NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Eric Bittner (Physics) organized an outreach activity for 25 scouts and their leaders from Hong Kong. The scouts are part of an “Astronomy Club” at their high school. During the visit, the Astronomy Society of UH introduced the scouts to the UH Observatory, offering them a chance to look through the telescope to see Jupiter and the Orion Nebula. Bittner gave a talk to the group prior to their nighttime viewing in the Observatory. After visiting Houston and UH, the group traveled to Dallas to see the total eclipse.

David Blecher and Mehrdad Kalantar (both Mathematics) published “Operator Space Complexification Transfigured” in International Mathematics Research Notices. The first main achievement of their paper is a novel generalization of the important process of ‘complexification’ (turning real spaces into complex ones). This is accomplished via the second main advance: the discovery of the induced representation construction in the category of operator spaces. This has previously been elusive even for Banach spaces since it is not clear how to norm the induced space in a natural way. Induced representations are a key tool for studying groups of symmetries or transformations. It has important applications in many areas of mathematics and its applications, for example in quantum mechanics. The authors show that for a large class of group actions the induced space has a unique operator space norm.

David Blecher (Mathematics) and a collaborator from North-West University published “On a Class of Subdiagonal Algebras” in Complex Analysis and Operator Theory. The authors investigate some new classes of operator algebras which they call semi-σ-finite subdiagonal. Although part of an ongoing program, these constitute the most general setting to date for a noncommutative Hardy space theory based on Arveson’s subdiagonal algebras. In the paper, they develop this theory and study the properties of these new classes. The theory of Hardy spaces is a cornerstone of modern analysis. It is a powerful tool for many applications, pure and applied, from signal processing, control theory, and Fourier analysis to scattering theory.

Callista Brown (Mathematics) and Antoinette Marvels (Chemistry) were May Cougar Cudos recipients. Cougar Cudos, a recognition program of UH Staff Council, celebrates exceptional UH staff through peer nominations. Congrats to Callista and Antoinette!

Naihao Chang (Chemistry, corresponding author) published “Teaching Acid-Base Fundamentals and Introducing pH Using Butterfly Pea Flower Tea” in the Journal of Chemical Education. The paper, based on an outreach event reaching 100 students, details an activity using the anthocyanins found in butterfly pea flowers. Students, ages 7- 14, performed an extraction of the flower’s anthocyanin pH indicators with hot water. They used this indicator and its vast range of colors to compare the acidities and basicities of different household solutions. The activity introduced students to concepts in acid-base chemistry, including acid/base strength and pH, solute dissolution, neutralization reactions, and qualitative analysis. Co-authors from UH were Wallee Naimi, Stanley Saldana (both UH Chemistry), Lionnel Ronduen, Heather Domjan (both UH STEM Center) and Gail Vinnacombe-Willson of BioNanoPlasmonics, Spain.

Jacqueline Ekeoba (teachHOUSTON/Mathematics) delivered a presentation that was as part of the UTeach STEM Educators Association Master Teacher Professional Development Series. Her topic – “Building Antiracist Spaces for Inclusive Community Engagement.”

Karla Adelina Garza (teachHOUSTON /Mathematics postdoctoral researcher) received the American Educational Research Association Narrative Research Special Interest Group 2024 Outstanding Dissertation Award for her dissertation titled “Migrant Students Following the Crops, Teachers Following Their Students: A Narrative Inquiry into Two Migrant Children Who Became Teachers.” The dissertation explores the history of Migrant Education Programs in the U.S. through the lens of the lived experiences of two migrant children who become teachers of migrant and bilingual children. The participant’s experience is told through a first-person testimonial that includes family history and educational and teaching trajectories bridging the two worlds of experiences between migrant students and teachers of migrant children.

Said Jalife Jacobo (Chemistry) was named to the inaugural class of Research Corporation for Science Advancement Fellows. The RCSA Fellows program aims to increase faculty diversity in physical sciences. It identifies individuals who exhibit extraordinary potential to drive innovation and make significant contributions to scientific discovery. Jacobo is one of eight postdoctoral scholars selected for the first cohort, and the only member from a Texas university. The group will participate in a multiyear program that includes job search preparation, a mock interview at a host institution, along with feedback and guidance. The goal is to prepare fellows for tenure-track faculty positions. Jacobo is a member Judy Wu’s lab.

Chin-Yo Lin (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) was corresponding author for research published in the journal Cancers. The study was led by Ph.D. student Asitha Premaratne in collaboration with Qin Feng and her student Tianyi Zhou. Other Ph.D. students in the Lin group, Shinjini Basu and Abhinav Bagchi, also contributed to the study. In their study of the effects of a candidate compound which targets metabolic pathways in HER2-positive breast cancer cells, they unexpectedly discovered that it shuts off the expression of HER2, the major driver and key target in these types of breast cancers. This discovery may provide an alternative approach to treating HER2-positive breast cancers, including those which are insensitive or developed resistance to current therapies targeting HER2. The study was supported by Golfers Against Cancer

Vassiliy Lubchenko, Roman Dmitriev (both Chemistry) and Jenny Green (a St. John’s High School student) published “Cavitation in electron fluids and the puzzles of photoemission spectra in alkali metal” in the journal Physical Review B. Potassium and sodium are usually regarded as “boring” metals, in which the electrons behave like a gas while electron-electron interactions simply amount to making the electrons more inertial. Contrary to this conventional picture, the authors show that electrons in these metals spend a significant fraction of time in the form of static, localized particles, not the usually assumed wave-like entities. This discovery rationalizes an anomalous feature of the photoemission spectra in these materials, which has evaded explanation for decades, and sheds light on the long-standing controversy surrounding the notion of quantum measurement.

