Texas Tech on the Cutting Edge of Autism Research

The Whitacre College of Engineering received a $500,000 gift enabling the use of emerging technology in the neuroimaging field.

Chancellor Kent Hance accepts the $500,000 gift from Allen and Linnie Howard, via their foundation, Autumn's Foundation.

Chancellor Kent Hance accepts the $500,000 gift from Allen and Linnie Howard for the Autumn's Dawn NeuroImaging, Cognition and Engineering Laboratory.

With a $500,000 gift enabling the use of emerging technology in the neuroimaging field, Texas Tech will be on the cutting edge of autism research.

Officials from the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering accepted the gift from Allen Howard, a 1978 electrical and computer engineering graduate, and his wife Linnie. The gift is from Autumn's Foundation.

The existing lab within the department will be named Autumn’s Dawn NeuroImaging, Cognition and Engineering (NICE) Laboratory. The NICE lab was formed in 2005 as a collaborative effort between the Whitacre College of Engineering and the College of Human Sciences.

The lab is directed by Mary Baker, an associate professor in engineering, and Michael O’Boyle, a professor in human sciences, and will promote the importance of early identification of autism and Asperger’s syndrome from a unique perspective by utilizing scientific and engineering methods.

“Both Mary and Michael want to help people with brain and cognitive disorders by revealing fundamental principles of brain development function,” said Jon C. Strauss, interim dean of the college. “We are truly honored to receive a gift for potentially transformative research on autism that will be conducted in this lab.”

Researchers plan to explore problems and challenges in neuroscience and neuroimaging through an interdisciplinary team approach, incorporating the problem solving and computational capabilities of engineers and the clinical and diagnostic skills of cognitive scientists.

NICE lab personnel will conduct a three-year clinical study that will impact autism research through a focused neuroimaging study on mildly autistic children and children with Asperger’s, utilizing a Near Infrared Imaging system, a revolutionary emerging technology in the neuroimaging field.

The funds provided by the Howards and Autumn’s Foundation will supply financial support for lab personnel, provide the opportunity to utilize fMRI equipment through a partnership at Grace Clinic, fund travel and attendance at meetings and autism conferences while also seeking out collaborative research opportunities.

In addition to the NICE lab, Texas Tech is dedicated to autism research through the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research in the College of Education. The center provides services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families, and the professionals who work with them to improve their quality of life. For more information on the center, visit its Web site.

Whitacre College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.

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