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FALL 2014




M e ss a ge from t h e D e a n What a year we have had in Rice Engineering! Late last year we celebrated the creation of a new department: Materials Science and NanoEngineering. Rice has always had very strong research in materials and nanotechnology and the purpose of this new department is to concentrate the focus of these areas and to produce a greater number of the next generation of materials scientists through stronger undergraduate and graduate programs. We’ve had a great start at this effort with the hiring of two new faculty members (one of them just before we’re going to press!) and the acquisition of new equipment. Also, we note the significant increase in the number of undergraduates choosing materials science as a major since the department was formed! Last spring, the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership hosted the first national conference on engineering leadership, which focused on the first five years of an engineer’s career. We had great participation from students and faculty from other universities that have leadership programs and from leaders in industry and public service.

We like to think that this conference was the impetus for the American Society for Engineering Education to establish the Engineering Leadership Development Division shortly afterward. And adding to RCEL’s momentum, the Faculty Senate just voted to approve its new Leadership Certificate program so students who complete the RCEL curriculum will have the certification officially noted on their transcripts. This is the first four-year engineering leadership certificate program in Texas and one of only a few in the country! In the area of honors, one of our distinguished faculty members was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, we had three young faculty members win National Science Foundation CAREER Awards and students who won Hertz, Fulbright and Udall fellowships and scholarships, among others. I hope you enjoy reading about these developments and all the exciting research we’re undertaking. We continue to work hard at making the George R. Brown School of Engineering a stimulating and great place to be!

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


CONTENT 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 Janice Bordeaux Walter Chapman Keith Cooper Gary Marfin Ann Saterbak Bart Sinclair


New facul ty


New d ep artm ent chai rs nam ed


Desire to serve


Hel p i ng the school ad vance


2014 COMPL ETE Conference


Professi onal m aster’s p rog ram tur ns 4 0

Editor Ann Lugg Writers Patrick Kurp Holly Beretto Graphic Design Donald Soward Contributors Jade Boyd Mike Williams Sasha Ichoonsigy Photography Jeff Fitlow Tommy Lavergne Chris Chowaniec Donald Soward An Le Brandon Martin

Send comments or letters to the editor: Rice Engineering Magazine Rice University MS 364 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, Texas 77251 or email:

On the cover: MSNE core faculty: Ned Thomas, Pulickel Ajayan, Emilie Ringe, Boris Yakobson, Jun Lou and Enrique Barrera


A p p l y i n g c h e m i s t r y t o e n e rg y p ro d u c t i o n


T h e p rog r a m m e r ’s p ro g r a m m e r


Ke e p i n g t h e p i p e s c l e a n


Wa t e r t re a t m e n t f o r t h e f u t u re


S m a r t s k i n re v e a l s s t r a i n


H a r n e s s i n g t h e m i c rob i om e


In s p i re d b y n a t u re


New thrust in engineering


P re d i c t i n g s o c i a l b e h a v i o r


Ex p l o r i n g t h e s t r u c t u re o f n e t w o r k s


Sum m er of d esi g n


Ri ce EWB wi ns two nati onal award s


Stud ent award s


Facul ty award s


Staff award s


Joe Hi g htower 1936-2014


Alumnus spotlight: Gaurav Banga


Outstand i ng al um ni award s


REA Presi d ent, Mi chael Evans, sp eaks o ut


Eng i neeri ng cel eb rates end -of-year p i c ni c


P hi l i p E r n s t

A d rian n a Gillma n

P a ul H a nd

Three new faculty members have joined the George R. Brown School of Engineering. Philip Ernst, Adrianna Gillman and Paul Hand began their careers at Rice on July 1. Philip Ernst is an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 2014. His research areas include probability theory, stochastic control, stochastic optimization and asymptotic statistics. He focuses on taking optimization problems of practical interest in stochastic settings and abstracting these problems for use in ecology, biology and other science fields. As a student, he published an article in the Journal of Applied Probability. Ernst received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard in 2007 and his master’s degree from the Wharton School in 2010. Adrianna Gillman and Paul Hand are assistant professors in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics. Gillman was the John Wesley Young Research Instructor at Dartmouth College’s Department of Mathematics. Her research focuses on fast direct solvers for linear partial differential and integral equations. Her computational tools are crucial to multiple science and engineering applications, including materials science, radar, device modeling, and imaging and remote sensing. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from California State University, Northridge in 2003 and 2006, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2011. Most recently Hand was an NSF postdoctoral fellow in MIT’s Department of Mathematics. His research focuses on discovering and analyzing algorithms for signal recovery under incomplete and inaccurate measurements. He has also worked on the analysis and numerical simulation of partial differential equations that describe the electrical behavior of cardiac muscle tissue. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in applied and computational mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 2004 and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from New York University in 2009.



N ew D epar t me nt Ch air s na med New chairs have been named for four departments—bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, statistics and chemical and biomolecular engineering—in the George R. Brown School of Engineering. The new positions took effect July 1. Michael W. Deem, the John W. Cox Professor in Biochemical and Genetic Engineering, and professor of physics and astronomy, is the new chair of bioengineering. Deem earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1994, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in physics at Harvard University in 1995-96. He joined the Rice faculty in 1997. In his research, Deem uses tools from statistical physics to solve problems in natural and engineered systems. The theoretical methods he developed have been applied to predict vaccine effectiveness and which strain of flu to cover in annual vaccine formulations. Deem was named a 2012-13 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, and serves as director of the Ph.D. program in Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology at Rice. He is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, American Physical Society, Biomedical Engineering Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is an associate editor of Physical Biology and Protein Engineering Design & Selection.

Edward Knightly, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the new chair of that department. He earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the University of California, Berkeley in 1996, and joined the Rice faculty that same year. Knightly was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2009 and a Sloan Fellow in 2001. He was the recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award and received the best paper award from the Association for Computing Machinery MobiCom in 2008. His research focuses on mobile and wireless networks with an emphasis on protocol design, performance evaluation and at-scale field trials. He leads the Rice Networks Group. Its current projects include deployment, operation and management of a large-scale urban wireless network in a Houston underresourced community.

The new chair of statistics, Marina Vannucci, is professor of statistics and director of the Interinstitutional Graduate Program in Biostatistics at Rice, and an adjunct faculty member of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Vannucci earned her Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Florence, Italy, in 1996. Two years later she joined the statistics department at Texas A&M University, where she became a full professor in 2005. She was elected to the American Statistical Association in 2006 and joined the Rice faculty the following year. Her research focuses on the theory and practice of Bayesian variable selection techniques and on development of wavelet-based statistical models and their applications. She serves as editor-in-chief of Bayesian Analysis, the journal of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis.

Michael S. Wong, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and of chemistry, and civil and environmental engineering, is the new chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Wong’s research involves the design and engineering of new materials for catalytic and encapsulation applications. He works with nanostructured materials, heterogeneous catalysis, and bioengineering applications. In particular, he is interested in developing new chemical approaches to assembling nanoparticles into functional macrostructures. Wong earned his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from MIT in 2000, did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and joined the Rice faculty in 2001. He has a guest professorship at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in Dalian, China, for 2013-17. The outgoing department chairs are Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Behnaam Aazhang, David W. Scott and Walter G. Chapman, respectively. 3



Four graduates of the George R. Brown School of Engineering sit on the 25-member Rice University Board of Trustees for 2014: Jay Collins, Mark Dankberg, Lynn Elsenhans and John V. Jaggers. In addition to serving Rice at the highest level as counselors to University President David Leebron (who serves as an ex officio member of the board) and other members of the senior upper administration, all four remain involved with the School of Engineering. They advise departments and the school, serve on departmental advancement committees and use their networks to connect engineering students with summer internships. “Problem solving and implementing solutions through teams are as fundamental to business as they are to engineering,” said Jaggers ’73, who now is managing general partner with Sevin Rosen Funds in Dallas. “My Rice engineering education was more about how to think than acquiring specific skills.I spent four years of my career solving electrical engineering problems, and the next 35 years solving business problems.The specifics and tools may have been different, but the process and conceptual approach was the same.” T. Jay Collins ’69 graduated with a B.A. and a master’s degree in chemical engineering. After Rice he went to work for the Shell Oil Company and received his MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1972. In May 2011, he retired as president and CEO of Oceaneering International, Inc., in Houston. The company is a global provider of oilfield engineered services and products, primarily to the offshore oil and gas industry. Oceaneering has more than 7,900 employees in 21 countries. Collins joined Oceaneering in 1993, serving as senior vice president and chief financial officer.In 1995 he was appointed executive vice president of oilfield marine services; in 1998, president and chief operating officer; in 2002, elected to the board of directors; in 2006, appointed CEO. He serves as chair of the council of overseers of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice and will chair the advancement committee of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department this fall. Mark Dankberg ’76, ’77 graduated with B.S. and master’s degrees, respectively, in electrical engineering. He was elected to the board in 2013 and chaired the advancement committee for the Department of Computer Science last spring. He is chairman and CEO of ViaSat, Inc. in Carlsbad, Calif., the company he cofounded in 1986. ViaSat is a producer of satellite and other wireless communications and networking systems for government and commercial customers. Dankberg received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics International Communications Award in 2008. He was named “Visionary Executive of the Year” for 2012 by Satellite Research and Markets. His company’s most recent ViaSat-1 satellite is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s highest bandwidth communications satellite, serving home internet, in-flight WiFi and other applications. 4


