School of Mathematics, Science and Engineering

Highlights of MSE Faculty & Student Accomplishments

Spring 2012

Nutrition alumna, Jacque Salame Rios, has successfully incorporated an organization to teach Southside children. She is applying for non-profit status for Centro para la Semilla, to educate and empower children by providing accessible programs in nutrition and the arts.

Engineering Management major, Guillermo de Hoyos, was recruited by Jacobs Engineering this year, and offered a full-time position even before completing his UIW degree.

Since the last quarterly board report, Queenie Abad was also accepted to the Medical School and Masters of Public Health at Texas Tech, and Bahinah Callahan was accepted to the Boston University School of Medicine Early Medical Acceptance Program.

Meteorology major Michael Saenz has accepted a part time position with WOAI-TV as an Associate Weather Producer. He develops graphics used in a daily weather casts, produces weekly weather casts, and updates social media when severe weather hits.

Dr. Ana Vallor (Biology) earned a Career Enhancement Award for research proposed to UIW's EARDA Project. This pilot research grant will fund her continued investigations in gastrointestinal microbiology.

Dr. Alison Whittemore (Engineering) and Daniel Potter (Project Director) celebrated the grand opening of UIW's Solar House, attended by hundreds from across the university. The city's director of San Antonio Clean Technology, Mr. Mike Burke, attended the grand opening, and took the occasion of a subsequent city-wide forum to promote UIW's Solar House to 300 attendees, including United Kingdom cabinet-level guests, San Antonio's mayor, and senior business leaders from across our region.

An exceptional number of UIW students have already been accepted to a wide array of professional schools so far this year, many thanks to countless faculty recommendation letters and extensive advising support from Dr. Bonnie McCormick (Biology):

UTMB Galveston Medical School -- Damian Carrillo, Matt Gunst, and Howard Gill

UTHSC San Antonio Medical School -- Paola Mendez

UTHSC Houston Dental School -- Zelina Moncivais

University of Michigan School of Veterinary Medicine -- Colleen Dwyer

Joint Admission Medical School Program (JAMP) Texas Medical Schools for sophomoresIfunanya Mora and Kosisio Mora

Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Travis Lewis, a May 2011 Meteorology Department graduate, has completed his Air Force officer training and is now serving at Barksdale AFB, in Louisiana.

Mathematics majors, Shannon Samples and Judith Arriaza received financial support to attend the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston this semester. Each of them received $600 from UIW Student Research Travel Fund and $550 from the Mathematical Association of America to support undergraduate student research. They will present posters for their summer research projects supported by the UIW McNair program.

Dr. Christy MacKinnon (Biology) was selected to participate in the year-long 2012 ASM/JGI Bioinformatics Residency: Incorporating Bioinformatics Research in Undergraduate Education. The year begins with a Bioinformatics kick-off Institute, this March, at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) headquarters office in Washington, DC. As part of her ongoing collaborations, Dr. MacKinnon also hosted a two-day genomics workshop in December, with participating faculty members from across San Antonio.

Dr. Flor Wukovits and Dr. Paul Messina (Mathematics) partnered on a successful state grant award with San Antonio's School of Excellence in Education, on an effort that supports secondary school mathematics teachers. They designed and delivered a 10-day institute this past summer, with a second institute planned for this coming June.

Dr. Julian Davis (Chemistry) co-authored an article in the Journal of the National College Learning Center Association, Getting Science Students to PASS-UIW: A Successful Collaboration between Students, Staff, and Faculty. The PASS student tutoring program has been a model for collaboration.

Dr. Paul Messina (Mathematics) continues his participation in Olympic trials, aiming to compete in a variety of pistol and rifle events in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The final U.S. shooting teams will not be selected until a few weeks before the games.

Fall 2011

Dr. Sara Tallarovic (Biology) received UIW's largest federal grant award ever, $6 million over 5 years from the Department of Education, under Title V, to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) success for Hispanic students. The grant activities include a significant partnership with St. Philip's College who will use $1 million of the award to outfit many of their new science labs.

