You are on page 1of 44

One hundred years ago, when Rice opened its doors, engineering was an essential part of the curriculum

. Edgar Odell Lovett’s vision was to create an institution that was relevant and he could see that Houston, with its growth and potential, needed engineers to build the infrastructure— the roads, petroleum industry and ship channel. That insight put Rice, from its inception, on track to being a strong engineering school, a path that we continue today. Our focus is to educate engineers who can be effective—who can be leaders—both nationally and globally. And to continue to be a relevant, vibrant institution, we rely on our alumni to help make things happen here. After spending a year as dean of engineering at Rice, I am struck by how much of what I do day-to-day involves our alumni. Educating top-notch engineers who can go out into the world and have a positive impact on people’s lives takes a lot of hard work. It makes an enormous difference to have the experience, insight and connections of our alumni helping us to achieve this.

The George R. Brown School of Engineering has a large number of loyal, successful alumni who attribute some of that success to their Rice experience. They want to give back to Rice and to help our students and faculty achieve their goals. This is the way it should be. They step up to support design projects at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. They support us by endowing faculty chairs that help us to retain and recruit star faculty. They give their time by getting involved with students in research, design projects and extracurricular activities. We deeply appreciate their contributions and we invite more of you to do the same. There are almost 11,000 living Rice Engineering alumni. I have met only a small fraction of you but I invite all of you to help us celebrate our first 100 years. Join us on campus October 12 at the Rice Engineering Alumni Association Honors Presentation at 4 p.m., then at the School of Engineering Reception which follows, both in Duncan Hall. In the meantime, let us hear from you—what has your engineering education at Rice given to you? What can you do to help us keep our engineering program strong? Just go to, click on Alumni Centennial Blog and add your remembrances and reflections. I look forward to hearing from you.

Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering

2 3 4 5 6 8 10 12 14 16 17 18 24 27 33 34 35 36 38 39 40
New faculty Entering ‘the biology age’ Going viral to fight cancer Shedding light on polymer-based solar cells Making sense of big data The challenge of the nonlinear Cleaning up concrete Robots and molecular behavior Neuroengineering: A new world for engineers Engineering courses online? Of Coursera! Algorithms that go with the flow 100 years of engineering at Rice Student awards Faculty awards REA distinguished service medal REA names outstanding alumni Kate Hallaway: Changing of the REA guard Alumni spotlight: Al Hirshberg REA awards picnic Calendar of events Parting shot

New faculty
Two new faculty members, Jacob Robinson and Isabell Thomann, have joined the George R. Brown School of Engineering this year. Both are in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Assistant Professor Jacob Robinson received his B.S. in physics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2003 and his M.S./Ph.D. in applied physics from Cornell University in 2008, where he wrote his thesis on nanoscale light confinement. At Cornell, working under Professor Michael Lipson, he developed silicon nanophotonic resonant cavities for sensing and enhancing the interaction between light and matter. His work led to the creation of new high-resolution, nearfield techniques to image the nanoscale optical modes confined in the cavities. Prior to coming to Rice, Robinson served as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard in the laboratory of Hongkun Park, where he created vertical silicon nanowires that can interface with living cells. His work has been published in Optics Express, Physical Review Letters, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Cell and Nature Nanotechnology. Robinson’s research interests include the potential applications for new biotechnology based on densely integrated nanoscale devices. His lab will focus on using emerging nanofabrication technology to develop large-scale, integrated bio-interfaces to provide experimental platforms for reverse-engineering neuronal circuits and will investigate the mechanistic cellular origins of neural diseases. Isabell Thomann joins the School of Engineering as an assistant professor. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1998 from Technische Universität Kaiserslautern in Germany and a diploma in 2001 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Thomann earned her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2009. While at UC Boulder, she was a member of JILA, the joint institute of UC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Upon graduation, she joined the research group of Professor Mark Brongersma at Stanford, where she was part of the pioneering research team attempting to prove that plasmonic resonances in metallic nanoparticles can be used to enhance the rate of solar fuel generation reactions. With a background in optics and solid-state physics, Thomann’s research interests include expanding the potential applications of nanophotonics to the conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels. Her work at Rice will focus on designing and fabricating novel metal semiconductor hybrid materials to improve photocatalytic performance. Another focus will be to develop nanophotonic scanning probe techniques and time-resolved spectroscopy tools to advance the in situ characterization of nanostructured photoelectrochemical systems. While at Stanford, Thomann received a postdoctoral fellowship from the German Research Foundation. She is a member of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, the Materials Research Society, and the International Society for Optics and Photonics. She also serves as a reviewer for scientific journals such as Physical Review Letters, Optics Letters and Optics Express.


Entering ‘the biology age’

Michael Deem

Marek Kimmel

Oleg Igoshin

Yousif Shamoo

The new interdisciplinary program in systems, synthetic and physical biology (SSPB) at Rice University has named its first director and is scheduled to begin enrolling doctoral students in the fall of 2013. The initiative is a joint venture between the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Wiess School of Natural Sciences. Michael Deem, the John W. Cox Professor in Bioengineering and professor of physics and astronomy, has been named director. “The timing is right. The faculty is enthusiastic and eager to launch an important graduate initiative,” said Edwin L. Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering. "This is a true partnership between the schools of natural science and engineering, and has the potential to put Rice at the front of this emerging field.” Founders of the program include Yousif Shamoo, professor of biochemistry and cell biology; Marek Kimmel, professor of statistics and of bioengineering; and Oleg Igoshin, assistant professor of bioengineering. The SSPB program will combine curricula and research from both engineering and natural science, and will build further collaborative relationships with the Texas Medical Center.

Deem described SSPB as “the intellectually exciting core of the life sciences in this century,” and added: “SSPB is at the heart of reading, understanding and using the elegant language of biology to construct and deconstruct genetic circuits that determine how cells operate, interact with each other and adapt to their environment. If we truly understand this language, we will be able to re-program cells to make new tissues, biofuels, materials and medicines.” The emerging discipline aims at understanding biology from the quantitative and molecular perspectives, aided by recent developments in theory, computation, singlemolecule spectroscopy, biomaterials and biotechnology. “Nature has a wealth of skills we have never fully harnessed for medicine and innovation," Shamoo said. Synthetic and systems biology will turn this century from the information to the biology age. New biomaterials and biomedicine will drive the engine of our economy and form the foundation of our future.” Included in the SSPB program on the engineering side are faculty members in bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, computer science and statistics. From natural science are faculty in the biochemistry and cell biology, chemistry, ecology and evolutionary biology, and physics and astronomy departments.


Going viral to fight cancer
Junghae Suh, assistant professor of bioengineering, develops virus nanoparticles to transport DNAbased technologies for the treatment of diseases. “As a research scientist focused on developing therapeutics, I have always been interested in applying my inventions for cancer therapy. My professional and personal lives converged several years ago when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This event has decisively altered the trajectory of my career,” Suh said. Suh’s family emigrated from Seoul, South Korea to the remote city of Bethel, Alaska in 1984, about the same time that medical scientists began doing research based on gene therapy. Suh was eight and dreamed of becoming a doctor. The thought of becoming a scientist came much later. “I always knew I wanted to do something to impact human health. But it wasn’t until a summer internship during college in a wound-care product development division that I realized I wanted to create my own devices. To do that, I needed to get smarter.” After matriculating from MIT in 1999 with a B.S. in chemical engineering, Suh entered the Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She worked in the laboratory of Professor Justin Hanes, one of the country’s leaders in synthetic nanotherapeutics, and learned to design and test nanoscale technologies. “Much of my work focused on intracellular transport of synthetic nanoparticles and how they work across length scales,” said Suh, who earned her Ph.D. in 2004. “I knew I had to learn to emulate Nature’s nanoparticle—the virus.”

