NSM Students Participate in Fall Commencement

Ceremony Celebrates Summer and Fall 2023 Graduates

Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree candidates participated in the University of Houston Commencement for College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM) on the morning of December 16. The ceremony was held at Fertitta Center.

Fall 2023 Commencement

More than 660 NSM students completed degree requirements in summer and fall 2023. In all, 82 doctoral candidates earned degrees in atmospheric sciences, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, geophysics, mathematics, or physics. Sixty-five students were candidates for master’s degrees, and 517 students were candidates for bachelor’s degrees.

Michael Moorman & Kevin Liu
NSM 4.0 summa cum laude graduates: Michael Moorman (left) and Kevin Liu (right).

There were 26 summa cum laude graduates, the highest academic honor for bachelor’s degree recipients. Fifty-six students graduated magna cum laude, with high honors, and 62 students graduated cum laude, with honors.

The ceremony also included remarks from David Ibarra, secretary of the NSM Alumni Association.

Two graduates, Michael Moorman and Kevin Liu, graduated summa cum laude and with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Both earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science.

Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award – Ritu Bohat

Each commencement, NSM recognizes a graduating doctoral student who has performed outstanding research and submitted the best dissertation to the College. The summer-fall recipient of the Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award was Ritu Bohat, a biology Ph.D. graduate. She received a certificate and an award of $1,000.

Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award Winner, Ritu Bohat
Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award winner Ritu Bohat with Dean Dan Wells.

Her dissertation is titled “Targeting PI3K Isoforms to Improve Effectiveness of T cells Mediated Immunotherapy.” Her research was conducted under the supervision of Weiyi Peng, assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, at UH’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling.

Bohat’s research examined how our body’s immune system can be taught to fight against cancerous cells that have an overactive form of the protein PI3K. By targeting the divergent forms of this protein, it reduces the activity of the cancer cells without hurting immune cells, where these proteins are also present.

This work provides a deeper understanding of this protein in cancer and immune cells and provides a novel therapeutic approach to improve the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy. Her work is now proceeding toward a clinical trial.

Beyond cancer research, she also contributed to the development of a lupus mouse model, offering researchers a valuable tool to unravel the complexities of this autoimmune disorder and potentially advance therapeutic solutions.

Chenggang Jiang, a chemistry Ph.D. graduate, received Honorable Mention for his dissertation, “Strategies to Optimize Photophysical Properties in Cyclometalated Iridium Complexes.”

Jiang’s research focuses on fundamental discoveries in organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which have huge advantages over other lighting technologies. He focused on developing synthetic methods to create molecules with unique photophysical qualities for further study. This will provide greater flexibility in light-generating efficiency, thermal stability and controlling the color spectrum. Jiang’s research was supervised by Thomas Teets, associate professor of chemistry.

Commencement Student Speaker – Fatima Mirza

Fatima Mirza, receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer science, spoke at the ceremony on behalf of all the students. She was selected through a speech-writing competition open to NSM’s summa cum laude graduates.

Commencement Student Speaker, Fatima Mirza
Commencement Student Speaker: Summa cum laude graduate Fatima Mirza

In her speech, she reminded the graduates, that like puzzle pieces, they all have a place where they fit. “There will be moments when we question our place in this world, but don’t ask whether you belong – ask where.” She encouraged her generation to connect with each other and take advantage of the strength found in unity.

While at UH, Mirza served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for computer science for three semesters, grading assignments and teaching labs associated with courses. She completed a 2023 summer internship at the consulting firm, Credera.

She credits the Fall 2022 Computer Science Career Fair with focusing her career plans.

“That was my first exposure to see how our degrees connect to post-graduate plans,” Mirza said. “It was helpful to connect with the recruiters, some who were UH alums. They had great advice about classes they took or clubs they participated in that helped them get a good internship or job.”

Mirza was an officer in the Cougarettes computer science student coding organization and a member of UH’s rugby club.

In summer 2024, she will begin a full-time position as a technology consultant with Credera. She plans to travel and participate in a learning abroad experience before starting her career.

Commencement Banner Bearers – NSM Outstanding Students

Commencement Banner Bearers

The College’s Commencement processional included outstanding students from NSM’s six departments carrying the NSM and departmental banners.

  • College Banner: Michael Moorman, 4.0 Graduate
  • Department of Biology and Biochemistry: Ishmam Alam
  • Department of Chemistry: Arwa Naeem
  • Department of Computer Science: Kevin Liu, 4.0 Graduate
  • Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences: Jack McLaughlin
  • Department of Mathematics: Justin George
  • Department of Physics: Jeseleth Benavides

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics