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Lindsey Brier Named 2013-14 Goldwater Scholar

Posted on: November 6th, 2014

lindsey brier

Lindsey Brier, a junior mathematical biology major and chemistry minor, is one of 271 undergraduates nationwide named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program fosters and encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Considered the premier undergraduate award for these fields, more than 1,100 students were nominated by their universities this year. Scholars receive up to $7,500.

Though Brier started out as a math major at the University of Houston, she soon found mathematical biology would give her a better background for a newfound interest – biology and chemistry research.

Ph.D. Pursuits

“I’m interested in drug design and how drugs interact with physiological pathways,” said Brier, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in either medicinal chemistry or pharmacology. “So, it was important to me to understand biological systems.”

Brier, who is also interested in clinical applications, says her main reason for doing research in this field is to improve available health care. “I’ve considered entering an M.D./Ph.D. program, but my biggest interest is in doing medical research.”

Undergraduate research has played a significant role in her education. Having worked on research projects at UH and University of California, San Francisco, Brier will travel to University of Pennsylvania this summer.

Research Experience

This semester, Brier is doing research in the lab of James Briggs, associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. She is focusing on the protein, cholera toxin. “We are writing programs that allow us to look at proteins and determine potential interaction points for drugs,” said Brier, who is participating through the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship program.

Her research experience at UCSF involved using a computer program to look at specific membrane transporters that are resistant to chemotherapy. “The transporters are pushing out the drugs that doctors are trying to get in,” she said. “We used the program to test and identify drugs that have more of an affinity for the transporter, and therefore, uncovered greater potential for future drug development.”

In Brier’s case, undergraduate research broadened her well-rounded science background by exposing her to computer science. It also gave her real-life applications of topics taught in class. “Research really makes you remember the information, learn it and know it because you have to be able to defend your work and choose future directions for the research. If you don’t understand the concept, you can’t possibly do any of that,” she said.

Group Facilitator

At UH, Brier facilitates a small, organic chemistry workshop for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ Scholar Enrichment Program. Students in the small classes do practice problems and review concepts; the setting encourages discussion and more interaction.

“Many students are afraid of organic chemistry. The workshops help reinforce the concepts covered in the lecture course,” said Brier, who has co-led a workshop for two semesters. “I’ve gotten a deeper understanding of organic chemistry by learning how to explain it to others.”

Brier is a native of Allen, Texas, and attended Allen High School. At UH, she is a Houston-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar and a member of The Honors College.

Giving Back to Education

Posted on: November 6th, 2014

mike and elsa tansey

In the early 1960s, Mike Tansey was working full time and raising four children. Mike’s job at NASA involved biometric data related to the astronaut program, and he realized a math degree would be beneficial.

Night school at the University of Houston was his path to get that degree.

“I’ve always felt I owed something to UH for giving me an opportunity to complete a degree program,” said Tansey, a native Houstonian who received his B.S. in 1965. “Eventually, we started giving to the alumni association and buying season tickets to football.”

Mike’s math background led to seismic data processing and later to computer software package development for oil and gas companies, aerospace, trucking firms and investment companies. “My math degree was instrumental in every aspect of my career,” he said.

After many years of giving annual charitable donations to many organizations, the Tanseys reviewed their pattern of giving.

“We decided to prioritize and give to Mike’s favorite institution,” said Elsa, Mike’s wife.

That decision led them to establish the Tansey Family Scholarship Endowment for undergraduates in UH’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “We decided we could make a greater impact on students by concentrating most of our charitable giving in one area,” she said.

The Tanseys hope their endowment will help NSM attract and keep quality students at the undergraduate level and encourage them to stay at UH for their graduate education. Recently, they started supporting NSM’s Graduate Fellowship Program.

“We firmly believe that every graduate of this great university should open their checkbooks and give regularly to the school that provided them with the opportunity to be successful in their lives,” Mike said. “New graduates should make donating to UH an annual activity, even if the gift is not large.”

For the Tanseys, it’s about giving back to the school that gave Mike his chance at a degree and helping current and future students attain that same foundation in higher education.

Investing in Students

Posted on: November 6th, 2014

Scholarships helped May Nguyen graduate from University of Houston with a relatively small amount of debt. Now, she and her husband, Greg Bounds, want to give more students the chance to focus on careers rather than worry about the financial burdens of college. They are establishing the Greg Bounds and Bich-May Nguyen Undergraduate Biology Scholarship Endowment.

“Since I wasn’t hampered by debt, I was able to pursue more expensive graduate studies,” said Nguyen, who graduated in 2003 with a B.S. in biology. She went on to receive a medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine and an M.P.H. from Harvard School of Public Health.

“We are interested in education and in making college affordable,” Bounds said. “Through this investment in NSM, we can support the young talent who will contribute to scientific knowledge and innovation.”

For Nguyen, attending UH with its diverse student body helped her to be more comfortable around and to empathize with people from all walks of life. After graduating from medical school, she pursued a specialty in family medicine and chose to work with Houston’s underserved, urban population. “Every day I take care of socially disadvantaged people, the majority of whom do not speak English as their primary language,” she said.

The young couple recognizes that UH is full of hard-working students. “Many students are taking full- or part-time classes and working to support themselves or their families,” Nguyen said. “We want to ease the financial burden for some of them.”

Bounds recently decided to change careers and return to school. Where did he choose to go? University of Houston. “I was so impressed with the changes at UH in the past decade that I wanted to benefit from them,” he said. Bounds will graduate in 2014 with a B.S. in sociology.

Through their scholarship endowment, Bounds and Nguyen know they will impact future UH biology undergrads and give them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

“We hope more people who have been as lucky as us will support the university in its academic mission and help its most valuable asset – the students,” they said.