NSM Pride: Awards and Honors

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NSM is proud of the achievements of our outstanding alumni, students, staff and faculty. Submit news of your awards, new jobs and honors to or contact Kathy Major at or 713-743-4023.


Undergraduate Research Day: Thirty-two NSM undergraduates participated in UH’s Undergraduate Research Day with poster or oral presentations. The event showcases mentored research projects.

Kivanc Biber (Ph.D. Student) received the Don R. Boyd Memorial Grant and Carolina Mejia (M.S. Student) received the Robert and Lynn Maby Memorial Grant. The $2,000 grants are part of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid Program.

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences students Patrick Loureiro (Ph.D. Student), Naila Dowla (Ph.D. Student) and Derek Scott (B.S. Student) placed first, second and third respectively in the student poster competition at the 13th Annual Conference on African Exploration and Production. The conference was jointly organized by the Houston Geological Society and the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain.

Tho Tran (B.S. ’14, Chemistry) is one of 51 students nationwide selected for a $5,000 Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship. The fellowships are awarded to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society members entering the first year of graduate or professional study. He entered Ph.D. studies at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology this fall and is focusing on organic chemistry. Tran is interested in research to generate a renewable alternative fuel through combining simple alcohols.


Edgar A. “Gar” Bering III (Professor, Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering) was recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Momentum Member Spotlight for his passion for STEM education and devotion to advancing the state-of-the-art in aerospace. AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

Jakoah Brgoch (Assistant Professor, Chemistry) and Shuo Chen (Assistant Professor, Physics) have been awarded Robert A. Welch Professorships in High Temperature Superconductivity and Chemical Materials from the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston. The Welch Foundation created the two-year professorships to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, research faculty and visiting scientists.

NSM’s John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award: The 2014 winners are Ann Cheek (Instructional Associate Professor, Biology and Biochemistry) and Ognjen Miljanić (Associate Professor, Chemistry). Established in memory of former NSM Dean, John Butler, the award recognizes faculty members who best engage and challenge their students and who share their enthusiasm for the subject matter they teach.

Paul Chu (Professor, Physics, TLL Temple Chair of Science, Founding Director and Chief Scientist, Texas Center for Superconductivity at University of Houston) received the Max Swerdlow Award for Sustained Service to the Applied Superconductivity Community from the IEEE Council on Superconductivity. Chu also received a Hood Fellowship from the University of Auckland. The Hood Fellowship enables overseas academics to challenge and inspire research at the University of Auckland.

The Comprehensive Student Success Program, organized by Department of Biology and Biochemistry, received a “Recognition of Excellence” from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The program focuses on first-year students in introductory biology courses with the goal of reducing the number of students dropping the courses or making a D or F. Dean Dan E. Wells is director of the Comprehensive Student Success Program and Donna Pattison (Instructional Professor, Biology and Biochemistry) is co-director. Sixteen faculty and staff members and 16 undergraduate majors serving as facilitators made up the student success program team. An additional 24 departmental faculty, postdoctoral students and graduate students contributed to the program as field trip and lab tour leaders.

Olafs Daugulis (Professor, Chemistry) was named the Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at UH. The chair is endowed by the Welch Foundation, one of the United States’ oldest and largest private funding sources for basic chemical research. The University based the selection on his scientific reputation, accomplishments, creativity and potential for continued growth as a scientist. Read more

George E. Fox (John and Rebecca Moores Professor, Biology and Biochemistry) was named a Fellow in the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life. The honor is bestowed by ISSOL – The International Astrobiology Society. Fox was one of four members chosen as Fellows in 2014. Selection is based on a members’ demonstrated exceptional and sustained contributions to the origin of life and/or astrobiology through scientific research, educational activities or service to the Society or its scientific community.

Yuliya Gorb (Assistant Professor, Mathematics) was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award. The five-year award worth $420,000 covers her research as well as a small after-school program for female high school students. Read more

Shiv Halasyamani (Professor, Chemistry) is the 2014 recipient of the Roy-Somiya Award from the International Solvothermal and Hydrothermal Association (ISHA). The international award, given every two years, honors the work of a scientist under the age of 45. ISHA Council Vice President Richard Riman stated that Halasyamani’s “career is on a rapidly moving trajectory that is destined to forge new boundaries in the field of solvothermal research.”

Venkat Selvamanickam (Professor, Physics, and M.D. Anderson Chair Professor, Mechanical Engineering) received the inaugural IEEE Dr. James Wong Award for Continuing and Significant Contributions to Applied Superconductor Materials Technology.

Thamar Solorio (Associate Professor, Computer Science) is the recipient of the 2014 Denice Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award from The Anita Borg Institute (ABI), a non-profit organization focused on advancing women in computing. The award recognizes a junior faculty member for high-quality research and significant positive impact on diversity. It is underwritten by Microsoft.

Oomman Varghese (Associate Professor, Physics) and Maggie Paulose (Research Scientist, Physics) appeared on Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researchers 2014 list in the category of materials science. Thomson Reuters also included them in the category of “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014.”