NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Virtual Field Trips and the teachHOUSTON STEM Interactive Summer Program were featured in the AAAS Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Initiative Lessons Learned During COVID-19 Report on Strategies Transforming the Future of STEM Education. Both programs demonstrated innovative ways to keep students engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jinny Sisson (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) created a series of online field trips for the Introductory Physical Geology students that allowed them to remain engaged in field-based experiences, and also provided the opportunity for students with physical disabilities to participate. The teachHOUSTON STEM Interactive Program provided summer internship opportunities for pre-service STEM teachers and provided a virtual camp for over 4,300 6th-9th grade students worldwide during the summers of 2020 and 2021.

Department of Mathematics held its annual UH Mathematics Contest for middle and high school students on January 29. The content organizational team includes Jeff Morgan, Jennifer Marsala, Melahat Almus, Blerina Xhabli, Jay Walia and James West. As in 2021, the event was virtual and included individual exams for Number Sense, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Precalculus, Calculus, Statistics, Physics, and Calculator. For the 2022 competition, 882 students from 130 schools took 1,497 exams. There were participants from all over the U.S. and the world, with students from at least 19 states and 10 countries. The fast-paced SmackDown event drew 257 competitors.

Sergio Alvarez (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) travelled to Réunion Island, located about 600 miles off the coast of Madagascar, as part of the Tonga volcano Rapid Response Experiment (TR2EX). The effort is in response to the underwater volcano that erupted on January 14 several miles from the Polynesian country Tonga. The team took measurements of sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere using a weather balloon and a recently patented sulfur dioxide sonde. This instrument, developed by the team at UH and St. Edward’s University, takes measurements at high altitudes. Their balloons sampled the volcanic plume and measured a large amount of sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere.

Paige Evans, Jacqueline Ekeoba, and Ramona Mateer (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) presented a webinar, “Designing Curriculum for Pre-Service Teachers & Teacher Leaders.” The webinar was part of the AAAS – Advancing Research & Innovation in the STEM Education of Preservice Teachers in High-Need School Districts Program. Their presentation addressed how the teachHOUSTON program has transformed their coursework to become more culturally responsive and inquiry-based as a part of their NSF-sponsored Noyce programs. They also discussed how their culturally responsive and inquiry-based classroom management course is helping to better prepare secondary STEM teachers to teach in high needs schools.

Jimmy Flynn (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) has been named a Senior Member of the National Academy of Inventors. Flynn developed an inexpensive and accurate sensor for detecting sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere. It can be flown tethered to another instrument, on drones and on free release balloons. It will be used to evaluate the impact of sulfur dioxide on the stratosphere and allow for validation of models, which are being used to predict future climate change. He is one of six UH faculty selected for the honor this year. Senior Members are chosen for their “success in patents, licensing, and commercialization” and for producing “technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society.”

Donna Pattison (Assistant Dean for Student Success) was a featured expert in WalletHub’s coverage of Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals. She answered five questions on STEM education and how to create and retain more STEM professionals. In WalletHub’s analysis of the Best and Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals, Houston ranked 37th of 100 areas making the Best Cities for STEM Jobs. Read WalletHub article

Leon Thomsen (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences), Research Professor of exploration geophysics at EAS has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering. He was recognized for contributions to seismic anisotropy concepts that produced major advances in subsurface analysis. Thomsen is one of only seven geophysicists who are current members of the NAE. Thomsen provides consulting service to industry through his company Delta Geophysics in Houston. At UH, he contributes to the teaching and research enterprises in EAS. His teaching endeavors include courses in the professional master’s degree program in geophysics with a specialization in petroleum geophysics and the Petroleum Geophysics Short Courses offered by UH EAS and Society for Exploration Geophysicists. Thomsen was also the research mentor for several graduated Ph.D. and M.S. students. Membership in the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions and honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature” and to “the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”

Ny Riavo “Voary” Voarintsoa (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) published a study in the 2021 special issue of the journal Malagasy Nature. The special issue, “The way of the future: New paleosciences research led by Malagasy scientists,” was a collective effort to promote the work of indigenous researchers in Madagascar with the aim to bring disciplinary diversity to western dominated research on the African island. Her paper details the potential of speleothem isotopes from a cave in northwestern Madagascar to reveal information about the country’s past climate.