NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

NSM’s Scholar Enrichment Program received the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the STEM fields. The Scholar Enrichment Program was featured, along with 78 other recipients, in the September 2022 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. Congratulations to Eduardo Cerna, Jessica Ramirez, Donna Pattison, Donna Stokes, and all the student facilitators/tutors who make SEP a success.

Shuo Chen and Zhifeng Ren (Physics, TcSUH) published in Energy & Environmental Science discovery of a two-electrode catalyst that relies on one compound to efficiently produce hydrogen and oxygen from both seawater and freshwater. The new catalyst offers a more affordable way to produce hydrogen from seawater. The paper reports using a nickel/molybdenum/nitrogen compound, tweaked with a small amount of iron and grown on nickel foam to efficiently produce hydrogen and then, through a process of electrochemical reconstruction sparked by cycling voltage, converted to a compound that produced a similarly powerful oxygen evolution reaction. In addition to Ren and Chen, researchers included Minghui Ning, Fanghao Zhang, Libo Wu, Xinxin Xing, Dezhi Wang, Shaowei Song and Jiming Bao, all with UH; Qiancheng Zhou of Central China Normal University; and Luo Yu of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Daniel Hauptvogel (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) received a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for his project “Mentoring, Development, and Engagement of Diverse STEM Students at a Large, Public, Urban University.” This S-STEM scholarship program aims to promote retention, timely graduation, increase scholar entry into the STEM workforce or graduate school, and develop a sense of belonging for low-income students at UH in the Departments of Chemistry, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Mathematics, and Physics. This will be accomplished through intensive faculty mentoring, a peer-mentoring program, undergraduate research, and a suite of academic, professional, and personal development activities. Co-PIs on the grant include Donna Stokes (Physics), Donna Pattison (Biology and Biochemistry). The Program Evaluator is Cheryl Craig of Texas A&M University.

Shuhab D. Khan (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences), along with Otto C. A. Gadea, Alyssa Tello Alvarado and Ozzy A. Tirmizi published findings in the journal, Remote Sensing. This work reports substantial ground subsidence in a few parts of Greater Houston and adjoining areas not reported before. Observation of surface deformation using interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data shows total subsidence of up to 9 cm in some areas from 2016 to 2020. Most areas within the Houston city limits show no substantial subsidence, but growing suburbs, such as Katy, Spring, The Woodlands, and Fresno, show subsidence. They performed emerging hot spot analysis on InSAR displacement products to identify areas undergoing significant subsidence. To investigate the contributions of groundwater to subsidence, they applied optimized hot spot analysis to groundwater level data collected over the past 31 years from over 71,000 water wells and looked at the correlation with fault surface deformation patterns.

Rich Meisel (Biology & Biochemistry) is part of a new NSF-funded institute, the IISAGE Biology Integration Institute, led by University of Alabama-Birmingham. The Institute’s research is aimed at identifying mechanisms and evolution of sex differences between females and males in aging. There are many conflicting explanations for how or why females and males in different animal species age and why one sex outlives the other, and IISAGE hopes to understand more about the significant implications aging has on our world and populations, including our food and agricultural supply, biodiversity, climate change, and with human health. The Institute received $12 million in funding, just under $1 million will support Meisel’s research related to the Institute’s mission.

The research of Michael Murphy, Pete Copeland and former graduate student Suoya Fan (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was the subject of a featured article is Eos, the magazine of the American Geophysical Union. The article discussed their study of the embayment of the Himalayas in western Nepal. This anomaly provides an opportunity to investigate how the Himalayan megathrust fault affects the active growth of the mountain range. Additionally, understanding the nature of the megathrust in the western Himalayas is crucial to evaluating seismic hazards in the region. The study used thermokinematic modeling to define the geometry and movement of the megathrust. The work, published in Tectonics, was in collaboration with researchers from four other universities.

Ny Riavo Voarintsoa (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and her co-author Steffen Therre from Heidelberg University published a study in Chemical Geology. The work involved geochemical analysis of sediments, such as stalagmites, forming in caves. One important research finding suggests that stalagmites strongly record the bomb-peak in atmospheric 14C signals because of the high percent modern carbon preserved in the samples. They inferred that radiocarbon data in stalagmites show a potential to reconstruct past atmospheric 14C concentrations for future efforts in paleoclimate and paleoenvironment reconstruction. The research additionally adds a perspective on the potential drivers for the stable carbon isotopes to reflect a drying trend. This transfer into the cave is a process called “prior carbonate precipitation,” where carbonate minerals form before reaching the apex of the stalagmites.

Yuxuan Wang (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and graduate student Tabitha Lee published research findings in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The research used satellite data to detect atmospheric composition changes due to the landfall of Hurricane Ida on the Louisiana coast on Aug 29, 2021. The researchers believe this is one of the first studies using satellites to quantify the disruption of short-lived extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, on the chemical composition of the atmosphere; the impact was shown to be large. Kang Sun of University of Buffalo was also a co-author.