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Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering for UT Rio Grande Valley approved November 19 by UT System Board of Regents, announces Rep. Canales - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured: University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine residents at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine students had to work on the front lines in circumstances most residents could never dream of, UTRGV officials recalled on Thursday, November 19, 2020. In medicine, a resident is a physician who has finished medical school and is receiving training in a specialized area, such as surgery, internal medicine, pathology, radiology, and so on.



Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering for UT Rio Grande Valley approved by UT System Board of Regents, announces Rep. Canales

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In the near future, another advanced degree program for prospective scientists and engineers should receive final state approval for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley following action on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, and Thursday, November 19, 2020, in Austin by the UT System Board of Regents, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

“As another year comes to an end, this latest Ph.D. program is among the major advances in 2020 planned for UTRGV, along with other landmark developments for its School of Medicine, made possible through the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the leadership at the university and its medical school, in their alliances with key private and public organizations and the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation,” said Canales. 

In a unanimous vote, the UT System regents approved seeking state authority for a Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering degree program, said Canales, who serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation.

UTRGV leaders will prepare and submit the full degree program proposal for approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. A date has not been set for that action.

Nolan Pérez, MD, of Harlingen, serves on the UT System Board of Regents. He was appointed to a two-year term on The UT System Board of Regents to end on February 1, 2021, by Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2019 and was confirmed by the Texas Senate on April 10, 2019. 

Dr. Fred Farías of McAllen currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Materials science deals with the structural analysis of materials, the discovery of new material substances and physical phenomena, their application in various industries, and the relationships between properties of materials and their mechanical structure at the atomic level, according to the background provided by Dr. Guy Bailey, President of UTRGV and its School of Medicine. Thus, the intellectual origins of materials science combine analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to understand phenomenological and statistical observations in metallurgy, crystallography, and mineralogy. 

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin Philosophiae doctor or Doctor Philosophiae) is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields. Because it is an earned research degree, those studying for a Ph.D. are usually required to produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a thesis or dissertation, and defend their work against experts in the field. The completion of a Ph.D. is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields.

“The proposal for the Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering degree program follows other exciting developments for the people and economy of deep South Texas in just the past few months,” noted Canales, in whose House District 40 is located the major campuses of UTRGV and its School of Medicine. 

In late October 2020, The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a request from UTRGV to create a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) with a major in Podiatric Medicine, for the UTRGV School of Podiatry. 

This will be the first school of podiatry in Texas and will allow students to pursue careers in the medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle – an important specialization for the Valley, with its high incidence of diabetes and related diseases of the lower extremities.

“Also, in mid-August 2020, another new Ph.D. degree – along with an upgrade of the Ph.D. degree in Business Administration and of the Master of Science degree in Nursing – was approved by the regents,” Canales added. “Those actions affected the Ph.D. in Physics, and the upgrades to Ph.D. in Business Administration, and Master of Science in Nursing.”

According to the agenda packet that is posted online by the UT System: 

The materials science, engineering, and technology disciplines have experienced rapid growth over the past two decades. The field of materials science, commonly termed materials science and engineering, involves the discovery and design of new materials with an emphasis on crystalline and amorphous solids and liquids. 

Recent developments in materials science and engineering have contributed notably to advanced nanostructured materials development and have motivated further educational expansions for the development of smart, responsive, and “intelligent” materials. These trends identify many desirable changes in the present science and engineering curricula with an emphasis on materials science and engineering.

A critical need exists now to supplement the traditional disciplinary training with an interdisciplinary nanoscience curriculum to address the needs of both emerging materials science enterprises and rapidly forming nano- and micro-scale industries.

UT Rio Grande Valley’s College of Sciences and College of Engineering and Computer Science look to fill this critical gap in the curriculum by creating a new multidisciplinary doctoral program in materials science and engineering. This program seeks to provide graduates with broad experience in materials science and engineering based on a foundation in one of the traditional disciplines of chemistry, biology, geology, mathematics, physics, or engineering, through original investigation in a specialized area.

