en español: El Innovador de Texas
Return on Investment
Every dollar invested in our state’s higher education returns $5.50 to our Texas economy, fueling the state’s economic engine with $33.2 billion a year.
This is a remarkable return, even for a high stakes technology startup. But when it comes to the Texas higher education system, the stakes are much higher. We are investing in our most important venture—the future of young Texans.
In an update of my 2003 special report, The Impact of the State Higher Education System on the Texas Economy, I estimate that spending and re-spending of out-of-state student, research and health care dollars adds $10.1 billion per year to the state’s economic output. The higher earnings and productivity of a better-educated work force eventually increases state economic capacity by another $23.1 billion per year.
Education plays a vital economic role, but state higher education funding is losing ground to other state services. After adjusting for inflation, spending on public safety and corrections increased 223 percent in the last 15 years, while real higher education expenditures grew only 44 percent during the same period.
My TexasNextStep proposal would make higher education more affordable and accessible to more Texans, raise the skill level of the Texas work force and set Texas apart in the competition for jobs. TexasNextStep would pay tuition, fees, and books for Texas high school graduates to attend public community colleges, technical colleges or other two-year institutions.
From there, the sky is the limit. Students can either enter the work force better prepared for high-skilled jobs, or choose to continue their education at a four-year college, using a variety of federal and state financial aid programs. Study after study shows that students who receive an associate degree from a two-year college and later transfer to a four-year institution are as likely to graduate as those who enter as freshmen.
I want Texas to have the most educated work force in the nation. I will continue to fight for TexasNextStep until it is adopted and K-through-14 education is the norm in Texas. I would rather spend $2,500 a year educating a young Texan, than $16,000 a year incarcerating that young Texan.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Call forwarding, flower waiting
Millions of obsolete cell phones wind up in landfills every year. A team of British scientists from Warwick University would rather they wound up in flower beds. The team worked with Motorola and Pvaxx Research and Development Limited to develop a biodegradable plastic shell for cell phones.
The phone shell begins to decompose a few weeks after it is placed into compost. As an added bonus, the team placed a dwarf sunflower seed under a transparent window in each cover. Once the phone shells are planted, the seeds will germinate.
Kerry Kirwan, of the university’s International Automotive Research Center, said the team worked on a number of projects with biodegradable plastics, but none with the level of consumer appeal the cell phone has.
Motorola hasn’t decided if it will market the concept, Kirwan said.
For more information, contact Kerry Kirwan,
University of Warwick, email@example.com
Snails cure pain
People who suffer from chronic pain may find relief from a man-made version of snail venom.
A new drug called Prialt, developed by scientists at Elan Corp. in Ireland, entered the market for U.S. doctors and patients in January. It is intended for patients who have exhausted all other options, including morphine, for fighting pain.
Prialt is the synthetic equivalent of a peptide found in a marine snail called Conus magus, according to Elan Corp. The snail ejects a venom into its prey, usually a fish, and the toxins paralyze the fish in seconds. Physicians will administer the synthetic drug to patients via implantable drug delivery pumps, in what is called intrathecal therapy.
“Prialt is an important therapeutic advance for patients who suffer from severe, chronic pain,” said Dr. Lars Ekman, president of research and development for Elan.
In clinical trials, patients suffering from severe, chronic pain related to cancer and AIDS reported that Prialt significantly reduced their pain. The drug has side effects, and some patients reported confusion, dizziness and difficult or unsteady walking.
For more information, contact Anita Kawatra,
Elan Corp., 212-407-5755
Stroke victims may suffer less brain damage if doctors can rapidly reduce the temperature of their brains by a few degrees, according to a study at the University of Illinois at Peoria. In the study, researchers used a soft helmet filled with circulating ice water developed by California-based CoolSystems Inc. to cool the brain temperatures of people who had strokes or traumatic brain injuries.
Founded by a scientist who worked with NASA on controlling temperature and pressure in astronauts’ space suits, CoolSystems joined with the Stanford University Medical Center to continue the research.
In preliminary tests, the helmet reduced the brain temperature in the first hour without significantly reducing patients’ overall body temperature. This approach may help paramedics who treat stroke victims limit patients’ brain damage and avoid the risk of hypothermia in other parts of the body.
“Cooling helmets offer a potentially highly promising treatment to improve neurologic outcome and limit brain damage in patients with stroke and traumatic brain injury,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Christine Wijman, who will conduct additional tests with the cooling helmet in patients with severe brain injuries.
For more information, contact Dr. Christine Wijman,
Sleep more, weigh less
More sleep might help you lose weight, according to researchers at Stanford University.
More than 1,000 Wisconsin residents took part in a university-sponsored sleep study. The study found that sleeping less than six hours led to changes in hormones that caused people to eat more and, subsequently, gain more weight, said Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, a medical investigator at Stanford’s Howard Hughes Institute.