Dr. Julian Davis and his colleagues in Chemistry were awarded yet another Welch Foundation grant, for an increased amount of $35,000 to support chemical research that involves undergraduates and promising high school students. This new award continues many years of strong relationships with UIW and the Welch Foundation.

Engineering Management students Magenta Bernal, Christine Clark, and Michael Herrera delivered an outstanding Critical Design Review presentation on their progress researching asset valuation for their SAWS client. Their presentation represents a crucial milestone in the success of their Senior Design Project, as well as banner progress in this inaugural semester of the new course format pioneered by Prof. Javier Arjona.

Alex Garcia (Meteorology) hosted a very special guest—IMAX filmmaker Shaun Casey who's work includes the Storm Chasers series on the Discovery Channel, and recently-released IMAX film Tornado Alley. Shaun brought his Tornado Intercept Vehicle for students and guests to explore, he shared a presentation on his experiences with severe storms, and he enjoyed a studio demonstration by our UIW Storm Team students in the Broadcast Meteorology program. Students produce daily forecasts and programs, available at

Summer 2011

Drs Julian Davis, Kate Edelman, and Brian McBurnett conducted the Department of Chemistry's annual Welch Summer Research Program with the support of collaborators Dr. Adeola Grillo and Dr. Donald Sikazwe from the Feik School of Pharmacy. Eight student participants worked with faculty on five different ongoing research projects.

Tremendous accomplishments of recent Biology MS alumni: Jingjing Ma, will begin work toward her Ph.D. in Education at TCU this Fall Semester. This past year she taught math and biology at a Community College in Dallas; Adi Singh has been employed by Food Safety Net as their employee at the San Antonio facility for quality control; Tripti Jaiswal is employed as a technician at DPT laboratories.

Meteorology student, Michael Saenz, is interning in the WOAI-TV weather department.

Dr. Alaka Chaudhuri (Chemistry), and co-PI Dr. Bonnie McCormick (Biology) received continuation funding ($27,000) for their Teacher Quality grant work, enhancing science experience and instruction for in-service San Antonio teachers.

Dr. Alison Whittemore (Engineering Management), and Daniel Potter (Solar House Director), earned UIW's Solar "House of CARDS" acceptance as part of Solar San Antonio's 2011 Tour, on Saturday, Oct 1st (10am – 3pm). Only a limited number of sites are included each year; this is a tremendous accomplishment, with the house prepared to apply for the highest possible LEED certification (platinum).

Dr. Christy MacKinnon (Biology), was an invited participant at the National Study of Education in Undergraduate Science: Research Based Undergraduate Teaching, held at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, June 19-21, 2011. Her presentation, Implementation of Genomics Research in an Undergraduate Course, included two undergraduate student co-authors, Jessica Hernandez and Frank Torralva. Proceedings and other publications are available at

Dr. MacKinnon also attended the Genomics Education Partnership Alumni Faculty Workshop at Washington University (St. Louis) where she presented "Annotation Implementation Activities" to her peers; course materials she developed have been posted on the GEP Wiki. She selected to attend an additional workshop on Functional Genomics at Hiram College, OH, sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology, as well as the18th International C. elegans meeting in Los Angeles – Dr. MacKinnon is developing a genetics research project using this model organism.

Dr. Javier Arjona (Engineering) has instituted a new format for the Senior Design course in Engineering Management, where students provide consulting and problem solving to industry customers, with rigorous timelines and decision gates. Dr. Arjona literally "wrote the book" (journal article, in this case) on this structured approach which is employed across Monterrey, Mexico, and he has now brought to UIW. For this semester, SAWS (San Antonio Water System) has arranged for internship positions for three seniors who are researching options for SAWS to update its approach to depreciating long-term assets in their pipeline infrastructure. Successful completion will lead to follow-on studies of other SAWS assets.