The job outlook for graduates of a Ph.D. program in this discipline now and in the foreseeable future is favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for materials scientists is expected to increase by 7%, faster than the average for all occupations (4%). The BLS asserts that chemists and materials scientists who have an advanced degree, particularly a Ph.D., and work experience will have the best opportunities.

Twenty-two faculty from across the two Colleges will contribute to the doctoral program. The research productivity of the faculty compares favorably to that of peers nationally.


One of the most valuable experiences in a medical student’s education is the time spent in crucial residency hours. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine students had to work on the front lines in circumstances most residents could never dream of, UTRGV officials announced on Thursday, November 19, 2020.

Dr. Timothy Heath, Professor of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine and Program Director of Internal Medicine at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR Health), has committed his time to help UTRGV School of Medicine residents assist with COVID-19 patients. 

“My role is primarily administering the residents and, probably, more importantly, I work with them in the clinics,” Heath said. “Here at DHR Health, our residents as of July 1, 2020, were participating in SIDU (Serious Infection Disease Units) units with people who had COVID-19, so the residents were experiencing patients that were severely ill who required high volumes of oxygen. And when that was ineffective and they were having trouble breathing, then they required mechanical ventilation.”

In medicine, a resident is a physician who has finished medical school and is receiving training in a specialized area, such as surgery, internal medicine, pathology, radiology and do on, according to Board certification in all medical and surgical specialties requires the satisfactory completion of a residency program and successful completion of a specialty board examination.

Residency or postgraduate training is specifically a stage of graduate medical education. It refers to a qualified physician, podiatrist, dentistpharmacistor veterinarian (one who holds the degree of MDDPMDDS, DMDDVMPharmDDOBDS, or BDent; or MB; BS, MBChB, or BMed) who practices medicine, usually in a hospital or clinic, under the direct or indirect supervision of a senior medical clinician registered in that specialty such as an attending physician or consultant

In many jurisdictions, successful completion of such training is a requirement in order to obtain an unrestricted license to practice medicine, and in particular a license to practice a chosen specialty. An individual engaged in such training may be referred to as a resident, registrar or trainee depending on the jurisdiction. Residency training may be followed by fellowship or sub-specialty training.

Whereas medical school teaches physicians a broad range of medical knowledge, basic clinical skills, and supervised experience practicing medicine in a variety of fields, medical residency gives in-depth training within a specific branch of medicine.

Medical residents typically are under a great deal of pressure, to begin with, he said, so imagine during a global pandemic.

Heath said that, especially for first-year residents, the stress of this sort can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when patients were succumbing to the virus in such high volumes. 

“On the front lines, people were dying,” Heath said. “There were some people they got in that were on relatively low-flow oxygen or they required ventilation and then they got better. So there were success stories too. But it was, as you might imagine and especially for the residents, an extremely stressful situation.”

Heath’s role is to help the residents working within these clinics with processing the multitude of events happening around them at lightning speed. While residents also participated in non-COVID-19 settings, Heath had to keep constant track of which residents were working in which clinics at what time, in order to help protect the residents at all times.

This included paying close attention to the shift work residents must fulfill as part of their medical service. As each resident is fully dressed in personal protection equipment (PPE), prevention of cross-contamination is key for all medical teams and standard practice within any clinical setting.

“The residents have been putting forth valiant efforts,” he said. “I’m terribly proud of our residents. They really stepped up. The seniors helped with the interns, and the interns just stepped up to the plate and have done a phenomenal job.”

Heath said watching his residents grow into physicians is one of the best parts of his job, and whether they worked with COVID-19 patients or assisted in regular clinical settings, they all have provided the most professional medical service possible. 

“It just fills your heart with pride to watch the next generation of physicians, and you know they’ve got it, that they’re going to maintain our profession,” he said. “Our profession is in good hands in terms of the quality and character of the physicians that we’re training at UTRGV, and that is absolutely motivating.”

About UTRGV 

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions. 

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

Related VIDEO by Amanda A. Taylor:


Amanda A. Taylor contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

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