NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Dinler Antunes (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) has developed the CrossDome tool that helps predict the potential risks of T-cell-based immunotherapy. His work published in Frontiers in Immunology. CrossDome uses a combination of genetic and biochemical information to predict if T-cell immunotherapies might mistakenly attack healthy cells. To test the effectiveness of CrossDome, Antunes and Andre F. Fonseca, a former postdoctoral fellow in Antunes’ lab, used it to predict potential mistakes in 16 well-known cases of T-cell cross-reactivity, including a melanoma-heart damage case. The tool successfully identified the heart protein as a potential target for the T-cells, ranking it as a high-risk candidate among thousands of other proteins.

Yunsoo Choi (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was corresponding author on a study highlighting the devastating effects wildfires can have on human health and the economies of communities hundreds of miles away from wildfires. The research paper, “Quantifying the Premature Mortality and Economic Loss From Wildfire-Induced PM2.5 in the Contiguous U.S.,” involving scientists from UH, Cornell University, and Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in China published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The researchers used satellite wildfire emission and air quality (PM2.5) data gathered from 2012 to 2014 for their updated model and assessed how smoke from wildfires could impact human health and economies. Choi’s research group ran all the scenario-modeling simulations.

Jacqueline Ekeoba (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) received the Outstanding Master Teacher Award from the UTeach STEM Educators Association, a network of 55 universities preparing outstanding secondary STEM teachers across the country. It was presented at the annual UTeach STEM Educators Conference in Austin. She was recognized for her expertise in argumentation, global collaboration, STEM integration, and anti-racist education in secondary STEM contexts and her implementation of these practices in her teaching. Ekeoba has participated in community outreach with numerous STEM camps and community engagement activities focused on social justice in STEM education, including the STEM RISE program. She is also engaged in professional development training for teachers in the Houston Genetics BIORETS program organized by Rich Meisel in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry.

Paige Evans and Amanda Campos (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) gave presentations at the UTeach STEM Educators Conference in Austin and the AAAS 2023 Noyce Summit in Washington, D.C. The presentations centered on the teachHOUSTON induction program, which offers support for early career STEM teachers through mentoring and enhanced induction that goes beyond the first year of teaching. The induction program aims to improve the retention of new teachers in the field, and the presentations provided guidelines to a national audience on best practices for achieving this goal.

James Flynn (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) received a $1.2 million research grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The award will support Flynn and his team’s research project aimed at assessing the impacts of biomass burning, wind-blown dust pollutants, and soot on air quality in Texas. Biomass burning can include wildfires, agricultural burning, and prescribed burns. The research focuses on urban air quality in major Texas cities, including Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and El Paso, conducting measurements during the 2023 Texas ozone season (roughly April 1 – October 31) using optical instruments.

Mariam Manuel (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) was elected President of UTeach STEM Educators’ Association (USEA). USEA unites UTeach teacher preparation programs across 55 universities in 23 states and District of Columbia. USEA aims to transform STEM teaching and learning by preparing, developing, and supporting effective and inclusive STEM educators. While serving as Vice President last year, she began spearheading development of a new USEA strategic plan and will continue that work while serving as President.

Ioannis Pavlidis (Computer Science) and colleagues at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute published study results in IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing. The researchers reported that people with a predisposition to anxiety exhibit a significantly higher heart rate when they drive as opposed to those who are not predisposed to anxiety. Anxious drivers had a heart rate about five beats per minute higher than non-anxious drivers under similar conditions. The reported stress effect was measured under good weather and light traffic, that is, ideal commuting conditions. The micro-stressors appear to overload the drivers who experience them, because for similar itineraries, afflicted drivers consistently report being more tired than non-afflicted drivers. Collectively, the study’s long- and short-term results have potential lifestyle, safety, and insurance implications.

Zhifeng Ren (Physics, TcSUH) presented a webinar sponsored by Physics World, “Boron arsenide single crystals with ultrahigh thermal conductivity and carrier mobility.” He discussed what has been done and the potential of this special material for semiconductor devices of the future.