Dr. Ana Vallor (Biology) and Dr. Helen Smith (Pharmacy) visited the Texas Biomedical Research Institute this summer, in the Department of Genetics, to discuss educational outreach and research collaboration.

Dr. Paul Messina (Mathematics) has been invited by colleagues in Pretoria, South Africa, to collaborate on research in Statistics education. Initial work will focus on joint development of a service course.

Spring 2011

Mr. Alex Garcia hosted UIW's 5th Annual Severe Weather Conference, in April, which continues to be well attended by national leaders in the National Weather Service, including Bill Read (director of the National Hurricane Center and leader of the U.S. and World Meteorological Organization), Dr. Philip Klotzbach (research associate at Colorado State University), Dr. Eve Gruntfest (Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University of Oklahoma and Professor Emeritus in the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs) and Frank Brody (Chief of the National Weather Service Spaceflight Meteorology Group (SMG) at the Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston). The annual conference engages these national leaders in UIW Meteorology programs, facilitates the placement of our graduates, and is successfully attracting the interest of these national experts for future participation as adjunct faculty members.

Dr. Joe Bonilla (Nutrition) has established a new partnership with Daughters of Charity Services of San Antonio, for our Dietetic Internship program. The new internship site will provide a wide variety of creative, new opportunities for our interns to interact with patients and their families.

MSE was very well represented at the 2011 Texas Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting, at St. Edwards University (Austin), March 4.  Posters and/or oral presentations were given by:

Dr. Alaka Chaudhuri (Chemistry)                       Dr. David Coleman (Chemistry)
Dr. Julian Davis (Chemistry)                             Dr. David Foglesong (Biology)
Dr. Michael Frye (Engineering)                         Dr. Christy MacKinnon (Biology)
Dr. Veronica Martinez Acosta (Biology)            Dr. Bonnie McCormick (Biology)
Dr. William Thomann (Environmental Sci)          Dr. Alison Whittemore (Engineering) 

Dr. Veronica Martinez Acosta was also an inviter speaker at a Special Event, presenting “This is your Brain on Neuroscience—Check it out.”  Twelve MSE undergraduate and five graduate students were co-authors on the posters and presentations.

Chemistry alumna, and former McNair Scholar, Selene Mena-Hernández (2002) is now Dr. Selene Hernández Ruiz. She successfully defended her dissertation at the University of Arizona.

Engineering alumna Chelsea Woodard was hired by Jacobs Engineering as an Engineering Technician.

Jessica Garza, Meteorology alumna, just completed her MS in Meteorology at the University of Hawaii.

Alumna Lee Calvert in (Biology/Environmental Science) was accepted to pursue her advanced degree in Marine Biology at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

Biology student Laura Molinar was accepted to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at UT Health Science Center.  This is a great mentoring program for students at the med school with housing, food and a stipend.

Biology major Ariana Fresquez (and niece of Sr. Catalina) has been accepted to the Boston University Early Medical School Acceptance Program. 

Dr. Veronica Acosta and Dr. Ana Vallor (both Biology) were awarded Faculty Research Endowment Awards for the coming year. 

Dr. Christy MacKinnon (Biology) was chosen to participate in the highly-selective 2011 Functional Genomics Institute, a week-long summer institute hosted by the American Society for Microbiology. 

Winter 2010

Landon Mitchell, one of our first two Engineering Management graduates, successfully completed his master’s degree in Engineering (from St. Mary’s).

Dr. Alaka Chaudhuri (Chemistry), and co-PI Dr. Bonnie McCormick (Biology), were awarded yet another continuing Teacher Quality grant, for an additional $170,000, by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  This represents the third year of funding for this particular award, and an unbroken stream of funding for this work for 10 years!

Dr. David Foglesong (Biology) was awarded $20,000 from the William and Ella Owens Medical Research Foundation to support his continuing research on human T cells and their sensitivity to antitumor drugs. This is his third extramural grant in the past three years to support this work, including support to six graduate students performing thesis research for the MS in Biology.