“What we found is that short sleep is also associated with changes in appetite-stimulating hormones that we believe leads [people] to be overweight,” Mignot said.
Some think that people who sleep too much are lazy, and that they’ll tend to be overweight, Mignot said. But the study results indicate the opposite is true—that less sleep leads people to eat more in order to fuel their bodies.
“The problem is now people may not do as much [while awake],” Mignot said. “And things like food are so readily available now. People eat but they don’t burn as much [after] they eat.”
Researchers will begin a study of the effects of more sleep in summer 2005.
For more information, contact Dr. Emmanuel Mignot,
The Tweel deal
Tire maker Michelin created an integrated tire and wheel combination that lacks an essential component of traditional, pneumatic tires: air.
The Tweel as it’s called, consists of a hub, a spoke section, a “shear band” and a tread band. The spoke section has flexible, polyurethane spokes designed to absorb road impact. The shear band surrounds the spokes and distributes the tire’s load, as air pressure does in a pneumatic tire. The tread band is a rubber layer that surrounds the shear band and looks similar to a conventional tire’s tread.
Michelin said the advantage of the Tweel is that it never goes flat and lasts two to three times longer than inflated tires. The technology is in production and available for iBOT wheelchairs, which can climb stairs and navigate uneven terrain, and a prototype Segway device is equipped with the Tweel.
Michelin has no estimate on when the Tweel will be available for widespread use in passenger cars. Researchers at the Michelin Americas Research and Development Center in Greenville, S.C., are developing the Tweel for autos.
For more information, contact Lynn Mann,
How’s my teen driving?
A new bumper sticker can help ease parents’ minds and help keep track of their mobile teenagers.
Teen Arrive Alive (TAA), a Florida-based company, offers parents a bumper decal to put on their teen’s cars, including a phone number that drivers may call to report erratic driving. The message is directed to the parents via a phone call, voice mail, e-mail or through a Web site.
Parents can listen to any complaints left about their teen’s driving to distinguish genuine calls from pranks, said Jack Church, TAA’s vice president of marketing.
Traffic accidents claimed nearly 6,000 American teenagers’ lives in 2002, according to TAA. The bumper sticker program will help parents better protect their kids when they’re not with them, Church said.
The decal program costs $14.99 a month. For an additional $19.99 a month, the company offers cell phones equipped with Global Positioning Systems that allow parents to track their teens’ locations and driving speeds.
For more information, contact Jack Church,
Robo-planes douse flames
A collaborative project between NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Forest Service is weighing the usefulness of robotic aircraft in firefighting.
The idea is to use flocks of small robot planes—called unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs—to map major wildfires from the air with electronic sensors, so that authorities know where to send their firefighters and equipment. At present, manned aircraft conduct such mapping, an exercise that can be both expensive and risky.
NASA sought the assistance of the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) due to the lab’s considerable experience with UAVs. UAVs resemble model aircraft, although they can carry sophisticated electronics. They typically weigh less than 50 pounds and are relatively inexpensive.
In 2004, INEEL made headlines in aeronautical circles with an experiment involving five UAVs controlled simultaneously by a single ground station. The laboratory is further testing its ability to coordinate and control groups of UAVs. Eventually, firefighters may be able to use flocks of them to examine and follow the progress of fires from miles away via video cameras and sensors installed in the craft.
For more information, contact Scott Bauer,
As part of a 20-city study, hospital emergency rooms across the nation will give trauma victims an experimental blood substitute called PolyHeme. The blood substitute, a product of Northfield Laboratories of Evanston, Ill., carries oxygen, just as real blood does, and may prevent shock and damage to internal organs in patients with severe blood loss.
For information, contact Dr. Steven A. Gould,
Northfield Laboratories, 847-864-3500
Not brushing your teeth could make you sick.
In a study of elderly nursing home patients, researchers at the University of Buffalo in New York found that pathogens in dental plaque can make their way into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
Researchers tested 49 nursing home patients, 28 of whom had germs that cause respiratory disease in their dental plaque and 21 who did not have pathogens.
Of the 28 people with germs in their plaque, 10 developed pneumonia while in the hospital. Only four of those who did not have respiratory germs developed pneumonia.
For more information, contact Lois Baker,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 716-645-5000, ext. 1417
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that blood from a newborn’s umbilical cord, which contains cells that can rebuild the body’s blood production system, is as effective as transplanting slightly mismatched bone marrow in treating leukemia in adults. This procedure could double or triple the number of adults who receive an unrelated donor transplant, said Dr. Mary Horowitz of the Medical College of Wisconsin and a chief author of the study.
For more information, contact Mary Horowitz,
Medical College of Wisconsin, email@example.com
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright