NSM Pride: Awards and Honors

Share News of Your Achievements

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.


David Hoang, M.D. (’07, Biology) has joined the Lovelace Medical Group in Albuquerque, N.M., as a surgical intensivist. Hoang was previously a research fellow at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Arman Jahangiri, M.D. (’08, Biology) received the Stryker Neuro-oncology Award for the highest ranking abstract submission to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting. His submission was based on his work at the University of California, San Francisco, on breast cancer metastasis to the brain.

Rushion McDonald (’83, Mathematics) and Perfect Company launched the “Perfect Bake® Time with Rushion McDonald” Video Baking Series. The free series hosted by McDonald features 17 of his southern-inspired baking recipes from the Perfect Bake app. McDonald will release a new video weekly each Wednesday on the Perfect Company Facebook page and YouTube channel, and on Rushion McDonald’s Facebook page. McDonald, an NSM Distinguished Alumnus, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning executive producer of the “Steve Harvey” talk show and an award-winning home baker.

Jeffrey Wisotzkey (Ph.D. ’90, Biology) was named as clinical laboratory director for Health Network Laboratories in Allentown, Pa. He will continue to serve as HNL’s scientific officer, a position he has held since 2015, leading HNL’s diagnostics innovation portfolio in molecular precision medicine.

The doctoral research of Pengzhi Zhang (Ph.D. ’16, Physics) made the cover of the Biophysical Journal. Zhang is currently a research scientist at UH’s Center for Advanced Computing & Data Science.


Esther Akinwande (Biochemistry Major) is participating in Baylor College of Medicine’s SMART Program. The Summer Medical and Research Training Program exposes undergraduates to high-impact biomedical research projects and career development activities.

The team, “The Fire Breathing Penguins,” composed of Ryan Capece, Ansiya Arakkal, Sumaiya Asif, Benson Chu and Cesar Salazar (Computer Science Majors) won first place in the 2017 Google Games Austin competition. The team competed against 12 other teams from universities across the state. Google Games is a coding challenge, word association and puzzle competition held at Google offices around the country.

Israel Portillo (Ph.D. Student, Physics) won a conference-wide poster contest at Quark Matter 2017. Portillo’s poster was titled “Susceptibilities from a Black Hole Engineered Equation of State.” The conference, which brings together theoretical and experimental physicists from around the world, focuses on new developments in high energy heavy ion physics.

Geology Ph.D. students Carolina Ramon-Duenas and Lucien Nana Yobo were awarded 2017 Grants-In-Aid funding from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation. The foundation’s grants support graduate and post-graduate student research related to earth science aspects of the petroleum energy industry.

Daniel Scott (Physics and Mathematics Major) was recognized as an honorable mention for the Goldwater Scholarship and chosen as a recipient of the Chinese Government Scholarship, where he will spend the next academic year increasing his Chinese language proficiency at Peking University. He also delivered an oral presentation “Synthesis and Characterization of Au-Zn Nanoparticle Implants in Sapphire” at the International Conference on the Application of Accelerators in Research and Industry.

Ane Slabic (Geology Major) and Anna Krylova (Ph.D. Student, Geophysics) won first and second place at the student poster session during the Houston Geological Society Applied Geoscience Conference, “Integrated Approaches of Unconventional Reservoir Assessment and Optimization.” Both Slabic and Krylova graduated in May.

Saurabh Sogi (Computer Science Major) was part of a team that qualified for the finals of the NASA Space Robotics Challenge. As finalists, the team was awarded $15,000 from NASA. Only 20 finalist teams were selected out of 92 that finished the preliminary round; 405 teams signed up for the challenge.

Amir Souri (Ph.D. Student, Atmospheric Sciences) was the lead author on a paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. His research involves developing high-resolution methods to detect changes in air pollution.

Lucia Torrado (Ph.D. Student, Geology) won first place in the student poster competition at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Annual Convention and Exhibition. She received $2,000 in prize money from the AAPG Foundation along with $750 given to UH’s AAPG student organization.

Michelle Tran (Computer Science and Mathematics Major) received the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship. The 10-week fellowship allows students to gain hands-on research experience with the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy.

Lucien Nana Yobo (Ph.D. Student, Geology) is one of 10 graduate students selected nationally for the National Science Foundation’s Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology Scholarship. The Urbino Summer School, held in Italy in July, accepts only 60 graduate students annually from around the world.

Xingliang “Jeffrey” Zou (Ph.D. Student, Computer Science) received an Outstanding Paper Award at the 20th IEEE International Symposium on Real-Time Computing. Zou is lead author of the paper, “Multi-Mode P-FRP Task Scheduling,” co-authored with his advisor, Professor Albert Cheng, Carlos Rincon and Yu Jiang.

Faculty & Staff

NSM’s Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research: Vaughn Climenhaga (Assistant Professor, Mathematics) is the 2017 recipient of this award recognizing assistant professors who have demonstrated great potential in research and in scholarship by virtue of the exceptional quality of their contributions.

