UH Researchers Receive NHARP Awards

University of Houston researchers have been awarded $1.74 million in grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to pursue over the next two years a range of research projects, from the development of a system to detect damage to wind turbine blades to finding ways to improve coronary stents.

UH received 13 awards from the coordinating board's Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program (NHARP), a peer-reviewed grants program designed to encourage and support basic research by faculty members and students in targeted areas. Established by the Texas Legislature in 1987, the awards program provides grant money to selected faculty members and students in Texas institutions of higher education, both public and independent.

The competition for the 2009 NHARP was intense and UH was second in the state in terms of total awards and funding. Of 660 proposals submitted to the coordinating board for consideration from various Texas institutions, 112 grants were awarded for a total of $15.6 million _ a proposal success rate of 16.9 percent. UH submitted 43 proposals and received 13 awards, a success rate of 30.2 percent. The University of Texas at Austin was first with 26 awards totaling $3.8 million, a success rate of 27.3 percent.

The grant money allows UH faculty members to pursue important research, but it also marks an important measure of progress toward gaining Tier One status. Increasing the amount of money spent annually on research, particularly in targeted areas, is one of the requirements UH must meet in obtaining Tier One status.

UH and the other institutions with winning grants will receive instructions later this month about getting started on their projects. The grants were awarded for the 2010-2011 biennium.

Last year, the Texas Legislature expanded participation in NHARP to include independent higher education institutions and implemented a requirement that a portion of all grants be used to support undergraduate students. The coordinating board officially changed the name of the program in 2007 to honor its former chair, Norman Hackerman, who also was a former president of UT and Rice University.

NHARP's targeted areas for research grants this year included biological sciences, molecular biology and genetics, chemistry, computer sciences, earth sciences, engineering, materials science and nanoscience, mathematics and physics and astronomy. Following is the complete list of the 2009 NHARP awards projects, with the principal investigators and grant amounts.


  • Rigoberto Advincula, chemistry, $68,761. Hybrid Nanocomposite High-k Dielectric Flexible Films for Semiconductor Applications.
  • Suncica Canic, mathematics, $150,000. Moving Boundary Problems in Blood Flow: Analysis, Numerics and Applications.
  • Olafs Daugulis, chemistry, $188,917. Oxidative Carbon-Carbon and Carbon-Heteroatom Bond Formation Via C-H Activation Chemistry.
  • Qianmei Feng, engineering, $98,610. Stent Reliability and Maintenance: Integrating Probabilistic and Physics-of-Failure Models.
  • Kresimir Josic, mathematics, $83,800. Coherent Behavior and Information Coding in Neuronal Networks.
  • Han Le, engineering, $100,000. A New Imaging Tool: Multi-spectral Laser Diffuse Scatter Microscopy.
  • Emmanouil Papadakis, mathematics, $149,860. Morphological Feature Extraction for Fluorescent Confocal 3D-Images of Neurons.
  • Robert Schwartz, biology and biochemistry, $200,000, Novel Rho Kinase Inhibitor Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease.
  • Gangbing Song, mechanical engineering, $197,220. Innovative Multi-functional Structural Health Monitoring System for Wind Turbine Blade.
  • Peter Vekilov, engineering, $197,220. Does Free Heme Enhance the Polymerization of Sickle Cell Hemoglobin?
  • Diane Wiernasz, biology and biochemistry, $147,053, Genetics of Reproductive Conflict.
  • Richard Willson, chemical and biomolecular engineering, $85,000. Ultra-sensitive and Specific Detection of Biomarkers Using Magnetic Immuno-particle Amplification.
  • Rebecca Zufall, biology and biochemistry, $74,520, Sex Ratio Evolution in the Model Ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila.