On Tuesday (March 14), two College of Science faculty members will be on hand in Austin to help Texas A&M University close out its debut appearance at South By Southwest (SXSW) in style.

Liberal arts will meet science in the "Uncovering Trends: Interacting With Big Data" panel, set for 11 a.m. to noon in the Hotel Van Zandt's Lady Bird Ballroom and featuring astronomer Casey Papovich as well as some of the universe's biggest projects.

Later in the Lady Bird Ballroom from 5 to 6 p.m., chemist James Pennington will light up one of the state's biggest stages with one of Texas A&M's most popular statewide outreach traditions, the Chemistry Road Show.

Both events will be live streamed and also archived after the fact at http://sxsw.tamu.edu/live/.

Papovich and Pennington are two of the dozens of Texas A&M faculty, staff, administrators and both current and former students who have worked long hours behind the scenes in Austin to pull off the five-day first-of-its-kind interactive showcase. That which began Friday (March 10) with a presidential panel on academic incubators has featured daily exhibits at the Austin Convention Center and at the Aggie-owned Hotel Van Zandt, which has served as the host venue for the Texas A&M House, a one-stop destination for groundbreaking research, innovation and global discovery.

Papovich will join Laura Mandell, professor of English and director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities at Texas A&M, and Toniesha Taylor, professor of communication at Prairie View A&M University, to offer first-person perspective on big data and how it impacts not only research and education efforts but also the broader world. For his part, Papovich will detail how big data is being used to further our understanding of the universe through astronomical data sets that are astronomical in size. Papovich will demonstrate how he and his fellow researchers are using these massive data sets -- images taken with the largest telescopes in existence today -- to understand how galaxies like our own Milky Way form and evolve over billions of years, as well as what the future holds, considering that next-generation telescopes are poised to produce data at even more alarming rates and quantities.

In addition to the panel, live big data demonstrations will continue today (10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m.) and Monday (10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m.) in the Hotel Van Zandt's Red River Room.

For nearly a decade, Pennington has served as the coordinator and colorful front man for the Chemistry Road Show, founded in the mid-1980s by the late Texas A&M chemist John L. Hogg. It was Hogg who first envisioned the show's pioneering concept of taking science to the public, enabling people to experience science in basic and entertaining ways within the comfortable confines of a familiar educational environment. Funded by the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry and the College of Science in partnership with The Dow Chemical Company and Shell Oil Company, the event reaches more than 22,000 people per year all over Texas and helps stimulate interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) while satisfying the timeless goal of fueling public interest in exploring the wonders of science, regardless of age of experience level.

Papovich joined Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2008 and is a co-holder of the Marsha L. '69 and Ralph F. Schilling '68 Chair in Experimental Physics as well as a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. His research focuses on observational cosmology, the formation and evolution of the most distant galaxies, and the growth of large scale structures of galaxies. Papovich was part of a team that discovered the universe's most distant galaxy, a breakthrough deemed one of Texas Monthly's top five Texas-based scientific discoveries for 2013. He earned a master's and Ph.D. in physics from The Johns Hopkins University after receiving a bachelor's in physics from The College of William & Mary. He completed postdoctoral research and a NASA Spitzer Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Arizona.

Pennington joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry in 1998, the same year he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Michigan. As an instructional assistant professor, his primary responsibility and professional passion is teaching sophomore organic chemistry for non-chemistry majors -- a task for which his devotion has been recognized with both a Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching (2015) and as a Fish Camp namesake. In addition to introducing generations to the wonders of chemistry and science through more than 80 performances of the Chemistry Road Show each year, Pennington collaborates on research with several research groups in chemistry as well as physics and astronomy. As an added Road Show bonus, he has had the opportunity to work closely with and mentor dozens of Aggies who have participated as assistant demonstrators, putting them on their own possible paths to involvement in service and community outreach.

SXSW is historically known for bringing together global professionals, brands and cutting-edge vendors from a diverse group of industries. Texas A&M is one of only a handful of universities showcasing during Interactive Week, March 10-15, to highlight the innovative work happening at the tier-one research institution as well as its societal impact.

Read more about the big data panel, the Chemistry Road Show and all other Texas A&M at SXSW activities at Texas A&M TODAY.

For complete event information, from the full programming lineup to media resources, visit http://sxsw.tamu.edu.

To catch up on programming and related highlights thus far, check out the #TAMUatSXSW Live Blog.

For more on SXSW, visit sxsw.com.

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About Texas A&M University: Texas A&M, established in 1876 as the first public university in Texas, is one of the nation's largest universities with more than 66,000 students and more than 440,000 living alumni residing in over 150 countries around the world. A tier-one university, Texas A&M holds the rare triple land-, sea- and space-grant designation. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $892.7 million in fiscal year 2016. Texas A&M's research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. The school's Lead by Example campaign is a comprehensive effort to raise $4 billion by the year 2020, making it the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and the second-largest conducted nationally by a public university. Aggies are known for their deep commitment to the success of each other and a strong desire to serve.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Casey Papovich

  • James Pennington

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