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UH professor honored for materials research, STEM outreach

Mathematician Yuliya Gorb receives $420,000 NSF CAREER Award

University of Houston

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IMAGE: Yuliya Gorb is the first faculty member in the math department to receive a National Science Foundation CAREER award while at the University of Houston. view more

Credit: Chris Watts

HOUSTON, Dec. 9, 2014 - University of Houston mathematician Yuliya Gorb recently received a five-year, $420,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for both her research and an outreach program she's developing for high school girls. Gorb is the first Department of Mathematics faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER award while at UH.

Gorb, an assistant professor of mathematics, joined the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in 2009. Her mathematical modeling, analysis and simulation are helping solve problems related to complex composite materials. These types of materials can be found in a wide range of fields from medicine and materials science to subsurface engineering and microelectronics.

NSF CAREER Awards are given to promising junior faculty members, who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research. In her research, Gorb is developing efficient tools, both numerical and analytical, for describing various phenomena occurring in a composite material.

"You can view a composite as a material consisting of two or more constituents," she said. "In particular, I'm looking at high contrast composites. That is, those with large variations in material properties and complex geometry. Such composites exhibit some features not seen or observed in regular materials."

Through the development of efficient numerical and analytical tools, Gorb says gaining a full understanding of a composite material leads to the possibility of "intelligent" tailoring of the material or an increased ability to predict a drastic behavior.

"For example, in microelectronics, you want a composite material that effectively reduces the heat but has enough conductivity for the processes to run," she said. "One of the bad features that these types of materials can develop is failure. I am trying to better understand this critical behavior of the materials through modeling, analysis and simulation."

She became interested in solving these types of problems while pursuing her Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University and has devoted a large part of her research career to this topic.

Another aspect of Gorb's CAREER award is student involvement. In addition to engaging UH undergraduates in her research projects, Gorb will launch an after-school program for 10th through 12th grade girls this spring that will showcase the essential relevance of mathematics to real-world problems. It's expected to give participants a better understanding of what the modern world and society have to offer them and will introduce career opportunities in the STEM fields of science, math and engineering.

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This story was written in collaboration with Kathy Major at the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. A high-resolution photo is available to media by contacting Lisa Merkl at lkmerkl@uh.edu.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation's best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation's fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 40,900 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit the university's newsroom at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with 193 ranked faculty and nearly 6,000 students, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, earth and atmospheric sciences, mathematics and physics conduct internationally recognized research in collaboration with industry, Texas Medical Center institutions, NASA and others worldwide.

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