By Joelle Carson
One may not immediately associate the importance of crystal engineering in the treatment of kidney stones. But in 2016, researchers in the lab of Dr. Jeffrey Rimer, Ernest J. and Barbara M. Henley Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering, found evidence that a natural fruit extract is capable of dissolving calcium oxalate crystals, the most common component of human kidney stones. This finding could lead to the first advance in the treatment of calcium oxalate stones in 30 years.
Rimer, who started teaching at UH in September 2009, was granted the Henley endowed professorship in 2012, and the unrestricted research funding it provides has been invaluable to his research. “The funds from the professorship help support existing projects, and give me the freedom to explore new topics that otherwise would not be funded by other agencies,” he explains. “To this end, we have the ability to be creative.”
However, the freedom to be creative is only part of the advantage of the named position; the prestige associated with the title not only benefits Dr. Rimer and his research, but the reputation of UH as a whole. “There are few named positions, so it is an honor to have the Henley Professorship,” he says. “When I give talks at conferences or seminars, I am always introduced as the Henley Professor, which makes a strong impression.”
Crystallization is a common process with many different applications, from medicine to energy: with Houston being the energy capital of the United States and home to the world’s largest medical center, his research group — which comprises post-doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students — has many opportunities for collaboration and translational research.
Students benefit from that type of hands-on industry experience, and from Rimer’s dedicated instruction and mentorship. “As a professor, you get to witness the impact of your mentorship firsthand,” he reflects. “It is a very satisfying feeling to, in some small way, help students succeed. I love having the opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
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