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Engineering Takes Top Honors At Faculty Awards Ceremony

By: 

Toby Weber

The Cullen College of Engineering shined at last night’s University of Houston Faculty Awards Banquet, with college professors taking home five research and scholarship awards, the career teaching award and the university’s highest faculty honor, the Esther Farfel Award.

Mike Harold, professor and chairman of chemical and biomolecular engineering, won the Farfel, as well as an award for excellence in research and scholarship. Harold has excelled in research, teaching and service largely through his work as founder and director of the Texas Center for Clean Engines, Emissions and Fuels. For more on the award and Harold’s career, click here.

UH’s Career Teaching Award went to Dave Shattuck, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the college’s associate dean of undergraduate programs. Find more on Shattuck’s accomplishments as an educator here.

In addition to Harold, four other faculty members received Excellence in Research and Scholarship Awards. Dmitri Litvinov from electrical and computer engineering won the award on the full professor level. Litvinov is director of the university’s Nanofabrication Facility and a leading researcher in the field of nanomagnetics and biomagnetics. He is currently partnering with colleagues at the Cullen College and other institutions to develop disease diagnostic tools that feature extremely high sensitivity and provide easy-to-read signals. He’s also researching magnetic data storage technologies using various nanofabrication techniques.

Kirill Larin in the college’s biomedical engineering department won the award on the associate professor level. He is conducting extensive research into embryonic development. Using optical imaging techniques, he is studying the development of the cardiovascular system, paying specific attention to the development of congenital heart defects. Using animal models, he is also exploring the impact of binge drinking on embryos. In addition, Larin is developing different tools and systems for healthcare providers. He recently won a grant to develop a new system for diagnosing eye diseases and is working to create a pen-shaped probe that can image tumors on the operating table. Such a device could improve patient outcomes by allowing for more precise cancer surgeries and by reducing surgery times.

Winning on the assistant professor level was Wei-Chuan Shih from electrical and computer engineering. Shih had an outstanding track record in 2012. In May he won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop a new surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy system for rapidly scanning for the presence of specific molecules. Such a system could be used for medical diagnostic purposes or environmental monitoring. Later in the year he won one of only ten awards from the inaugural round of NASA’s Space Technology Research Opportunities for Early Career Faculty grant program to develop an environmental monitoring system for space missions. He also received a three-year, $740,000 award from The Gulf of Mexico Research initiative to develop a compact, inexpensive system that uses hyperspectral imaging to detect oil on the water’s surface by searching for infrared radiation over large patches of water. Such a system could be used to scan for leaks on unmanned offshore drilling platforms.

Gila Stein also won an Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship on the assistant professor level. In 2012, Stein won an NSF CAREER Award to explore the fundamental science underpinning polymer-based solar cells. While such cells typically don’t generate as much energy as their silicon-based counterparts, they are more durable and less expensive. In addition, out of more than 270 applicants she was one of just 12 researchers to receive a grant under the State of Texas’ Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program. She also co-authored multiple articles on controlling and patterning polymer films for various applications.

Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean and Professor of the Cullen College, commended all the award winners on their accomplishments and honors.

 “We take great pride in the high quality education programs we provide to our students and in the cutting edge research conducted by our faculty,” Tedesco said. “These awards clearly demonstrate that the Cullen College has been excelling in both areas. Congratulations to all our award winners.  We are all very proud of you.”

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