UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Spring/Summer 2012
NSM Pride: Awards and Honors

Share News of Your Achievements

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


NSF Graduate Research Fellows: Thomas Markovich (’12, B.S. Physics and Mathematics) and Cameron Williams (’12, B.S. Mathematics) are 2012 recipients of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. The prestigious, NSF fellowships recognize outstanding students pursuing research-based graduate degrees in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. Funded for three years, the fellowships cover tuition and include a $30,000 annual stipend. In the fall, Markovich will begin his Ph.D. in physics at Harvard University, and Williams will attend the University of Waterloo (Ontario), pursuing a Ph.D. in applied mathematics.

Sean P. McPeck (’05, B.S. Biology) went on to graduate from Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is now a Captain in the U.S. Army. Most recently, he was running the veterinary clinic at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan. The clinic provides care to all the Military Working Dogs in the Southern Helmand Province.

Nghi “Ivy” Nguyen (‘01, B.S. Biology) is a senior research associate in the Center for Translational Cancer Research at the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, which is part of the Texas A&M Health Science Center – Houston Campus. The Center received a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to develop new cancer treatments and support basic drug discoveries and therapeutic developments.


The American Chemical Society Student Chapter at UH received the Outstanding Chapter Award and the Green Chemistry Chapter Award. Only 36 of the 330 chapters submitting reports received the “Outstanding” designation and 46 chapters received the “Green” designation.

Mason Biamonte (Senior, Mathematics and Physics) is a recipient of the 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award for undergraduate students pursuing careers in science, engineering, and mathematics. It is awarded to 300 college sophomores and juniors each year.

Ronald Besandre (Senior, Organic Chemistry) is one of 12 students selected for a 2012 American Chemical Society-Division of Organic Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. The fellowships support undergraduate students carrying out independent research on their home campus the summer between their junior and senior year. Besandre will be doing research in the lab of his mentor, Jeremy May, assistant professor of chemistry. His project is entitled “Synthesis of Indoles from a-Arylketones and Amines using Copper (I).”

The 2012 Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) Team (Susan Green, Jesse Ortega, Bryan Ott, and Jordan Sayers) placed third in a field of 10 universities at the Gulf Coast IBA Regional Competition. The graduate students took home a trophy and $1,000 for the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences scholarship fund. For the competition, teams analyze a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure, and other relevant materials) prior to the competition and deliver their results in a presentation to a panel of industry experts.

Sun Woo Kim (Ph.D. student, Inorganic Chemistry) is the recipient of a Ludo Frevel Crystallography Scholarship Award from the International Centre for Diffraction Data. Thirteen students received the $2,500 award in 2012. The award supports the education and research of promising graduate students in crystallography-related fields. Kim’s research project is “Investigation of New Mixed Valence Iron Flourides: Crystal Structure and Physical Property Relationships.”

Javier Sanchez (Ph.D. student, Petroleum Geology) was awarded first place in the post-graduate category of Midland Valley’s Student Structural Prize. His submission, “Integration of Structural Reconstructions and Thermochronologic Data of the Eastern Margin of the Middle Magdalena Valley Basin, Northern Andes, Colombia,” was based on his master's thesis conducted at the University of Texas at Austin. The Midland Valley Student Structural Prize is an annual competition to reward student excellence in structural geology.

The UH Society of Physics Students (SPS) chapter was named as an Outstanding Chapter. Award criteria included the chapter’s involvement in local, zone, and national SPS meetings and other professional meetings, outreach efforts to grades K-12 and the public, community service, contributions to student recruitment and retention, and interactions with the department’s alumni.

Malleswar Yenugu (Ph.D. student, Geophysics) received a $7,500 ExxonMobil Geosciences Research Grant to support his work: “Geophysical Understanding of Kerogen Maturity for Organic-Rich Shales.” Ten grant recipients were selected from a pool of more than 80 high-quality proposals submitted by graduate students across the U.S.


Edgar A. Bering (Professor, Physics) received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics STEM K-12 Chairman’s Award for Outreach recognizing his “outstanding service to the STEM K-12 Outreach Committee and for developing a K-12 outreach program that inspires students to pursue STEM careers.” Bering’s Mars Rover Celebration held at UH engages elementary and middle school student teams in the design of Mars rover models.

Simon Bott (Instructional Professor, Chemistry) was named a 2012 Piper Professor by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in the teaching profession in colleges and universities in Texas.

Suncica "Sunny" Canic (Cullen Distinguished Professor, Mathematics) delivered the American Mathematical Society’s annual briefing on mathematics to Congress. Canic’s talk was entitled, “Mathematics: Leading the Way for New Options in the Treatment of Coronary Artery Disease.” Canic, director of the Center for the Mathematical Biosciences at UH, discussed the status of applied math in the U.S. and reported on the stent research performed by the UH math department in collaboration with doctors in the Texas Medical Center.

