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.


Alexander Kotsakis (Ph.D. ’17, Atmospheric Sciences) received a fellowship through the NASA Postdoctoral Program. In July, he began work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center with the Pandora spectrometer group.

Amir Souri (Ph.D. ’18, Atmospheric Sciences) was offered a position as an atmospheric physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics, a noted center for remote sensing science. He will work on data and retrieval for TEMPO, an upcoming geostationary satellite for air quality applications planned to launch in 2019.


Vidushi Adlakha (Ph.D. Student, Physics) is the recipient of an International Fellowship from the prestigious American Association of University Women. Adlakha, who is studying statistical and computational physics, will use the fellowship to continue her studies. (See related story)

Mayra Gomez (Biology Major) received a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Recipients of the scholarship receive up to $5,000 to apply toward study abroad or internship program costs. Gomez participated in Galapagos Evolving, a summer research experience led by NSM and other UH faculty.

Cristina M. Morales-Mojica (Ph.D. Student, Computer Science) was awarded a Tapia Conference Scholarship, as well as a Grace Hopper Conference Scholarship. These scholarships will fund costs associated with attending both conferences. The Tapia Conference celebrates and promotes diversity in computing, and the Grace Hopper Conference is a gathering of women technologists, promoting networking and careers.

Delaney Robinson (Ph.D. Student, Geology) is one of five graduate students selected for an International Ocean Discovery Program research expedition. The two-month expedition, set to depart in January 2019, will chart a course through the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica. The research team will take core samples from the ocean floor and perform onsite analysis, with the objective of characterizing the region’s ice sheet history.

Khalid Sheikh (Biology Major and May 2018 Graduate) received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Grant. He will teach in Latvia from August 2018 through June 2019. He will be living in Riga, the capital, teaching medical English to medical school students and English science lessons to high school students. (See related story)

Rachel Sanchez-Ruffra (Biology Major) and Jacob “True” Furrh (Environmental Science Major) were selected by the NOAA Office of Education as 2018 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholars. The scholarship is open to sophomores and includes a two-year academic scholarship ($9,500 per year) and a 10-week summer internship opportunity at a NOAA facility after year one.

Jason Tarkington (Ph.D. Student, Biology) was selected as a finalist for the Walter Fitch Award, sponsored by the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution (SMBE). As one of eight finalists, Tarkington received a travel honorarium to attend SMBE’s 2018 meeting, held in Yokohama, Japan. While at the meeting, along with the other finalists, he gave a 15-minute presentation on his research.

Tsung-Jui ‘Jeremy’ Wu (Ph.D. Student, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was awarded an “Outstanding Student Presentation” award at the 2018 Japan Geoscience Union Conference held in Tokyo.

AAPG Wildcatters student organization (Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) received the “Outstanding Domestic Student Chapter” award during the Student Awards Ceremony at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ 101st Annual Convention and Exhibition held in Salt Lake City. The awards honor enthusiastic student chapters, both U.S.-based and international, that capitalize on opportunities to enrich the experiences of their members.


Wei-Kan Chu (Cullen University Professor, Physics), a renowned expert in the field of particle-solid interactions, was honored by his peers with a “festschrift,” a European tradition that honors an academic’s lifelong contributions to a field. The event took place during the 10th Meeting on Recent Developments in the Study of Radiation Effects in Matter.

Paige Evans (Clinical Professor and Science Master Teacher, teachHOUSTON/ Mathematics) has been appointed president of the UTeach STEM Educators Association (USEA). She will serve a one-year term and remain on the executive board the following year as immediate past president. Mariam Manuel (Instructional Assistant Professor and Science Master Teacher, teachHOUSTON/Mathematics) is also on the USEA Executive Board. She was secretary/treasurer last year and is now serving as alumni mentor.

Shiv Halasyamani (Professor, Chemistry) co-authored a recent commentary for Nature Communications where he weighed in on the balance between theory and experimentation for the development of materials for creating solid-state lasers. Included as co-author was Halasyamani’s long-running collaborator, Northwestern University professor James Rondinelli.

Tom Lapen (Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences) was named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Claudia Ratti (Associate Professor, Physics) authored a review for the journal Reports on Progress in Physics. In the article, she weighed in on the different roles theory and experiment play in pushing the boundaries of our understanding about the strong nuclear force. She studies the strong nuclear force, which binds particles known as quarks and gluons into the protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei.

CHAMP (Cougars and Houston Area Math Program) was recognized with two national awards: The American Mathematical Society ‘Mathematics Programs That Make a Difference Award,’ and a Phi Beta Kappa Arts and Sciences Award. CHAMP, a volunteer-led program, was organized by Mark Tomforde (Associate Professor, Mathematics) in 2013. (See related story)

Arthur Weglein (Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair, Physics) was invited by Ecopetrol, the national oil company of Colombia, to prepare an expert review paper on Seismic Imaging and Inversion for a special issue of Ecopetrol’s journal.