The University of Houston Magazine

Quick Takes

Claudia Schmuckli has been named director of Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. Previously, she served as the museum’s acting chief curator. Schmuckli joined Blaffer in 2004 as director of public relations and membership. In 2006, she was appointed curator. She also has served as assistant curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and as curatorial assistant at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

UH has received a five-year, $450,000 grant from Houston Endowment Inc. for the Achieving the Dream program—a national, multiyear effort to improve academic success rates for historically underrepresented and low-income students. The university’s plan includes three initiatives: a transfer student orientation, advisors embedded on community college campuses, and software development to help students determine how their community college hours will transfer to UH.

The UH extension program at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has yielded more than a dozen homegrown petroleum geophysicists eager to enter the oil industry in South Africa. The thirteen-course extension program offers a Master of Science in petroleum geophysics. UH’s applied geophysics and geology faculty were able to complement the UCT faculty with their real-world petroleum experience with Houston exploration and production companies.

The UH Law Center is a leader in public interest law—the only Texas law school cited by the National Jurist magazine. The Law Center’s externship program places students with nonprofit and government agencies and has provided more than $700,000 for summer Public Interest Fellowships since 2000. Other public interest efforts by law students and alumni range from pro bono hurricane relief assistance and community legal aid to consumer advocacy.

The student-led plan to enhance and update the University Center (UC) leaped its first major hurdle as students approved a $100 million renovation plan. Upgrades will include enhanced dining options; updated technology; and expanded meeting, study, and lounge areas. Students approved a self-imposed fee increase to pay for the renovations as a way to breathe new life into the forty-two-year-old facility. The plan must now be approved by the UH System Board of Regents, the state Legislature, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Student News

Forging Alliances Online
Demetra Andrews, Ph.D. candidate in marketing, was honored by the National Black MBA Association as one of two recipients of its fellowship competition. Andrews was awarded $12,500 to encourage more collaboration between minority scholars and corporate business leaders via an online portal.

Rock Stars
Snare Scholarship

UH geology students Tim Brown, Elysee Greenberg, Joe Larson, Denet Pernia, and Omar Zaman each received a $5,000 British American Foundation of Texas Scholarship—the first for outstanding geology students. The foundation provides assistance to academically gifted high school students, undergraduates, and postgraduate students.

Counted Among
Texas’ Best

Jason Michael Evans, undergraduate entrepreneurship major, is one of sixteen exceptional students across the state to receive a nonrestricted $10,000 scholarship from the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation. Jim Young, foundation chair, says the recipients represent the best in Texas—exemplifying an entrepreneurial spirit, high integrity, and a strong drive.

Mock Trial Champs
Quinncy McNeal and Rebecca Suarez emerged as champions of the 2008 Hippard Novice Mock Trial Competition sponsored by the Advocates, one of only a few student-run law school advocacy organizations in the nation. Their winning case involved a coffin handle that broke during a funeral procession, sending the body tumbling down a hill in front of horrified mourners. McNeal also earned the title “Best Speaker.”

Research Lands Big Payoff
Brian Weisinger, undergraduate psychology major, received $20,000 from the National Institutes for Health Undergraduate Scholarship Program, as well as a summer job. Only fourteen of the 200 applicants received the scholarship. Weisinger also landed the UH Provost Undergraduate Scholarship and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to help fund his research.

Making an Impact

President Renu KhatorKHATOR: Global Leader
in Higher Education

Appointment to India’s Global Advisory Council Recognizes Significance of UH President’s Initiatives

The government of India has named President Renu Khator to the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians to facilitate a dynamic two-way engagement between stakeholders in India and the overseas Indian community.

Khator, who was born in Uttar Pradesh and earned a bachelor’s degree at Kanpur University, is among eminent people of Indian origin in diverse fields around the world who will serve on the twenty-five-member council.

“I am deeply honored to join such a prestigious group of world leaders,” Khator says. “This represents yet another opportunity to position the University of Houston as a global resource for expertise and to increase the university’s visibility on an international scale.”

The council specifically will focus on the promotion of business-to-business partnerships—leveraging knowledge, skills, and expertise possessed by the overseas community for socio-economic development in the country. Khator is the sole representative from higher education and serves with global leaders including Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi; Nobel laureate Amartya Sen; economist Jagdish Bhagwati; Swadesh Chatterjee, West Bengal’s prominent Indian American activist; and the steel mogul L.N. Mittal, among others.

