August 3, 2020

While every Texas A&M University student strives to exemplify the Aggie core value of excellence, this goal is equally important for the university’s faculty and researchers. By providing quality education and performing groundbreaking research, Texas A&M faculty members continue to attract and impact high-achieving students and earn Aggieland national and global recognition, such as its place in the top 4% of universities worldwide according to the Center for World University Rankings.

Texas A&M continues to foster the excellence of its faculty and researchers by providing financial support through chairs, professorships and fellowships. The most prestigious of the three, a chair is an academic position for top professors that provides an annual income for research, travel and graduate assistant salaries. A chair, which bears the name of its donor and becomes part of the holder’s title, can be endowed with a $1 million gift.

Similarly, a professorship supports outstanding professors, provides income for research and travel costs, and bears the name of its donor. However, the cost of endowing a professorship is lower at $300,000-$500,000.

With the opportunity to support faculty members or graduate students, a fellowship is the most versatile of the three. Faculty fellowships, which are endowed with a $150,000 gift, support outstanding faculty members. A $25,000 gift can endow a graduate fellowship that encourages students to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree and assists with research costs and other expenses.

No matter the method, chairs, professorships and fellowships all attract and support top scholars and researchers at Texas A&M. The following scholars hold awards funded from the estates of donors who ensured that their legacies advance the continued growth and success of the university and its students through award-winning research and teaching.

Meet Aggieland’s Superstar Scholars

Dr. Paul Hardin

A distinguished professor in the Department of Biology and the director of Texas A&M’s Center for Biological Clock Research, Dr. Paul Hardin holds the John. W. “Bill” Lyons Jr. ’59 Chair in Biology. He is one of the world’s top researchers of biological clocks, which drive 24-hour circadian rhythms in gene expression, metabolism, physiology and behavior in virtually all organisms.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I enjoy training undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to design, carry out and interpret experiments because I can talk one-on-one with them about our bread-and-butter research. For lecture-based courses, my favorite part of teaching is giving the lecture and taking questions. Many of the questions are incredibly insightful and often initiate thoughtful in-class discussions, which shows that the students are engaged and absorbing the material.

Tell us about your biological clock research.

My current work uses fruit flies to understand how the clock drives rhythms in gene expression. The clock controls different sets of genes depending on the tissue, so we want to understand how it chooses which genes to control in different tissues. We’re also exploring the daily activation and repression mechanisms that the clock uses to control rhythmic gene expression required to maintain a 24-hour rhythm. 

What impact has your research had on the field?

When I was a post-doctoral fellow at Brandeis University, I performed key experiments that later helped my advisor win the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. While I was in his lab, I discovered the key timekeeping mechanism for the biological clock, which kick-started my career and has greatly impacted the field. We now know that the timekeeping mechanism in humans is almost identical to that in fruit flies, and that most genes in animals are regulated rhythmically over the course of a day in at least one tissue. This basic understanding has had huge implications for medicine through the identification of genes that can be targeted for drug development to treat various disorders. Thus, our initial studies that defined the timekeeping mechanism in fruit flies opened the door to subsequent work that may lead to more effective treatments for human diseases such as diabetes, sleep disorders and even cancer. 

How has your chair impacted your research?

It provides incredible freedom to follow my instincts. I use the chair to fund experiments that would be too risky for the National Institutes of Health or other organizations to finance. These experiments might require collaborators with complimentary expertise, expensive analysis or outsourcing for equipment, but they have a high probability of producing valuable information we couldn’t acquire any other way. That’s the sort of work that transforms a strong research group doing exciting work into a research group with Nobel Prize potential. 

What would you say to someone considering endowing a chair?

Their trust is well served with Texas A&M and the Texas A&M Foundation. Chairs bring huge benefits to the university, and Texas A&M does a fantastic job in selecting its recipients. All the chair holders I know are amazing scientists or scholars, and having the funds to pursue groundbreaking research is very important. I enjoyed getting to know Bill Lyons, seeing his keen interest in my work and benefitting from his wisdom.

Dr. Hwagyun “Hagen” Kim

The holder of the J. Rogers Rainey and Annie Bob Rainey Professorship in Banking and Finance, Dr. Hwagyun “Hagen” Kim is an associate professor of finance and director of the Ph.D. in business administration. His research, which has been published in numerous academic journals, focuses on asset price theory, structured finance and risk sharing.

Tell us about your research.

I am interested in how to price risk and uncertainty. In finance, risk involves the probability of different outcomes while uncertainty refers to something we cannot measure well, so I am studying how to price these two factors differently. I also research risk sharing, which occurs when banks or financial centers provide resources to entrepreneurs, households or other entities. I am interested in how this enhances the welfare of the economy.

What do you like best about teaching?

Teaching is also a learning experience for the faculty. While I’m preparing for a course and interacting with students, I get inspiration and motivation for my research. I also enjoy watching students learn and helping them explore their new interests.  

How does your professorship impact your role as a faculty member?

It’s a huge honor and a big motivational booster. I’m proud that the school has recognized my hard work and asked me to work harder. It also greatly affects the boundaries of my research by allowing me to purchase valuable data and hire more research assistants. 

What would you say to someone thinking of creating a professorship?

Endowing a professorship is a great investment for donors. Professorships might not seem as influential as donating money to something like a new building, but they can have an even bigger impact because they attract and retain great faculty who can provide their expertise to students and their community. After all, it is human capital that matters. 

Horia Olariu ’23

Since fall 2019, Horia Olariu ’23 has been studying ecological issues while pursuing a doctoral degree in ecosystem science and management. He currently holds the Dr. Harry Wayne Springfield Fellowship, which provides funds for his first two years in the doctoral program.

What interested you in ecology?

I was born in Romania but grew up in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area where the hustle and bustle of daily life can be exhausting, so I appreciated when my parents took me to local parks. I have always felt a connection with the outdoors and animals, and nature helped me escape the stress of an urban lifestyle. What really sealed the deal was my 11th grade AP environmental studies teacher whose passion for cherishing the environment influenced me.

Tell us about your current research.

My research involves adopting an interdisciplinary approach to solve real-world problems. I am using sophisticated deep-learning algorithms to classify tree species in semi-arid landscapes from drone images. This research will help ranchers better understand treatment options for brush control and tree encroachment on their property. I am also comparing evapotranspiration models using a variety of remote sensing algorithms, which will advise better management options for increasing ground water recharge, allowing future generations’ sustainable water use.  

Do you teach at Texas A&M?

Yes! I taught an introductory ecology class, and it was one of my favorite experiences at the university. Next semester, I will teach an introductory remote sensing class for undergraduate and graduate students. There is no greater feeling than helping students understand concepts that they are interested in. Seeing their eyes light up as they connect the dots is very fulfilling and has provided me much joy. 

What would you say to someone interested in funding a fellowship?

My fellowship has fully paid for tuition, which allows me to completely devote grant funds to research that will tremendously impact many people’s quality of life worldwide and especially in Texas. Donors are a necessary part of the research process, and the money given will always be paid back in full through our discoveries and their positive impact on society. 

Interested in supporting faculty members? Contact Patrick Williams ’92, assistant vice president for development, using the form below. To learn more about creating a planned gift, contact Angela Throne ’03 at or (979) 845-5638.

Download our estate planning kit