Junghae Suh

Supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, Suh went to work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies’ Laboratory of Genetics, where she did basic research in Professor Matthew Weitzman’s laboratory, looking at how viruses manipulate human cells and how they might be engineered for biomedical use. Viruses are small supramolecular assemblies. They contain nucleic acid, DNA or RNA and are enclosed in a protein shell, or capsid. Their parasitic nature dictates they can only replicate by entering a cell’s nucleus and unloading their genetic cargo. At Salk, Suh began answering many of her questions about viruses, “such as how they navigate through the dense cytoplasm and gain access to the cell’s nucleus, unpack their genetic information, and use the host cellular environment to replicate.” When Suh joined Rice’s bioengineering program in 2007, she decided to combine her knowledge of viruses with engineering design principles to invent new virus-based nanotechnologies for cancer detection and treatment. “At the time my mom was diagnosed, I was expecting my first child. Cancer became this real thing when I realized there is a possibility she won’t get the chance to watch my son grow up. Today, the terrifying thought of hearing the words ‘metastatic cancer’ is what drives me,” said Suh. Through the support of a U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Concept Award and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Suh is programming virus nanoparticles to travel through the circulatory system in a locked, inert configuration until they come across metastatic cancer sites. Unique biomarkers present in the tumor microenvironment activate the nanoparticles, enabling them to bind and kill cancer cells. To translate these novel technologies, Suh has initiated inter-institutional collaborative projects with Anil Sood, M.D. and Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., both at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The projects are aimed at delivering DNA-based therapeutics to either kill tumor cells or to make them more sensitive to the toxic effects of chemotherapeutics.

Shedding light on polymer-based solar cells
The energy in one hour of sunlight is sufficient to meet the world’s power needs for a year, but Rafael Verduzco says we remain in the dark over how to costeffectively harness so sustainable a fuel source. “The answer is solar cells, what we call photovoltaic cells, but the cost is four to 10 times greater than using energy from fossil fuels. Our research focuses on a new approach to polymeric solar cells that should be more efficient and less costly,” said Verduzco, the Louis Owen Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University. Traditionally, solar cells have been silicon-based and the efficiency of their power conversion from sunlight to electricity is about 20 percent. The optimal efficiency of cheaper polymer-based solar cells is about eight percent. “Polymers are about the cheapest materials you can imagine, but there are a lot of basic scientific questions to be answered,” Verduzco said. A polymer-based photovoltaic (PV) cell requires two components—an electron-conductor and a holeconductor for transporting the negative and positive charges. In currently available polymer PVs, the hole conductor is made of a semi-conductive polymer and the electron-conductor of C60 fullerenes. This arrangement provides efficient charge transport, but the components in the active layer don’t combine well and result in poor photon absorption. The solution proposed by Verduzco and the student researchers in his lab is to make both conductors out of polymers and link their molecules at the nano-scale, a strategy called conjugated block copolymers. “This is still an open question. It’s risky but there’s potential for a big payoff,” said Verduzco, who earned a B.S. from Rice in 2001 and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 2007, both in chemical engineering. After two years as a postdoctoral associate in the Center for Nanophase Materials Science at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he joined the Rice faculty in 2009. Besides solar cells, Verduzco’s lab is also investigating the use of polymers in drug-delivery systems, shaperesponsive polymers for tissue engineering and non-stick coatings for the hulls of ships and other structures. Verduzco’s research is supported by the Welch Foundation, the Shell Center for Sustainability, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund and the National Science Foundation.


making sense of


Among the clients seeking Hadley Wickham’s help to manage and analyze large quantities of data are a shrimp farmer in Portugal, a cheese scientist in Denmark, an American airport architect and a planner at Disneyland hoping to figure out the most efficient way to manage long queues of customers. Statistics, in other words, isn’t what it used to be or what you might think it is. Today, much of the discipline is organized around “Big Data,” massive, unwieldy quantities of information that stubbornly resist understanding. “You might say that any data is big data if it’s too big, if it can’t fit into the memory of a single computer. Most of what I deal with is not that big in a relative sense. You might call the focus of my research ‘big small data,’” said Wickham, assistant professor of statistics at Rice University. Big data can be loosely defined as masses of information that defy management and analysis with conventional software. The notion is fluid, and some define big data as from 20 to 30 terabytes (or one billion bytes) to many petabytes (or one quadrillion bytes) of information in a single mass of data. After that comes the exabyte, or one quintillion bytes of information. “My basic strategy is to break down large quantities of information into smaller quantities, so they’re easier to work with. I want to make it accessible to a larger audience,” said Wickham, who earned his Ph.D. in statistics from Iowa State University in 2008 and joined the Rice faculty that year.

Hadley Wickham

Researchers estimate that 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created every day. That means roughly 90 percent of the data that exist have been created in the last two years, including everything from traffic behavior gathered by cameras, to social media communications, to cell phone signals. For instance, much of Allen’s medical work has focused on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a process that tracks changes in the metabolism of the brain in response to various cognitive or behavioral tasks. The images are analyzed to determine whether apparent differences reveal changes attributable to the experimental activity or to extraneous patient movements or physiological processes. “My interest is in developing mathematical tools to help scientists understand these massive amounts of data, sometimes billions of pieces of information,” said Genevera I. Allen, assistant professor of statistics, and of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. Allen earned her B.A. in statistics from Rice in 2006, her Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University in 2010 and joined the Rice faculty that same year. She is also on the faculty of the Baylor College of Medicine in its Department of PediatricsNeurology, and is a member of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital. Each portion of the fMRI image, the voxel, represents a specific location in the brain, and each voxel is measured every few seconds. The voxels have both spatial and temporal dependencies. By mathematically modeling their space/time structure directly, Allen hopes the researchers can better understand the biological regions of interest in the brain. “This work has obvious applications in an area that’s getting more attention all the time—Alzheimer’s disease. We’d like to be able to model the healthy brain and a brain showing early symptoms of the disease,” said Allen, who received an NSF grant in June to study multivariate analysis. For more than a decade, Wickham has been a user and developer of R, an open source programming language and software environment used in statistical computing and graphics. He first encountered R as an undergraduate in statistics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where R was created. His research focuses largely on data analysis and developing tools to help understand complex statistical models through visualization. Wickham has developed some of the most popular R packages, including ggplot2, plyr and reshape. “When you’re working with large quantities of data, it’s important to determine what’s relevant and what isn’t, what’s important and what isn’t. In my work, we try to build models and say this is real and this isn’t,” Allen said. Her goal is to develop mathematical and statistical tools, including convex optimization, multivariate analysis, and machine learning, and apply them to high-dimensional biological data. In this way, researchers can better distinguish biological reality (“signal”) from extraneous information (“noise”). Wickham’s R packages are used for complex statistical analysis by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratories, Mozilla Labs and the Vanderbilt University Center for Human Genetics Research. His ggplot2 was used by a doctoral student at New York University to visualize the Wikileaks data. “My approach is to give people flexibility,” Wickham said. “I want to help them look at a small sub-set of data, so then can then scale it up.

Tools of the Big Data trade
“In 10 years, I hope to be doing something in ‘Big Data’ that I can’t even imagine now. That’s what it’s like now compared to where we were 10 years ago when I got my Ph.D.” That’s Christopher M. Jermaine, associate professor of computer science at Rice University, who has inherited what he calls “a heavily instrumented world.” Every key stroke, every nanosecond of imagery captured by surveillance cameras, every visit to the doctor—all of that information is stored and available for analysis. “What we’ve learned in the last decade is that these repositories are useful for more than storage. We used to call this ‘data warehousing.’ They’re like big books waiting for someone to read them,” said Jermaine, who earned his Ph.D. from the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology in 2002, after which he joined the computer science department at the University of Florida. He came to Rice in 2009. Until around 2006, the software products available for analyzing large amounts of data were proprietary products marketed by companies such as IBM. Then open-source tools for large-scale data management such as Hadoop became available. Jermaine and his students are working on a tool called SimSQL, which runs on top of Hadoop and allows programmers to easily write machine-learning programs that can utilize hundreds of computers to analyze data. “Sometimes you start with a hypothesis and you’re looking for something very specific in the data, but not always. Sometimes the things that are most valuable are things you didn’t expect and have never seen before. That’s the sort of thing we want to make possible,” said Jermaine, whose lab includes seven Ph.D. students and two postdoctoral researchers. Jermaine has three active National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. One of them, shared with the School of Biomedical Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, focuses on statistical models and algorithms for quantifying and correcting errors in clinical data warehouse records. Another is devoted to the DBO Database System, which uses sampling algorithms to produce statistical estimates for final query answers. With Peter Haas at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., Jermaine and some of his students developed the Monte Carlo database system (MCDB) for managing uncertain data. This is the subject of Jermaine’s third NSF grant. With this tool, researchers can bring complex stochastic analytics close to the data. His group also works with the Texas Medical Center to develop algorithms to identify patients likely to experience difficulties associated with anesthesia. “People want to make sense of all this information. The goal is to understand the data so thoroughly that we can see causes and make these connections in advance,” Jermaine said.