Lynn Laverty Elsenhans ’78 graduated with a B.A. in mathematical sciences and went on to receive an MBA from Harvard University in 1980. Since 2012 she has been a board member at GlaxoSmithKline and Baker Hughes. The former chair and CEO of Sunoco and Sunoco Logistics, she served the company from 2008 to 2012. During her tenure at Sunoco, Forbes named her among the “100 Most Powerful Women.” Prior to joining Sunoco, Elsenhans worked for Royal Dutch Shell, retiring in 2008 as executive vice president for global manufacturing. She had a number of assignments at Shell in the areas of manufacturing, marketing and planning, including overseas assignments in Singapore and London. Elsenhans serves on the Council of Overseers for the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice and on the boards of the Texas Medical Center, United Way of Greater Houston and First Tee of Greater Houston. “I strongly support leadership training for young engineers,” Elsanhans said, “and I’m delighted to see it now available to Rice students.There is little of real substance accomplished by an engineer working alone. Early in your career you must learn to work on a team.If you want to increase your responsibility and influence as you increase your experience, you must learn to motivate and inspire others. “At Rice I had many opportunities to learn outside the classroom. The residential college system and later the Rice Student Association gave me my first leadership experiences. I was sent to a leadership conference where I represented Rice, and the theme was ‘people support what they help create.’ It always served me well in my career.” John Jaggers ’73 graduated with B.A. and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and started his career as a development engineer at Paragon Data Systems, providing data-processing software and services to hospitals. He went on to earn an MBA from Harvard. Jaggers joined Sevin Rosen Funds in Dallas in 1988 and serves as the company’s managing general partner. Sevin Rosen is a venture capital firm specializing in investments in early-stage companies, typically investing between $4 million and $15 million in its portfolio companies. Before joining Sevin Rosen, he worked for the investment banking firm Rotan Mosle. Jaggers sits on the boards of Capstone Turbine Corp., a public micro-turbine manufacturer; FourthWall Media; and Market6. From 2006 to 2010, he served on the board of the National Venture Capital Association.

T. Jay Co l l ins

H E L P I N G T H E S C H O O L A D VAN CE During his 22 years at MIT, Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, knew them as “review committees.” Mark Dankberg

“They’re a great idea, very useful to everyone involved. Departments learn their strengths and weaknesses, as seen by objective eyes. When I came to Rice three years ago, I wanted to start a tradition of review committees, but I wanted a more positive-sounding name. That’s why we decided on ‘advancement committees.’ That’s what we want the departments and the whole school to do—advance,” Thomas said. Starting in 2013, advancement committees made up of Rice alumni and representatives from industry, government and academia began the process of systematically meeting with and reviewing the performance of the nine departments in the engineering school at Rice. “The goal is not to have Big Brother looking over your shoulder. The goal is to get an objective understanding of what the departments are doing well and what they need help with,” said Thomas, who recently served on an advancement committee at Drexel University in Philadelphia. By spring 2015, Thomas expects all of the engineering departments at Rice to have undergone review by advancement committees. The Department of Computer Science had its review in January. Vivek Sarkar, the E.D. Butcher Chair in Engineering, who became department chair in 2013, said it was the first departmental review in 14 years.

Lynn El sen han s

“We felt very positive about it. I don’t think anybody was worried. We wanted honest feedback on the job we’re doing. Computer science now has the largest number of declared majors at Rice, and we want to keep that trend going” said Sarkar, noting that the number rose from 104 in 2008 to 240 in 2013. The committee met throughout the day and in various combinations with the dean, department chair, faculty members and students. They had lunch with five early-career faculty. In the afternoon they heard faculty reports on specific topics. Professor John MellorCrummey, for instance, spoke on high-performance computing, and Lydia Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Bioengineering, discussed the department’s partnership with the Texas Medical Center. Asked if the committee’s findings contained any surprises, Sarkar said one member noted the relatively small number of Hispanic students and faculty in computer science. Contained in the committee’s report is this recommendation: “Recruit and engage a more diverse community in the Computer Science Department, with a focus on participation by women and other underrepresented groups.”

John V. J aggers

“We just hadn’t thought about it before. Now we’ll act on it, including more engagement with high schools in the Houston area,” Sarkar said.



D an Mote

C iar a Simmons-Pin o



Among the students attending workshops and lectures at the 2014 COMPLETE Conference at Rice University was Ciara Simmons-Pino, a sophomore in civil engineering, who is convinced she was destined to become an engineer. “I was always building with Legos. I didn’t play with dolls when I was a little girl. I was always hands-on,” she said. But only after coming to Rice and getting involved in the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) did she learn there’s more to being an engineer than solving problems and building things. “Even in high school I was a leader, but now I’ve been shown how important that is professionally. The people at this conference stressed that to be successful as an engineer you need to be a leader. You can’t be passive,” said Simmons-Pino, endorsing the theme of the conference, held March 21-22: “Developing Engineering Leaders: Effectiveness in the First Five.” RCEL hosted the event in Duncan Hall for COMPLETE (Community of Practice for Leadership Education for 21st Century Engineers), a consortium of 11 universities in the U.S. and Canada, including Rice, MIT and the U.S. Naval Academy. David Niño, professor in the practice of engineering leadership at Rice, said in his opening remarks: “What we’re proposing is a national conversation on engineering leadership. We want to help young engineers transition successfully into the workplace. We want our students to find engineering careers they truly love and to begin to leverage the power of engineering to achieve great things for society.” “Are leaders born or made? You have to believe they are at least partly made,” said Bobby Tudor ’82, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees and chief executive officer of Tudor, Pickering, Holt and Co., an energy investment firm he founded in 2007. The keynote speaker, Dan Mote, president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), urged engineering students to understand the difference between being a leader and holding a position of authority. “Strong leadership is taken, not given. You can give someone a position but if that’s all he has, it’s third-ranked leadership,” said Mote, who served as president of the University of Maryland for 12 years before assuming the NAE presidency in 2013. Leadership, he stressed, is inevitable in every human organization, from families to governments and corporations. Mote said styles of leadership vary, from the most powerful and effective—transformative, charismatic leadership—to the least powerful and potentially most damaging—punitive, coercive leadership. “Inclusivity is absolutely mandatory. Everybody wants to feel like they are a part of the team,” Mote said. “Everybody within your cone of responsibility must see themselves as being a part of that vision. Otherwise, they may work against it, and that creates internal conflicts that detract from your ability to execute the vision.”

Ellen Ochoa, director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC), is a veteran of four space flights as a NASA astronaut, logging 978 hours in space. She has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. “At NASA,” she said, “we’re always looking for the best and brightest engineers we can find, but it takes more than technical skills. We look for negotiating and communication skills, and the ability to collaborate as part of a team.” With Ochoa was Lauri Hansen, director of engineering at JSC, who echoed her call for more than just technical skills among engineers: “Competency in your discipline is a given. We ask a lot of our engineers at NASA. We are results-driven. I would ask all you future engineers: How are you on the softer skills? We need engineers, and even more, we need engineering leaders.” RCEL was established in 2009 with a $15 million gift to Rice’s Centennial Campaign from the Benificus Foundation, founded by longtime benefactors and Rice engineering alumni John Doerr ’73,’74 and Ann Doerr ’75. In a videotaped interview played during the COMPLETE conference, John Doerr said: “We don’t really believe in buildings. We believe in people. A common mistake new engineers make is to burrow in instead of reaching out. We encourage you to interview like crazy. Network, and I don’t mean just on Facebook.” Students and other participants broke into smaller groups and attended workshops and research presentations conducted by leaders from universities and such organizations as Northwestern University, Boeing, NASA and Shell. Simmons-Pino attended a workshop called “The Four A’s of Project Success,” led by Ed Hoffman, chief knowledge officer for NASA. His “Four A’s” are ability, attitude, assignments and alliances. “The thing that ends most careers is attitude,” Hoffman said. “If you have a bad one, forget it. Successful engineers have certain things in common—intellectual curiosity, for instance, and they’re good listeners and they’re willing to collaborate.” Simmons-Pino was encouraged by another bit of advice given by Hoffman, who said: “The people who are most successful are enjoying what they do. They’re active and responsive. The people who are less successful are waiting for the organization to take care of them.” Reflecting on that, Simmons-Pino said: “I’m a positive person and I want to be a positive engineer. I got into engineering because it’s fun. I enjoy it. As a leader, part of my job is to inspire other people to enjoy themselves too.” RCEL was organized in 2009 to prepare Rice engineering students to become inspiring leaders, effective team members and bold entrepreneurs. Through academic courses, leadership labs, student discussion groups and structured learning experiences, RCEL provides them with opportunities to develop leadership abilities and prepares them to put these skills into practice.

