The College of Technology Faculty Excellence awards, sponsored by Fluor, recognize Technology individuals who perform consistently “above and beyond the call of duty” in teaching, research, and community service. Four faculty members were named excellence award winners.
Teaching Excellence Award – Tenured/Tenure Track
Fatima Merchant, Ph.D., associate professor, engineering technology, with joint appointments in computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and biomedical engineering.
Dr. Merchant believes that integrating research and teaching is a key component in nurturing student success. As a well-known scholar and scientist, her multi-disciplinary research collaborations include a wide variety of applications in biomedical engineering, leading to the creation of an impressive publication record of numerous peer reviewed journal articles. Throughout her career, Dr. Merchant has secured funding from several industry and federal agencies, and is a principal investigator on a multidisciplinary project, funded with a $3.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, focused on providing women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, and their surgeons, with information to guide their choices about reconstructive surgery.
She has been actively involved in teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses in biotechnology and, computer engineering technology, and has been influential in the development of the graduate track for the computational health informatics program.
“Dr. Merchant is an outstanding teacher, and her teaching style and delivery mode in class are highly valued by our students. It is commendable that Fatima is always ready to participate in department level activities related to teaching, curriculum development, and student success,” said Dr. Wajiha Shireen, chair of the engineering technology department.
Merchant has led the development of graduate and undergraduate courses in the bioinformatics track of the biotechnology program. She advises and mentors undergraduate students in research including the UH Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship, the College of Engineering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and the Engineering Undergraduate Research Scholarship programs.
Having taught the Introduction to C++ programming - a core course for most technology majors, has resulted in connections with many students from diverse programs across the college from digital media, to mechanical engineering, computer information systems and computer engineering technology.Merchant says, “I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire, empower, and foster lifelong learning. My motto is to respect every student as an individual first in order to gain his or her respect and admiration. A student will value your views and teaching, if he/she holds your intellectual and social ability in high regard, and considers you an impartial, honest and fair teacher. Learning occurs in many different circumstances and contexts, and I believe that accommodating different learning styles creates an environment that is conducive to achieving academic excellence and growth.”
Teaching Excellence Award – Non-tenure track
Tomika Greer, Ph.D., instructional associate professor, human resource development and internship coordinator.
Dr. Greer joined the University of Houston in 2010 and currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the human resource development (HRD) program. A coach and mentor for many students, Greer is a member of the undergraduate curriculum committee and oversees internships working with students to identify opportunities to apply and practice what they have learned. “I teach because I want students to enjoy the learning process. If they love to learn, they will be well-positioned to accomplish whatever they want in life,” says Greer.
She has successfully designed, developed and facilitated six undergraduate courses that have been strategic to the development and employability of HRD students. Students are encouraged to speak openly, think creatively, and relate what they have learned to life experiences and future aspirations.
In addition to commitments to teaching, scholarly activities, and service, she strives to teach in ways that will change the professionals who graduate from the HRD program. With a focus on the journey of learning and development rather than merely on content and grades, her mission is to meet the varying needs of students by encouraging them to think beyond the content in their courses and to consider the wider context of their lives – other roles, responsibilities, and aspirations.
“Through the internship course, Dr. Greer has advanced the University’s commitment to the community and co-curricular engagement, creating meaningful bridges between the HRD program and business and industry, said Dr. Holly Hutchins, associate professor human resource development, and coordinator of the human resource development undergraduate program. “She has enlisted more than 100 companies to support our undergraduates with paid internships, which has provided students with opportunities to gain work experience, and draw relevance between their academic and workplace learning.”
Research Excellence and Scholarly Contributions Award
Wm. Arthur Conklin, Ph.D. associate professor, computer information systems, director of the Center for Information Security Research and Education, coordinator of the Information System Security Graduate Program
With his keen insight into everything happening in information security and cybersecurity, Dr. Conklin’s expertise and commitment have led to the prestigious designation of University of Houston as a National Security Agency (NSA) accredited Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cyber Defense and research funding for the Center for Information Security Research and Education in the College of Technology.
His interdisciplinary research has resulted in more than 35 academic papers and presentations including the NSA’s Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education and the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, producing more than 150
Conklin, principal investigator for a $1.1 million DHS grant to improve security for critical energy infrastructure, has testified before state and federal regulators. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and the Department of Labor.
Dr. Conklin and Dr. Chris Bronk achieved a three-year, $286,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) award in 2015 that supports the creation of a cybersecurity community based on a Wiki. Their project, "A Wiki Space for Information Security Education Exchange” fosters a sharing community of educators from institutions in the CAE program and others interested in improving their cybersecurity education resources.
In addition to research, Conklin has achieved wide recognition for his service to the University, and many professional organizations including the Department of Homeland Security the Federal Bureau of Investigation Infragard program, the Federal Energy Reliability Committee (FERC) and the NSA, ISSA, and ISACA.
“Art is a very hard-working individual who readily accepts challenges, and has made significantly positive impact on the research outlook for the College. In the rapidly evolving realm of computer security, the demand for engineering, business administration, and system security professionals is accelerating rapidly. His work is impressive and influential in preparing our students to become highly valued professionals,” said Dan Cassler, interim chair of the Information and Logistics Technology Department.
Service Excellence Award
George Zouridakis, Ph.D. Professor and Director Biomedical Imaging Lab, University of Houston
The Faculty Excellence award is defined by exemplary performance in research, teaching, and service. Dr. Zouridakis’ service accomplishments have made an outstanding impact in all three areas. He is well known and respected for his selfless dedication to students and as an influential colleague who has served on dozens of committees throughout the University of Houston and the College of Technology since 2008.
Currently, Dr. Zouridakis serves the University of Houston in various capacities, including the UH Faculty Senate, Medical School Internal Advisory committee, and the Promotion and Tenure committee. He is a former chair of the Research and Scholarship committee and the Centers and Institutes subcommittee. In addition, his College of Technology involvement includes the Research and Scholarship, Dean’s Advisory, Engineering Technology Graduate Program, and the Ph.D. Program committees. Currently, he is coordinator for the computational health informatics master’s degree program and serving as associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College of Technology.
His service to the profession and involvement with a variety of international organizations includes serving as chair of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, Houston Chapter for more than a decade, and various other professional societies where he regularly helps organize and chair symposia and conference sessions primarily focused on functional brain mapping and medical imaging and devices. He serves as a reviewer for various engineering and medical journals, and participates in review panels and study sections of NIH, NSF, and other funding agencies in a number of countries.
Dr. Zouridakis’ scientific contributions include two US patents, three books, 14 book chapters, and more than 270 refereed papers, proceedings, and abstracts. His efforts have been recognized by more than fourteen awards and elevation to Senior Member of IEEE.
He maintains an active research lab that engages in collaborative projects with electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, and the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language in San Sebastian, Spain. Over the years, he has mentored several visiting faculty and postdoctoral fellows and supervised the research projects of dozens of PhD and MS students, while providing undergraduate, high school, and intern students with research experience opportunities.
His colleagues describe his service as selfless with a genuine desire to help the College of Technology achieve its goals of local, national, and international relevance – to become a College of choice worldwide.