Genevera Allen

“This work has obvious applications in an area that’s getting more attention all the time—Alzheimer’s disease. We’d like to be able to model the healthy brain and a brain showing early symptoms of the disease.” —Genevera Allen

Chris Jermaine


When a system displays nonlinear behavior, effects are often not proportional to their causes. Unexpected, sometimes undesirable things can happen. Chaos is a definite possibility. “Just about everything is nonlinear. It’s something we learn to live with, but in many engineering applications we must deal with it. In the area of dynamics and vibration, that can be a real challenge,” said Andrew J. Dick, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Rice University. One practical application of Dick’s research into nonlinearity involves atomic force microscopes (AFM). Less than 30 years old, the device is a high-resolution form of microscopy useful in characterizing and manipulating matter at the micro- and nano-scales. Typically, an AFM consists of a cantilever probe with a pointed tip. The atomic interaction between the probe tip and the sample under study is intrinsically nonlinear. Dick’s research suggests not a redesign of the AFM but new ways in which the use of the device might be improved, resulting in less impact between the probe and the sample, less risk of damage

the challenge of the

to the sample, and higher-resolution images.

“I’ve always been one to figure out puzzles. That’s part of the appeal of engineering and math—why does something happen the way it does?” said Dick, who received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2007, and joined the Rice faculty the same year. For the U.S. Air Force, Dick is studying “collision events,” trying to determine precisely what happens when one object—say, an artillery shell or other projectile—strikes another. Customarily, the useful data is lost on impact. Dick models such events, measuring velocity and force to study wave propagation. “This is basic research, building on math and physics. It also has applications in other areas, such as the blasting and drilling methods used in gas and oil production,” said Dick, who spent two summers as a faculty fellow with the Air Force.

HigH impact
senior design
What do you get when you combine a slingshot, a fish tank, a stack of 2-by-4s and five engineering students determined to help the United States Air Force? For Team CADET, whose adviser was Andrew Dick, the answer was a device to stop high-velocity projectiles without destroying them. With the Air Force’s current testing methods, artillery shells are destroyed beyond recovery. The Air Force wants to know more about their behavior as they accelerate and decelerate. “The challenge was to simulate high acceleration impacts in a non-destructive way and it turned out to have a hands-on, mechanical engineering focus,” said Duncan Eddy, a senior in mechanical engineering and member of the Controllable Acceleration-Deceleration Equipment Tester design team. The other members graduated in May: Autumn Allen, Tremayne Kaseman, William Li and John Stretton. The Air Force simulates deceleration by firing cannons into walls. The strategy is expensive and the sensor module and target are destroyed in the process. CADET’s goal was to sustain deceleration for at least 10 milliseconds without destruction. In the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, they machined a cylinder of aircraft-gauge aluminum, sealed a digital accelerometer inside and built a 14-foot wooden frame to hold a track of angle iron. On one end, they attached a slingshot made of surgical tubing; on the other, above the track, they fitted a 20-gallon fish tank of transparent plastic. Into Dick has also worked with Satish Nagarajaiah, Rice professor of civil and environmental engineering, and of mechanical engineering and materials science, studying the non-linear behavior of structures during earthquakes. Their goal is the attenuation of vibrations in buildings and bridges through the use of vibration absorbers. In addition to nonlinear vibrations and dynamics, Dick’s research interests include impact dynamics, reduced order modeling and signal analysis. the bottom of the tank they drilled a line of 40 holes and sealed them with a removable rubber sheet. When the cylinder holding the accelerometer is fired with the slingshot, reaching a maximum velocity of 50 mph, the sheet is pulled and the water released. The falling water slows the cylinder, and the rate of deceleration is measured and recorded on the accelerometer. You can read more about this project and see a video demonstration at

Concrete is the most widely used synthetic material in the world. With more than 20 billion tons manufactured annually, it is also the third-largest manmade source of carbon dioxide, after the internal combustion engine and the generation of electricity. “It is a dirty material, not good for the environment, but it is also very good at what it does. Who can imagine a human environment without concrete? No roads? No buildings? It’s the only sustainable solution for the construction sector,” said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, who devotes his research to re-inventing cement, an essential ingredient in concrete. To begin with, definitions: Concrete and cement are not synonymous. Concrete is a composite material consisting of aggregate (gravel, crushed stone, sand), water and cement. Cement, often called Portland cement, is the binder for the aggregate, what Shahsavari calls “the glue that holds it all together.” The manufacture of cement results in five to 10 percent of all manmade carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. 1,000 kilograms of cement produced, and more rigorous emission standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency threaten to push the cement industry out of the U.S. and into developing countries. “It’s an energy-intensive material. Much work goes into its manufacture,” Shahsavari said. Cement manufacturing releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in two ways. When calcium carbonate, a key ingredient in most cement processing, is heated, it produces lime and CO2. In addition, the gas is a significant byproduct of the energy burned in cement manufacturing. Shahsavari’s strategy for solving the CO2 problem involves the problem to the sequencing of the human genome. “Think of it as the concrete genome. As engineers, we want to recombine the genetic material, substitute other materials in different proportions and make something new at the molecular level,” he said. Working with two doctoral students and a postdoc in his lab, Shahsavari begins with the assumption that tinkering with the ingredients without altering the essential reliability and low cost of cement is the goal.


cleaning up

Almost 800 kilograms of CO2 are released for every

“We are,” he said, “unraveling the interplay between the chemistry, topological functionalization and mechanics of the basic building block of concrete, calcium-silicate-hydrate (C-S-H). We’re encoding a set of functions on series of molecular C-S-H models.” Shahsavari earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010 and joined the Rice faculty the following year. While at MIT, he was part of a research team that determined that the calcium-silica-hydrate in cement is not a crystal. Rather, it’s a hybrid material sharing characteristics with both crystalline structures and the amorphous structure of frozen liquids. Shahsavari speculates that through molecular manipulation, cement might be developed that not only mitigates CO2 emissions during manufacturing but will possess superior physical properties as it hardens. “This is what people are calling ‘green’ cement, cement that is still strong and efficient but safer for the environment,” he said.

reexamining the fundamentals of cement chemistry. He likens

concrete facts

hard facts on cement

Kilning limestone for cement dates back to 7000 B.C., and represents the first known industrial process. There is no such thing as a cement sidewalk or a cement mixer. The proper terms are concrete sidewalk and concrete mixer. By volume, cement comprises 10 to 15 percent of concrete. Robert Courland, author of Concrete Planet, estimates there are about 40 tons of concrete on the planet for every person alive, with another ton per person added yearly. About a ton of carbon dioxide is emitted for every ton of cement produced. Last year, the world produced 3.6 billion tons of cement.

In 2008, the U.S. consumed 93.6 million tons of cement, a 15.2 percent drop from the previous year. The decrease was attributed to the mortgage foreclosure crisis and resulting economic recession. In 2011, about 66 million tons of cement and 1.8 million tons of masonry cement were produced at 103 plants in 35 states. The sales value was about $6.6 billion. Most of it went to make concrete worth $37 billion. In descending order, Texas, California, Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Alabama were the seven leading cement-producing states, accounting for 53 percent of U.S. production. Almost two-thirds of U.S. cement consumption occurs between May and October.


When Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering, conducts one of her weekly meetings with the undergraduates, graduate students and post docs in her group, you can expect a stimulating academic discussion that leads to new ideas, but also the high spirits and overlapping conversations of a group of good friends. Because Kavraki’s research has branched into two complementary disciplines—bioinformatics and robotics—the students in her Biological and Physical Computing Lab reflect those interests and manage to learn from one another. Kavraki and Mark Moll, a research scientist and co-director of the lab, work to instill a hunger for excellence without compromising the relaxed, collegial atmosphere. “As a graduate student, once you have your problem to work on, it’s tempting to disappear into a hole for months and work on it,” said Matthew Maly, a third-year graduate student in computer science who studies robotics. “One of the advantages of Professor Kavraki’s meetings is the intellectual broadening you get. I’m not in bioinformatics, but I’ve learned a lot about it just by paying attention. There’s also something invigorating about those weekly meetings.” Kavraki is passing along at least two intellectual legacies. In robotics, she has developed algorithms that permit collisionfree paths for complex and highly articulated robots. In bioinformatics, she has focused on the three-dimensional structure and flexibility of molecules, and the ways in which they interact with other biomolecules. She traces this pairing of interests to her childhood fascination with shape and motion. “I am captivated by research that gives robots the ability to move in constrained physical environments. This research has been the initial inspiration for our efforts to understand the dynamic behavior and interactions of complex molecules,” said Kavraki, a native of Greece who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Crete, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1995, both in computer science. She joined the Rice faculty in 1996 and has a joint appointment to the program in structural and computational biology and molecular biophysics at the Baylor College of Medicine. Devin Grady, a fifth-year graduate student in computer science, applied to Rice in 2008 because he wanted to study robotics. Although he initially declined Rice’s admission offer, mostly because of the algorithmic focus of Kavraki’s lab, he changed his mind after a phone call from her. “Professor Kavraki called me and talked to me for an hour. I realized that what really interested me was the computer science aspect of robotics, the algorithms behind it. She made me feel like I was wanted here,” said Grady, who earned his master’s degree in computer science in 2011 and expects to get his Ph.D. in 2013. He works on devising motion policies for robots with limited sensing capabilities.

Among her many honors, Kavraki won the Duncan Award for excellence in research and teaching at Rice in 2004. She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and World Technology Network. She is co-author of Principles of Robot Motion, published in 2005 by MIT Press. Her contributions to robotics have been recognized with one of the most prestigious awards of the ACM, the Grace Murray Hopper Award. Ankur Dhanik earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 2010 from Stanford University, where his adviser was the robotics researcher Jean-Claude Latombe, who had also served as Kavraki’s adviser. In 1996, Kavraki and Latombe published “Probabilistic roadmaps for path planning in high-dimensional configuration spaces,” a paper that revolutionized motion planning for robots. “I first met Professor Kavraki at Stanford when she was visiting. She is one of the reasons I came to Rice,” said Dhanik, who joined the Rice computer science department as a postdoctoral research associate in 2010. Dhanik has pursued the computational biology side of Kavraki’s work. In collaboration with colleagues at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, he studies how cancer cells and the drugs that treat them interact at the molecular level. “Professor Kavraki is an inspiration. She is very clearminded. She knows at every moment what she is doing, and her example makes you want to be as thoughtful and careful as she is,” Dhanik said. Drew Bryant first met Kavraki in 2004 during a bioengineering summer internship. Throughout his undergraduate years he worked in her lab and earned a B.S. in bioengineering in 2007. After six months working for a biotech company in San Francisco, he returned to Rice, got his master’s degree in computer science in 2010 and defended his Ph.D. thesis in May 2012. He now works as a software development engineer for in Seattle. “My work involved investigating and predicting the interactions of proteins with other molecules in the cell. Our improved understanding will allow us to engineer better drugs,” Bryant said. Kavraki taught him, Bryant said, not only the intellectual content of his discipline, but how to conduct himself as an engineer and how to write effectively. “She teaches you to be a complete person,” he said.


Robots and molecular behavior

“I am captivated by research that gives robots the ability to move in constrained physical environments. This research has been the initial inspiration for our efforts to understand the dynamic behavior and interactions of complex molecules.” —Lydia Kavraki

Listen to neuroengineers talk among themselves and you might mistake their more animated flights of conversation for science fiction. For instance, take Caleb Kemere, who recently joined the department of electrical and computer engineering (ECE) at Rice University as an assistant professor: “I have seen a memory in a brain. I can look at thoughts as they’re happening. I’ve looked into a hippocampus and said, ‘There it is. He’s having a memory right now, and I can see it.’ It’s an amazing thing, and I’m seeing it in real time.” Or Jacob Robinson, another recent arrival on the ECE faculty: “It’s amazing to see two cells talking to each other. It’s like eavesdropping, and we’re listening in on their conversation. This is something we couldn’t do until recently.” Both men are sober researchers, practitioners in a newly minted and still loosely defined discipline that draws from neuroscience, biomedical engineering and physical medicine and rehabilitation, as well as electrical engineering and other fields. Robinson, who is an assistant professor, likens neuroengineering today to the promise posed by physics a century ago: “Think of Einstein early in the 20th century, and think of how his work changed the world in just a few years. A flood of new techniques, often borrowed from disciplines like physics and engineering, are enabling us to study the brain at a level of detail that has never before been possible.”

Caleb Kemere

Recently organized is the Center for NeuroEngineering (CNE), bringing together researchers from Rice, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center. Its mission has been defined as “the analysis and control of the nervous system in order to enhance and restore neuronal function.” Robinson defines the emerging discipline as “engineers moving in the direction of neuroscience.” He notes that “circuits” are present in both electronics and the central nervous system, including the brain. He and his students in the Robinson Research Group study the behavior of neural circuits using nano-fabricated devices in tandem with optical, genetic and electrophysiological techniques. The conversations between cells involve thousands to millions of neurons. The challenge is to monitor the activity of all the cells involved in making decisions within the brain. Using new nanofabrication technology, he hopes to make such measurements possible. For instance, his lab uses vertical nanowires to deliver biomolecules into living cells, including neurons. Robinson’s chief interest is in the interface between cells and manmade circuitry, what he calls “plugging into the brain.”

a new world for engineers
Rob Raphael, associate professor of bioengineering, organized the Membrane and Auditory Bioengineering Group when he joined the Rice faculty in 2001. His research focuses on prestin, a membrane protein that converts electrical signals into mechanical motions. “From a materials perspective,” he said, “prestin is a nanoelectromechanical device that enables us to hear high frequencies.” By taking an engineering approach to the molecular and biophysical basis of hearing, his lab has made fundamental contributions to auditory bioengineering. It built the first systems-biology model of ion homeostasis in the inner ear, collaborated on research into the feasibility of an optical cochlear implant and developed microfabricated devices to electrically and mechanically manipulate cells. Raphael has taught courses in neuroengineering since 2003, and has long believed it represents a strategic opportunity for Rice: “Our traditional strengths in signal processing, computational modeling, biomaterials and nanotechnology, coupled with new thrusts in systems and synthetic biology make it an ideal place to build a cross-departmental initiative in neuroengineering.”


Much of Kemere’s research is devoted to the hippocampus, the region in the brain where spatial learning takes place and where memories are formed, stored and used. Injury or disease in the hippocampal circuit can lead to memory problems, such as those associated with Alzheimer’s and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression and anxiety. Kemere aims at understanding the hippocampus at the systems level in healthy brains, how it goes wrong and what can be done to change how it functions. “We’re starting with basic brain science, learning how it works,” he said. “Can studying a traumatic memory in a rat help us understand the human brain? We’re recording the activity of dozens of neurons in behaving rodents and manipulating genetically-selected populations of neurons using light, a technique known as “optogenetics.” By using information decoded from neural activity, Kemere can manipulate the hippocampal circuit. Detecting the neural activity that underlies individual memories in real-time, he hopes to selectively inhibit the recall or long-term storage of trauma. “Truly, our field is in its infancy, but I can foresee a time when we’ll be able to treat and maybe even eliminate such human diseases as drug addiction, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Who knows where it may lead?” Kemere asked.