El l e n Och oa

S t e p h an i e T zou an as

D a vi d Van K l e e ck


C OMPLETE SUCCESS Conference attendees who responded to a post-event survey indiciated that it had exceeded their expectations. “COMPLETE was the first conference I have attended and I could not have imagined it any more informative, motivating and inspiring,” said one visiting student. Another non-Rice student said, “My motivation for attending this event was to expose myself to top leaders from different schools and different occupations. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend. This event was a game changer for me.” Several survey takers rated the workshops and conference speaker sessions as “excellent” and “above average,” and many said they felt the sessions were useful for their disciplines. Additionally, multiple attendees noted the attention to detail put into the event by the RCEL staff and student volunteers. “The RCEL staff and faculty were outstanding hosts,” remarked a faculty member from another institution. “I very much enjoyed my time at the COMPLETE conference,” said another non-Rice faculty member. “I was quite impressed by the caliber of speakers and the diversity of participation (different types of higher education institutions and personnel involved with engineering leadership). RCEL faculty, staff, and students deserve a big pat on the back for running a great event.” 8


Sophie Xu

L a uri H a n s e n

B obby Tu dor

ANSWERING THE NAE’S CALL In 2004, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) issued The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century, a report urging engineering schools to encourage leadership skills—“dynamism, agility, resilience, and flexibility”—in their graduates, along with traditional technical knowhow. In response, a handful of universities across the country began setting up engineering leadership programs over the next decade. Among them was the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, launched in 2007. Each year, more than 100 MIT students enroll in a program aimed at instilling “professional, personal and leadership progression.” “The NAE report really was a wake-up call for a lot of schools,” said Kazimir “Kaz” Karwowski, executive director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL). “It gave fuel to the frustrations felt by a lot of people, that universities weren’t producing the kind of leadership we needed to tackle some of the big problems in the world. The lack of engineers displaying leadership qualities after graduation motivated schools to take action.”

Kaz Karwowski

Before moving to Rice in 2013, Karwowski spent four years as an engineering leadership specialist in the Gordon-MIT program and, before that, 20 years in the U.S. Army. “The average age of the infantrymen I was leading wasn’t much older than typical university students. Working with students isn’t that different from working with soldiers. They have a lot of energy. You motivate them, and give them direction and purpose,” Karwowski said. In the past decade, engineering leadership programs have been set up at Cornell, Purdue, Penn State, Northeastern, the University of Colorado and Drexel, among others. The Rice program was organized in 2009. “RCEL was partly a response to the NAE report. The need for leadership training was there and Rice has responded to it accordingly,” said David Niño, professor in the practice of engineering leadership. “One way to learn how to lead is to experience what it’s like to deal with challenging leadership situations. We’ve learned how important it is to turn students loose on real-world situations and see what they can do,” said Niño, who also serves as treasurer of the newly formed Engineering Leadership Development Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). “We know they’re smart. We want them to turn their intelligence and learning into ideas that work.”

David Niño

For more information about the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, visit 9

Pro f e ssional M as ter’s P rogr am : 4 0 y e ar s an d gro wi n g

E r j o l a B u zi

Erjola Buzi ’12 came to the United States from her native Albania in 2007 with a B.S. in electronic engineering, no job, little English, many fears and even more dreams. Seven years later she has a professional master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice, a job with Schlumberger and a husband. “I consider myself very fortunate. I am working as a design engineer with a good company. Rice is like America to me—it helped me make my dreams come true,” said Buzi, who is 32 and has worked for Schlumberger since 2008. For 40 years, Rice has offered professional master’s degrees, often tailored for students like Buzi, who already have experience in the working world and wish to further their education and improve their marketability. The nine departments in the George R. Brown School of Engineering offer 14 professional master’s degrees. An early beneficiary of the professional master’s program at Rice was Bart Sinclair, associate dean of engineering for academic issues and budgets, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering in 1973 and 1974, respectively, and his Ph.D in 1978. “The program is proving very successful and increasingly popular,” Sinclair said. “In 2005-2006, across the entire school, we were down to 29 professional master’s degrees. Now we are up to 180. That’s a six-fold increase in a short time.” Asked to explain the program’s sudden growth, he said, “We are more aggressively marketing the program and its popularity begins to spread by word of mouth. We’re making it attractive to working people.”


Working people like Erjola Buzi. “My big dream was to get into the best school. I was already living and working in Houston,” she said, “so that meant Rice.” While working at Schlumberger, which agreed to pay her tuition, Buzi started at Rice in January 2010. “It was quite a challenge at first. The first semester I started with one class. The second semester I went to three, but I ended up auditing the business class I was taking,” Buzi said. “It was a struggle, very long days, but I did it. The school really tried to make it friendly for people with jobs.” Brian Vanover would agree. At age 27, he has already spent a lot of time in school and on the job. In 2010, he graduated with a B.S. in mathematics and another in economics from Arizona State University. He had thought about going to business school but as an undergraduate he got interested in probability theory and decided to give statistics a try. “Statistics is interesting because it actually answers questions. I like working with massive amounts of data and looking for answers to questions,” he said, explaining his decision to pursue a professional master’s degree at Rice. Vanover was enrolled at Rice, beginning in August 2010, when he attended a job fair on campus and was hired the following June as an R&D mathematician at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. He earned his master’s degree in December 2012. “My job is an interesting combination of IT and research analysis. I got a pretty rigorous education at Rice, and that helps a lot,” said Vanover, who since August 2013 has been pursuing a master’s degree in computer science at the University of Southern California.

M ission : To se rv e

Agustina Fernández-Mo y a , D a g m a r Be c k oy

“We do mentor the students and actively help them find their way.” That’s Dagmar Beck speaking. She is director of the Science and Engineering Professional Master’s programs, and often one of the first people students encounter at Rice when contemplating a return to academia in pursuit of a master’s degree in engineering. “Professional master’s programs are attracting people who are employed and want to advance their careers or undergraduates not interested in pursuing a research degree but who want to be better prepared for work in industry and business,” Beck said. She and her colleagues have stepped up efforts to market the professional master’s program nationally and internationally, and have boosted enrollment in the last 18 months. Beck and Agustina Fernández-Moya, program coordinator for the George R. Brown School of Engineering, conduct marketing campaigns, assist departments with program development and oversee online education activities. They recruit and advise students, build corporate relations and coordinate marketing for the programs. “Prospective students in science come to me for guidance and advice. Those in the engineering school will either contact the department of their interest or our office,” Beck said. “I serve as the liaison between the different departments, the dean’s office and the students,” Fernández-Moya said. “My job is to increase enrollment, ensure the quality of students and improve the experience of students.” Beck earned an associate business administration degree in Germany in 1983 and worked for corporations there and in the U.S. After a three-year stay in Singapore, she worked for a language school in Houston, and joined the Rice staff in 2002. Beck earned a B.A. in German from the University of Houston in 2010. Fernández-Moya, a native of Argentina, received a graduate degree as a C.P.A. from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1997, a post-graduate degree in marketing from the Universidad de San Andres in Buenos Aires in 2000, a certificate in Integrated Marketing from the University of Chicago in 2002 and a master’s degree in Communications/Public Relations from the University of Houston in 2009.


RESEARCH A pp l y i n g g re en c hemis try to energy production

I s ab el l T ho man n


There’s a paradox at the heart of Isabell Thomann’s goals as a researcher, as there often is in science and engineering, and it involves the basic chemistry of a familiar substance, water. Water is the Earth’s most plentiful source of hydrogen, and hydrogen is potentially an important carbon-free replacement fuel for automobiles. A shorthand way to describe Thomann’s work is to say she wants to power cars with water, though it’s more complicated than that. Hydrogen production usually requires the burning of fossil fuels, which creates even more carbon dioxide. Solar power can be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, but the process must be made less expensive and more efficient to make it a practical substitute for fossil fuels. Thomann proposes using nanostructured metals and semiconductors as antennas for light harvesting to enhance the efficiency of photoelectrochemical conversion. “That means a nanostructured photocatalyst absorbs sunlight and breaks the water molecules apart. No carbon is produced during the process,” said Thomann, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, of chemistry, and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University. Thanks to her recent $400,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant, also from NSF, Thomann will focus her energy on exploring ways to use sunlight to reduce the carbon footprint of power plants. “In the bigger picture, both these grants are focused on improving photocatalysis, a class of processes in which we use light to drive chemical reactions,” Thomann said. “The NSF CAREER grant will focus on the reduction of carbon dioxide using sunlight, but the methods that we study in our lab can be broadly applied across many disciplines. “More often than not, we know materials that are good photocatalysts for a given reaction, but we have no idea why this is the case. This is not a satisfactory situation, and our group is involved in developing both laser spectroscopy tools and nano-characterization tools to improve our understanding of what’s going on in these nanostructured surfaces.” Thomann is the lead principal investigator on an MRI grant that will allow her group and LANP (Laboratory for Nanophotonics) members to construct a time-resolved nanophotonic scanning probe microscope. “In essence, it uses an atomic-scale needle to scan the surface of a material. By focusing laser pulses onto the needle we gain novel information about nanostructured materials, with improved spatial and temporal resolution compared to conventional optical microscopy.” Thomann said energy and green chemistry are only two of the research themes in her lab. “We are interested in materials for energy applications, particularly for those involving solar photocatalysis,” she said. “But energy is just one of the challenges of our day. There are also problems in sensing and health. We hope to help solve other grand challenges with nanophotonics.”