Zhigang Deng (Professor, Computer Science) and colleagues received the Best Paper Award at the 30th International Conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents. The paper, titled “Topologically Consistent Leafy Tree Morphing,” was co-authored by Yutong Wang and Luyuan Wang, both Ph.D. candidates at Zhejiang University in China, and Professor Xiaogang Jin, also from Zhejiang University.

Liz Faig (Graduate Admissions Advisor, Computer Science) has been selected to receive the UH President’s Excellence Award. This award, which comes with a $1,000 stipend, recognizes staff for meritorious service, dedication and contribution to the University beyond the normal job requirements and expectations.

Scott Gilbertson (M.D. Anderson Professor, Chemistry) was selected as a member of the 2017 class of Fellows for the American Chemical Society. The ACS Fellows Program recognizes and honors members for their outstanding achievements as well as their service to the Society.

Karl Kadish (Cullen University Professor, Chemistry) is the inaugural recipient of the Société Chimique de France’s French-American Prize. The award was given in recognition of his eminent discoveries in the field of electrochemistry of porphyrines, fullerenes and metallofullerenes and in recognition of the strong links he has established with French chemists. The award is presented jointly with the American Chemical Society

NSM’s John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award: The 2017 winners are Shuhab Khan (Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) and Chad Wayne (Instructional Associate Professor, Biology & Biochemistry). 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.

Emily Merrell (Research Center Administrator, Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling) received the Staff Award for Distinguished Service to Women. The award, given by UH’s Women and Gender Resource Center, recognizes staff commitment and contribution in the advancement and support of women. The winner receives a $1,000 stipend.

Elsie Myers (Department Business Administrator, Chemistry) is the 2017 winner of the Charles F. McElhinney Distinguished Service Award. The award, which includes a $3,000 stipend, is the highest award given for exemplary staff contribution to the University. The recipient must be a previous winner of the President’s Excellence Award. Myers won the Staff Excellence Award (now called the President’s Excellence Award) in 2014.

Lawrence Pinsky (Moores Professor, Physics) will be inducted as a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics in September.

Zhifeng Ren (M.D. Anderson Chair Professor, Physics) launched a new academic journal, “Materials Today Physics,” which focuses on new and emerging materials. The journal is published by Elsevier and will initially focus primarily on thermoelectric and photovoltaic materials.

Madhan R Tirumalai (Postdoctoral Researcher, Biology & Biochemistry) and research staff and graduate student Quyen Tran (’07, Biochemistry) were part of a panel, “Joining Geology with Organic Chemistry to Understand the Origin of Life,” at the 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference.

UH Faculty Excellence Awards: Nineteen NSM faculty members brought home honors for excellence in the areas of teaching, mentoring, research and scholarship. The awards, given each year at the UH Faculty Excellence Awards Dinner, are among the highest honors bestowed by the University. NSM award recipients include:

Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship – Associate Professor
UH presents two awards at the Associate Professor rank to individuals who have established a growing record of outstanding research, scholarship or creative contributions, and who are emerging leaders in their field.

  • Jing Mei Qiu, Mathematics

Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship – Assistant Professor
UH presents two awards at the Assistant Professor rank to individuals who have demonstrated great potential in research, scholarship or creative endeavors by virtue of the exceptional quality of their early contributions.

  • Don Coltart, Chemistry

Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award
Two NSM faculty members received this award that recognizes the mentorship efforts of UH faculty at all stages of their careers. The award acknowledges faculty who are making a significant impact in their field by supporting and mentoring undergraduate students in research and scholarship endeavors and who have demonstrated at least five years of mentorship involvement.

  • Edgar Bering, Physics
  • Timothy Cooper, Biology & Biochemistry

Teaching Excellence Award
Two NSM faculty members received this award given in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching.

  • Don Coltart, Chemistry
  • W. Anthony Frankino, Biology & Biochemistry

Teaching Excellence Award – Instructional Technology
This award is given in recognition of a full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in innovative teaching using instructional technology such as hybrid courses, online courses and instructional television.

  • Steven Pennings, Biology & Biochemistry

Teaching Excellence Award – Instructor/Clinical
This award is given in recognition of outstanding teaching by faculty instructors, clinical faculty, research faculty, artist affiliates and lecturers.

  • Nouhad Rizk, Computer Science

Teaching Excellence Award – Group Teaching
Two NSM groups were recognized with Group Teaching Awards. The award recognizes faculty who demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and student success, who have worked together collaboratively to improve student outcomes.

Introductory Biology Teaching Team

  • Ann Cheek, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Catherine Horn, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
  • Richard Knapp, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Ana Medrano, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Monique Ogletree, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Donna Pattison, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Dan Wells, Biology & Biochemistry
  • Lawrence Williams, Biology & Biochemistry

Enhancing University Physics 1 & 2 through an Inquiry-Based Approach

  • Rebecca Forrest, Physics
  • Sladjana Maric, Physics
  • Donna Stokes, Physics
  • Oomman Varghese, Physics
  • Lowell Wood, Physics