Mariam Manuel (teachHOUSTON/Mathematics) presented an invited talk focused on “Culturally Responsive Engineering Design in STEM Learning” at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Math Department STEM Education Seminar.

teachHOUSTON faculty/researchers gave several presentations at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Convention and at Invisible Colleges, a conference inside AERA. The presentations were entitled “Pre-service STEM Teachers’ Culturally Responsive Development: A Qualitative Analysis of a Pilot Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Course” (Karen McIntush, Ramona Mateer, and Paige Evans) and “Enhancing STEM Teacher Preparation through Knowledge Communities” (Paige Evans, Karen McIntush, and Karla Adelina Garza).

Ana Medrano (Biology & Biochemistry) and Claudia Neuhauser (Mathematics) were inducted to the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the premier all-discipline honor society at the University of Houston. The Society’s mission is to recognize, encourage, and promote superior scholarship. This honor recognizes outstanding academic achievements and commitment to teaching, learning, and student success at UH.

Martin Nuñez (Biology & Biochemistry, lead author) and co-authors from 14 nations published “Including a diverse set of voices to address biological invasions” in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. The authors state that inclusivity is fundamental to progress in understanding and addressing the global phenomena of biological invasions because inclusivity fosters a breadth of perspectives, knowledge, and solutions. In this paper, they report on how the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment on invasive alien species prioritized inclusivity, the benefits of this approach, and the remaining challenges.

Colin Sayers (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and Sagnik Dasgupta (SLB) published “Comparison of elastic anisotropy in the Middle and Upper Wolfcamp Shale, Midland Basin” in Geophysical Prospecting. Organic-rich shales contain large amounts of oil and gas and are anisotropic because of fine-scale layering and the partial alignment of organic matter and anisotropic clay minerals with the bedding. Using extensive well log data acquired in the Midland Basin, the authors estimate and compare the elastic anisotropy in the Middle and Upper Wolfcamp Shale by combining data from a vertical pilot well with two lateral wells, one (6SM) drilled in the Middle Wolfcamp and one (6SU) drilled in the Upper Wolfcamp. An estimate of anisotropy is needed for seismic imaging and reservoir characterization and enables estimation of the 3D stress field acting within the formation. This is of interest for problems occurring during drilling, such as borehole instability, and during production, such as reservoir compaction. Other applications include the design of hydraulic fractures and the quantification of production-induced stresses, which, ultimately, may lead to rock failure.

Rob Stewart, Chaz Clapsaddle (both Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and geophysics Ph.D. student Presley Greer as well as undergraduate students have been involved in a community service project to restore the Historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Using geophysical equipment, they are locating unmarked graves and areas on the site that do not have burials. The project is an effort by community groups, such as Project RESPECT and the Shuffield Foundation, the City of Houston, and UH, to provide long-overdue dignity to those buried there, including former slaves, World War I veterans, Buffalo Soldiers, and early community pioneers. Related Video

Rakesh Verma (Computer Science, corresponding author), Dainis Boumber (Computer Science postdoctoral fellow, corresponding author), and Fatima Zahra Qachfar (Computer Science Ph.D. student) received third place and $500 for the Best Paper Award in the 2024 SIAM International Conference on Data Mining Blue Sky Track. Their paper was Blue Sky: Multilingual, Multimodal Domain Independent Deception Detection.

Judy Wu (Chemistry, corresponding author), lead author postdoc Renan V. Viesser, Ph.D. student Clayton Donald, and Jeremy May (all Chemistry) published in Organic Letters. This work on the reactivity of twisted double bonds suggests that those with highly twisted bridgehead double bonds and a small singlet-triplet energy gap may undergo facile stepwise [2 + 2] cycloadditions to furnish four membered rings. A selection of reaction substrates, including ethylene, acetylene, perfluoroethylene, and cyclooctyne are considered.

Ding-Shyue (Jerry) Yang (Chemistry) received a 2024 Outreach Volunteer of the Year Award from the American Chemical Society. Yang, who manages the Chemistry Olympiad program in the Houston area, organizes and administers around 400 tests annually. He also administers the local awards on both a district level and school level to the top performers and supports the students advancing to the International Chemistry Olympiad. In 2023, Jerry assisted during the special Student Awards and Project SEED Dinner (for the first time since COVID) to recognize students that participate in ACS’ various outreach programs including Chemistry Olympiad.