Programmers, whether they are novices or seasoned pros, don’t want to waste a lot of time explaining things to a computer. If you want a task performed, you tell the computer what to do and let it take care of the details, while you move on to more important things. “The goal of computer-aided programming is to make programming faster and more intuitive,” said Swarat Chaudhuri, assistant professor of computer science at Rice University, who has coauthored more than two dozen papers devoted to the subject. Chaudhuri works to harness the power of algorithms for automated reasoning to simplify programming tasks. Rather than hand-testing programs, the programmer uses a verification algorithm to find bugs or confirm that the program is correct. The programmer writes a specification of the program’s objectives and lets algorithms for program synthesis generate appropriate low-level code. “I envision a software design process in which humans would specify programming and verification tasks at very high levels of abstraction, and algorithmic ‘assistants’ capable of automated reasoning would analyze the accuracy of programs and synthesize correct low-level code. Even small steps in that direction will lead to significant gains in software reliability and programmer productivity,” Chaudhuri said. One of Chaudhuri’s approaches to computer-aided programming is based on harnessing Big Code, or large sets of pre-existing programs. Traditional programming tools view programs as isolated, self-contained entities. Only rarely, however, do programmers write code entirely from scratch, free of overlaps with existing code. “I’m interested in building a new generation of programming tools that can exploit such overlaps,” Chaudhuri said. “Such a system would obtain specifications and snippets of code by searching a body of existing software, and use the results in program verification and synthesis.” As part of this endeavor, Chaudhuri is one of three technical leads in a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) award that Rice, Grammatech, Inc., the University of Wisconsin, and University of Texas at Austin received for building such systems. The award is part of DARPA’s Mining and Understanding Software Enclaves (MUSE) program. Chaudhuri’s research has applications in system software, robotics, data mining, computational economics and online education. “The Sw arat Chau d hu ri idea is to make programming accessible to those who don’t have a degree in computer science, and to improve the productivity of those who do,” said Chaudhuri, the principal investigator for Computer-Aided Programming @ Rice. Chaudhuri earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 2007 from Pennsylvania State University, and worked there as an assistant professor of computer science and engineering until 2011, when he joined the Rice faculty. He received a CAREER Award in 2010 from the National Science Foundation. 13




Flow assurance is to the petroleum industry as low cholesterol and exercise are to a healthy cardiovascular system. So says Francisco “Paco” Vargas, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University: “Asphaltene deposition is like a buildup of plaque on the arterial walls. It reduces oil flow and can even clog up the pipes. It’s the cholesterol of the oil, and it’s a very expensive problem.” As oil production has moved into increasingly inaccessible environments, such as deeper water and the arctic regions, and as the industry has turned to enhanced oil recovery techniques for increasing the amount of crude oil extracted, flow assurance has become more critical and more difficult. Guaranteeing the uninterrupted flow of petrochemicals from well to market has focused attention on such organic and inorganic byproducts as hydrates, asphaltene, scaling, wax and naphthenates. “The formation of these deposits can occur naturally in the subsurface and is usually increased by changes in temperature, pressure and composition,” said Vargas, who addresses most of his attention to asphaltenes. “These materials are no longer soluble and they accumulate on the walls of the tubing. It is a major concern for the industry.” Vargas notes that the problem is made even more difficult by the absence of reliable monitoring tools and predictive commercial models to identify and control asphaltene deposition at an early stage. In addition, because asphaltenes exist in many forms, in widely divergent molecular weights and chemical structures, there is no onesize-fits-all solution. 14 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG



As Vargas phrases it, “Sometimes people find great solutions to the wrong problems.” The most sophisticated tests used in the industry today for monitoring byproduct buildup are mass spectrometry, advanced microscopic measurements or molecular diffusion measurements, but none is foolproof. Vargas’s experience with the oil industry is not merely academic or theoretical. After earning his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Rice in 2009, he spent more than three years in the United Arab Emirates, where he was an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Petroleum Institute and manager for the Flow Assurance Research and Development Program of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. He joined the Rice faculty in 2013. “We think that heavy organic deposition in the production tubing and the near-wellbore region can be significantly mitigated by implementing strategies that include proper monitoring, good production practices and the insight obtained from laboratory work and accurate prediction models” he said. Vargas and his team take an interdisciplinary approach to these problems, which includes understanding molecular structure, micro and macroscopic morphology, and optical, thermodynamic and transport properties, and also thermodynamic and computational fluid-dynamics modeling. “If we don’t address this problem, it could have a serious impact on the availability and, consequently, the cost of fuels,” Vargas said. “We no longer have easy oil, and it won’t get any easier.”

A M U LT I D IS C IP LIN A RY C H A L L E NGE Asphaltene is a naturally occurring substance found in crude oil, a byproduct of the same geological processes that turn fossils into fossil fuel. It was first identified in 1837 by the French chemist JeanBaptiste Boussingault, who concluded that the viscosity of crude oil increases with the amount of asphaltene present. As the supply of “easy oil”—readily and safely accessed light deposits—dwindles, such asphaltene-rich sources as the Athabasca oil sands in Canada and the heavy oils of Mexico and Venezuela are growing in importance as alternative sources. From the well through the refinery, asphaltene fouling can interfere with production equipment. David Ramirez, a fifth-year graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, studied the problem as an intern in the office of the chief technology officer at BP in Houston this summer. In a report he prepared for the company, he says asphaltene deposition is “made worse by several complicating factors including inorganic deposition (calcite), sand production, high water cuts and hydrates.”

Echoing Francisco Vargas, Ramirez notes that “the precise mechanisms of asphaltene formation and deposition are not completely understood,” and proposes three potential strategies for solving the problem: Chemical: Surface coatings that prevent or reduce asphaltene deposition; new substances that inhibit or disperse asphaltenes; colloidal and interfacial approaches (for instance, surfactants and nanomaterials). Mechanical: Improved deposit management techniques, including mechanisms such as acoustics and improved pipeline cleaning tools. Others: New testing and characterization methods using sensors and imaging tools; unconventional control techniques, such as natural products; robotics for in situ remediation.


RESEARCH Wa t er t reat me nt f or th e f u ture Having enough water isn’t really the problem. It’s having enough of the right kind of water—safe, clean, accessible—and having it where we need it most. “We are facing a water crisis,” said Qilin Li, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, “because we simply don’t have enough water where we need it, and not just in places like India or Central America, but right here in parts of west Texas, southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida.” Li’s recent research focuses on finding novel ways to reclaim and purify water that previously was discarded, including such non-traditional sources as municipal and industrial wastewater, brackish groundwater and seawater. The effort has grown increasingly urgent in recent years with the boom in unconventional oil and gas production using the hydraulic fracturing technology or “fracking.” “Much water is used in this method of recovering oil and gas, and we’re looking at ways to safely reuse it. We also want to develop ways to utilize renewable energy, such as sunlight and wastewater itself to treat and reuse water, and to desalinate seawater using nanotechnology,” Li said. Recovering water from non-traditional sources using conventional technologies is expensive, consuming large quantities of chemicals and energy. “Nanotechnology permits us to improve the reaction kinetics and selectivity, reduce treatment-system size, increase system mobility and cut costs. It allows us to be more efficient in the way we use renewable energy,” Li said. For example, adsorption is a commonly used strategy for removing organic and inorganic contaminants from water. Conventional adsorbents are limited by surface area, lack of selectivity and slow adsorption kinetics. Nano-adsorbents, with their high specific surface area and associated sorption sites, short intra-particle diffusion distance and their tunable pore size and surface chemistry, are significantly more effective. “Nano-adsorbents are easily integrated into existing treatment processes in slurry reactors or adsorbers. Applied in powder form, they can be useful in slurry reactors because all surfaces of the adsorbents are utilized and the mixing greatly facilitates the mass transfer. They can also be used in the form of pellets and beads or porous granules loaded with nanoadsorbents,” Li said. Another traditional strategy being updated with nanotechnology is the use of membranes, physical barriers that remove impurities based on their size and/or electric charge. Major challenges in their use are the low permeability of the membrane and fouling of the membrane by the impurities in water. Li is developing nanocomposite membranes using nanoparticles that are antimicrobial or serve as slow release media for antibiofouling agents. She is also exploring nanophotonic phenomena for harvesting sunlight to directly drive desalination. Nanofibers have large surface areas and porosity, and form nanofiber mats with complex pore structures. They are already used commercially in air filtration, but Li is exploring their use in water treatment. “I believe nanotechnology holds the key to next-generation water treatment systems. It’s efficient, it can use less energy and it can be portable, which is highly desirable for locations with no access to the power grid,” she said. Li earned her Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 2002 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and joined the Rice faculty in 2006. 16 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG

