Prof. Jaime Grunlan cuts an intimidating figure on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Six feet 8 inches tall, broad-shouldered, and sporting impressive sideburns, Professor Grunlan, a former college football player, looks like he just stepped off the set of an X-Men movie.
At 37, he is already a tenured associate professor in the university’s mechanical engineering department. His research has lifesaving applications — and it generates enough money to pay Professor Grunlan’s salary and subsidize several others.
All of which makes him the ideal candidate for the new task he took on this year: outspoken defender of a faculty that felt bombarded by criticism in the midst of a controversy over the value of academic research and the future of higher education in Texas.
It is not a role he relishes. While he calls his work at the university “a dream,” he said that for the first time since coming to A&M in 2004, he is open to academic opportunities elsewhere — in which case those who would seek to reform higher education might end up pushing out a promising leader and powerhouse researcher.