NSM’s John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award: The 2012 winners are Peter Copeland (Associate Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) and Rebecca Forrest (Instructional and Research Assistant Professor, Physics).

Yuriy Fofanov (Associate Professor, Computer Science, Biology and Biochemistry, and Engineering Technology) received the Outstanding Platform Presentation Award at the 2011 Chemical and Biological Defense Science and Technology Conference. In his talk, “Bioinformatics Challenges in Using Next Generation Sequencing for Pathogen Detection,” Fofanov discussed results of the research supported by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and the Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Jan-Åke Gustafsson (Director, Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling, and Welch Professor) has been appointed to the board of directors for The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST).

Karl M. Kadish (Cullen Distinguished Professor, Chemistry) will receive the 2012 Hans Fischer Career Award in Porphyrin Chemistry from the Society of Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines. This lifetime achievement award, funded by the Hans-Fischer-Gesellschaft in Munich, is given every two years to a senior scientist for a lifetime of work in the field of porphyrin-related bioinorganic chemistry. Kadish has published 500 peer-reviewed manuscripts in this area since joining UH while also editing more than 60 books on related topics.

The research of Jeremy May (Assistant Professor, Chemistry) was featured in the Research Highlights section of the June 2012 issue of Nature Chemistry. Under the headline Biomimetic Synthesis "Flinderoles Facilitated," the highlight summarized May’s recent work published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society entitled "Biomimetic Synthesis of the Antimalarial Flindersial Alkaloids."

Houston Woman Magazine named Mamie Moy (Professor, Chemistry) as one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women for 2011. Each honoree was chosen because her sphere of influence was deemed "vast and powerful."

Jingmei Qiu (Assistant Professor, Mathematics) received a Young Investigator Research Program grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Only 48 scientists and engineers were selected for grants in 2012. The program is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions who received a Ph.D. in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. Qiu’s winning research proposal was entitled, “A High Order Multi-Scale Numerical Approach for Kinetic Simulations.”

Yuhong Wang (Assistant Professor, Biology and Biochemistry) received a two-year, $80,000 grant from the Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program (NHARP). Administered by Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board, the program supports basic research performed by early-career investigators. NHARP received more than 270 proposals but only 12 researchers were awarded grants this year. Wang will study the interactions between a ribosome and its substrates, or tRNAs.

Arthur B. Weglein (Cullen Distinguished Professor, Physics) co-authored the book, Seismic Imaging and Inversion, with Robert H. Stolt of ConocoPhillips. Weglein is also the director of the Mission-Oriented Seismic Research Program at UH and a professor of reflection seismology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Seismic Imaging and Inversion is the first volume of a two-volume senior-level graduate text in exploration seismology and seismic physics covering the application of linear inverse theory.

DOE Early Career Research Award: Lisa Whitehead (Assistant Professor, Physics) is one of 68 U.S. scientists selected to receive the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Early Career Research Award. The five-year awards are designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the early career years. Whitehead’s research proposal, “Precision Measurement of Electron Antineutrino Disappearance in the Daya Bay Experiment,” was selected for funding by the DOE’s Office of High Energy Physics.

UH Provost-Sponsored Faculty Awards: NSM faculty members and teaching assistants won 13 awards for excellence in teaching and excellence in research and scholarship during UH’s “An Evening of Faculty Excellence.” The excellence awards are one of the highest honors bestowed by UH. NSM award recipients include:

Teaching Excellence Awards:

  • Tim Cooper (Assistant Professor, Biology and Biochemistry), Teaching Excellence
  • Jeremy A. May (Assistant Professor, Chemistry), Teaching Excellence
  • Ognjen Miljanic (Assistant Professor, Chemistry), Innovation in Instructional Technology
  • Pam Balthazar (Lecturer, Mathematics), Teaching Excellence – Instructor/Clinical
  • Donna L. Pattison (Instructional Associate Professor, Biology and Biochemistry), Teaching Excellence – Instructor/Clinical
  • Lawrence R. Williams (Instructional Associate Professor, Biology and Biochemistry), Teaching Excellence – Instructor/Clinical
  • Jeff Morgan (Professor and Chair, Mathematics), Community Engagement
  • Marc Anderson (Biology and Biochemistry), Graduate Teaching Assistant Award
  • Luz E. Vela (Biology and Biochemistry), Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship:

  • Margaret Cheung (Assistant Professor, Physics)
  • Tim Cooper (Assistant Professor, Biology and Biochemistry)
  • Ed Hungerford (Professor, Physics)
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