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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Faculty & Staff

Faculty attract to diversity, opportunity

Every year new faculty members are employed in all University departments. Currently, there are 84 new professors and counting with hiring continuing well into October, according to Olga Selley, program director for the Office of the Executive Associate Vice President for Academic and Faculty Affairs.

New faculty members often have high ambitions when they come to UH. If Yan Yao could have it his way, his curriculum would be for his students to build battery-charged vehicles in the classroom.

Yao is an assistant professor at the Cullen College of Engineering and hopes to impact battery research by collaborating with people from around the University and the Houston community. Yao said he came to the U.S. nine years ago to focus on solving energy problems like energy conversion and storage by working with battery research and creating an electric vehicle that is more durable and affordable than ones on the market today.

“Houston is a big city, it is the energy capital of the world,” Yao said. “Not only is there the traditional oil and gas businesses, they are also in developing, very aggressively, renewable energy resources.”

Yao was employed as a senior scientist in Illinois and did his post-doctoral research at Stanford University. He is now looking for eager students interested in material science for his upcoming courses and research program.

Jeffrey Feng is the assistant professor at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and is also a new professor who came to UH but for different reasons.

Feng received his bachelor’s degree in industrial design (ID) from the Beijing Institute of Technology, his master’s at Tsinghua University and his Master of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois. He has about 14 years of work experience in the industry and has helped design several technologies for the medical field and Fortune 500 companies.

“The ID program here has a very good potential for growth,” Feng said. “Houston is the fourth largest city and has probably 56 of the Fortune 500 companies with their headquarters in Houston. There is a big potential for the ID program to collaborate with those companies.”

At the university level, he hopes to develop his unique teaching approach to make ID students more professional with their skill set, design thinking and philosophy.

The Jack J. Valenti School of Communication’s new member Arthur Santana, originally from Corpus Christi, received his doctorate at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and eventually made a switch from the newsroom to the UH classroom.

“(University of Houston) is a fine, prestigious school,” Santana said. “To be able to come here and land here in this media market, this very large media market in Houston … when the opportunity came up I knew I just had to take it.”

According to Houston Media Hub, Houston is the 10th largest media market in the nation with 325 different media outlets for its population to choose from.

Assistant professor Samuel McQuillin of the College of Education was also attracted to teaching at UH. He holds a doctorate from the University of South Carolina and aspires to create a youth mentoring program in Houston for at risk students.

“I feel like with my area of research, which is applied in nature and relies predominantly on students and public school systems, you really can’t be in a better place in terms of diversity because Houston was just rated the most diverse city in the United States and the amount of students in the public school systems around the Houston area; it’s a big population,” McQuillin said.

From potential ID prosperity to the diverse demographics of the city’s population, Houston has become the ideal spot for many professors to exercise their areas of expertise and study to expand their research.

“Houston’s not a priority vacation destination, but it’s a good place to live. It’s got everything you need,” McQuillin said.

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