NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Tai-Yen Chen (Chemistry) received a five-year, $979,019 CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. His research looks closely at the activity of an important antioxidant protein in order to better understand how brain cells manage oxidative stress. The award will further his research into the root causes of degenerative diseases affecting the brain.

Yunsoo Choi (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) published in Science of The Total Environment with EAS Ph.D. student Hadi Zanganeh Kia as first author. Others on the paper were Delaney Nelson, Jincheol Park, and Arman Pouyaei of UH EAS. The research focused on understanding how the air moves outdoors and affects the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19. They simulated movement of a “sneeze plume” in areas where the air doesn’t circulate well, called “hot spots,” using a computer program that models the flow of air around buildings. They also used weather station data to mimic the wind patterns in 2019. With this information, they calculated how long it takes for fresh air to replace the existing air in these hot spots, looking at varying conditions such as upward, downward, and forward wind, and studying droplet behavior. The work highlights the importance of adequate ventilation and wind patterns in mitigating transmission of airborne particles.

Paige Evans (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) was an invited speaker for the UTeach Master Teacher Professional Development lecture series of the UTeach STEM Educators Association. The presentation united faculty from 55 universities. Her presentation addressed “How to Write (and Get) a NSF Noyce Grant.”

Stacy Halley (NSM Advancement) attended the “Big 12 Development Conference: Kaleidoscope” hosted at the University of Kansas. She was selected by UH Advancement to learn about STEM fundraising and alumni engagement at partner universities. At the conference, she was able to participate in group discussions with colleges of hard sciences, nursing, dentistry, and medical schools.

Pavan Hosur (Physics) and former student Rauf Giwa recently published in Physical Review Letters — “Superconductor Vortex Spectrum Including Fermi Arc States in Time-Reversal Symmetric Weyl Semimetals.” In this work, Hosur and Giwa theoretically explored the quantum mechanical nature of “superconductor vortices,” structures that appear in many superconductors immersed in moderate magnetic fields, when the superconductor forms from a type of semimetal dubbed Weyl semimetal. The research required technical innovations as traditional theoretical tools for metals and insulators fail for Weyl semimetals. The remarkable outcome was the prediction of “supersymmetry” - a hypothetical symmetry of nature that has evaded discovery for over half a century - inside the vortex. The next crucial step entails experimental verification of the theoretical predictions.

Jennifer Knobloch (NSM Advancement) received a Cougar Cudos Award, a Staff Council program that allows staff to recognize other staff members for exceptional service to UH. She was nominated for her excellent work on NSM’s spring events and for elevating our presence with NSM donors.

Randy Lee (Chemistry, TcSUH) and UH co-authors Minh Dang Nguyen, Hung-Vu Tran, and Shoujun Xu received the Applied Sciences 2021 Best Paper Award in Section “Nanotechnology and Applied Nanosciences.” The award recognized their review paper “Fe3O4 Nanoparticles: Structures, Synthesis, Magnetic Properties, Surface Functionalization, and Emerging Applications.” All papers published in the section in 2021 were evaluated for the originality and significance of the papers, citations, and downloads. Each winner receives 500 Swiss francs and a chance to publish a paper in Applied Sciences in 2023 after peer review.

Mariam Manuel (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) presented at the NSF Future of Microelectronics Education Workshop, held in late May. She was on a four-person panel addressing “How to Teach Microelectronics Content, How to Connect Microelectronics with Existing Disciplines/K-12 STEM Curricula/Undergraduate Level.”

Frank McKeon and Wa Xian (Biology & Biochemistry) reported findings of variant cells in the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) which likely represent key targets in any future therapy for the condition. The research was published in Science Translational Medicine. The researchers used single cell cloning technologies to generate libraries of basal stem cells from the lungs of 16 patients with IPF and 10 patients without the disease. The study breaks new ground by showing lung fibrosis is driven by specific basal stem cell variants that become overly abundant in diseased lungs. These variants are distinct from abnormal variants identified in other chronic lung diseases.

Donna Pattison (NSM Assistant Dean/Biology & Biochemistry faculty) was elected as At-Large Member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and re-elected to the Faculty Senate Governance Committee.

Ping Yi (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) leads a team investigating castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Yi, Steven Nguyen (CNRCS), and colleagues from Baylor College of Medicine, published findings in PNAS. Despite initial responses to androgen-deprivation therapy, nearly all prostate cancer patients develop CRPC within a few years. The team found a specific chemical modification occurs on the androgen receptor (AR) protein in certain conditions where levels of male hormones are reduced to castration conditions. This modification involves another protein, TRAF4, which is frequently overexpressed in advanced prostate cancers. They demonstrated overexpression of TRAF4 leads to the conversion of androgen-sensitive prostate cancer cells into castration-resistant cells, both in lab experiments and in live samples. These findings provide an important basis for identifying a group of CRPC patients who might respond well to a treatment targeting the specific molecular changes caused by the AR modification, providing a possible treatment option for these patients.