UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Summer 2013
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.


Kathy O’Keefe Herrin, D.D.S. (‘81, B.S. Biology) presented a lecture on “The Art and Science of Dentistry" to UH students in the Introduction to Biological Sciences course taught by instructor Ann Cheek. The presentation was part of the Biology and Biochemistry Alumni Lecture Initiative. O’Keefe Herrin also hosted a “Dinner for 10 Cougars” event in her home this spring. The program helps create a connection between successful alumni and current UH students through alumni-hosted dinners. Several NSM Alumni Association members assisted with the event.

Teri Garrett (‘01, B.S. Chemistry) recently joined Argen Polymer LLC. Argen provides non-metallic materials testing and consulting to oil and gas, aerospace, transportation, food and beverage, CPI and other industries.


UH’s Youngest May Graduate: At 19, summa cum laude graduate Ashay Bavishi (Biology major) was UH’s youngest graduate this spring. While an undergraduate, Bavishi did research studying two gene families that play a role in a variation of tuberculosis and in other mycobacterial diseases like leprosy. Bavishi, who wants to be a physician, plans to take a year off to do volunteer work in India or a third-world country and to do more research.

Biochemistry major Jeffrey Mindrebo was one of two UH undergraduates who presented research posters in Austin during “Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol.” His poster, “Computational Docking and Analysis of Peptide Linked Inhibitors of Rho-Associated Kinase,” covered research completed in the lab of James Briggs, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. The event highlighted how research conducted by undergraduates positively impacts Texas.

AAPG Best Student Poster Winners
UH graduate students won first, second and third place in the Student Poster Presentations at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Annual Convention and Exhibition. Out of 122 applications, AAPG selected only 15 student posters for the competition. Winners were Bryan Ott, first place; Luis Carlos Carvajal Arenas, second place; and Lucia Torrado, third place. See related photo.

The 2013 Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) Team (Kyle Reuber, Altay Sansal, Patrick Loureiro, Lindsay Aldrich, and Dutch Crews) placed third in a field of 9 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.

Society of Physics Students (SPS) UH Chapter received an Honorable Mention in the Outstanding Chapter Awards. Outstanding chapters are determined each academic year after a careful review of the information, photos and supporting material presented in the annual Chapter Reports. The award notification letter from Toni Sauncy, SPS national director, stated the “chapter is among the top 20 percent of all SPS chapters.”

Elizabeth Thompson (Geology major) won the Outstanding Undergraduate Poster Presentation Award at the Geological Society of America South-Central Section Meeting. Her poster, entitled “Using Spinel to Track Mantle Depletion and Melt-Rock Interaction during Back-Arc Extension: A Story from the Godzilla Megamullion,” was also the topic of her UH senior thesis.

NSM’s Outstanding Summa Cum Laude Graduate: Michael Wright (Computer Science major and Math minor) attained a near-perfect GPA of 3.969. Wright, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Hispanic studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from UH Law Center, decided to change careers after practicing law for three years as a civil litigator. He pursued his passion for computer science and is now working at Pariveda Solutions, a consulting firm.

Faculty and Staff

NSM’s John C. Butler Excellence in Teaching Award: The 2013 winners are Simon Bott (Instructional Professor, Chemistry) and Robert Stewart (Cullen Chair Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)

Paul Chu (Professor, Physics, and Chief Scientist, Texas Center for Superconductivity at University of Houston) was chosen as a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors for his outstanding contributions to scientific and technological innovation.

LaSaundra Cotright (NSM Business Administrator) received the 2013 Charles F. McElhinney Distinguished Service Award, UH’s highest staff honor.

Stuart E. Dryer (John and Rebecca Moores Distinguished Professor, Biology and Biochemistry) was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Nephrology. Election as a Fellow represents recognition of outstanding credentials, meritorious professional accomplishments, demonstrated scholarship, and a commitment to improving kidney health.

UH Provost-Sponsored Faculty Awards: Nine NSM faculty members and teaching assistants were recognized for excellence in teaching and excellence in research, mentoring 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:

John and Rebecca Moores Professorship
This five year, renewable professorship is given to faculty who are outstanding in teaching, research and service.
Steven C. Pennings (Biology and Biochemistry)

Lifetime Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research
A career award acknowledging a professor’s exceptional efforts over a number of years demonstrating a lasting commitment to undergraduate research.
Rakesh Verma (Computer Science)

Teaching Excellence Awards:

  • Paige K. Evans (Mathematics), Teaching Excellence – Instructor/Clinical
  • Chad M. Wayne (Biology and Biochemistry), Teaching Excellence – Instructor/Clinical
  • William “Drew” Russey (Biology and Biochemistry), Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

Teaching Excellence Award for Group Teaching:
Recognizing programs that demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and student success, who have worked together collaboratively to improve student outcomes, and who demonstrate effective and innovative teaching.
Chang H. Yun, Jose Baez-Francheschi, Zhigang Deng and Olin Johnson
(Computer Science – Interactive Game Development Program)

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