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Texas Innovator Summer 2008
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“The major difference
between the big shot and the little shot is the big shot is just a little shot who kept on shooting.”
— Zig Ziglar

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A Message from
Comptroller Susan Combs

Innovation is alive across Texas. Near Laredo, for instance, a Texas State Energy Conservation Office project is providing electricity for the first time to some colonia residents along the Texas-Mexico border. The innovative pilot project uses a rechargeable micro-grid to provide basic electricity and safety lighting. And that’s just one example of the great work Texans are doing across our state. From pioneers in LASIK surgery to new lifesaving safety measures for our nation’s soldiers and law enforcement, the award-winning Texas Innovator brings you the best of Texas.

And our Web-exclusive content features stories of new hope for back-pain sufferers, along with efforts to help patients control prosthetic limbs with their minds. Find them all online at Their stories will inspire the innovator in you, and we invite you to share your thoughts with us at

Susan Combs


Let their light shine

The Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) is piloting a solution for colonia residents who do not have access to the utility grid. The colonias are patches of improvised, do-it-yourself homes along the Texas-Mexico border with little or no basic infrastructure for utilities. They are occupied mostly by impoverished families.

SECO brings electricty to La Presa residents.

In November 2007, SECO established a micro-grid consisting of a hybrid generator, energy storage, main distribution panel and temporary power outlet providing clean energy as well as safety lighting for 12 homes at La Presa, near Laredo. The system is environmentally efficient, operating on biofuels, wind and solar power.

“The micro-grid is a bridge technology, providing power to colonia residents until they can access electricity from the power grid,” says Dub Taylor, director of SECO. “This is a cleaner and more cost-effective alternative to using portable generators, and it provides basic electric service we all take for granted whenever we flip a switch.”

SECO officials will collect data to determine specifics regarding the feasibility and economics of the system and how it could be used in other remote areas, including disaster relief sites.

For more information, contact Dub Taylor,, (512) 463-8352, or visit


Fighting cancer with a microscope

Scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered a way to use a highly advanced microscope to better identify and diagnose cancer.

The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) is used to examine and measure structures on scales of a fraction of a nanometer (one-billionth of a meter), through the use of a tiny probe that “feels” the material through direct contact. Under a conventional microscope, cancer cells are often hard to differentiate from healthy ones. Using the AFM, the UCLA team found that cancer cells offered less resistance to the probe – were softer, in other words – and thus were easily distinguishable.

Team members say the new technique may lead to ways to personalize cancer treatments based on the mechanical properties of malignant cells.

For more information, contact Jian Yu Rao at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center,, or visit

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