Jacob Robinson

Rob Raphael


student awards
Marshall Scholarship
Kareem Ayoub, who graduated from Rice University in May with his degree in bioengineering, was among 41 students nationwide selected to receive a Marshall Scholarship which permits American students to pursue two years of graduate study at any educational institution in the United Kingdom. Calling the scholarship “an immense honor,” Ayoub plans to complete a master’s degree in neuroscience at Oxford University and a master’s in experimental neuroscience at Imperial College in London. From his freshman year at Rice, Ayoub conducted research in neuroimaging at Baylor College of Medicine. Focused on creating better presurgical planning for children with epilepsy, he co-authored several publications. During the summer of 2011, he collaborated with researchers at the Oxford Functional MRI Brain Centre through funding from Rice’s Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship. Upon returning to the U.S., Ayoub plans to pursue an M.D./ Ph.D. in neurosurgery and to promote a collaborative scientific culture internationally. “Ultimately, by practicing science in a global framework, scientists can work more intimately with our society and inspire the next generation of scientists, physicians and engineers,” Ayoub said. “This is an exciting time and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Udall Scholarship
Christina Hughes, a senior civil engineering major, was one of 80 students selected to receive a Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholarship, which recognizes the top sophomores and juniors nationwide who are committed to careers related to the environment. Active in Rice’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, Hughes has worked with the group since she was a freshman. She spent last summer in Brisbane, Australia, working for the global engineering firm Arup, one of the world’s leaders in sustainable infrastructure engineering. Hughes was born in Houston and her father worked for a large oil company, so she moved often and had lived on four continents before arriving at Rice in 2009. She said her interest in environmental issues began while she was in high school and living in Hong Kong. “I don’t really have a defining moment when I became passionate about the environment, but one course in particular that really shaped my outlook was [Director of Sustainability] Richard Johnson’s Environmental Studies 302 about sustainability at Rice,” Hughes said. “I learned a lot about locally based environmental initiatives and it gave me the opportunity to develop one myself—a pilot project for a campus bike-share program. I’ve been hooked on the idea of sustainability ever since.” After graduating next spring, Hughes said she plans to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering and possibly a global master’s in development practice.

“Ultimately, by practicing science in a global framework, scientists can work more intimately with our society and inspire the next generation of scientists, physicians and engineers.” —Kareem Ayoub


Kareem Ayoub, Christina Hughes, Rahul Rekhi, Stephanie Tzouanas

Truman Scholarship
Rahul Rekhi is a senior majoring in bioengineering and economics, and one of 54 students selected for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 for graduate study and is among the nation’s most coveted undergraduate awards. He’ll use the scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in bioengineering and a master’s in public policy so he can work at the nexus of science, health and policy as a biomedical researcher and a national policymaker. Since his freshman year, Rekhi, who is also a 2011 Goldwater Scholar, conducted research on the computer modeling of angiogenesis under the direction of Assistant Professor of Bioengineering Amina Qutub. He has coauthored broadly on computational bioengineering, angiogenesis, synthetic biology, health policy, science policy and bioethics, and has presented papers at several national conferences. He serves as an editor of the Rice undergraduate science journal, Catalyst, and his bioengineering design team has a provisional patent pending on a cellphone-based bilirubinometer. “Through these experiences, I’ve realized that my broader social mandate as a bioengineer is not just to discover and design treatments in the lab, but also to help make those technologies broadly accessible, affordable and in sync with public policy,” he said. “This, I believe, is my civic duty, and the Truman gives me a chance to act on it.”

Goldwater Scholarship
Stephanie Tzouanas, a junior, was one of 282 students to receive a 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. She has conducted research at Rice and at the National University of Singapore. Majoring in bioengineering and minoring in anthropology and global health technologies, the Rice Century Scholar has studied bone-regeneration materials and techniques in the lab of Antonios Mikos since the summer after her junior year at Clear Lake High School. Century Scholars receive a two-year merit-scholarship and a research stipend for their work. She did research into angiogenesis as it pertains to bone regeneration in Professor M. Raghunath’s Tissue Modulation Laboratory at the National University of Singapore under a Global Engineering Research Scholarship. She volunteers at Texas Children's Hospital. Tzouanas will chair the 2013 Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium. She is currently president of the Rice Biomedical Engineering Society and the Rice Society of Women Engineers, and is the Class of 2014 Representative to the Centennial Commission Advisory Board. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a doctorate in bioengineering to develop novel techniques to promote bone regeneration and treat hard-to-heal bone defects. The Goldwater Foundation, which awards the scholarship, aims to “provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.”


NSF Graduate Research Fellowships
Fourteen current and former Rice engineering graduate and undergraduate students received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships in 2012. Their names, engineering majors and the institutions where they are pursuing doctoral degrees in engineering are: Christopher Alex Arevalos, bioengineering, Rice University Mario Javier Bencomo, computational and applied mathematics, Rice University Frederick Campbell, statistics, Rice University Zachary Crannell, bioengineering, Rice University Michael Eastwood, computational and applied mathematics, University of Chicago Peter Howard Fobel, civil engineering, University of California, Berkeley Hunter Gilbert, mechanical engineering, Vanderbilt University Georgia Kerasia Lagoudas, bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley Joao Paulo Mattos Almeida, bioengineering, Rice Universityy David Aaron Moses, bioengineering, University of California, San Diego Stacy Lee Prukop, chemical engineering, Rice University Anthony Clyde Simms, computational and applied mathematics, Rice University Elizabeth Scott Van Italie, computational and applied mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology David Aaron Younger, bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley The fellowships recognize and support outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in the U.S. and abroad. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees, a one-time international travel allowance and the freedom to conduct research at any accredited U.S. of foreign institution of graduate education.

P.E.O. Scholar
Rebecca Dahlin, a fourth-year graduate student in bioengineering, is among the 85 female doctoral candidates from the United States and Canada to receive a 2012-2013 Scholar Award from P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) International. The Georgetown, Texas chapter of the organization nominated Dahlin for the merit-based scholarship that includes a one-time gift of $15,000. Dahlin is in the research group headed by Antonios Mikos, developing tissue engineering techniques to improve treatment of articular cartilage defects. She has designed a flow perfusion bioreactor to culture articular chondrocytes and bone marrowderived mesenchymal stem cells on porous polymer scaffolds. “Rebecca is a truly exceptional graduate student and is making outstanding progress in her research to advance technologies for cartilage regeneration. I am thrilled for her and for this tremendous opportunity,” said Mikos, the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and director of the Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering at Rice. Dahlin is also a student of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Med Into Grad program run by Rice and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The training program in Translational Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics Research for Bioengineers and Biophysicists integrates cancer biology, clinical medicine, translational research and bioengineering.


National Academy of Engineering
Rice University bioengineer Antonios Mikos, a pioneer in the field of tissue engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), among the highest professional honors accorded an engineer. Counting 2012’s 66 new members, the academy’s membership is just 2,254. Mikos is the 14th active NAE member at Rice. Mikos, the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering, is director of Rice’s Center for Excellence in Tissue Engineering. In selecting Mikos, the NAE singled out his “advances in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, biomaterials and drug delivery, including development of biodegradable polymers.” “Tony Mikos has made truly seminal contributions to biomaterials for tissue engineering,” said Edwin L. Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at Rice. “His group is world-class in the molecular design, synthesis, processing and properties of hydrogels for enabling tissue and bone regeneration.” Mikos, 51, joined the Rice faculty in 1992. His lab uses synthetic, biodegradable polymers as scaffolds for tissue engineering, carriers for controlled drug delivery and nonviral vectors for gene therapy. Mikos has won numerous awards for the development of novel orthopedic, dental, cardiovascular, neurologic and ophthalmologic biomaterials. He has authored more than 430 publications, edited 14 books and is a founding editor and editor-in-chief of the journals Tissue Engineering Part A, Tissue Engineering Part B: Reviews and Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods. His research has been cited more than 28,000 times and he holds 25 patents. Mikos is president of the North American Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society, and he is the organizer of Advances in Tissue Engineering, a continuing-education course that has been offered annually at Rice since 1993. He has mentored 50 graduate students and 33 postdoctoral fellows. Among his notable research accomplishments, Mikos and his associates have created novel materials based on fumaric acid, a natural product found in mammalian cell metabolism. His lab has also developed techniques for growing new bone and cartilage tissue by seeding scaffolds with cells. Mikos’ numerous honors include the Founders Award from the Society for Biomaterials; the Meriam/Wiley Distinguished Author Award from the American Society for Engineering Education; the Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer Award from the Biomedical Engineering Society; the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas; and the Orthopaedic Research Society’s Marshall R. Urist Award for Excellence in Tissue Regeneration Research. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering, the Controlled Release Society and the Biomedical Engineering Society.