Qilin Li

IN THE WERCs The Rice University Water and Energy Center (RiceWERC), dedicated to a sustainable supply of two essential commodities, should be in operation and administering interdisciplinary research by early 2015. “Energy and water security are intrinsically interconnected. We cannot produce or generate energy without water, and a significant fraction of urban energy demand relates to treating and moving water,” said Pedro J.J. Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Engineering, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and associate director of applications for RiceWERC. “Through technological innovation and scientific input to inform policy, RiceWERC will foster water management in an energy-constrained world.” In addition to Rice, the center will include as academic partners Arizona State University, the University of Texas at El Paso and Yale University, with researchers drawn from engineering, natural sciences, social science and public policy. The center also plans to have industrial and government partners, whose energy and water challenges are best addressed through partnership with academic research institutions. “Our goals are very ambitious,” said Qilin Li, associate professor of CEE at Rice, who will serve as the center’s director. “We will encourage the use of cutting-edge technology to secure safe, plentiful, energy-efficient water for Texas and the rest of the world.” The Energy and Environment Initiative (EEI) at Rice has provided $100,000 in funding for RiceWERC. The center has also applied for a substantial grant from the National Science Foundation. Of the original 200 applicants, the Rice proposal is among the 16 semi-finalists. Four grants will be awarded by NSF. “We will take a systems perspective on the water/energy nexus to develop integrated water management strategies using nanotechnology, biotechnology and advanced materials,” Li said.



B ruc e Weisman an d Sa t i s h N a ga r a j a i a h

More than just a cosmetic to cover the surfaces of buildings, bridges and aircraft, a coating suffused with carbon nanotubes can detect deformations in their structures before they become visible to the unaided eye. “Now we are designing a portable, battery-powered optical device, incorporating an infrared spectrometer, that will help us find these sorts of problems before they become serious,” said Satish Nagarajaiah, professor of civil and environmental engineering. Nagarajaiah and Bruce Weisman, professor of chemistry at Rice, collaborated to develop what they call “strain paint smart skin.” In 2012 they published their findings in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. “We were amazed at the number of contacts we received from industry—companies like Boeing and Alcoa,” Weisman said. “Now we know there’s a demand for the technology, so we’re proceeding with the research needed to make it practical.” In 2013, their work got a boost when the Office of Naval Research awarded them a $325,000 grant to pursue the project. Since the near-infrared fluorescence of semiconducting carbon nanotubes was discovered in Weisman’s lab in 2002, he has been exploring their physical and chemical properties, and developing specialized optical instrumentation to characterize them. Nagarajaiah and his collaborators led the 2004 development of nanotubebased strain-sensing for structural integrity monitoring at the macro level, exploiting the electrical properties of carbon nanofilms. In 2010, Weisman and Nagarajaiah attended the same NASA workshop, where the chemist gave a talk on nanotube fluorescence, including discussion of a hypothetical system using lasers to reveal strains in the nano-coated wing of a space shuttle. Nagarajaiah was intrigued and proposed a collaboration. Nanotube fluorescence displays predictable wavelength shifts when the tubes are deformed by tension or compression. The smart skin with nanotubes is designed to transfer strain from the object it covers to the embedded nanotubes, which then act as tiny non-contact strain sensors. “With our technique,” Weisman said, “technicians could aim the probe laser at any point on an airplane wing and quickly find the magnitude and direction of strain at that point. Then a set of those measurements would provide a strain map of the surface.” As a protective film, the smart skin could also impede corrosion and perhaps enhance the strength of the underlying material. “We’ll need to optimize details of its composition and preparation, and find the best way to apply it to the surfaces that will be monitored,” Weisman said. Since the original article was published in 2012, the researchers have replaced the plastic test substrates they originally used with more realistic metal ones, and have also greatly reduced the size and weight of the probe device. But much work remains, including studying interactions among the nanotubes, the polymeric host, and the substrate, which affect the reproducibility and stability of the spectral shifts. “For real-world measurements, these are important considerations,” Nagarajaiah said. Also working on the project are Peng Sun, a third-year graduate student in civil engineering, and Sergei Bachilo, a research scientist in Weisman’s group.



Har nessing the microbiome With the assistance of edible probiotic bacterium, Jeff Tabor is helping the Navy find an unlikely route to weight control and mental health. “The goal is to engineer a new bacterium that can protect against a common large-intestine disorder, metabolic endotoxemia, that causes obesity and depression,” said Tabor, assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University and lead investigator on a new project funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). A three-year, $500,000 grant from ONR’s Young Investigator Program is funding Tabor’s research, among the first studies to combine two of the newest, most promising fields in the life sciences—synthetic biology and microbiomics. Synthetic biologists program single-celled organisms such as bacteria and yeast. Tabor specializes in engineering bacterial sensors useful in detecting information, including disease signals, in the gut. By linking the sensors to synthetic genetic circuits, Tabor programs bacteria to behave autonomously. He starts with a genetically modified strain of Escherichia coli that lives naturally in the human gut. Tabor programs probiotics for reliable disease prevention by creating networks of genetic circuits that sense, compute and respond to disease. “There are about 10 times more bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells, and studies in the last decade have shown these bacteria have a role in obesity, immune function, depression and other conditions,” Tabor said. 20 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG

The trillions of bacteria in the body, known collectively as the microbiome, contain more genetic information than the human genome. Scientists like Tabor are increasingly finding ways to use the microbiome to treat disease and improve health. For example, other researchers have identified a “gut-brain axis,” with a linkage via the vagus nerve. In experiments on mice in which the nerve was removed, the gut microbiome no longer affected the brain. “The microflora in our bodies help digest food, fight off infection and [help us] stay healthy,” Tabor said. “But certain functions, including some that are beneficial, yield no evolutionary advantage for the bacteria. The goal is to add these functions using rationally designed genetic circuits.” Potentially, patients could be treated with the healthful bacteria in the form of yogurt, milk or pills. ONR’s Young Investigator Program selected 24 winners this year from almost 280 applicants. ONR’s mandate is “to fund early career academic researchers whose scientific pursuits show exceptional promise for supporting the Department of Defense, while also promoting their professional development.” Tabor earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, and did postdoctoral work in synthetic biology at the University of California, San Francisco. He joined the Rice faculty in 2010.

T HE G U T- O B E SIT Y CONNE CT ION Jeff Tabor, assistant professor of bioengineering, has been awarded a three-year, $180,000 research grant by the Welch Foundation of Houston to study how the microbes in the human gut sense and respond to chemical signals. “The large intestine contains almost 1,000 species of bacteria— about 100 trillion organisms. These bacteria contain more than 10,000 proteins of a specific family, called sensor histidine kinases,� said Tabor, referring to a class of proteins that detect various chemicals present in our diet, as well as chemicals produced by the body and other microbes. Sensor histidine kinases permit bacteria to produce the appropriate metabolic enzymes to digest compounds. Scientists have little understanding of the chemicals the sensors are detecting, but recent studies have implicated sensor histidine kinases in many diseases. Tabor will focus on identifying the chemicals sensed by some 100 sensor histidine kinases linked to obesity. Histidine kinases sense chemicals outside the cell and relay the information to regulator proteins that activate or deactivate genes inside the cell. Using a method developed in his lab, Tabor will rewire the sensors to control the expression of a green fluorescent protein in E. coli, and then grow the bacteria in the presence of chemicals recently found to be present in the guts of obese humans. He hopes to learn how proteins bind to molecules, with implications for basic science, diagnostics and therapeutics. The Houston-based Welch Foundation, named for Robert A. Welch, the industrialist who founded it in 1954, is one of the oldest and largest private funding sources for basic chemical research.



A small miracle of engineering, usually dismissed as a crop-destroying pest, the locust is collaborating with researchers at Rice University designing the next generation of micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs). “We trust the locust. It perfected moving its wings to fly efficiently after millions of years of evolution. So, even though it was very difficult, we had to make sure that we replicated that wing motion as close to the reality as possible,” said Tayfun Tezduyar, the James F. Barbour Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Rice. Tezduyar’s research focuses on multiple applications of fluid dynamics, whether the design of spacecraft parachutes, blood flow analysis for treatment of cerebral aneurysms or the aerodynamics of MAVs. “The technologies we focus on have a common, core computational analysis need—how to accurately deal with the interaction between a fluid and a structure,” said Tezduyar, who has designed homegrown computer modeling techniques applicable to all of these projects. For the MAVs, Tezduyar uses high-speed video recordings of locusts in a wind tunnel made by Fabrizio Gabbiani and Raymond Chan, neuroscience researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine. Close analysis of the insects, the way their wings move to maximize aerodynamic performance, reveals the relationship of their flapping wings to the lift and thrust generated. “The aerodynamic performance, we learned, is sensitive to wing deformations. Flying locusts exhibit a large range of collision avoidance behaviors that depend on distinct aerodynamical characteristics,” said Tezduyar, who works closely with Kenji Takizawa, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Waseda University in Tokyo and an adjunct associate professor at Rice. 22 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG

In another application, Tezduyar uses the computer modeling of fluid-structure interactions to help NASA optimize the parachute system of its next-generation Orion crew exploration vehicle. With the aid of the supercomputer systems at Rice, Tezduyar and his Team for Advanced Flow Simulation and Modeling have provided NASA engineers with computational analysis of various aspects of the parachute system that brings the capsule safely to earth. As though to illustrate the ubiquity of fluid dynamics in the world, Tezduyar has found a medical application for the same field of research—the cerebral aneurysm, the ballooning of a blood vessel in the brain. If the vessel ruptures, the patient suffers a potentially fatal stroke. Thanks to a modeling procedure developed by Tezduyar and his research group, surgeons have more detailed information on the effectiveness of stents in reducing blood circulation in the aneurysm and the resulting thrombosis. His techniques simultaneously solve the equations governing blood flow and arterial deformations. Combining computational analysis and fluid-structure interactions, with the capacity of Rice’s supercomputer, Tezduyar is helping to save lives. “Our objective is more than just to show a picture of the blood flow patterns in the aneurysm,” he said. “With an accurate representation of the stent in the flow analysis, doctors will be able to make predictions about the impact of stents on the blood circulation in the aneurysm and the proper way to proceed with treatment.” Tezduyar earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Caltech in 1982, and joined the Rice faculty in 1998.

Ta y f u n Te z d u y a r

A STAND OUT IN THE FIELD Tayfun Tezduyar was one of six members of the Rice University engineering faculty included in Thomson Reuters’ 2014 Highly Cited Researchers list, the first update of the prominent citation ranking in 10 years. His work ranked high in two categories, engineering and computer science. The James F. Barbour Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Tezduyar has published more than 210 ISI-indexed journal articles, many devoted to the focus of his research, fluid dynamics and fluid-structure interactions. According to Google Scholar, his work has been cited more than 15,500 times, with more than 8,500 citations in the last five years. “Our work is very difficult, very complicated and, in some categories, I’m not aware of anyone else in the world who can do it,” said Tezduyar, giving much credit to his frequent collaborator Kenji Takizawa, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Waseda University in Tokyo and adjunct associate professor at Rice. About his work analyzing fluid-structure interactions in spacecraft parachutes for NASA, Tezduyar said: “Reliable engineering analysis like this requires a careful working out of complex equations that govern the fluid and structure, and accounting for the airflow through hundreds of slits built into the parachute design. With the methods we’ve developed, we are the only group in the world that can provide a highly accurate engineering analysis of those parachutes.” In 2013, Wiley published Computational Fluid-Structure Interaction: Methods and Applications, co-authored by Tezduyar and Takizawa, with Yuri Bazilevs, professor of structural engineering at the University of California, San Diego. A reviewer called it “a comprehensive reference for researchers and practicing engineers who would like to advance their existing knowledge on these subjects.” The text reached #3 on the fluid dynamics bestseller list of Amazon-USA, and in Amazon-Japan, #1 in mechanical engineering, #1 in civil engineering and #3 in technology.


“Materials science and nanoengineering are two faces of the same coin and should reinforce each other in our future efforts in both research and education.” So says Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering and chair of the newly minted Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE) at Rice University. “Materials science has been an independent discipline for decades, and most major universities have independent departments for the field. It was time for us to act on what others had already noticed,” he said, referring to a 2010 Times Higher Education survey that ranked Rice No. 1 in the world for materials science, and a 2013 study by the Max Planck Society in Germany that also put Rice on top, based on citations of research papers. The new department at Rice starts with a core faculty of six, with three faculty fellows and several joint faculty members with primary appointments in other departments. MSNE is in the process of hiring an assistant professor in the field of computational materials science, Ajayan said, and he expects to hire at least two more faculty members in the next two years. “Ideally,” he said, “our target will be to have ten fulltime tenured faculty.”


He coninued, “We also plan to have several adjunct faculty from local industry and institutions to engage in teaching and establishing industry relationships.” Among the areas of concentration in MSNE research are carbon nanomaterials, two-dimensional materials, composites, computational materials science, electron microscopy, electronic materials, energy conversion and storage, nanomechanics, photonics and nanoplasmonics, coatings and thin films, and light-weight, ultrahigh-strength materials. “The new department gives Rice an opportunity to capitalize on the strong reputation it already has in materials and nanotechnology research. It will also serve as an important home base for Rice researchers and students in other schools and departments who are interested in these areas,” said Jun Lou, associate professor and associate chair of MSNE. Materials science as a discreet discipline is nothing new. It came to Rice in 1952 with the hiring of the late Franz Brotzen as assistant professor of metallurgy. The new discipline’s home became the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Materials science was accredited in 1962, and the department was renamed the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

Ajayan’s goals for the new department are ambitious: “We want to increase enrollments for undergraduate and graduate students by a factor of two. We want to build a curriculum that reflects the evolving interdisciplinary nature of materials science and nanotechnology. We want to build facilities and a strong research platform that provide the best training for our students.” The Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, with its home office in George R. Brown Hall, was officially created in November 2013. It continues to offer the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science that Rice has awarded for more than 30 years. Mechanical Engineering is an autonomous department chaired by Professor Andrew Meade, and will continue its work in robotics, control systems, smart structures, aerodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer.

“Materials science at Rice has a great reputation, and that can only get better with a department dedicated to its advancement,” said Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, a materials scientist and the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering. “It’s a key component of new technology, and it’s important to the country and the economy. President Obama’s Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) is a good indicator of how seriously the nation takes what we do.” Rice hosted an MGI regional workshop for academia, industry and government last April. The purpose of the event was to accelerate the discovery and commercialization of advanced materials, position the U.S. for global manufacturing leadership and create high-value jobs in manufacturing. 25

COLLABORATING ATOM-BY-ATOM Emilie Ringe, the newest faculty member in materials science and nanoengineering (MSNE) at Rice University, likes to describe her research group as “the atom-by-atom nanoengineering lab.” “We have projects in many areas—plasmonics, alloys, catalysis and so on, all at a very small scale. We aim to solve materials problems, from sensing to catalysis, by identifying how the structure and composition of materials affect their properties and performance,” said the assistant professor of MSNE, and of chemistry. Before coming to Rice, Ringe was a Royal Society-funded research fellow in the electron microscopy group in the Materials Science and Metallurgy Department at Cambridge University. Ringe’s approach to the still-emerging, interdisciplinary field of nanoengineering uses a variety of characterization strategies, including state-of-the-art electron-beam spectroscopy, theoretical modelling and optical techniques. As a member of the Laboratory for NanoPhotonics (LANP) at Rice, Ringe says her research is rooted in the belief that future innovations in materials will rely on the development and understanding of processes at the nanoscale. “We have ambitious goals, and the interdisciplinary nature of the projects means that we have to tackle them as a team; we collaborate with other groups in the department, but also with chemists, biologists, engineers and physicists across campus, nationally and internationally,” she said. Among Ringe’s research interests is the effects of nanoparticle structure and composition on optical properties, such as localized surface plasmon resonance energy, decay and refractive index sensitivity. Part of a strong plasmonic effort at Rice, her unique electron microscopy expertise will allow her team to characterize the response of particles with nanometer spatial resolution.

Emilie Ringe, center, with engineers in the FEI maufacturing plant clean room in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, where Rice’s new electron microscopes were built.


She builds on the field explored in her doctoral thesis, “Building the Nanoplasmonics Toolbox through Shape Modeling and Single Particle Optical Studies,” and on her postdoctoral studies at Cambridge University. Another effort involves the characterization of single-layer materials. In this work she collaborates with Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering and chair of MSNE. They recently published an article about the refinement of a scalable method for making one-atom-thick layers of molybdenum diselenide, a semiconductor similar to graphene but with properties more suitable for use in such electronic devices as switchable transistors and light-emitting diodes. Ringe received her Ph.D. in materials chemistry in 2012 and a Kellogg Certificate in Management for Scientists and Engineers in 2011, both from Northwestern University. She was a Gott Junior Research Fellow in the Materials Science and Metallurgy Department at Cambridge University, as well as a Newton International Research Fellow (the Royal Society, U.K.), before joining the Rice faculty in January 2014.

Emi l i e Ri n ge

UPGRADING RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE To complement the formation of the new Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE), the George R. Brown School of Engineering is assembling a state-of-the-art electron microscopy (EM) facility, a multi-million-dollar upgrade to its current research capability. Housed in the basement of Brockman Hall, the EM center will include the latest generation of electron microscopes, providing atomic resolution imaging, high-resolution electron spectroscopy, nanometer-scale nanopatterning, and imaging of both hard and soft materials. Researchers will use the devices to study nanoplasmonics, carbon materials and solar cells, as well as low-dimensional materials such as graphene and nanotubes. “Electron microscopes have evolved dramatically in recent years, and the new capabilities of these microscopes will allow us to perform state-of-the-art imaging and spectroscopy,” said Pulickel M. Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering and chair of MSNE. “Such capabilities are essential if we’re to remain competitive in such fields as materials science and nanotechnology. The acquisition of this equipment is going to put us on the map of high-end microscopy centers in the U.S.”