In addition to being chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the council also includes India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi, and other senior government officials.

The India Telegraph, based in Calcutta, India, lauded Khator, saying the appointment was in recognition of the “significance of Renu Khator’s initiatives.”

Khator, who began her tenure at UH in January 2008, has a long history of community engagement, serving on numerous boards and advisory councils. A noted scholar in global environmental policy, Khator and her husband, Suresh Khator, in January 2007, were awarded the prestigious Hind Rattan (Jewel of India), given to nonresident Indians for making outstanding contributions in their field. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services included her among its 2006 Outstanding Americans by Choice awardees. The award recognizes achievements of naturalized citizens.


Sunica CanicCOUNT on UH Mathematicians
for Improved HEART HEALTH

Suncica Canic is not a medical doctor, but her research could save the lives of heart patients.

Canic, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor in Mathematics, and her colleagues are at the forefront of an emerging field that combines math and bioscience to yield new medical breakthroughs.

With fourteen bioscience mathematicians on its faculty, the Department of Mathematics has become a leader in math bioscience. The high-level mathematics they use in medical research cannot be done by biomedical engineers alone.

In 2008, researchers from the University of Houston, Rice University, and the Texas Medical Center formed the Center for Mathematical Biosciences, which is poised to become the world’s leading center for integrating advanced mathematics with medical research.

The center builds on collaborative research that already is producing results. Canic and a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute published a study on using mathematical modeling that improves artery stents.

By developing complex mathematical models that evaluate how blood flows in pulsating arteries and how artery stents behave when inserted into the human body, Canic is working to create more biocompatible devices that can keep arteries open.

The center’s researchers also are studying nano-particles as a means to improve cancer-drug delivery. Advanced mathematical simulations are helping scientists design microscopic containers loaded with cancer drugs that will deliver the medicine directly to cancer cells.

Other ongoing research at the center includes medical image analysis and the study of neuronal networks. No other institution combines both the concentration of bioscience mathematicians with the largest medical center in North America.


Jessica Wei ZhuUH MOMENT
Melodies of the SOUL

Composer Franz Schubert once exclaimed: “the moment is supreme!”

As Jessica Zhou’s nimble fingers glide across the piano keys, peacefully and effortlessly giving melody to sheets of notes, it is obvious that her “supreme moment” comes from her love of music and that her life’s work has begun at the University of Houston.

Zhou, a piano performance major, received the prestigious Marshal Scholarship, an honor given to only forty U.S. students each year.

“For me, it’s something that feeds my soul, and it feeds everything. It’s the architecture of who I am,” Zhou says.

The Moores School of Music student credits her academic experiences and faculty mentors, such as Professor of Piano Nancy Weems, with her current success.

Zhou aims to follow the melody of her soul to pursue performing, teaching, or public service so she can make a difference in her community.

“It’s a blessing. It’s a gift. And it’s my responsibility to develop it the best that I can,” she says.

Already an accomplished musician, Zhou will continue her graduate studies in the UK.

“I see everything that I do, whether it is teaching or performing, as an ability to have an impact on those around me. Getting this scholarship is what’s going to allow me to make that difference to other people,” she adds.

To listen to the interview and to learn more about UH Moment, visit


UH Students

Changes Reflect UH’s MISSION

Student success, quality academic programs, and expanded opportunities go hand in hand.

Starting next fall, the Cullen College of Engineering will offer a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering to help replenish the industry’s aging workforce.

“Launching a new undergraduate program in petroleum engineering is a significant step toward meeting the workforce needs of the energy industry,” says Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean’s Chair and college dean. “The demand for petroleum engineers has never been greater, and we are now situated to better serve our energy-centered region as well as our nation.”

Approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the program will combine the fundamentals of petroleum engineering and geosciences with economics, energy law, and business. The program, along with a pre-existing master’s degree option, will fill gaps in the workforce and arm graduates with the skills needed to respond to the evolving industry.

The college also will add a biomedical engineering department to develop that highly skilled workforce and drive discovery. The department is an outgrowth of the college’s long-standing biomedical engineering program, which has been housed for more than three decades in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics also is expanding its offerings through new research and degree plans that study air pollution and climate change. To reflect this broader mission, the geosciences department has changed its name to the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.