“Tony Mikos has made truly seminal contributions to biomaterials for tissue engineering.” —Dean Ned Thomas


Junghae Suh, assistant professor of bioengineering, received a prestigious National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Award. In her research into new strategies for combatting breast cancer, Suh works in association with Jonathan Silberg, assistant professor of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. Their goal is to create a virus-based gene-therapy delivery technique keyed to the disease. Suh’s research group, based in the BioScience Research Collaborative, pursues a strategy that extends the reach of biomolecular targeting. “Biomarkers are rarely unique,” she said. “They exist everywhere; it just happens that maybe there are slightly more of them on breast cancer cells. So it’s really difficult to achieve specificity by targeting a single biomarker.” Suh plans to develop viruses with levels of encryption that can be “unlocked” only by the recognition of multiple cell-surface biomarkers. Then they can release their cancer-killing payloads into tumors. “I think our approach is unique,” she said. “And the combination of everything we’ve put together is unique and very exciting.” Seed money for the project came from a Hamill Innovation Grant awarded to Suh and Silberg in 2008. Suh received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 2004 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Suh joined the Rice faculty in 2007. CAREER Awards go to young scholars judged likely to become leaders in their fields. Some 400 are given each year. The five-year grant to Suh totals $440,000.

The computational theorist was given the engineering award “for fundamental theoretical work that brought new tools and ideas to vaccine design, mathematical biology and nanoporous materials structure.” The John W. Cox Professor of Bioengineering and professor of physics and astronomy uses tools from statistical physics to study problems related to evolution, immunology and materials. He received the award in January at the academy’s annual conference in Houston. Deem has developed methods for predicting vaccine effectiveness and for determining which strain of the flu to cover in annual vaccine formulations. His pepitope measure of antigenic distance explains how the influenza vaccine can have both positive and negative efficacy and has proven to be more predictive than the gold-standard animal model studies used by the World Health Organization. Deem has received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. Deem is a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for the 2012-2013 year. The O’Donnell Award includes a $25,000 honorarium, a citation and an inscribed statue. It was named after Dallas philanthropists Edith and Peter O’Donnell, and was established in 2006.

TAMEST O’Donnell Award
Rice University bioengineer and physicist Michael Deem has earned one of the highest scientific honors in Texas, the O’Donnell Award from The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas.


ASME and SWE Honors
Yildiz Bayazitoglu, the Harry S. Cameron Chair in Mechanical Engineering, has been doubly recognized for her “distinctive contributions” to engineering by being elected an honorary member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and receiving the highest honor given by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Honorary membership is the highest honor bestowed by the ASME Board of Governors, who wrote in their citation to Bayazitoglu: “For outstanding contributions in transforming fundamental research to engineering applications such as photo-thermal cancer therapy, space waste-heat recovery and nano-composite materials processing; for dedicated service to engineering societies; and for being an inspirational mentor to women and minority engineers.” Bayazitoglu is also receiving SWE’s 2012 Achievement Award, its highest honor. The award is presented annually to a woman who has made an “outstanding contribution over a significant period of time in a field of engineering.” Bayazitoglu, a native of Turkey, received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1974 and joined the Rice faculty in 1977. At Rice she has been the recipient of several teaching, mentoring and research awards, including the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 1999, the Hershel M. Rich Outstanding Invention Award in 2002 and the Rice University Presidential Mentoring Award in 2005. Bayazitoglu will be formally inducted Nov. 12 during the Honors Assembly at the ASME 2012 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition in Houston. She will be recognized at SWE’s awards banquet at the WE12 Conference in Houston on Nov. 9.

Guggenheim Fellowship
Luay Nakhleh, associate professor of computer science, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship to further his research creating new tools and methods for tracing genetic histories and the genetic links between species. Nakhleh and Rice alumni Dornith Doherty ’80 and Nets Katz ’90 were among the 181 Guggenheim Fellows announced in April. The scholars, artists and scientists represent 54 disciplines and were chosen from nearly 3,000 applicants. Funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the fellowships are awarded on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise to allow recipients six months to a year in which they can work with creative freedom. Nakhleh, who is also an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and of biochemistry and cell biology, was one of two recipients in the Guggenheim category of organismic biology and ecology. The award will help further his research into new methodologies and software to study the history of both specific genes and entire genomes. Historically, researchers have adapted a familiar “familytree” model for mapping out the lineage of genes. These “gene trees” show how genes have evolved from species to species through time. Nakhleh said gene trees are useful, but they do not capture the full complexity of evolution.

DARPA Young Faculty Award
Aydin Babakhani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Rice Integrated Systems and Circuits Laboratory, is the recipient of a Young Faculty Award (YFA) from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research and development agency for the U.S. Department of Defense. The objective of the YFA program is to identify and engage rising research stars in junior faculty positions at U.S. academic institutions and familiarize them with the needs of the Department of Defense. The YFA totals about $300,000 and is given to researchers whose work leads to advances in technologies and systems of strategic importance. “This is a prestigious award. We’re all delighted to learn that Aydin was selected from among the very best to receive it,” said Behnaam Aazhang, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and chair of electrical and computer engineering. Babakhani is implementing advanced radiating circuits and highfrequency transceiver systems on a conventional silicon process technology. “With today’s CMOS technology,” he said, “we are able to integrate antennas, radar transceivers and digital circuitry on a single chip. This unprecedented level of integration provides a unique opportunity for implementing extremely agile radar systems.” Babakhani joined the Rice faculty in July 2011. He received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Caltech in 2008, and worked as a research scientist at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center before coming to Rice.

ASEE Outstanding Educator
Brent C. Houchens, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Rice University, received the 2012 Outstanding New Mechanical Engineering Educator Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). In 2007, Houchens founded DREAM—Desiging with Rice Engineers–An Austin High School Mentorship Program—with the aim of increasing the number of underrepresented minority students earning undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 120 engineering undergraduates at Rice have worked with students from three Houston-area Title I secondary schools. Five of Houchens' former undergraduates have been awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and two won the C.D. Broad Fellowship for a year of study at Cambridge University.

Houchens earned a B.S. in 2000, a master’s degree in 2001, and a Ph.D. in 2005, all in mechanical engineering, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the Rice faculty in 2005. Houchens has also received the Claude L. Wilson Educator of the Year Award from the South Texas Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The honor recognizes his “contributions to developing engineers for the benefit of society which will advance civilization.” The award is due in part to Houchens’ role as chapter advisor to the Rice ASME student group.

ACM SIGDA Outstanding New Faculty
Farinaz Koushanfar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the winner of this year’s Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group on Design Automation Outstanding New Faculty Award. She received the honor at the annual Design Automation Conference in San Diego in June. The award is given each year to a junior faculty member whose research contributions are likely to make a significant impact. Koushanfar has won several other awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award. Her work has focused on improving the design and operation of energy-efficient and secure computer systems, hardware-based security, intellectual property protection, and embedded systems. Koushanfar is also a co-principal investigator of Trust-Hub, an NSFfunded open-source community research initiative providing a unique forum to exchange ideas, circuits, platforms, tools and resources.

NWRI Clarke Prize
Pedro J. Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering, has been awarded the prestigious Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for “excellence in water research” by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI). The NWRI lauded Alvarez for his “global leadership and contributions to enhancing water resource sustainability through water pollution control” and singled out his pioneering research in bioremediation and environmental nanotechnology. Alvarez received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 1992 from the University of Michigan. From 1993 to 2003 he was at the University of Iowa, where he served as associate director of the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing. He became a full professor in 2001 and joined the Rice faculty in 2004. He has served as department chair since 2005. Earlier this year, he joined the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the invitation of the agency’s director, Lisa Jackson. Alvarez is former president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and is an editor of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology. The Clarke Prize includes a medallion, $50,000 and an awards dinner. Alvarez will receive the honor Nov. 2 at the 19th annual NWRI Clarke Prize Lecture and Award Ceremony in Orange County, Calif. The prize was established in 1993 to honor NWRI’s co-founder, the late Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke.

