Our society will face increasingly large and complex problems in the coming decades. Some of these challenges can be addressed through research, teaching and outreach in the academic fields we work on in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences embarked on an exciting interdisciplinary, faculty-driven initiative to chart our top priorities for the future. This year-long process, which included a series of lectures, white paper development, and a town hall meeting, culminated with the identification of five grand challenges – feeding our world, protecting our environment, improving our health, enriching our youth, and growing our economy.
As we work on these universal problems, we seek out diverse perspectives on how to find the best ways forward.
Work on the Grand Challenges:
Feeding Our World
Growing populations, decreasing natural resources and increasing environmental challenges present us with opportunities to find the most efficient and healthful ways to provide food for all, both domestically and globally. Our faculty and students work at levels ranging from the molecular to the industrial to develop best practices for growing, processing and distributing food that is safe, high in quality and abundant. Air quality and the sustainable use of land and water resources — as well as the impact of trade practices and governmental policies — are areas of active research and teaching by our faculty. In addition to improving our own food supply, our faculty and students are helping other nations become more food secure, which in turn can prevent conflict around the globe. The world’s interconnected society and commerce make getting a global education critical to today’s graduates as they help to meet the food needs in other countries by knowing their customs as well as their production constraints. Study abroad programs offer important opportunities for our students to gain that understanding.
Protecting Our Environment
Agriculture and a healthy environment must go hand in hand. The College is committed to environmental sustainability and restoring the health of our ecosystems. Our students can follow their passion by creating parks and green spaces, protecting wildlife and guarding the health of our water bodies and fisheries. With Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the College is involved in many projects in these areas, including restoring military training grounds at Fort Hood, surveying and protecting endangered wildlife species, revitalizing rangelands, designing parks and trails throughout Texas, studying the effects of climate change and developing biofuels for a clean and secure energy future.
Improving Our Health
From recreation and weight control to designing fruits and vegetables with more phytonutrients for cancer prevention to using the latest biotechnology advancements to search for new drugs, the College is dedicated to improving health. Our students in the life sciences will be among the research scientists and technicians, physicians, pharmacists, and biotechnology engineers of the future. We believe in taking a leadership role in health by providing students and researchers with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to investigate such areas as structure-based drug design using X-ray crystallography combined with computer bioinformatics to find the right drug to target a specific disease. Other research is aimed at finding nontoxic “smart drugs” that can be carried by nanoparticles directly to disease sites in the body.
Enriching Our Youth
We prepare students to be leaders in solving the world’s problems. Whether they choose medicine, engineering, business, environmental conservation, education, journalism or food production, students can start their career in our College. In addition to a world-class education, our students have a full range of experiences to enrich their classroom learning. Study abroad, field experiences, internships, undergraduate research and a wide choice of student organizations all allow students to develop leadership, organizational and communication skills to become society-ready graduates. Our faculty and programs specializing in youth development and community development, particularly for at-risk youth in both urban and rural settings, equip our students to address the many complex issues facing today’s young people. Students can also choose from major programs in teacher training and certification as well as communications and journalism.
Growing Our Economy
Producing more, selling more, adding value and increasing the safety and security of what we trade are all ways the College is growing our economy. Food and natural resources are more expensive today than in the past in part because the population and economies of the world are growing. The United States has greater competition in the global marketplace because more countries are producing goods. As a result, their citizens have more disposable income. This provides us with an opportunity to reach new markets, use technology and innovation to add value to existing products, and create new products to meet previously unseen needs. We must do this in a way that ensures consumer safety and the security of global interests while protecting the environment from increased pressures on land, air and water needed to produce more food and fiber.