In my last post I gave examples of some of the amazing accomplishments of the students at the University of Houston-Downtown. I’m also very impressed by our faculty and staff. There are too many to list here, so I will provide only a few examples.
I begin with a faculty member whose research may one day protect wine crops in Texas. Lisa Morano, an associate professor of Natural Sciences, along with her team of undergraduate students has been tracking the genetic footprint of Pierce disease as it makes its way from the Gulf of Mexico to central Texas. Pierce disease is caused by the xylella bacteria and is spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter (homalodisca vitripennis).
Morano's students, most of whom are part of UHD’s Scholars Academy, perform DNA extractions to help create genetic fingerprints in the laboratory. The students present their research at national conferences and most plan to pursue graduate degrees. Says Dr. Morano, “We’re bringing science to life and giving undergraduate students the opportunity to do something they wouldn’t normally be able to do until graduate school.”
UHD faculty members are involved in research in many subjects and their research often provides research opportunities for our undergraduates. For example, associate professor Jeff Flosi’s expertise on mosquitoes and the diseases they carry has led a number of students to conduct research projects on the West Nile virus. Like Morano, Dr. Flosi’s work has stimulated many students to pursue graduate degrees and several have gone on to medical school or doctoral programs.
Dr. David Ryden, associate professor of history, learned that his book, “West Indian Slavery and British Abolition, 1783-1807,” has been selected as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2009. This is a prestigious honor that virtually guarantees that his book, already out of print, will appear in libraries across the country. The book will go into a second printing and is a great success. Dr. Ryden credits the UHD Faculty Development Leave Program as instrumental in helping him complete his book, as it enabled him to step away from class and focus on his research and writing.
Dr. Ermelinda DeLaVina, associate professor of mathematical sciences, has been featured in a publication of Sally Ride Science aimed at middle school and high school students. Sally Ride, you will remember, was the first woman to successfully fly into space back in 1983. The publication gives students a first-hand look at women who have established successful careers in math and science, providing role models that provide guidance and inspiration. Dr. DeLaVina’s work and strong reputation for mentoring students interested in STEM fields has won her national recognition, which is why she was included in the project.
UHD has a renowned jazz musician and conductor, Robert Wilson. Wilson and one of the jazz group he leads, the Young Sounds of Houston, have been invited to perform at a New Orleans Jazz Festival. He has also been asked by the U.S. Park Service to assist their efforts to reclaim jazz heritage in New Orleans by helping to build interest in jazz among young people in New Orleans. For his work, UHD has created a new role and title. Wilson has been appointed as our university’s first Musician Artist-in-Residence. According to Wilson, “This is a great honor that will help me attract more students and build greater support for our jazz program.”
There’s also great staff at UHD. For example, Po-Chu “Anges” Leung, the director of testing services at UHD, won the “Cathy Erwin Humanitarian Award” from the Texas Education Agency for her outstanding work in administering GED exams to thousands of Houston and nearby residents. By her work, she has helped these students to pursue college work at UHD and community colleges. Ms. Leung began her career by first passing a GED herself. She told me, “I love opening the doors of opportunity for our students.”
The UHD IT department has also been recognized for its Strategic Plan for Information Technology. Under the leadership of Hossein Shahrohki, associate vice president for IT, the department has made UHD one of the most modern and up-to-date campuses in the country. Their Strategic Plan was highlight as outstanding example for government agencies in the online publication, Texas Ahead, published by the Texas Controller of Public Accounts.
I wish I had room to list so many other UHD faculty and staff who give their time and expertise to our student and to the community. They serve on school boards, volunteer in homeless shelters, tutor children in middle schools, and gather coats for kids to keep them warm in the winter. They work without public accolades or recognition. But, they help make Houston a better place to live. Hearing their stories makes be proud and I will provide more examples of their work in future posts. Stay tuned, because our faculty and staff are doing new and exciting things every day.