NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Mariam Manuel (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) received a Special Award for Outstanding Contributions to STEM Education from the UTeach STEM Educators Association. The award recognizes those who have displayed passion and dedication for STEM disciplines. Her research involves exploring the intersection of engineering design and culturally responsive pedagogy as it relates to science and mathematics instruction. She is currently Co-PI on two NSF grants that have brought in a total of $3.9 million to UH for endeavors in STEM education outreach and teacher development, including a project called Enhancing STEM Teacher Leadership through Equity and Advocacy Development in Houston (LEAD Houston). Read More

Fight Against COVID-19

Sanghyuk Chung (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) is developing an innovative drug screening platform to identify and develop an anti-viral drug for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This cell-based high-throughput screening system will have advantages over the traditional in vitro enzyme assay-based systems. Hewlett-Packard donated a D300e BioPrinter to CNRCS and Chung to support this research. The donation includes supply cassettes and training, free of charge. UH is one of four research laboratories, and the only U.S. laboratory, to receive the printer donation from HP. 

William Fitzgibbon and Jeff Morgan (Mathematics) are working with others on mathematical models of COVID spread. Results of their work, “Predicting the End Stage of the COVID 19 Epidemic in Brazil,” are posted as a pre-print on medRxiv. Working with Glenn Webb of Vanderbilt and Yixiang Wu of Middle Tennessee State University, the group developed a dynamic model of a COVID-19 epidemic as a system of differential equations. The model incorporates an asymptomatic infectious stage and a symptomatic infectious stage. They compare the model output to current epidemic data, and project forward in time possible end-stages of the epidemic in Brazil. The model emphasizes the importance of reducing asymptomatic infections in controlling the epidemic. The same group has another article in press with the Journal of Biological Systems.

Aron Laszka (Computer Science) is working with Abhishek Dubey of Vanderbilt University on an NSF-funded project applying artificial intelligence (AI) to address how the essential public transit systems of Nashville and Chattanooga can maintain social distancing protocols and proactively plan bus routes and schedules in response to COVID-19. The project has two main goals: to analyze available bus occupancy data to allow passengers and drivers to maintain a healthy social distance and to understand the changes in overall demand for public transit in each city. The project also has a direct and immediate connection to the development of smart city technologies and can eventually be applied to other transit agencies across the country.

Zhifeng Ren (Physics, TcSUH) and collaborators designed a “catch and kill” air filter that can trap the virus responsible for COVID-19, killing it instantly. Ren worked with Monzer Hourani, CEO of Medistar, a Houston-based medical real estate development firm, and other researchers to design the filter, described in a paper published in Materials Today Physics. Tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8% of the novel SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was killed in a single pass through a filter made from commercially available nickel foam heated to 200 degrees Centigrade, or about 392 degrees Fahrenheit. It also killed 99.9% of the anthrax spores in testing at the national lab, which is run by UTMB. The filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools, and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19.