IEEE Fellow
Lydia E. Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and professor of bioengineering, has been named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE has more than 385,000 members in 160 countries. Fellow designation is the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as an important career achievement. Kavraki has published more than 140 papers on such topics as robotics and computer science, computational biology, bioinformatics and metabolic network analysis, and co-authored Principles of Robot Motion, published in 2005 by MIT Press. Kavraki serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Robotics Research, the Springer-Verlag Advanced Robotics Series, the ACM/ IEEE Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and the Computer Science Review. She is a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and World Technology Network. She has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Early Academic Career Award, and a Sloan Fellowship. Kavraki won the Duncan Award for excellence in research and teaching at Rice in 2004. A native of Greece, Kavraki earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Crete and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, also in computer science, in 1995.

Ma, professor of bioengineering at Rice and the Lodwick T. Bolin Professor of Biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine, was honored for “seminal contributions to the molecular bioengineering and biophysics fields, particularly in the development of multiscale computational methods for studying flexible supramolecular complexes.”

AIMBE Fellows
Rice professors Jianpeng Ma and Kyriacos Zygourakis have been elected fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). Fellows are nominated annually by their peers and represent the top two percent of the medical and biological engineering community. In addition to medical and biological engineers, AIMBE represents academic institutions, private industry and professional engineering societies. Ma and Zygourakis were inducted in February during a ceremony at AIMBE’s 21st annual event in Washington, D.C.

Ma develops algorithms for computer simulations of supramolecular complexes. His methods for structural refinement at lower resolutions, such as X-ray crystallography to decipher the three-dimensional arrangement of atoms, have deepened the field of molecular biophysics. Zygourakis, the chair and A.J. Hartsook Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and professor of bioengineering, was recognized “for seminal contributions and visionary leadership in the application of engineering principles toward the elucidation of cell and tissue dynamics.” With multiscale simulations and experimental studies, Zygourakis researches the interplay between cell population dynamics and extracellular mass transport that guides the formation of threedimensional tissues.

REA Distinguished Service Medal
Since the start of his freshman year in 1969, J. Bartlett “Bart” Sinclair has been associated with Rice University as a student, professor, associate dean and, in the words of the Rice Engineering Alumni, a “wise counselor.” In recognition of his longtime service, the REA will present Sinclair with its first Distinguished Service Medal at the group’s awards event in October. “REA created this award because we wanted a way to celebrate alumni who give exemplary service to the School of Engineering,” said Kate Hallaway, president of the REA. “No one fulfills this vision more than Dr. Bart Sinclair. His life has been dedicated to the success of the school through his professional work and his volunteer efforts with the REA. We hope our alumni will strive to match his enthusiasm and dedication.” Sinclair earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a Ph.D. in 1973, 1974 and 1979, respectively, all in electrical engineering. He joined the Rice faculty as an assistant professor in 1978, and has served as an associate dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering since 2000, with primary responsibility for academic affairs, faculty recruitment and financial matters. The award was created earlier this year to coincide with the Rice Centennial. The REA Board decided not to present the Distinguished Service Medal every year, but to reserve it for Rice alumni with a record of exceptional service to the school and its alumni. On its website, the REA says of this year’s recipient: “In many ways, Sinclair has made this his personal mission as well as a mission that he fulfills constantly, not only through REA but also in collaboration with the engineering development team, through his own personal contacts with alumni and as a keeper of much of the school’s institutional memory.” Sinclair will be honored at the 2012 Alumni Honors Presentation at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12, in McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall.


REA names outstanding alumni

Wayne Hale ’76 and Troy Thacker ’95 have been named 2012 Outstanding Engineering Alumnus (OEA) and Outstanding Young Engineering Alumnus (OYEA). Both say their Rice education gave them strong foundations that have helped their careers. Hale received his B.S. in mechanical engineering and earned a master’s degree from Purdue University, where he did research in heat transfer. He spent more than 30 years at NASA, working in flight control and operations, before becoming director of human spaceflight at Colorado-based Special Aerospace Services. “I’ve been fortunate to do things that are so much fun,” he said. Hale was a space-obsessed kid growing up in Hobbs, N.M. Knowing he wanted to work with NASA, he chose Rice for the school’s proximity to the Johnson Space Center and its engineering program. While here, he served as president of the Student Government Association, and says he later drew on those leadership skills during one of his greatest career challenges. Following the space shuttle Columbia disaster in February 2003, Hale was asked to help change the culture at NASA, putting more focus on safety. Drawing on his experience at Rice, Hale worked with NASA team members to enhance the organization and reinvigorate the Shuttle program. “By the time the Shuttle flew for the last time, we’d changed the environment so that everything was done in a safer manner and every flight following the disaster went off without any safety incidents,” he said, calling it his proudest accomplishment. Hale left NASA in 2010. At Special Aerospace Services, he consults and hosts seminars with aerospace and energy firms on safety, management, culture change and operations in high risk environments.

Thacker, with a B.S. in chemical engineering, is a selfdescribed “serial business builder.” He is president and CEO of R360 Environmental Solutions, which collects waste and disposes of it for oil and gas drilling firms. “I took several environmental engineering classes at Rice,” says Thacker, who grew up in Tulsa. “And I’ll never forget a field trip we took to a wastewater facility. It helped me see how we treat water and prepare it for reuse.” His engineering background and environmental concerns inspired the founding of R360. Thacker believes many in the energy industry want to protect the environment but lack the know-how. “I took a junior-level chemistry class on process engineering with Dr. Hightower,” he said. “And I learned as much about chemistry as I learned about how to think and how to solve problems.” Thacker began his career in the power and energy industries with Morgan Stanley & Co. in Houston. A major player in energy-sector investments for 16 years, he was a founding partner of Paine & Partners, a private equity firm that manages some $3 billion in equity capital. He was responsible for many energy-sector investments, including Paradigm Geophysical and United American Energy Corporation. “At the end of the day, engineering is about finding creative solutions to challenges. What I learned in my classes and collaborating with classmates and faculty at Rice gave me an edge.”

Rice Engineering Alumni Association Outstanding Alumni Presentation and Reception

Friday, October 12, 2012 4p.m. McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
Join us to honor the REA’s 2012 Outstanding Alumnus, Wayne Hale ’76, Outstanding Young Alumnus, Troy Thacker ’95 and recipient of the first REA Distinguished Service Medal, Bart Sinclair ’73, ’74, ’79. After the presentation of honors, you’re invited to attend the George R. Brown School of Engineering’s Centennial Reception, also in Duncan Hall.


Kate Hallaway: Changing of the REA guard
Kate Hallaway ’04 is the new president of the Rice Engineering Alumni and serves on the membership committee for the Texas Floodplain Management Association. Currently pursuing her MBA from Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, she has worked for nearly a decade in the engineering consulting industry on projects such as complex hydraulic modeling and highly urbanized linear infrastructure design projects. Hallaway has been on the REA Board of Directors since 2009.
What are you most looking forward to as your begin your tenure as REA President?
First, I hope to continue the momentum we began last year, especially building on the grant program we established that offers funding for student projects. I want us to keep that going and do more outreach—to get other alumni involved and let students know these opportunities exist. I’m also looking forward to working with [Engineering] Dean Thomas.

You’ve said that it’s important to get young alumni involved with the REA. Why is this so?
We really want to bring more young alumni into the [REA] network. For one thing, being part of the REA allows them to keep a connection to both Rice and the School of Engineering. We’re all passionate about our Rice experience, and this is a way to share our stories. Being involved with the REA is also a way for young alumni to network with each other and with more experienced professionals. We plan to host happy hours and other networking sessions. I’m hoping this year we’ll be able to expand those offerings to fit the busy schedules of all our alumni.

How can alumni get involved with REA?
The best way for alumni to get involved is to come to our events. We’ve also recently revamped our sponsorship program. REA has always been self-funded and that means we have to fundraise to continue our grant programs and the sponsorship of teams in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. So, in our new sponsorship structure, we’re looking to add perks at different levels of sponsorship, like offering a special dinner with the Dean and invitations to other private gatherings. This is a terrific chance for our alumni to be involved with our organization, support current students and be recognized for their sponsorship. We’re excited to see what happens.

How does REA provide connections for current students and alumni?
Be an REA sponsor
Rice Engineering Alumni Sponsors receive special benefits throughout the year, including free admission to all REA events and invitations to special events with School of Engineering leaders. Multiple sponsorship levels are available, starting at $25 for Young Alumni. Sponsorship dollars support REA scholarship and grant programs, contributing to the success of the next generation of Rice engineers. Become a sponsor online. Click “Make a Gift Now” at Select “Rice Engineering Alumni (GF60)” from the designation menu when submitting your gift.

