive teaching practices.

CITE is a fellowship-style program enabling faculty to gain experience providing comprehensive teacing consultations, which include interviews with faculty members, a holistic review of course materials and in-class experiences and formative as well as summative feedback on faculty teaching practices. These consultations aim to promote teaching excellence by providing high-quality external feedback that underscores the continuous cycle of teaching improvement. By broadening perspectives on what excellent teaching can be and by exercising care and empathy for our peers, the aim is to create a culture of transparency, enthusiasm for change and continuous improvement.

This year-long fellowship for all new CNS faculty consists of monthly cohort meetings and other program activities aimed at supporting teaching from the moment faculty step foot on campus. Teaching efforts will be supported by both the mentorship of successful CNS faculty and the construction of a community of peers centered around teaching. Faculty will learn about teaching best practices, teaching tools and meaningful ways to support students, while also being set up for success in the teaching aspect of the promotion and tenure process.


We aim to deliver a Texas Science education that prepares students for a dynamic, digital and global world, where scientific thinkers, humane leaders and creative experts will be needed to solve emerging challenges. This will require:

Education that responds to a changing world

Work Underway:

The Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) and Accelerated Research Initiative (ARI) give first- and second-year students the opportunity to initiate and engage in real-world research experiences. FRI has become a national model for science education, as students who participate in it are more likely to stay in college, complete science and math degrees and graduate better prepared to pursue advanced degrees or jobs in the industry.

In the Inventors Program, science and engineering students practice what they do best: creative problem-solving to make every-day life better. Teams of science and engineering students work together to solve real-world problems provided by local industry, community organizations, UT alumni and other partners. From these problems, students develop projects, where they design, prototype, test, conduct market research, and make procedure and policy change recommendations. Students test questions, make discoveries and invent together, while also getting to know community stakeholders and faculty mentors along the journey of transforming ideas from concept through innovation.

New Ideas in progress:

  • Disruptive Education Models for Adult Learners

CNS has an increasing portfolio of online master's programs that offer the rigor and excellence of a UT Austin degree to a wider audience in a flexible, online format. These programs include a Master of Data ScienceMaster of Computer Science and Master of Science in Nutritional Science.

  • Taking High-Demand Disciplines to Scale

With careful consideration from a soon-to-be-established working group, the college aims to bring high-demand disciplines, such as Data Science, Computing, and Public Health, to a broader swath of UT undergraduates. This might include new and/or expanded courses, majors or minors, new modules that can be imbedded across other curriculum, new introductory open-access resources for non-majors and/or non-STEM students and/or flexible, online distance learning opportunities. This work is centered upon the goals of student access, interdisciplinarity and 21st century education. 

We will change the world through our pursuits of transformative experiences.


We aim to propel the journeys and passions of individuals in our community, while also igniting a strong sense of belonging, community and purpose for our students, staff and faculty in our shared work to serve Texas, the United States and the world. This requires:

Fostering an inclusive college climate so that, in this large college, Longhorns look out for and support one another and have equitable opportunities to dive deeply into learning and discovery

Work Underway:

  • Summer Experiential Learning Opportunity Fellowships

    In today’s world, students need an array of experiences both inside and outside the classroom to compete for graduate school admission or top industry jobs, and access to these experiences, which often take place over summer months, should not be limited to those with higher family incomes. Expanding access to experiences outside of the traditional classroom environment for students to participate in research, internships and study abroad trips is a key goal, as the college works to reduce disparities for students from families with low to middle incomes to participate in experiential learning opportunities.

  • Inclusive Campaigns like You Belong Here

    CNS wants to embed in its spaces, touch points and events explicit signals of welcome, inclusion and belonging for our students, staff and faculty. We are continually examining ways to bolster community-based values and experiences for everyone in Texas Science.

  • Offering Students a New DEI Concentration
  • The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Concentration facilitates students' exploration of DEI concepts through coursework and opportunities in order to develop skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a diverse world. 

  • Taking a Promotion Milestone From Associate to Partner
  • The "From Associate to Partner" retreat for newly promoted associate professors in the College of Natural Sciences engages newly tenured faculty in an exploration of their hopes and goals for their life's work. The retreat is a two-day event filled with opportunities for mid-career faculty to interact and learn from senior-level faculty about new possibilities in service, research collaborations, teaching, administration, entrepreneurship and more.

  • CNS Mental Health Task Force and Resources

  • CNS is directing more focus to the essential role of wellbeing and health across our community, including a new College of Natural Sciences Student Mental Health Task Force — made up of faculty, staff and students — working to identify priorities for those in CNS with concerns and experiences related to mental health and create affiliated resources for students, faculty and staff.

  • Student Sprint Experiences
  • Sprints allow students to explore real-world problems for a day with opportunities to follow-up with other experiential programs. Organized by the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES), sprint projects also can be focused around timely core themes, such as equity.

New Ideas in Progress:

  • Advancing Mentorship College-Wide
  • With careful consideration from a soon-to-be-established working group, a large-scale, multi-phased initiative will work to create resources for improving mentorship across students, faculty, staff and alumni. Such resources will include clarified job expectations, training workshops centered upon best practices, strategic intake and matching opportunities, timely conversation templates and timeline nudges, a new awards series, evaluation and feedback loops, toolkits for troubleshooting and more.