Dr. Christy MacKinnon and Dr. Russell Raymond were accepted as participating faculty members representing UIW in the Genomics Education Partnership at Washington University, St. Louis.

Fall 2010

Juan Acuña, 2010 Broadcast Meteorology grad, has accepted a full-time broadcast meteorologist position with a TV station in Odessa. 

Shayvonna Malcolm (Psychology junior) – was one of only 4 students in the inaugural cohort selected for a paid internship position conducting research in neuroscience at UTHSCSA.  This highly selective program encourages students to pursue PhD studies in neuroscience.

Dr. Veronica Acosta (Biology) and Mr. Gil Gomez (Chemistry) led 20 UIW students to bring presentations to the first “Core-4” math-science event held at the SA Convention Center.  The two-day October event brought 4,000 SA high school students to motivational STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) presentations and demos.  Our student scientists were greeted “like rock stars” and attracted so much excitement and attention from the high school attendees that our demonstration areas were moved to larger spaces on the event’s second day.

UIW has enjoyed excellent success with the EARDA project, funded by NIH; we are the only institution within our funding cohort to garner NIH approval for ALL submitted pilot projects during the past three years—12 for 12!  Congratulations to PI, Dr. Brian McBurnett.

Dr. Rafael Adrian published the article, “Tetrakis (4-cyanopyridine) palladium (II) bis (trifluoromethanesulfonate)” in Acta Crystallographica.

Summer 2010

Matthew Hernandez (Biology) was accepted to the Southwest School of Naturopathic Medicine (natural healing) in Tempe, AZ.

Jessica Hall-Martinez has begun her teaching career in mathematics at Scobee Middle School.

A number of recent Meteorology graduates have begun exciting careers:

Kirsten Horne works at KAVU-TV in Victoria, Texas as their weekend weather anchor and weekday reporter … while still completing her senior year here.

Alumna Jessica Garza is now in her last year in grad school at the University of Hawaii where she was recently featured on KITV Honolulu, reporting on research into the trade winds that impact Hawaii’s climate and economy. 

Juan Acuna works at the Alice Echos News Journal as a reporter/meteorologist, and was also accepted to Mississippi State University’s Graduate Program for a Masters in Geoscience with a concentration in Applied Meteorology.

Dr. Veronica Martinez-Acosta (Biology) was selected for an elite Grant Writing Mentorship program sponsored by the national Society for Neuroscience.  The program provides her mentor in her field to help pursue grant funding this year. 

Dr. Sara Tallarovic, Ms. Jennifer Reamer, Mr. Ricardo Chavez, and Ms. Victoria Hill presented “Black ghost knifefish electrically jam simulated rivals during aggressive interactions” at the 9th International Congress of Neuroethology.

Dr Alaka Chaudhuri (Chemistry) was approved for the second year of funding for her 2009-2011 Teacher Quality award, $200,000 across the two years.

Dr. Flor Wukovits (Mathematics) is one of 55 women faculty in STEM at HSIs nationwide who have been sponsored by NSF to take part in a workshop and focus group on issues important to women STEM faculty at HSIs.  Working groups addressed topics such as: Balancing Teaching and Research Demands, Obstacles to/Opportunities for Quality Education in STEM for Students From Diverse Backgrounds, Obtaining Institutional and External Support, Mentoring of STEM Junior Faculty.

Dr. Brian McBurnett (Chemistry), principal investigator of the NIH EARDA grant, secured an additional $104,000 to continue the program at UIW.  From this funding, another four faculty members will receive grants of $10,000 toward producing original research.

Dr. Neeta Singh has been invited to be speaker/chairperson of two parallel sessions at the 9th European Evaluation Society International Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.  The conference is hosted by World Bank and other international organizations.  Dr. Singh will also present research in a 90 minute session. 

Thanks to Diane M. Echavarria (Institutional Advancement), three MSE faculty members (Dr. Javier Arjona, Dr. Russell Raymond, and Mr. Ben McPherson) enjoyed a visit to native ranch land in Poth, hosted by native family member Barry Poth.  The family is offering UIW the use of the land for student projects and faculty environmental research.

