Meeting Critical Grand Challenges
In a century of far-reaching research at Texas Tech, cotton is at the core
Texas Tech has come a long way since Senate Bill No. 103 established Texas Technological College in 1923. The university was recognized by the Carnegie Classification in 2015 and 2021 as a “Tier One” Very High Research University, marking the institution as one of the top research universities in the nation.
The classification is a high achievement, and it's one made possible thanks to the foundation laid by generations of Texas Tech researchers. Seemingly hidden in a 244-word sentence in SB 103 is one mention of research, stating that, “It shall be the duty of the board of directors to furnish such assistance to the faculty and students of said college as will enable them to do original research work to apply the latest and most approved method of manufacturing.”
The Textile Engineering Building was one of the first buildings to open on campus and research about how to grow high-quality cotton and how to use that cotton has been continuous. The Textile Engineering Building is now home to Industrial Engineering, but cotton fiber is still a major area of interest within Texas Tech's Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
“Davis College has been the center of agricultural research in the region for 100 years,” said Darren Hudson, Interim Associate Dean for Research and a professor and agricultural competitiveness chair within the Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics.
“Starting from basic animal and crop production and farm management, our research has expanded over the years into many areas including genomics, high-tech sensors and precision management, food safety and quality, management and protection of natural resources, and landscape design to improve environmental and human health.”
Legislators always intended for research to be carried out at Texas Tech, and college students were carrying out original research by 1927, when the first group of 40 students began graduate work. The first master's degrees were conferred in 1928. Over the years research activity just naturally increased with the growth of the graduate school and incentives offered in the 1960s by grants from the government and private industry.
Lubbockites noticed the economic advantages of having a university in the city, and the local newspaper demanded more investment in research. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported the average amount spent on research across the 151 leading institutions was $10.14 million in 1965, while Texas Tech, ranked 125th on a list from Industrial Research magazine, had expenditures of just $602,256. In 2022, research expenditures exceed $212 million, the highest in the university's history.
Now, fiber research is conducted at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI), located off the East Loop in a building surrounded by cotton fields. Though some of the equipment may look similar to the instruments used in the past, the FBRI is at the forefront of fiber research.
The facility has a micro cotton gin on site, as well as equipment for testing fiber quality and a variety of spinning machines. Researchers have even developed a process for turning low-quality cotton into bioplastics, which could increase demand for cotton that would otherwise be considered waste.
Over the last decade, research, scholarship and creative activity have increased drastically. Research has steadily grown at Texas Tech throughout the history of the university, with growth truly accelerating in the past 10 years. The university has met and surpassed the goals set by the state Legislature in 1923, with no signs of slowing down.
“We're at the forefront of water security and conservation and sustainable food, fiber, and thriving communities,” Hudson said. “We look forward to leading the region, nation, and globe in those critical grand challenges for the next 100 years.”
Dr. Darren Hudson
Interim Associate Dean for Research
Davis College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources
AddressP.O. Box 42123, Lubbock, Texas 79409-2123, Dean’s Office Location: Goddard Building, Room 108