  • Texas Excellence in Jobs and Services (TEJAS)
  • TEJAS connects work study-eligible students with research opportunities combined with a professionalism course to help advance their careers.


We aim to deliver excellence in all we do through outstanding personnel, operations and technology. Initiatives in this area involve:

Improving our organizational practices and deepening our understanding of our areas of strength and opportunities for improvement

Work Underway:

  • College Climate Assessments

  • New and ongoing efforts to listen and learn from our community members help inform and focus the work of the college. Improved coordination across faculty, student and staff climate surveys will allow us to better understand the climate of our college and the various units and organizations within it.  Periodic updates on the findings of these surveys will help inform the work of various committees as well as affirm the voices of our college community, and college actions will be driven by lessons learned through the assessment process.

  • Research/Practice Partnerships in Science Communication

  • New and expanding partnerships with the Moody College of Communication create expert-informed opportunities to train our scientists to be better communicators. With graduate student opportunities underway, the college is exploring new ways to systematically train our faculty. This research/practice partnership aims to explore public trust in science and science literacy as well as motivation and barriers to effective science communication.

  • Improved Data Leadership, Data Availability and Data-Informed Decision Making
  • Informed by the Action Plan of Summer 2020, CNS has been worked to establish a college-wide Data Task Force to develop CNS data policies and ensure access to data to improve CNS outcomes. This group is closely monitoring the affiliated Data to Insights Initiative (D2I) that is planning for modern, cloud-scale technologies, analytics and broad engagement of all campus-wide data systems. The CNS Data Task Force also worked to establish a data ticketing system. This system provides a streamlined process for requesting data and/or requesting support for data queries. 

New Ideas in Progress:

  • College Budget Planning Capacity-Building

  • Working with key staff and leadership across the college, CNS will be designing new methods and training opportunities for strategic budgeting and optimal use of resources in alignment with strategic priorities.

  • Increasing Attention to Educational Technology

  • Leveraging the disruptive technologies that have recently emerged as common teaching tools, the college will work to prioritize needs and opportunities, then create resources for learning, building and troubleshooting the use of technology in the classroom.

  • Conducting Comprehensive Exit Interviews
  • Systematic, standardized and centrally administered exit interviews will provide a more confidential and comprehensive understanding of why individuals choose to leave the college and university. This initiative aims to not only improve upon the employee experience in their final days on campus, but more holistically inform the college as to areas of strength and areas of needed improvement.

We aspire to amplify the unmatched potential of Austin and Texas. 

We join the university in embracing the growth and spirit of Austin.  We will do this by:

Building symbiotic partnerships across our rapidly-growing, tech-driven capital city 

WORK UNDERWAY:

This science and engineering partnership collaborates with area tech industry groups and Army Futures Command to advance robotics education and research in numerous areas including medicine, rehabilitation, transportation, drilling, manufacturing, energy, national security and space exploration.

CNS scientists and students, in partnership with medical leaders, social scientists, engineers and researchers in the Texas Advanced Computing Center, are developing innovative models that advance the surveillance, forecasting and mitigation of pandemics like COVID-19. The consortium provides decision-support analyses for local, state and national leaders striving to protect the health and well-being of our society and have helped ensure Austin has the lowest fatality rate from COVID-19 of any major metro area.

NEW IDEAS IN Progress:

  • New Pathways to High-Demand Careers

In partnership with Austin Community College, the College and its units are building new co-enrollment opportunities in biotechnology training and STEM teaching certification


We join the university in embracing the growth and spirit of Texas—including our Fort Davis, Port Aransas, Smithville and other sites around Texas where College of Natural Sciences community members live, work and help to advance discovery. Our initiatives in this area focus on:

Serving Texans across the state with science that enhances life, work, health and learning 

WORK UNDERWAY:

Field stations are portals for better understanding and protecting our world. With sites around the state, researchers will be able to create knowledge that leads to healthier lives through more sustainable and resilient sources of food, water and energy and world-changing scientific breakthroughs that promote the vibrancy of Texas and our planet.

Open to science enthusiasts everywhere, the Texas Science Festival offers opportunities for the community to learn about scientific discovery and explore topics relevant for our changing world.

NEW IDEAS IN Progress:

CNS serves the people of Texas through many outreach units and programs. These programs are fundamental to UT’s aspiration of becoming the highest-impact public research university in the world. CNS is actively working to maximize its public engagement impact through improved college-wide strategy, coordination, and communication across such efforts as:

Marine Science Institute and the Patton Marine Science Education Center

McDonald Observatory and its Visitor Offerings

Texas Memorial Museum

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

UT Brainstorms

UT Nutrition Institute

Science Under the Stars

In partnership with colleges and colleagues across campus, CNS has helped launch a new resource to help families, educators and youth connect to the university's offerings in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The new website, called STEM Starts, helps users navigate different opportunities including STEM camps, workshops, tutoring, teacher professional development and more.