March 2018

I Dressed Up for This teaser image
Staying in the vein of unique experiences through graduate school, I’ve chosen to write about a unique opportunity I was afforded last week; attending the Hagler Institute for Advanced Study Gala. I genuinely do not enjoy dressing up, to the extent that when I need to look professional I generally get a second opinion, but it’s hard to mess up a tuxedo, and given the company I was in I think it was well worth it. The Hagler Intitute is a program within Texas A&M University designed to attract world-class talent to join our professors with similar interests in order to promote new and unique collaborations.
The opportunity to attend allowed a handful of students to interact with Nobel Laureates, National Academy of Sciences members and other incredibly distinguished academics and guests. Additionally John Hagler, the Institutes namesake and coincidentally a graduate of my department, provided the keynote address. Mr. Hagler reminded us of the challenges facing our country and society as a whole, and challenged the room to consider the role of a land grant university in facing those challenges in one of the most thought provoking presentations I’ve ever listened to. In addition to interacting with Mr. Hagler we got to ‘hang out’ with professors from across the university and other distinguished guests including John Sharp, Tyson Voelkel and Michael K. Young, the Chancellor, President of the A&M Foundation and the President of Texas A&M, respectively.
One of the most unique inductees of this class of scholars (which included engineers, lawyers and biologists) was Dr. Jerry Tessendorf. Even though you’ve probably never heard of his name I can nearly guarantee you’re familiar with his work. Dr. Tessendorf is known for advancing fluid simulations in computer graphics i.e. he makes water for movies such as Titanic, Waterworld, The Golden Compass and many others. In 2013 Dr. Tessendorf was awarded the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on Life of Pi.
In what was a challenging week for me on a lot of fronts, attending the Institute’s gala was a bright spot. Disregarding the distinguished attendees it was a great opportunity to meet other young researchers from around the university and create connections that we might be able to pursue in the future.

Justin Benavidez
Justin is a Ph.D. student in the Agricultural Economics department.

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