We’re working with Dr. Maria Oden to help highlight the OEDK’s Around the Kitchen Table events. This is a chance for our alumni to see some of the projects student design teams are working on and for the students to talk to alumni who are working in the engineering industry now. We really want the benefits of belonging to REA to be two-fold: helping Rice students network with engineering professionals, and helping alumni see how their sponsorships and involvement are benefitting the next generation of engineers.


Collaboration is the key
Al Hirshberg ’82, ’83, an executive vice president for technology and projects at ConocoPhillips, is a lifelong car nut. In middle school he turned the carport of his family’s home into a workshop, Honest Al’s Garage, and billed neighbors for repairs. His interest in mechanical engineering, he jokes, began because he thought it meant fixing automobiles. “I really thought it would be all about building cars and engines,” he said. “It turned out to be differential equations and vector calculus, and I thought, ‘bring it on.’” The Nashville native came to Rice without first visiting the campus on the advice of his high school physics teacher. Once settled in Sid Richardson College, he decided Rice was the perfect place for him: “I felt like my advisors and the guys in my O-Week group immediately recognized me as a square peg and they set out to sand off the corners a little bit.” That close-knit community allowed Hirshberg to develop as a mechanical engineer, but it also pushed him out of his comfort zone. He took on positions in student government and eventually become president of Sid Richardson College. “My academic training obviously prepared me for my career,” said the 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry, who earned both his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering. “But it was that experience of working with other college presidents and collaborating with people who were different from me in the college and student government that gave me experience in being a leader. That was just invaluable.” Today, Hirshberg oversees technology and worldwide projects and procurement for ConocoPhillips. He manages the company’s engineering, geoscience, drilling, marine, aviation and IT divisions. In addition, he’s responsible for research and development, as well as the company’s outside technology ventures investments. Prior to taking on his new role at ConocoPhillips, Hirshberg served as vice president of worldwide deep-water and Africa projects with ExxonMobil, a company he joined as a research engineer shortly after graduation. He worked in technology development, production operations, planning and strategy, financial reporting and asset acquisition/divestment, and oversaw deep-water and other development projects in Norway, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Venezuela, Chad, Angola, Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico.

Hirshberg credits Rice with giving him decision-making tools. At Sid Rich, he faced a troubling issue: hot and cold water. For years, it wasn’t reliably available. Some rooms had cold water faucets that never got cold and sometimes were scalding. Hirshberg used his engineering know-how to figure out the problem and his position as college president to meet with then-university President Norman Hackerman and members of the facilities and engineering department. It turned out the college showers were built with single-knob valves containing a rubber bladder separating the hot and cold water. Some of the bladders had cracked and hot water mixed with the cold. “Once we figured out the problem, we had it solved over the summer by replacing the shower valves with a better design,” Hirshberg said. “That project is a microcosm of what I’ve done in my career: I look for all sources of information to get at a problem and then I work with a number of different stakeholders and personalities to get it fixed.” Hirshberg and his wife, Suzanne Deetz Hirshberg ’84, have three children, Kevin ’09, Robin and Carolyn. Kevin, too, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and is also an automotive buff. Father and son race with the Porsche Club at the Texas World Speedway in College Station. “A few months back,” Hirshberg said, “the car had a mechanical problem that was not discovered until race day. We just jacked it up and got to work, getting it back in shape to race before it was too late.” For Hirshberg, that’s a metaphor for life—his, at least.

End-of-Year picnic celebrates engineering
The first-ever George R. Brown School of Engineering End-of-Year Celebration, hosted by the Rice Engineering Alumni, paid tribute to the school’s faculty, staff and students. Former REA president George Webb explained that the annual end-of-year picnic had been restructured to celebrate the accomplishments of everyone in the school. Webb looked back on the accomplishments of the 2011-2012 school year: welcoming Dean Edwin L. Thomas, creating the first REA chapter outside Houston (in Austin) and dedicating the Dr. Bill Wilson IEEE Student Lounge in Abercrombie Lab. He saluted the engineering students who won Marshall, Truman, Goldwater and Udall scholarships, and praised the group's work with Engineers Without Borders and Beyond Traditional Borders. He also paid tribute to faculty accomplishments, including Richard Tapia winning the National Medal of Science, Luay Nakhleh winning a Guggenheim Fellowship and the fact that Rice engineering has had NSF CAREER Award winners for six years in a row, this year—Junghae Suh. The highlight of the picnic was the awarding of more than $100,000 in scholarships. The awards and winners include:

The Buckley-Sartwelle Scholarship in Engineering
Duarte Costeira, MEMS Endowed by Jack Boyd Buckley ’48 and Helen Sartwelle Buckley ’44 in memory of their parents

The Ralph Budd Prize for Best Engineering Thesis
Natnael Behabtu, CHBE In memory of Ralph Budd

The James S. Waters Creativity Award
Nonso K. Anyigbo, ECE Endowed in 1968 by an anonymous donor in honor of James S. Waters ’17

The Bob Dickson Endowed Prize
Joseph Vento, ECE Endowed by H. deForest Ralph ’55 and his wife Martha, with additional funding from Dale Dickson Johnson and others

The Hershel M. Rich Invention Award
Narendra Anand, ECE Endowed by Hershel M. Rich ’45, ’47 and his wife, Hilda

The Alan J. Chapman Award
William Li, MEMS Endowed by Melbern G. ’61 and Susan M. Glasscock ’62

Leadership Excellence Awards
Adriana Gamboa, BIOE Andrew Owens, MEMS

The Thomas Michael Panos Family Engineering Student Award
Michael Heisel, MEMS Endowed by Michael Panos ’52 and his sister, Effie

Research Excellence Award
Stephanie Tzouanas, BIOE

The Harrianna Butler Siebenhausen Award in Engineering
Corina Ionitta, ECE Endowed by C.H. Siebenhausen ’50 in honor of his wife, Harrianna Butler

Joseph Spinella, MEMS Apoorv Bhargava, CHBE David Younger, BIOE
Outstandingt Junior: Distinguished Seniors:

Outstanding Senior:

Rahul Rekhi, BIOE
Distinguished Juniors:

Joseph Vento, ECE Yunming Zhang, CS


Engineering Events
Unless noted otherwise, for details of these and other events, visit the Events link on the School of Engineering homepage:
Rice Engineering Alumni
Alumni Honors Presentation

Oct. 12, 2012 4 p.m. Duncan Hall, McMurtry Auditorium
School of Engineering Centennial Reception

Oct. 12, 2012 4:30 p.m. Duncan Hall
Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology
Technology, Cognition and Culture Lecture Series

“Engineering the Future of Education” Oct. 24, 2012
Rice Engineering Alumni
Football Tailgate Party: Rice v. Southern Mississippi

Oct. 27, 2012

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
School of Engineering Elevator Pitch Competition

Nov. 15, 2012
Rice Engineering Alumni
REA Fall Social and New Faculty Address Rafael Verduzco, Louis Owen Assistant Professor

Dec. 4, 2012

Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
2013 Engineering Design Showcase and Poster Session

April 11, 2013


parting shot
Workers return “Willy”—William Marsh Rice, the university’s founder—to his rightful position after a group of engineering students pulled off the prank of the century in 1988 and rotated the one-ton statue 180 degrees. For the first time in 58 years, Willy faced not Lovett Hall but the Fondren Library. The cost of the prank? $400. The cost of undoing it? About $2,000. Engineering efficiency.


Rice Engineering Magazine is a production of the George R. Brown School of Engineering Office of Communications at Rice University. Dean Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas Associate deans Wade Adams Janice Bordeaux Keith Cooper Gary Marfin Bart Sinclair Editor Ann Lugg Writers Patrick Kurp Holly Beretto Designer Donald Soward Contributors Jade Boyd Shawn Hutchins Mike Williams Tania Chua Photography Jeff Fitlow Tommy Lavergne Donald Soward Anthony Vasser
Send comments or letters to the editor: Rice Engineering Magazine Rice University MS 364 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, Texas 77251 or email: