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COLLEGE STATION --

Two prominent Texas A&M University former students from the College of Science have earned selection by the college for its highest alumni honor, induction into its Academy of Distinguished Former Students.

Carrie L. Byington, M.D., Class of 1985, of Bryan, Texas; and Dr. Jorge A. López, Class of 1985, of El Paso, Texas, will be recognized Thursday (Mar. 22) for their achievements and contributions to their professions, community and causes as part of the college's Spring Recognition and Awards Dinner, to be held at Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station. The college also will recognize its current scholarship recipients along with all of the donors who have established new endowed gifts within the college's five departments during the past year.

The Academy was established in 1996 to recognize Aggies who have brought honor to their alma mater and professions through outstanding leadership in mathematics, statistics, the sciences and medicine. Byington and López join a prestigious list of 57 previous honorees distinguished for their merit and innovative achievements.

Byington received her bachelor of science in biology from Texas A&M in 1985 and Doctor of Medicine from Baylor College of Medicine in 1989, both with honors. She trained in pediatrics at Texas Children's Hospital and in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds board certification and national recognition in both general pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases. Since 2017, Byington has served as Dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, Senior Vice President of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, and Vice Chancellor for Health Services at The Texas A&M University System. She is the first Mexican American female to hold the position of dean and senior vice president for an academic medical center in the United States.

Prior to returning to Texas A&M, Byington spent 21 years at the University of Utah, where she was the H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Professor of Pediatrics, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development in the School of Medicine, and Associate Vice President for Faculty and Academic Affairs at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center. A federally funded investigator with continuous support as principal or co-investigator totaling about $80 million since 1998, her research spans the translational spectrum from basic laboratory science to health services research and has focused primarily on bacterial and viral respiratory pathogens in children.

Among other accomplishments, Byington's scholarship has led to the co-invention of FilmArray, a novel diagnostic platform for the identification of infectious pathogens and antimicrobial resistance with BioFire Diagnostics of Salt Lake City, later acquired by bioMérieux. Currently used in hospitals across the U.S., Europe, and Asia, FilmArray has changed the landscape for infectious diseases diagnostics and research. Byington's research background in translational science also led to the development of the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science, a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award national consortium since 2008. She also co-founded the South Main Clinic at the University of Utah, which serves the most at-risk populations in Salt Lake County and has won national awards for care delivery.

In 2017, Byington was elected into both the National Academy of Medicine and as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. A nationally renowned physician scientist, she has received awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the NIH. Byington currently serves as Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, which prepares all policies related to pediatric infectious diseases and vaccines and produces the Red Book -- a resource used by pediatricians around the world in the treatment of childhood infectious diseases.

"Almost immediately after her arrival here, Dr. Byington reached out to the College of Science for assistance in replicating a program she developed at Utah to train undergraduates in performing clinical trials," said Dr. Thomas D. McKnight, professor and head of the Department of Biology. "The main goal was to develop a class to teach undergraduates about how clinical trials are performed and analyzed and to provide hands-on experiences for the students, who would help with patient enrollment, informed consent, sample handling and data analysis. Although this proposal was not funded, it demonstrates Dr. Byington's loyalty to the department that helped her get started on her amazing career. She is a perfect candidate for the College of Science Academy of Distinguished Former Students."

López received his Ph.D. in physics in 1986 from Texas A&M, graduating with highest honors and earning the Best Thesis Award. A native of Monterrey, Mexico, he grew up in the Juarez/El Paso area and earned both bachelor's and master's of science degrees in physics at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he has served since 2001 as Rho Sigma Tau-Robert L. Schumaker Professor of Physics.

Following postdoctoral stints at the Niels Bohr Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, López spent a year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo prior to returning in 1990 to his alma mater. He rose through the academic ranks to become a full professor in 2000 and also has served as an Assistant Dean in the College of Science (1999-2001) and as Chair of the Department of Physics (2001-2008). López was responsible for reconstructing the department, hiring 11 new faculty in a four-year period and establishing bridge positions with national laboratories and observatories. He also diversified the unit, substantially increasing the number of Hispanic and female faculty and taking it into new research areas, including astronomy and medical physics.

López's own research spans the gamut of nuclear physics, gravitational waves, astrophysics, physics education, pre-K science teaching, materials science, and applications of scientific methods to social sciences, including political science, anthropology, and cultural heritage. He has had collaborations with researchers in Berkeley, Buenos Aires, and several institutions in Mexico and has written five books and more than 100 journal publications and conference proceedings. In addition, he has taught 23 different physics courses at all levels, earning a 2016 University of Texas System Board of Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), López is founder and a former president of the National Society of Hispanic Physicists as well as a past chair of both the APS Committee on Minorities and the Texas Section of APS. He also has served on numerous boards and committees for the National Science Foundation and NASA. Inducted into the Mexican Academy of Science as a corresponding member in 2012, López was instrumental in initiating the Latin American Symposium on Nuclear Physics and Applications and in founding the Division of Radiation Physics of the Mexican Society of Physics. Throughout his career, he has been a leader in outreach activities, particularly those favoring Hispanics. His many honors include the 2015 APS Bouchet Award, the 2014 APS Division of Nuclear Physics Mentoring Award, the Texas Section of the APS' 2009 Hyer Award, the MAES Latinos in Science and Engineering's 2010 Outstanding MAEStro Award, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers' 2011 Educator of the Year Award.

"I have known Jorge since 1974, at which time he was my student," said Dr. Clarence H. Cooper, Emeritus Associate Professor at UTEP. "He was one of the best students that the physics department had ever graduated.

"I have been at UTEP for four decades and can assure you that individuals with his background, motivation, energy and creativity do not come often. Jorge is an outstanding example for Texas A&M graduates who aim to dedicate their careers to the business of teaching, and his achievements in research are equally abundant. He more than deserves induction into the Academy of Distinguished Former Students."

Members of the Academy receive a commemorative award and have their names inscribed on a perpetual plaque in the College of Science's Dean's Office.

For more information on the Academy and its previous inductees, visit http://www.science.tamu.edu/giving/adfs.php.

-aTm-

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

Hutchins Shana

  • Carrie L. Byington, M.D. '85

    (Credit: Texas A&M Health Science Center.)

  • Dr. Jorge A. López '85

    (Credit: University of Texas at El Paso.)

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