NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Michael Antonelli (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) published in Geochemical Perspectives Letters with colleagues from ETH Zurich, UCLA, and University of Bern. Throughout Earth history, calcium has been intimately linked to the carbon cycle through the precipitation of marine carbonates [e.g., limestone (CaCO3)] in seawater. Calcium isotope signatures have been used to suggest that a rare class of carbonate-bearing magmas, known as carbonatites, represent the return of subducted oceanic carbon back to Earth’s surface after long-term storage in Earth’s mantle. Using new models based on theoretical constraints, natural samples, and high-temperature two-magma experiments, the authors show these calcium isotope signatures can be fully generated through magmatic processes alone. This suggests carbonatite magmas do not bear the trace of recycled marine carbonates at any point in geologic history. Instead, the results indicate the calcium in these magmas comes directly from the mantle. This suggests the carbon contained within these magmas is also mantle-derived and likely represents a net addition to Earth’s surface carbon budget, rather than the return of ancient marine components back to the surface.

Guoning Chen (Computer Science), Adeel Zafar (Computer Science Ph.D. student) and Di Yang (UH Engineering) authored “Extract and Characterize Hairpin Vortices in Turbulent Flows,” which was presented at IEEE VIS 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. Zafar was first author on the paper, which received a Best Paper Honorable Mention Award. Hairpin vortices are one of the most important vortical structures in turbulent flows. Extracting and characterizing hairpin vortices provides useful insight into many behaviors in turbulent flows. However, hairpin vortices have complex configurations and might be entangled with other vortices, making their extraction difficult. The paper outlines the work to introduce a framework to extract and separate hairpin vortices in shear-driven turbulent flows, allowing for their study. The paper also presents additional use cases of the proposed system for the analysis and study of general vortices in other types of flows.

Shuo Chen and Zhifeng Ren (Physics, TcSUH) were included in the Clarivate Highly Cited Researchers 2023 List. The annual list of Highly Cited Researchers includes global research and social scientists whose published academic papers rank in the top 1% of citations for field and publication year. Those making the list are recognized among the world’s elite researchers for the significant and broad influence of their scientific work.

Yunsoo Choi (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) published “Deep learning based emulator for simulating CMAQ surface NO2 levels over the CONUS” in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Doctoral student Ahmed Khan Salman was first author. This research introduces a high-speed emulator that mirrors the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model, adeptly simulating surface NO2 levels across the U.S. using the same inputs. It accurately estimates NO2 concentrations and aligns with CMAQ’s NOx emission sensitivity. Validated in 15 major U.S. cities, the emulator outperforms CMAQ in speed, being over 400 times faster on a CPU and 600 times faster with a CPU and GPU, promising more efficient air quality modeling and emission-reduction planning. All authors on the paper are from UH: Jincheol Park, Seyedali Mousavinezhad, Mahsa Payami, Mahmoudreza Momeni, and Masoud Ghahremanloo.

Paul C.W. Chu (Physics, TcSUH) and his wife, May Chern, made a generous $1.4 million gift to advance scientific education and research at UH. The gift established The Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Chair in Condensed Matter Physics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and The Paul C. W. Chu and May P. Chern Endowed Distinguished Lecture series. Zhifeng Ren, professor of physics and TcSUH director, was announced as the first chair holder and presented the inaugural lecture.

Lisa Koerner and Daniel Cherdack (Physics) were awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to study neutrino oscillations over the course of three years. The UH physicists work with collaborators around the world on experiments hosted at Fermilab, CERN, and J-PARC, particle physics and accelerator laboratories in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, respectively. The main goal of this work is to understand the behavior of neutrinos, which behave differently when they traverse time and space independently, and when they interact with matter. Koerner, Cherdack, and their team will investigate neutrino oscillations, specifically comparing the oscillations for both neutrinos and their antimatter counterpart, antineutrinos.

Carlos Ordonez (Physics) published a review article “Quantum Computing with Trapped Ions: A Beginner’s Guide” in the European Journal of Physics. Co-authors were former Physics graduate student Abhijit Chakraborty and Francesco Bernardini (UH Engineering). Quantum computing is undergoing transformative growth, and trapped ions are at the center of this evolution. The article explains the fundamentals of trapped-ion quantum computing, which is one of the potential platforms for constructing a scalable quantum computer. The evaluation of a trapped-ion system’s viability for quantum computing is conducted in accordance with DiVincenzo’s criteria. The paper addresses the challenge of scalability in ion chains and highlights that as ion chains extend to about 100 ions, coherence times tend to shorten. This insight is crucial for designing quantum computing systems. This review is aimed at upper-division/first-year graduate students, with a pedagogical emphasis.

Mary Ann Ottinger (Biology & Biochemistry) and Donna Holmes of University of Idaho published an article in GeroScience focusing on the comparative biology and evolution of aging and longevity and looking at non‑traditional approaches for basic aging research for facilitating translational studies. The paper addresses the animal models currently available for aging and translational geroscience; barriers for studies of healthy aging and how specific animal models might be useful; which vertebrate animal models can specifically address targeted questions in human aging processes; and whether information can be synthesized for a range of vertebrate species to identify suitable animal models for questions relative to basic physiological function, timing, and trajectory of disease progression, effects of environmental stressors, and potential for regenerative medicine.

Weiyi Peng and Jiakai Hou (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) published “Integrated multi-omics analyses identify anti-viral host factors and pathways controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection” in Nature Communications with colleagues from UT M.D. Anderson, UTMB, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, University of Texas, and Cleveland Clinic. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores an urgent need to develop effective anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapy. However, limited knowledge about the role of host factors in SARS-COV-2 infection impedes the development of effective host-targeted therapy. The research team performed genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screens and conducted in silico approaches to identify host factors essential for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Their study uncovers a set of host factors that are currently underappreciated, including the components for transporting protons, protein modifications, and controlling chromosome segregations. Additionally, all three identified anti-viral host factors were shown to regulate expression of genes in the coagulation pathway, highlighting the involvement of the coagulation system in determining the severity of COVID-19. Collectively, this study provides a rich resource for understanding the host anti-SARS-CoV-2 network. This resource is expected to facilitate the development of new countermeasure strategies of COVID-19. Additional authors on the paper from UH included postdoctoral fellow Ningbo Zheng, former graduate students Nicholas A. Egan and Ritu Bohat, and current graduate students Roshni Jaffery, Si Chen, and Ashley M. Guerrero.