UHV awards research grants to 4 faculty members

Four University of Houston-Victoria faculty members will be able to spend the academic year focusing on research in their areas of expertise thanks to grants awarded by the university.

UHV awarded two $10,000 Junior Faculty Summer Research Grants for summer 2022 and two $6,000 Internal Research Grants for the 2022-2023 academic year. Ashley Fansher, an assistant professor of criminal justice, and Sharon Hamrick de Marin, an assistant professor of special education, received the Junior Faculty Summer Research Grants. Asahi Tomitaka and Aobo Jin, both assistant professors of computer science, received Internal Research Grants.

Chance Glenn

“Our faculty are not only teaching; they also are conducting research into new and emerging topics in their fields,” said Chance Glenn Sr., UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We are happy to support our faculty as they get their research started, and we look forward to learning the results of their research.”

UHV has awarded faculty members the Junior Faculty Summer Research Grants since 2009 and the Internal Research Grant since 2011. The purpose of both grants is to support faculty research development. The Junior Faculty Summer Research Grant is available to faculty members during their first three years of UHV employment. Both tenured and untenured faculty are eligible for the Internal Research Grant. The grant recipients also will present their findings at a UHV Discovers event following the award year.

Fansher began teaching at UHV this fall. She teaches courses in the UHV College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences on subjects including statistics, race and gender, and criminal law. For her summer research grant, Fansher will be working with the Victoria Police Department to research sexual assault crimes in the area. She plans to look at sex crime cases with the goal of figuring out what groups in the local population that VPD should focus on to reduce sex crimes, such as specific age groups and family or domestic relationships. Fansher previously completed a similar project with the Kansas City Police Department and looks forward to partnering with the Victoria Police Department.

Ashley Fansher

“It’s very nice to feel supported from a university I just joined,” Fansher said. “It feels great to know that, as a new faculty member, I am supported and appreciated for the work I do. I think this research will open new doors for further research by our students and help them receive a more well-rounded education in criminal justice. This is the first time the Victoria Police Department has partnered with an outside agency to dive deeper into a problem, and it really shows how proactive they are in solving problems in the community.”

De Marin also arrived at UHV this fall and teaches special education courses in the UHV College of Education & Health Professions. Her project will include a survey of educational diagnosticians and diagnostician candidates of their knowledge of math disability and math interventions for students struggling in math. While there is an abundance of research on teachers’ and diagnosticians’ knowledge on reading disabilities and interventions, there is not much research highlighting their knowledge on the manifestations of math disabilities and interventions, she said. In Texas, educational diagnosticians determine how a student moves forward in their learning if it has been determined that the student has a learning disability. De Marin plans to use a mixed-method approach by using a Likert-scale survey and follow up with qualitative interviews. Her ultimate goal is to understand diagnosticians’ knowledge of math intervention strategies and use this information to help UHV education students in the graduate diagnostician program.

Sharon de Marin

“I am so happy to receive this grant during only my second semester at UHV,” de Marin said. “I am looking forward to getting this important research done this summer and hopefully get my research published in a high-impact journal and bring attention to the work being done at UHV.”

Tomitaka, an assistant professor of computer science, just began her first semester at UHV. She teaches “Data Structures and Algorithms,” “Software Engineering” and programming courses in the UHV College of Natural & Applied Science. Tomitaka’s project will look into developing diagnostic systems that could detect the COVID-19 coronavirus disease and influenza. She would like to develop a paper-based diagnostic test system using nanoparticles. This point-of-care testing could be used at home or for rural communities. Tomitaka was motivated to do this project because of how cold symptoms are difficult to distinguish between a regular cold, the flu or COVID-19. An accurate diagnostic system that can distinguish between the different viral infections can help people get the treatment they need.

Asahi Tomitaka

“I was really excited to learn that I received this grant because so many universities do not provide internal grants,” Tomitaka said. “These grants are a great resource for faculty, and I am glad that UHV has these research grants as they support more research opportunities for junior faculty. I have been working on nanotechnology for a long time, and I am excited to step into a new field of research.”

Aobo Jin

Jin, also an assistant professor of computer science, also is in his first semester at UHV and teaches courses including “Software Engineering,” and a senior project course. Jin’s project will include research into generating automatic body motions and body language – such as hand motions and gestures, and eye and lip movements – for digital simulations using only speech information to convey human emotions. In the virtual world, it is difficult for people to communicate efficiently with each other and challenging for artists to create a realistic animation for the avatars used in games and other simulations, Jin said. This research can be used in computer games to control an avatar through speech and for avatars used in the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people play games or interact with others. This technology research also can work to accurately predict body language from speech for digital and virtual simulations.

“It’s really great to receive this grant, and it will possibly help me find a student to work with me,” Jin said. “With the help of this grant, I think the work can be done in several months.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.