A-plus

Houston STEM high school declared top of the class by U.S. News & World Report

DeBakey High School for Health Professions is at the top of the class. Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

Three Houston high schools deserve a tip of the cap (or mortarboard) after earning marks for excellence. On June 12, U.S. News & World Report released its annual Best U.S. High Schools by metro area, ranking the top public schools in each major city.

DeBakey High School for Health Professions is at the top of the class in the Bayou City. In addition to earning top marks for academics, the school is notably comprised of mostly minority students — 89 percent.

To determine the country's best schools, U.S. News ranked each school using six metrics, applying different weights to each category:

  • College readiness (30 percent)
  • Math and reading proficiency (20 percent)
  • Math and reading performance (20 percent)
  • Underserved service (10 percent)
  • College curriculum breadth (10 percent)
  • Graduation rate (10 percent)

Based on the above, the school has an overall score of 99.9 (or an A-plus in high school lingo), complete with 100 percent graduation and reading and mathematics proficiency rates. Also, 100 percent of students took and passed at least one AP exam.

Located on the prestigious Texas Medical Center Campus, DeBakey offers students unparalleled access to on-site research facilities, as well as future academic opportunities, U.S. News notes.

"Graduates are eligible for the Houston Premedical Academy, an undergraduate program at the University of Houston designed specifically for DeBakey High School students," the report says. "Those selected for the premedical academy receive provisional acceptance to the Baylor College of Medicine."

DeBakey ranks first in Houston and No. 17 nationally. The school is also rated No. 10 in the U.S. among magnet schools and No. 11 among STEM schools.

Carnegie Vanguard High School earned the No. 2 spot in Houston, 24th in the nation, followed by Eastwood Academy at No. 3 locally and 97th nationally.

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A version of this story, with information on Texas' other metros, originally was published on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

From biomolecular research to oral cancer immunotherapy, here are three research projects to watch out for in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

Research, perhaps now more than ever, is crucial to expanding and growing innovation in Houston — and it's happening across the city right under our noses.

In InnovationMap's latest roundup of research news, a couple local scientists are honored by awards while another duo of specialists tackle a new project.

University of Houston professor recognized with award

Mehmet Orman of UH has been selected to receive an award for his research on persister cells. Photo via UH.edu

Mehmet Orman, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation. The award comes with a $500,000 grant to study persister cells — cells that go dormant and then become tolerant to extraordinary levels of antibiotics.

"Nearly all bacterial cultures contain a small population of persister cells," says Orman in a news release. "Persisters are thought to be responsible for recurring chronic infections such as those of the urinary tract and for creating drug-resistant mutants."

Previously, Orman developed the first methods to directly measure the metabolism of persister cells. He also developed cell sorting strategies to segregate persisters from highly heterogeneous bacterial cell populations, and, according to the release, he will be using his methods in the NSF research project.

Houston researchers collaborate on oral cancer innovation

Dr. Simon Young of UTHealth and Jeffrey Hartgerink of Rice University are working on a new use for an innovative gel they developed. Photo via Rice.edu

Two Houston researchers — chemist and bioengineer Jeffrey Hartgerink at Rice University and Dr. Simon Young at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — have again teamed up to advance their previous development of a sophisticated hydrogel called STINGel. This time, they are using it to destroy oral cancer tumors.

SynerGel combines a pair of antitumor agents into a gel that can be injected directly into tumors. Once there, the gel controls the release of its cargo to not only trigger cells' immune response but also to remove other suppressive immune cells from the tumor's microenvironment. The duo reported on the technology in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

SynerGel, combines a pair of antitumor agents into a gel that can be injected directly into tumors, where they not only control the release of the drugs but also remove suppressive immune cells from the tumor's microenvironment.

"We are really excited about this new material," Hartgerink says in a news release. "SynerGel is formulated from a specially synthesized peptide which itself acts as an enzyme inhibitor, but it also assembles into a nanofibrous gel that can entrap and release other drugs in a controlled fashion.

In 2018, the pair published research on the use of a multidomain peptide gel — the original STINGel — to deliver ADU-S100, an immunotherapy drug from a class of "stimulator of interferon gene (STING) agonists."

The research is supported by the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology.

Texas Heart Institute researcher honored by national organization

Dr. James Martin of Texas Heart Institute has been named a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors. Photo courtesy of THI

The National Academy of Inventors have named Houston-based Texas Heart Institute's Dr. James Martin, director of the Cardiomyocyte Renewal Lab, a senior member.

Martin is an internationally recognized developmental and regenerative biologist and his research is focused on understanding how signaling pathways are related to development and tissue regeneration.

"Dr. Martin has long been a steward of scientific advancement and has proven to be a tremendous asset to the Texas Heart Institute and to its Cardiomyocyte Renewal Lab through his efforts to translate fundamental biological discoveries in cardiac development and disease into novel treatment strategies for cardiac regeneration," says Dr. Darren Woodside, vice president for research at THI, in a news release. "Everyone at the Texas Heart Institute is thrilled for Dr. Martin, whose induction into the NAI as a Senior Member is well-deserved."

Martin has authored over 170 peer-reviewed papers in top journals he holds nine U.S. patents and applications, including one provisional application, all of which have been licensed to Yap Therapeutics, a company he co-founded.

The full list of incoming NAI Senior Members, which includes three professionals from the University of Houston, is available on the NAI website.

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