The TEM (transmission electron microscope) is a Titan Themis manufactured by FEI, a global producer of high-performance microscopy instruments, with a probe corrector for sub-Angstrom resolution STEM (scanning transmission electron microscope), an image corrector for sub-Angstrom resolution TEM, an electron monochromator yielding powerful energy resolution, a quad x-ray detector for compositional mapping, and a fast, large field-ofview imaging camera. A sample-holder and software will permit nanometer-resolution three-dimensional reconstructions of nanostructures and composites. “I’m thrilled by this purchase. This is the best, most versatile system I can imagine,” said Emilie Ringe, assistant professor of materials science and nanoengineering. “The quality of the results obtained by the Titan Themis is remarkable. The EM center will solidify Rice’s position as a leader in nanotechnology.” The EM center will also house a Helios Nanofab, a multi-purpose instrument capable of imaging with low-energy electrons, patterning and milling with gallium ions, as well as depositing various elements, including carbon and tungsten. Applications include fabrication of devices and deposition of electrical contacts, patterning of complex structures for prototyping optical sensors and devices, failure analysis, and imaging and characterizing the composition of complex polymers, biological samples and corroded materials. The complementary imaging and milling capabilities make possible the three-dimensional reconstruction of large samples through stepwise slicing, a feature critical for multiphase materials, complex rocks and oil-deposit analysis. Researchers from Rice and elsewhere will have access to the facility and to a bi-annual workshop hosted by Rice and FEI. 27


CORE FACULTY Pulickel M. Ajayan, Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Engineering, and of Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Department Chair Enrique Barrera, Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and of Chemistry Jun Lou, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and of Chemistry Emilie Ringe, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and of Chemistry Edwin L. “Ned� Thomas, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and of Chemistry Boris Yakobson, Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and of Chemistry

In addition to the six core faculty in the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, faculty from across engineering and science work in materials research. They are: Materials Science and NanoEngineering

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Wade Adams, Senior Faculty Fellow

Pedro Alvarez, George R. Brown Professor Engineering

Robert Hauge, Distinguished Faculty Fellow

Qilin Li, Associate Professor

Alberto Pimpinelli, Faculty Fellow

Rouzbeh Shahsavari, Assistant Professor

Robert Vajtai, Senior Faculty Fellow Electrical and Computer Engineering Bioengineering

Naomi Halas, Stanley C. Moore Professor

Antonios G. Mikos, Louis Calder Professor

Junichiro Kono, Professor

John T. McDevitt, Brown-Wiess Professor

Isabell Thomann, Assistant Professor

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Lisa Biswal, Associate Professor

Yildiz Bayazitoglu, Harry S. Cameron Chair

Matteo Pasquali, Professor

Satish Nagarajaiah, Professor

Rafael Verduzco, Louis Owen Assistant Professor

Pol Spanos, Lewis B. Ryon Professor

Michael S. Wong, Professor Physics and Astronomy Chemistry

Emilia Morosan, Associate Professor

Andrew R. Barron, Charles W. Duncan, Jr.-Welch Chair

Doug Natelson, Professor

Angel Marti-Arbona, Assistant Professor

Peter Nordlander, Professor

Gus Scuseria, Robert A. Welch Professor James M. Tour, T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor Bruce Weisman, Professor Peter G. Wolynes, Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science Eugene Zubarev, Associate Professor 28 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG

CELEBRATING THE NEW DEPARTMENT The George R. Brown School of Engineering celebrated the establishment of its ninth department, Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE), with an open house on Dec. 9, 2013. Rice President David Leebron recalled his first meeting with Richard E. Smalley, the Rice researcher who shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996 for his discovery of a new form of carbon he named buckminsterfullerene. Before his death in 2005, Smalley championed the promise of nanotechnology. “His conviction that nanotechnology had the potential to transform our world has been proven again and again,” Leebron said. “We have the advantage of not starting from scratch. Already we have people who are world-class experts in their field at Rice,” said Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering, and professor and founding chair of MSNE. Neal Lane, Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Malcolm Gillis University Professor, moderated a panel discussion, “Future Outlook for Materials Science and Nanoengineering.” Participating were Ajayan; Michael Meador, project manager for NASA’s Structures and Materials Division; and Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, and professor of MSNE. The open house concluded with a reception and poster session with students from several departments who do research in materials science and nanoengineering.


RESEARCH P re dict ing soc ial be hav ior

Discernable through the smudges on the white board in the office of Illya V. Hicks, professor of computational and applied mathematics (CAAM), are graphs, lines, numbers and fragments of equations suggesting plans for an elaborate football play. Hicks and the six graduate students and a post-doc who make up his research group see something else in the seeming confusion— cliques, k-plexes and k-clubs—graph structures that represent cohesive groups. And how might these groups behave? “We use graphs to show the relationships between different people,” he said. “Or even different objects. Maybe the relationship between them isn’t obvious, but we can see similarities by the vertex-edge relationships of these graphs.” Such information can be useful to marketers who want to predict consumer behavior. To illustrate the point, Hicks cites a grocery store that groups hot dog buns, chips and potato salad in a single display. They seem to have little in common, but together they make a picnic. Hicks suggests a grocer might discount one of the items, raise the cost of the others slightly, and consumers might buy the whole package. Hicks squeezes real-world applications out of mathematical abstractions. His research focus includes combinatorial optimization, integer programming, graph theory and matroid theory, often applied to such areas as social networks, cancer treatment and network design. Graphs caught his interest, in part, because he’s a self-described “visual learner.”


“Thirty years ago or more, marketers and demographers figured out that things had minor similarities, and there were a few efforts to figure them out. Now, with social media and networking, it’s fascinating to see how people who are very, very different have one or two things in common—and we can record the data using graphs and use these graphs to target advertising or services. Companies can learn what their audience might want from this data.” Using mathematics to predict social behavior is a byproduct of social science studies in the 1970s, when researchers charted behavior and opinions on graphs. Today, Hicks and his colleagues model networks in data drawn from internet analytics, systems biology, social networks, computational finance and telecommunications. Their goal, he said, is to detect cohesiveness in spite of missing information. “Every time you swipe your loyalty card at the grocery store, someone’s keeping track of what you buy and how you’re behaving,” Hicks said. “I use math to help companies and people better understand that information.” Hicks earned his Ph.D. in CAAM from Rice in 2000 and for six years taught industrial and systems engineering at Texas A&M University. He joined the Rice faculty in 2007.

E x plor ing the struc ture of netwo rk s In the vast, uncharted, forever-expanding universe of Big Data, Michael Schweinberger dwells in a galaxy characterized by what he calls “the systematic deviation from pure randomness.” He designs complex statistical models and methods for exploring the structure of networks—not things but the relationships between them. “Look at Facebook. Every subscriber can choose any other subscriber as a friend. The number of possible friendships is more than 10 to the 18th power,” said Schweinberger, assistant professor of statistics at Rice University. His working assumption is that in so enormous a volume of relationships, patterns, not strict randomness, are discernable. For example, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, hundreds of organizations rushed to the World Trade Center to conduct rescue and relief operations. They collaborated, but the collaborations were not formed by flipping a coin. Organizations, consciously or otherwise, formed a network which systematically deviated from simple random networks. It had more redundancy than what would have resulted from simple randomness, and was less vulnerable to shocks that could have reduced the capacity of the core organizations to coordinate disaster response. “What interests me is making mathematical representations of complex and high-dimensional network data and extracting the most salient structural features from networks,” he said. Understanding the underlying structures of a network is critical to understanding such real-world events as the resilience of terrorist networks, the spread of infectious diseases and the systematic risk in financial markets. In order to advise public health officials on how to curb the spread of disease, for example, scientists need to understand their sub-surface structures. Schweinberger’s core research focuses on development of more sophisticated statistical models that can deal with the complexities of massive, real-world networks. Simplistic models can lead to less reliable predictions and decisions by organizations. More complex models can improve the accuracy of predictions. “We hope that our more complex statistical models and methods will help scientists, engineers and policy makers improve the understanding and model-based predictions of many real-world phenomena,” he said. Schweinberger, a native of Germany, earned his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, in 2007. He worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington, Seattle and Pennsylvania State University before joining the Rice faculty in 2013. M ichae l Sc h wein be rger