Spring 2010

The Amy Freeman Lee Award winner in MSE: Yvonne Salinas. A December 09 graduate, Yvonne finished so strong in her Chemistry program that we hired her to teach freshman laboratories for the Spring and Summer terms. 

Five candidates from our Nutrition didactic program took the Registration Examination for Dietitians, in the latter half of 2009, and all five passed, with a mean score above the national mean.  This is a tremendous accomplishment for our graduates and the Nutrition faculty members.

UIW Biology graduate, now Boston University Medical School student, Sebastian Villareal, received his first choice for residency, competitively matched into the neurosurgery program at UT-Houston.

May UIW graduate, Jacqueline Gutierrez, has been accepted to University of Indiana Medical School, where she will begin study this fall.

UIW undergraduate Monica Navarro has been accepted to enter the Boston Early Medical School Selection Program.

Biology and Chemistry faculty members led a large group of students to an annual conference of the Texas Academy of Science was very successful.  Among the many student presentations, we also had a few winners:  1st place in Graduate Student Oral Presentations – Mr. Lewis Nichols – “Path Planning Using Particle Swarm Optimization”, and Honorable Mention in Undergraduate Student Poster Presentations went to Miss Maheen Ceizar, Miss Amanda Roberts, and Mr. Gabriel Leal for a poster on stem cells and nerve regeneration.

Chemistry major, Nicole Sanchez, was competitively selected to take part in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Northwestern University this summer.

Dr Paul Messina, Department of Mathematics, had a recent paper accepted for the Far East Journal of Mathematical Education has been officially accepted for publication; his co-author is one of our recent graduates, Abigail Shaver.

Winter 2009

Jessica Hess (Biology) has been accepted at two dental schools.

Jacqueline Ortiz and Leslie Lage (Engineering Management) were awarded Texas Engineering Scholarships this year.

Fall 2009

Mission Continues Awards – In this year’s selection, MSE Faculty were honored with two of the five annual awards:
            Dr Christy MacKinnon – Truth
            Dr Alison Whittemore – Service

Dr Neeta Singh, Associate Professor of Nutrition, was selected as the university’s nominee for the Piper Award, for her scholarship and service in international nutrition issues.

Dr David Foglesong was awarded a 1-year, $80,000 grant from the Morrison Trust to continue his research on the activation of DNA in human cells.  The award supports several graduate research assistants as well as a generous summer salary for 2010. 

Dr Paul Messina shot in seven different pistol and rifle events at the 2009 World Masters Games (held every 4 years) in Australia last month.  Among the 28,000 athletes, 120 were registered shooters. His final finishes ranged from 6th to 24th place, an amazing performance in such a wide variety of events.  His next competition in December will select the U.S. National Team to compete in the next Olympics.

Dr, McCormick and Dr. McPherson had an abstract accepted for an oral presentation at the Texas Society for Environmental Restoration in November. 

Summer 2009

Chemistry major Erin Dunne spent the summer working in the Department of Organic Chemistry in a Marine Chemistry lab in Spain.  She was accepted into this Research Experience for Undergraduates sponsored by Bucknell University.  Her research involved extracting compounds from sea sponges using research instrumentation that the UIW Chemistry Department is acquiring this year under other grant funding.

Dr. Paul Messina, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, continues setting U.S. records in air pistol competitions.  This summer he returned from Colorado Springs with 3 gold medals and 2 silver medals he won at the State Games of America – a record for number of individual shooting medals at this event.  He will compete at other national and international events across the next year in his attempt to gain sufficient points and ranking to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team.

Dr. John Stankus, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, received notice of his tenth U.S. patent, “Network element for implementing scheduled high-power PTP (point-to-point) and low-power PTMP (point-to-multipoint) transmissions,” which supports wireless network communications.  He has two other patents pending which address methods for quantum key distribution for cryptography.

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