University of Houston Surpasses $100 Million in Research Awards

$104 Million is UH's Highest Total, a Milestone on Tier-One Journey

The University of Houston has achieved a historic milestone after receiving $104 million in research awards this year. The total, which could go higher, is the most in the university's history and furthers the momentum UH has established toward becoming an elite Tier-One public research university.

"In receiving $104 million in research awards, our outstanding faculty has demonstrated again that they are competitive on the national and international scale," President Renu Khator said. "This achievement offers convincing proof that the University of Houston is rapidly emerging as a Tier-One university.

"I am proud of what our talented faculty and grad students have accomplished - not just because this represents a record for the university - but because the end result of their research endeavors will be improvements in the quality of life for the people of Houston and the state of Texas."

Donald Birx, vice president for research at UH, said surpassing the $100 million mark in research awards jumps a major hurdle on the path to Tier One.

"We are at $104 million for UH right now, and our fiscal year for 2009 ends Aug. 31," he said. "The final total for UH could go as high as $107 million."

Birx attributes the success of the research funding to the leadership of Khator, who has galvanized the faculty since beginning her tenure as president of the University of Houston in January 2008. A total of 314 faculty members received research awards in fiscal year 2009.

Birx also cited the strong support the university has received from the community and the state of Texas, as well as the development of interdisciplinary research clusters and faculty teams that work together on larger proposals.

This latest milestone represents an upward trend for UH. Research awards at the university totaled $78 million in 2006, rising from $87 million in 2008 to the current $104 million. Federal awards account for 46 percent of total allocations.

The awards the university received in 2009 cover a wide array of research initiatives, including a $9.3 million grant to Michael Harold, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the Cullen College of Engineering.

Harold's research is centered in the Texas Diesel Testing and Research Center - one of only a few such testing venues in the nation. The award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality supports Harold's study to evaluate and develop retrofit technologies that reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions and particulate soot from heavy-duty diesel vehicles. The goal of Harold's research is to improve air quality and the environment by reducing emissions and increasing the efficiency of diesel and gasoline engines.

Devon Energy awarded $550,000 to Evgeni Chesnokov, professor at the Earth and atmospheric sciences department of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and director of the Institute for Theoretical and Applied Geophysics.

Through his research, Chesnokov is striving to understand the geometry of fractures in hydrocarbon reservoirs by integrating observations of fracturing events on the surface and in boreholes for more accurate micro-seismic locations and stress determination. Understanding fractures increases the area in reservoirs from which fluids, such as oil or gas, can be produced.

The National Institutes of Health, through the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, awarded $359,000 to Richard C. Willson, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and professor of biochemical and biophysical sciences. Willson's award is directed toward the development of a syndrome-specific diagnostic tool to create an ultrasensitive integrated platform to detect multiple pathogens quickly in the event of a bioterrorism attack.