The University of Houston Magazine

UH and Tier One in 2010: The Journey Continues

During FY2010, UH made great strides in its continuing efforts to become a nationally competitive research university and to achieve Tier One status — a designation that will reap economic and educational benefits for Houston and the region.

In fact, at the end of the calendar year, the highly regarded Carnegie Foundation
For the Advancement of Teaching placed UH in its top tier of research universities, a classification enjoyed by no more than 100 or so select institutions across the country and by only three others in Texas — UT, Rice and A&M. For more information about this nationally recognized Tier One designation, visit

UH Performance on the Nine Top American Research Universities Measure
  2009/2010 Performance UH Rank Among Publics Benchmark Top 50 Among Publics
Endowment Assets x $1,000 $596,925 37 $525,255
National Academy Members 7 47 7
Doctorates Granted 259 47 252
Postdoctoral Appointees 158 57 182
Annual Giving x $1,000 $61,395 64 $77,476
Faculty Awards 4 89 8
Total S&E Research x $1,000 $73,542 108 $230,181
Federal S&E Research x $1,000 $40,116 113 $114,632
SAT (25th and 75th percentiles verbal and quanitative portions) 460-570
Not listed
in top 200
Red denotes UH met threshold for inclusion in top 26-50 publics

Closer to home, voters in Texas approved Proposition 4, a constitutional amendment enabling the creation of the National Research University Fund (NRUF) to financially support seven state institutions — including UH — as they meet benchmarks established by the Legislature and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. UH is close to meeting or has surpassed the four criteria already announced:

State Measures

  • At least $45 million in restricted research expenditures:
    In 2010, UH had more than $90 million.
  • Endowment assets of $400 million:
    In 2010, UH had just under $500 million.
  • Phi Beta Kappa chapter or membership in the Association of Research Libraries:
    UH is an ARL member.
  • At least 200 Ph.D.s awarded annually:
    UH has averaged 200 doctorates for the past three years.

Three other guidelines are being finalized and will address freshmen admissions, graduate programs and faculty quality. UH leaders are confident the university already has exceeded the standards or will be able to attain them quickly. At this point, knowledgeable observers believe UH is clearly the leader among the seven Emerging Research Universities in meeting the NRUF guidelines. When UH has officially qualified, it will be eligible to receive significant NRUF funds, helping to expand and enhance its Tier One efforts.

UH’s Tier One aspirations received another boost in 2010 with the release of the latest National Research Council (NRC) report evaluating doctoral programs. Data from the NRC, which is part of the National Academies, determined that the University of Houston has more highly ranked doctoral programs than all six of the state’s other Emerging Research Universities combined. Overall, an impressive 26 programs at UH made the NRC rankings, and upper echelon disciplines included: civil engineering, clinical psychology, chemical engineering, chemistry, developmental and cognitive neuroscience, electrical engineering, mathematics and pharmaceutics.

In addition, UH has continued to make clear progress on its Top American Research University (TARU) objectives. The Center for Measuring University Performance (TARU Report) is one of three institutions, along with the Carnegie Foundation and the American Association of Universities, that are considered arbiters of Tier One status. In the latest report of nine measurements that TARU uses to gauge research performance, UH placed in the top 50 among public institutions in three categories — endowment assets, National Academy members and doctorates granted — and is close to inclusion in three others (annual giving, postdoctoral appointees and faculty awards).

It is, however, important to note that achieving Tier One status is not an end in itself, but a reflection of the university’s commitment to meeting its own standards of excellence and providing our community and our state with a great university


The 2009−2010 academic year was paved with many successes. Here are a few of the highlights that continue to forge the University of Houston’s legacy of pride and a foundation of greatness.


Amundson Award for Excellence in Chemical Reaction Engineering – Dan Luss, Cullen Professor of Engineering, received the international award, which is bestowed every three years and named after Neal R. Amundson, the Cullen Professor Emeritus of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and professor emeritus of mathematics at UH. Luss is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as well as a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

College of Fellows — Metin Akay, founding chair and John S. Dunn Endowed Professor of biomedical engineering, has been inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Faculty Early Career Development — Stanko Brankovic and Zhu Han, both assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, have received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious honors given to junior faculty members.

National Academies of Practices — Ira Colby, dean of social work, has been inducted into the National Academies of Practices as a distinguished scholar in social work.

Fernström Foundation’s Nordic Prize — Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Robert A. Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry, Cullen Distinguished Professor of Biology and Biochemistry, and Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling director, has been awarded the Fernström Foundation’s Nordic Prize, one of Scandinavia’s most prestigious medical prizes.

World-class University Professor — Alex Ignatiev, Center for Advanced Materials director, has been chosen for the position of World Class University Professor by the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.

National Academy of Education — Scott Imberman, assistant professor of economics, has been named a 2010−2011 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow for his research investigating how English-speaking students are affected by sharing classrooms with students who have limited English proficiency.

Chinese Academy of Engineering — Surendra P. Shah, visiting professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been inducted into the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Shah is one of only four engineers in the world — and the only civil engineer — who is a member of the CAE and the United States National Academy of Engineering. He also is a fellow in the Indian National Academy of Engineering.

Tier One Resources — The Center for Teaching Excellence aims to foster a closer relationship between research and teaching — offering resources such as teaching assistant training, research and development, teaching-excellence incentives as well as monthly faculty training and development venues


Litvinov, Wilson, and Randall LeeFighting Cancer — Dmitri Litvinov, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and co-investigators Richard Willson, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; T. Randall Lee, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair of Chemistry; and Chung-Che “Jeff” Chang, associate member of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, have received a $1 million National Institutes of Health grant to construct and test a biosensor’s ability to spot cancer protein biomarkers for blood and bone marrow cancer. Additionally, UH has received a $2.4 million Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grant to fund postdoctoral scientists who are at the cutting-edge of a new multidisciplinary approach to fighting cancer — combining cancer biology with computational disciplines like computer science, theoretical physics or chemistry.

Repairing Sick Hearts — A heart patient’s own skin cells soon could be used to repair damaged cardiac tissue thanks to the pioneering stem cell research of Robert Schwartz, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea — Ioannis Pavlidis, Eckhard-Pfeiffer Professor in Computer Science, and fellow investigator Jayasimha N. Murthy, M.D., at UT Health, have made significant first steps in using a thermal infrared imaging camera to diagnose sleep apnea, the first noncontact method of diagnosis.

Chow and LiangModifying Existing Drugs — Diana Chow, professor of pharmacy, and pharmaceutics alumnus Dong Liang (Ph.D. ’95) are seeking sponsors and FDA approval for preclinical/clinical trials of their novel oral and parenteral formulations of mebendezole, which is effective in treating several types of cancer.

Delaying Parkinson’s Disease — Research conducted by pharmacology graduate student Gaurav Patki and Yuen-Sum “Vincent” Lau, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Pharmacy, suggests that long-term endurance exercise may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease by protecting key cells involved in maintaining function and movement. The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke.

In Memoriam

During fiscal year 2009 – 2010, the University of Houston lost a number of devoted and longstanding benefactors and supporters who have, in many ways, helped to shape the course of the university’s destiny. Their legacies will live on in perpetuity.

Cynthia Woods Mitchell (1922−2009)
Cynthia Woods Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the arts prompted her to make one of the largest individual grants in the university’s history — creating the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts as well as support for UH’s Texas Music Festival, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artists Competition, the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and the Distinguished Author’s Program.

John M. O’Quinn (1941−2009)
Houston attorney John M. O’Quinn (’65, L.L.B. ’67, J.D. ’69), former UH System regent (1993−1999) and vice chairman (1994−1996), was a committed UH advocate. His support included gifts to the UH Law Library, M.D. Anderson Library, the Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band, the A.L. O’Quinn Chair in Environmental Law, the Athletics/Alumni Center’s O’Quinn Great Hall and massive renovations of Robertson Stadium.

Wilhelmina Daisy Cullen Robertson Smith (1922−2009)
Wilhelmina Daisy Cullen Robertson Smith (’44, HON ’88), the last of the surviving children of Hugh Roy Cullen and Lillie Cranz Cullen, UH’s first major benefactors, continued her family’s legacy. The Cullen family and associated entities have contributed nearly $70 million to UH and the UH System. Smith was a strong advocate for the university and Cougar athletics.