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New UH business school dean plans to bring innovation into play

Paul Pavlou has been named as the dean of C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Courtesy of UH

Earlier this year, the University of Houston named a new dean for its C.T. Bauer College of Business. Paul Pavlou officially started his position on July 1, and, even though he has only a few days under his belt at UH, the new dean has a long career in education.

Most recently, Pavlou served as senior associate dean at Temple University within its business program and specializing in data analytics for business. Pavlou also has ties to Houston, as he received his bachelor's from Rice University after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship.

"My life was transformed by higher education," Pavlou says. "So, I feel the need to give back in terms of helping other students — especially of modest means like myself to do well in life and get a good job."

Pavlou has a lot on his plate entering the fall semester. He plans to continue enhancing the college's programs and faculty, while also continue the school's effort to bring in innovation and industry.

The new dean spoke with InnovationMap about what all he sees in Bauer's future.

InnovationMap: How has the first few days on the job been?

Paul Pavlou: So far it's been very exciting. There's so many opportunities for the Bauer College in innovation and technology in new areas that we're considering such health care, analytics, some of the existing areas in energy. So, the goal in my first few days is to talk to as many stakeholders as possible. Try to get to know our existing practices internally, what the opportunities are in the city, and of course, broadly, nationally, internationally. And accordingly, the plan is to see how we can focus on this needs of the industry, how we can create cutting edge programs and prepare the next generation of the workforce, obviously for the city of Houston or the state of Texas nationally and even that globally.

IM: What are some things on your plate that you hope to bring to the college?

PP: In general, one of the areas that I'd like to see us moving into as a college is the digital learning online and how we can do that in a way that it's convenient and flexible for students. Also at the same time, not only maintain the quality of traditional instruction, but also using technology intelligently to provide an even higher quality, more interactive experience for students.

The second thing that I'm very passionate about as well as the notion of experiential learning. I think students should learn from experience and learn by doing. So I would like to see how we can improve this at this college. I'm very happy to report that Bauer has very strong connections to industry, but I would like to make it an even a very strong proposition for the entire college — making sure that, you know, different courses that have an experiential component such as project or working closely with industry.

IM: How is Bauer focusing on the needs the city has for an emerging workforce?

PP: I think increasingly I find and identify more of the city's needs, but I think one of them is the idea of the analytics space and how to use the data. And that's across the board. I talk to people in health care and they say that health care analytics and using data in hospitals is a very important aspect.

More broadly, cutting edge technology is something that is very important not only the city of Houston but beyond. So. we're discussing this idea of artificial intelligence, and how we can play a role in this in a very important emerging area.

One of the things that I would like to see more of is for the University of Houston to work more closely with the business community. We're trying to develop partnerships with the greater Houston partnership and to see what they need as an industry, perhaps for the next generation of workforce.

IM: What role do you see the school playing in the city's innovation ecosystem?

PP: I think we can play a multiple roles. We're an educational organization, so we train the students. We want make sure that through our degrees and offerings have executive programs, and that we satisfy the need for competence and skills needed. And that's why I want us to be on the cutting edge, not only now but in the next five or 10 years.

Second, through our research and through our connections to industry, I want us to be cutting edge in terms of projects and basic research we can actually provide, whether it's analytics, artificial intelligence, or energy. Through our centers and our research, we have world class research faculty in the college. I want us to be out there and to start with the major challenges and help them.

IM: How is the college working with other programs within the university?

PP: One thing I'd like to specify, is that Bauer is obviously a college of business, but I want to take a very broad, multidisciplinary perspective and be very collaborative with the college of medicine, engineering, and nursing. And the idea is to be more open in terms of partnerships with different areas that innovation and new ideas may come into play and provide the business and entrepreneurship components to bring these ideas to market.

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Portions of this interview have been edited.

Breakthrough research on metastatic breast cancer, a new way to turn toxic pollutants into valuable chemicals, and an evolved brain tumor chip are three cancer-fighting treatments coming out of Houston. Getty Inages

Cancer remains to be one of the medical research community's huge focuses and challenges, and scientists in Houston are continuing to innovate new treatments and technologies to make an impact on cancer and its ripple effect.

Three research projects coming out of Houston institutions are providing solutions in the fight against cancer — from ways to monitor treatment to eliminating cancer-causing chemicals in the first place.

Baylor College of Medicine's breakthrough in breast cancer

Photo via bcm.edu

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Harvard Medical School have unveiled a mechanism explains how "endocrine-resistant breast cancer acquires metastatic behavior," according to a news release from BCM. This research can be game changing for introducing new therapeutic strategies.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and shows that hyperactive FOXA1 signaling — previously reported in endocrine-resistant metastatic breast cancer — can trigger genome-wide reprogramming that enhances resistance to treatment.

"Working with breast cancer cell lines in the laboratory, we discovered that FOXA1 reprograms endocrine therapy-resistant breast cancer cells by turning on certain genes that were turned off before and turning off other genes," says Dr. Xiaoyong Fu, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology and part of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor, in the release.

"The new gene expression program mimics an early embryonic developmental program that endow cancer cells with new capabilities, such as being able to migrate to other tissues and invade them aggressively, hallmarks of metastatic behavior."

Patients whose cancer is considered metastatic — even ones that initially responded to treatment — tend to relapse and die due to the cancer's resistance to treatment. This research will allow for new conversations around therapeutic treatment that could work to eliminate metastatic cancer.

University of Houston's evolved brain cancer chip

Photo via uh.edu

A biomedical research team at the University of Houston has made improvements on its microfluidic brain cancer chip. The Akay Lab's new chip "allows multiple-simultaneous drug administration, and a massive parallel testing of drug response for patients with glioblastoma," according to a UH news release. GBM is the most common malignant brain tumor and makes up half of all cases. Patients with GBM have a five-year survival rate of only 5.6 percent.

"The new chip generates tumor spheroids, or clusters, and provides large-scale assessments on the response of these GBM tumor cells to various concentrations and combinations of drugs. This platform could optimize the use of rare tumor samples derived from GBM patients to provide valuable insight on the tumor growth and responses to drug therapies," says Metin Akay, John S. Dunn Endowed Chair Professor of Biomedical Engineering and department chair, in the release.

Akay's team published a paper in the inaugural issue of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society's Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology. The report explains how the technology is able to quickly assess how well a cancer drug is improving its patients' health.

"When we can tell the doctor that the patient needs a combination of drugs and the exact proportion of each, this is precision medicine," Akay explains in the release.

Rice University's pollution transformation technology

Photo via rice.edu

Rice University engineers have developed a way to get rid of cancer-causing pollutants in water and transform them into valuable chemicals. A team lead by Michael Wong and Thomas Senftle has created this new catalyst that turns nitrate into ammonia. The study was published in the journal ACS Catalysis.

"Agricultural fertilizer runoff is contaminating ground and surface water, which causes ecological effects such as algae blooms as well as significant adverse effects for humans, including cancer, hypertension and developmental issues in babies," says Wong, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in Rice's Brown School of Engineering, in a news release. "I've been very curious about nitrogen chemistry, especially if I can design materials that clean water of nitrogen compounds like nitrites and nitrates."

The ability to transform these chemicals into ammonia is crucial because ammonia-based fertilizers are used for global food supplies and the traditional method of creating ammonia is energy intensive. Not only does this process eliminate that energy usage, but it's ridding the contaminated water of toxic chemicals.

"I'm excited about removing nitrite, forming ammonia and hydrazine, as well as the chemistry that we figured out about how all this happens," Wong says in the release. "The most important takeaway is that we learned how to clean water in a simpler way and created chemicals that are more valuable than the waste stream."