NSM Faculty/Staff Newsletter

From the Office of the Dean

Recognition & Honors

Named Professorships Starting September 1

  • Eric Bittner (Chemistry) - Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor
  • Xiao-Jia Chen (Physics) - M.D. Anderson Professor
  • P. Shiv Halasyamani (Chemistry) - Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Chair
  • Claudia Ratti (Physics) - M.D. Anderson Professor

NSM’s teachHOUSTON Program received a 2023 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 STEM fields. teachHOUSTON was recognized for its efforts to mentor and train a new generation of students in STEM teaching careers. The program was featured, along with 79 other recipients, in the September 2023 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. Congratulations to the entire teachHOUSTON team!

Paige Evans (teachHOUSTON), Donna Stokes (NSM Dean’s Office/Physics), Leah McAlister-Shields (formerly teachHOUSTON, now NSF program director), and co-authors from Texas A&M University published the article, Multi-layered Mentoring: Exemplars from a U.S. STEM Teacher Education Program. The article appeared online in Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice. The featured case focuses on STEM, although multi-layered mentoring could occur in other subject areas or in general pre-service teacher education.

Randy Lee (Chemistry) is part of the UH research team that will establish the Welch Center for Advanced Bioactive Materials Crystallization. The center, led by Jeffrey Rimer of Cullen College of Engineering, is the result of an inaugural $5 million Catalyst for Discovery Program Grant from The Welch Foundation. The Welch Center at UH aims to improve understanding of the intricate crystallization processes, inventing fresh ways, both through experiments and computer simulations, to predict and manage how crystals form. Lee’s group will create specially designed nanoparticles with specific surface properties and chemical characteristics. These nanoparticles will serve as templates for growing bioactive organic crystals on a large scale. Additional members of the Center’s research team are on the engineering faculty.

Martín Nuñez (Biology & Biochemistry) was part of a team of international biodiversity researchers who authored a new report, “Invasive Alien Species Assessment: Summary for Policymakers,” by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report presents major findings on the gravity of impacts from invasive alien species on our planet. Researchers found more than 37,000 alien species have been introduced by human activities over the centuries, and this conservative estimate is rising at unprecedented rates. Additionally, more than 3,500 of these are harmful invasive alien species, impacting humans, animals, and plants. Nuñez was a coordinating lead author of the chapter covering the impacts of invasive species.

A team led by Jaspal Subhlok (Computer Science) published Enhancing lecture video navigation with AI generated summaries in Springer’s Education and Information Technologies, a top journal in the field of education/educational technologies. This research was conducted as part of the Ph.D. dissertation of Mohammad Rajiur Rahman and M.S thesis of Raga Shalini Koka in collaboration with Shishir Shah and Thamar Solorio. The paper focuses on improving navigation of lecture videos for students with AI generation of visual and textual summaries of lecture video segments. Evaluation was performed against keywords and summary images selected by human experts. Surveys showed that 79% (72%) of the users agreed that a visual (textual) summary made a lecture video more useful.

Madhan Tirumalai (Biology & Biochemistry) convened a cross-track symposium session titled “Origins of Life: From Prebiotic Chemistry to the Origins of Coded Protein Synthesis” at the annual microbial science meeting of the American Society of Microbiology, “ASM Microbe.” The session covered current understanding of prebiotic processes/pathways, the place of the ribosomes, and emergence of coded protein synthesis in the origins of life.

Yuxuan Wang (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was the corresponding author for a paper published on ozone in the Houston area. The research team focused on two ozone episodes in September 2021. They found that while local emissions play a role in the rise of ozone levels in Houston, most of the pollutants can be carried in from other regions across the country, leading to excess ozone pollution. Their analysis revealed that roughly 63% of the excess ozone during this period was due to the transported ozone from the central and northern part of the country, while approximately 37% of the elevated ozone production was attributed to local photochemistry. The work was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Their findings offer insights into strategies to mitigate future ozone pollution for the region. UH authors on the paper included Ehsan Soleimanian, Wei Li, Xueying Liu, Travis Griggs, and James Flynn.

Julia Wellner (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and geology master’s degree graduate Andrew Stearns (first and corresponding author) published findings that 27 million cubic meters of sediment, or 16 Astrodomes, moved through 12 Houston waterways and Addicks and Barker reservoirs during Harvey, the largest rainfall event in U.S. history. This was due in part to modifications made by humans to bayous, rivers, and streams over the past century that could seriously impact future flooding events and be costly to the City of Houston. They found a strong correlation between stream modification and sediment bypass through those streams. The findings are published in the journal “Geology.” The study provides policymakers with vital information for sediment management in urban watersheds. Shuhab Khan (EAS) and Jerome Kendall of the University of New Mexico are contributing authors of the study.

Rebecca Zufall and Rich Meisel (Biology & Biochemistry) are leading a multi-institutional program that will provide 10 post-baccalaureates per year the opportunity to conduct evolutionary genetics research at major research universities in southeast Texas. The program is funded for four years by a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation and is part of the existing Southeast Texas Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics, or STEGG, network. The new STEGG INTEgrative Research and Collaborative Training program, or STEGG-INTERACT, will also provide participants with financial support, professional skills, and mentorship from professors and their graduate students. Participants will be recruited from UH, Texas A&M, University of St. Thomas, Prairie View A&M University, Texas Southern University, University of Houston-Downtown, and North Carolina A&T.