NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Tasneem Bawa-Khalfe (Biology & Biochemistry, CNRCS) received a $1.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to design a therapeutic strategy to prevent metastatic progression of advanced drug-resistant HR-positive (hormone-receptor positive) breast cancers. A breast cancer diagnosis is considered HR-positive (the most commonly diagnosed type) if the cancer cells receive signals from estrogen and progesterone hormones and their corresponding receptors to promote growth. Unfortunately, 40% of HR-positive patients are unresponsive to standard hormone/endocrine therapy.

Rene Bellwied, Anthony Timmins and Lawrence Pinsky (Physics) are leading the UH team staffing one of three U.S. remote monitoring stations for the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), which operates inside CERN’S Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider. Remote locations were established since scientists are currently unable to travel to CERN to work on the collaborative experiment. The ALICE collaboration seeks to add to scientists’ understanding of heavy-ion collisions. Physicists believe the quark-gluon plasma that results from such collisions is similar to what existed for a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. UH computers keep constant real-time watch on output from the CERN experiment happening more than 5,200 miles away. The UH monitoring station includes postdoctoral researchers Dhevan Gangadharan, Jihye Song and Christina Terrevoli, 10 doctoral students, and five undergraduates.

Kresimir Josić (Mathematics) is co-principal investigator of a four-year $1.2 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to build bacterial colonies that can divide or differentiate like cells in multicellular organisms. $400,000 was awarded to UH. Principal investigator on the grant is Rice University’s Matthew Bennett, professor of biosciences. Oleg Igoshin, Rice professor of bioengineering and biosciences, is also a co-principal investigator.

Mariam Manuel and Jacqueline Ekeoba (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) are teaming up with Thomas Thesen of the UH College of Medicine through the STEM Research Inquiry Summer Enrichment Program (or STEM RISE). The program will combat the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM fields by providing research opportunities to Jack Yates High School students in the Third Ward. Beginning summer 2022, selected Jack Yates students will be mentored by UH medical students, undergraduate STEM majors, and STEM faculty to learn lab techniques and tools, how to be a part of an active research team, and experience campus life at a research university. High school participants will also attend customized STEM lessons, facilitated by teachHOUSTON pre-service teachers that will support their understanding of the research. The program is funded for three years by the National Science Foundation; additional support will come via the Dr. Patrice O. Yarbough Research Gateway scholarships and fellowships. Related Video

Leah McAlister-Shields (teachHOUSTON, Mathematics) was an invited speaker at Danville Community College in Virginia. She presented “Crucial Conversations: The Importance of DEI for Higher Education Administrators” at the college’s Campus-Wide Inaugural DEI Committee Meeting.

Emily Merrell (NSM College Business Office) obtained Certified Research Administrator (CRA) recertification. Recertification is required every five years, and individuals must obtain at least 80 contact hours of education to obtain recertification. Emily is one of nine CRA-certified staff at UH and one of two in NSM, the other is Greg Chu in the NSM Office of Research. Earning the CRA designation means that an individual has met the Research Administrators Certification Council’s eligibility requirements and has demonstrated a level of knowledge necessary for a person to be a professional research or sponsored programs administrator.

Madhan Tirumalai, George Fox, Quyen Tran and Mario Rivas (Biology & Biochemistry) published a review paper, “The Peptidyl Transferase Center (PTC): A window to the past,” in Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews. The PTC, housed within the large subunit ribosomal RNA, is usually considered to be the oldest part of the modern ribosome. This part of the large subunit approximates the ribosomal core of the Last Universal Common Ancestor. This detailed review focuses on the nature of the extant PTC, and its proposed ancestor, the proto-ribosome. Similar to how flight and cockpit voice recorders combine to record and preserve an aircraft’s flight history, the ribosome has ‘recorded signatures’ of its evolution. Tapping this resource is not only important for understanding the origins of life, but it also has applications in diverse fields such as antibiotic/drug discovery.

NSM Experts in the News

Jimmy Flynn (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was interviewed by Accuweather/KTRK-TV on the topic, Does air pollution help storms intensify?

Cathy Poliak (Mathematics) was interviewed by KTRK-TV, the local ABC affiliate, for a news story looking at the odds of the Astros winning the World Series.

Will Sager (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) served as a subject matter expert in a Scientific American article titled Largest Known Undersea Volcanic Eruption Explains Odd Seismic Waves.

Yincai Zheng (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) served as a subject matter expert in a National Geographic article titled Deepest earthquake ever detected struck 467 miles beneath Japan.