NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Welcome New Faculty!

Fourteen instructional, clinical, and tenure-track faculty are joining the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics. Please welcome our new colleagues.

Department of Biology & Biochemistry

Molly Albecker, Research Assistant Professor (9/22–8/23), then Assistant Professor

Molly Albecker Dr. Albecker’s research integrates eco-evolution and physiology to understand why some organisms thrive in changed environments while others do not. She typically uses amphibians as a model because they are sensitive to the environmental conditions, play important roles in aquatic and terrestrial food webs, and have a complex life cycle. She is looking forward to continuing this research and collaborating with her colleagues at UH.

Adam Stuckert, Research Assistant Professor (9/22–8/23), then Assistant Professor

Adam Stuckert Dr. Stuckert is an eco-evolutionary genomicist who integrates natural history, ecology, evolution, and genomics to understand the genetic basis of phenotypes in diverse taxa. Much of his work focuses on understanding how poison frogs sequester toxins from their diet and produce the astounding diversity of colors and patterns seen in this family.

Ping Yi, Assistant Professor

Ping Yi Dr. Yi’s lab research has focused on molecular regulation of oncogene activation in cancer, with a particular focus on post-translational modification and signal transduction pathways, and nuclear receptor structural studies. Current studies aim to explore the role of non-proteolytic ubiquitination in prostate and lung cancer development and progression. The research employs diverse tools for the studies, including transgenic mouse models, PDX tumor models, CryoEM, and a variety of cell biology tools.

Department of Computer Science

Feng Yan, Associate Professor - Presidential Frontier Faculty Hire

Feng Yan Dr. Yan’s research bridges the fields of big data, machine learning, and systems. The focus of his research is on developing methodologies and building systems that are automated, high-performing, efficient, robust, and user-centric. He is the recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, the NSF CRII Award, the Outstanding Service Award of IEEE ACSOS, the Regents’ Rising Researcher Award, the CSE Best Researcher Award, the Best Student Paper Award of IEEE CLOUD 2018, the Best Paper Award of CLOUD 2019, and the Best Student Paper Award of ITNG 2021.

Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

Honghai Zhang, Assistant Professor

Honghai Zhang Dr. Zhang is interested in climate variability and change. His expertise includes tropical climate dynamics, interactions between tropics and extratropics, global hydrological cycle, and numerical modeling of El Nino-Southern Oscillation. He’d like to teach courses relevant to his research, such as Geophysical Fluid Dynamics.

Youtong Zheng, Assistant Professor (starting January 2023) - Presidential Frontier Faculty Hire

outong Zheng Dr. Zheng studies the physics of clouds and their roles in climate and climate change, using a hierarchy of approaches ranging from pencil-and-paper theory to comprehensive computer models to satellite and experimental observations.

Department of Mathematics

Yabo Niu, Assistant Professor - Presidential Frontier Faculty Hire

Yabo Niu Dr. Niu’s research focuses on developing novel Bayesian statistical methods and their theoretical properties, motivated by real biological applications. His interests revolve around graphical models, Bayesian nonparametrics, and their applications to analyze high-throughput genetic data. He is strongly interested in covariate-dependent graphical models. Such models can facilitate the development of personalized therapeutic options to cancer patients based on genetic markers.

Min Wang, Assistant Professor

Min Wang Dr. Wang is an applied mathematician who is interested in scientific computing and machine learning. Specifically, her recent research focuses on developing problem-dependent model reduction methods and deep-learning-based methods for efficient numerical solution to partial differential equations with multiscale and random parameters from both algorithmic and analytical aspects. Additionally, she is also generally interested in scientific applications of data-driven and deep learning methods.

Yingying Wu, Assistant Professor

Yingying Wu Dr. Wu’s research focuses on differential geometry. In the context of 3- and 4-dimensional Riemannian spaces, she is interested in the behavior of the eigenfunctions and eigenvalues of the Laplacian acting on the space of sections of a real line bundle, defined on the complement of an even number of points in S^2. She is interested in how these eigenvalues and eigenvectors change when viewed as functions of the configuration spaces of singular points and their metric properties. She also works on various extensions of the operads of moduli spaces of curves related to additional supersymmetric structures.

Department of Physics

Sladjana Maric, Instructional Assistant Professor

Sladjana Maric Dr. Maric is a theoretical and computational biophysicist with extensive experimental biophysics training. Molecular dynamics simulations are used in studying the molecular motors with the main focus on energy transduction in ATP synthase and mutations that adversely affect the functions of molecular motors.

Israel Portillo, Instructional Assistant Professor

Israel Portillo Dr. Portillo’s research interest focuses on the study of matter under extreme temperature and density conditions, which is related to the physics explored at relativistic heavy-ion colliders, such as the RHIC at BNL and the LHC at CERN, as well as to the physics of compact stars. He received a Ph.D. in Computational Science at the University of Texas at El Paso in 2014 and a Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Houston in 2019.

Volodymyr Vovchenko, Assistant Professor

Volodymyr Vovchenko Dr. Vovchenko’s expertise lies in high energy nuclear theory. His research is mainly focused on the properties of strongly interacting quantum chromodynamics matter under extreme conditions such as those realized in ultra-relativistic heavy-ion collisions and neutron star phenomena. This is achieved by applying methods of statistical mechanics, relativistic hydrodynamics, and transport theory. He is also interested in scientific computing and visualization.

Department of Mathematics, teachHOUSTON - Transitioning from Instructional to Clinical Faculty

Mariam Manuel, Clinical Assistant Professor

Mariam Manuel Dr. Manuel has taught undergraduate and graduate-level coursework in STEM education at the University of Houston. Her research interests include STEM teacher education, engineering design education, and culturally responsive pedagogy. She has published on topics of inquiry, mentoring, and the intersection of engineering design and culturally responsive instruction. Through this new role, Dr. Manuel will work alongside her colleagues to help include engineering design education in the teachHOUSTON program.

Leah McAlister-Shields, Clinical Assistant Professor

Leah McAlister-Shields Dr. McAlister-Shields’ research and grant work involve examining the implementation of culturally responsive pedagogy across STEM education preparation programs and the development of curriculum grounded in cultural experiences, advocacy for social justice, and the critical awareness of issues faced by marginalized populations. She has published on DEI and its use in higher education settings and has been recognized for her work in the area, recently receiving the national UTeach Award for Staff Excellence.