Summer of design For five weeks they brainstormed, analyzed, drew plans. They designed, welded, cut and built. And, when it was all over, they had completed design projects with real-life applications. The 10 engineering students who were part of this program were rising sophomores, and all of them had taken ENGI 120, the design class in which several of the projects were launched. “This internship allowed them to complete—or in some cases, redesign—engineering projects that they’d worked on as freshmen,” said Renata Ramos, lecturer in bioengineering and coordinator of this summer’s internship program. “All of them were ENGI 120 projects, but they were not all the ones these students had worked on.” Five projects were selected for the interns, with subject matter as varied as creating a new feeding system for tigers and giraffes at the Houston Zoo to building a rock wall for pediatric rehabilitation. “The projects teach them teamwork, give them design experience and help them gain more familiarity with the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen,” said Ramos. “For the first week of the program, they attended workshops that gave them a refresher on the components of the Kitchen, such as the available tools, 3-D drawing and printing, laser cutting and casting. Then they were assigned their projects, and spent the last four weeks building.” Austin James, mechanical engineering, is part of the Rice Balance. Last year, that team built a walker for Special Olympics gymnast Macy Bouchard, which allowed her do a routine on the balance beam. The wheeled device enabled her to perform by holding onto bars rather than her coach. “Her confidence level just soared over having that kind of independence,” said James. Over the summer, he and teammates Nikhil Shamapant, bioengineering, and Lauren Wood, computer science, took that design and improved on it but also kept it affordable so it could be used by other Special Olympics athletes. “My mom’s a nurse, so I knew I wanted to work on something that would help people. It’s been great to be part of this project.” The members of Rock-Wall-E, Alex Dzeda, electrical engineering, Kevin King, mechanical engineering, Sharon Ghelman, bioengineering, and Anoosha Moturu, bioengineering, also loved the idea that their design project would help people, in this case, children with muscular development issues. Their adjustable rock wall is angled, allowing patients’ physical therapists to custom design exercises that increase their muscle capability. “We’ve had to think through all kinds of things on this project,” explained Moturu. “Because it’s for kids, we needed to be sure there were no pinch points, no sharp corners, and that the device would hold the weight of a small child. Those are real problems, and having to consider them gives us an idea of the sorts of things we’ll encounter in an industry setting.” “Working on projects like these gives the students a chance to learn how to prioritize and problem solve,” said Ramos. “And knowing that people will really be using their designs is priceless.”


Adjustable Rock Wall Client: Pediatric Therapy Center Create an adjustable angle rock wall that will allow therapists to individualize patients’ therapies. Alex Dzeda, Sharon Ghelman, Kevin King, Anoosha Moturu

Tiger Zip Line Client: Houston Zoo Keepers at the Houston Zoo have noticed that their Malayan tigers are bored because natural behaviors like chasing, stalking and leaping are not possible in their environment. Design a feeding system that requires more physical challenges for the cats than the current method. Helen Little, Archana Mandava, Isaac Phillips

Balance Beam Device for Special Olympics Client: Gregg Sholeen Design an assistive device that allows special Olympics gymnasts to be more independent while performing balance beam routines. Austin James, Nikhil Shamapant, Lauren Wood

Ric e ’s En g in e e rs W ith ou t Borders win s two n ation al award s Rice’s Engineers without Borders (EWB) chapter is one of the most active in the country, with engineering students building bridges and improving water supplies in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Now, the chapter has been honored with two national awards. For its efforts to bring clean drinking water to a small town in Nicaragua, Lucidia Mantilla, the chapter was honored with a 2014 EWB–USA Premier Project Award and a Student Project Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. “The EWB-USA Rice University Chapter has really excelled over the past few years,” said Scott Hammond, chapter relations manager, EWB–USA. “It’s been a pleasure to see the level of enthusiasm and commitment to our mission and vision within the chapter. This has led to a high quality project and strong collaborations with the chapter’s community partners.” “It’s the best possible feeling an engineer can have, knowing that something he’s done has improved life for a group of people. I know I made the right decision when I chose to be an engineer,” said Adrian Bizzaro, mechanical engineering, who is co-leader of the project and president of the EWB chapter at Rice. Other members of the Nicaragua travel team (called NICA I) are: Ethan Ardern, civil engineering; Rico Marquez, electrical and computer engineering; Siddharth Arun Mullick, mechanical engineering; Kyle Shepherd, civil engineering; and Rachel Sterling, mechanical engineering. Marquez and Mullick were the original co-leaders for the Lucidia Mantilla work, and Sterling is now a co-leader. The Rice chapter worked with ENACAL, the national water company of Nicaragua, and residents of Matagalpa, a department in the northwestern portion of the country, to build a potable water system for some 450 residents of Lucidia Mantilla, an impoverished area in Matagalpa. The improvements included storage tanks, 400 meters of pipe, a pumping unit with an integrated control system and a tap in each home. About 80 percent of the project cost, which amounted to $40,000, was funded by the Rice EWB chapter. The rest came from Nicaragua, including ENACAL. Bizzaro said the organization is gearing up for this year’s projects. At a recruiting event in August, he and fellow chapter members provided an overview for students who are interested in getting involved with the group, and throughout the fall, they are working on design elements for their projects. Teams are expected to travel to El Salvador in December, and there’s a possibility that another team will travel to Nicaragua in October.


STUDENT AWARDS NDSEG fellowships John M. Alred, Brian Landry and Chris Metzler have received prestigious National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) fellowships. Sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the engineers are three of 200 doctoral students selected out of approximately 3,200 applicants nationwide. The three-year fellowship covers tuition and provides a stipend of $31,000 per year.

John Alred

Brian Landry

Alred, a first-year graduate student in materials science and nanoengineering, focuses his research on the theory and modeling of the structure, kinetics and properties of materials derived from macroscopic and fundamental molecular interactions. He explores the physical properties of nanotubes, in particular their electro-mechanics, and also works with graphene, graphane and hexagonal boron nitride. His adviser is Boris Yakobson, the Karl F. Hasselmann Chair of Engineering, professor of materials science and nanoengineering, and professor of chemistry. Alred earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston in 2013. Landry, a second-year bioengineering student in Assistant Professor Jeff Tabor’s laboratory, will advance his investigations into the synthetic biology and engineering of bacteria found in the human gastrointestinal tract. The new work builds off previous advances from the Tabor lab, published in the January 23, 2014 issue of Nature Methods, which used an ultra-high-precision method for creating and measuring gene expression signals in bacteria. The downstream applications for Landry’s research can impact diverse areas of the national defense, such as the production of synthetically engineered microbes that improve soldiers’ nutrient utilization and overall fitness on the battlefield. Landry has a B.S. in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. Chris Metzler, a first-year graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, researches efficient compressive sensing recovery algorithms for use in radio frequency and high speed imaging applications. His recent work has been in collaboration with Richard G. Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Engineering at Rice, and Arian Maleki, formerly a postdoctoral scholar at Rice and now assistant professor of statistics at Columbia University. A paper on their results has been submitted to IEEE Transactions on Information Theory and is awaiting approval for publication. Metzler earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rice in 2013.

NDSEG selections are made by the Air Force Research Laboratory/ Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research and the Army Research Office. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) administers the NDSEG Fellowship. Chris Metzle r


NSF Graduate Fellowships Eleven current undergraduates and graduate students, as well as engineering alumni are the winners of 2014 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program grants. They are among 2,000 students from across the country to receive the prestigious fellowships. The annual awards support outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. The four current engineering graduate students and the undergraduate student awarded the 2014 fellowships and their departments are:

Boris Brimkov, graduate student, Computational and Applied Mathematics Elaa Hilou, graduate student, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Sarah Michelle Kim, graduate student, Computer Science Chelsey Smith, graduate student, Bioengineering Stephanie Tzouanas ’14, Bioengineering The six Rice alumni who also received NSF GRFP awards and their current graduate institutions are:

Brandon Chalifoux, (’08, Mechanical Engineering), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Amy Liao, (’12, Electrical Engineering), University of California, Berkeley Scott Nauert, (’13, Chemical Engineering), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Andrew Owens, (’12, Mechanical Engineering), Massachusetts Institute of Technology Andria Remirez, (’13, Mechanical Engineering), Vanderbilt University Thi Dinh Vo, (’12, Chemical Engineering), Columbia University More than 14,000 students applied for NSF GRFP awards this year. The oldest graduate fellowship of its kind, NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides recipients with a three-year annual stipend of $32,000 as well as $12,000 for tuition and fees.

H e r tz F oundat ion Fe llowshi p

S t e p h an ie Tzo ua na s

Stephanie Tzouanas ’14 has received a prestigious 2014 Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Fellowship Award for graduate education. Each year, the highly competitive Hertz Fellowship is given to 15 students pursuing careers in the applied physical, biological and engineering sciences. Tzouanas was selected from among 50 finalists from 29 universities. Some 800 students applied. Valued at more than $250,000 per student and lasting up to five years, the Hertz Fellowship is ranked as the nation’s most generous. In 2012, Tzouanas was named a Goldwater Scholar by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. In 2011, with the aid of a Global Engineering Research Scholarship, she worked in the National University of Singapore’s Tissue Modulation Laboratory. The following year she took part in the NSF Cellular Engineering Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at Rice, and in 2013 she worked at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Tzouanas received the Society for Biomaterials’ 2014 Student Award for Outstanding Research in the undergraduate category. She was a Rice Century Scholar, which enabled her to study bone-regeneration materials and techniques in the lab of Antonios Mikos, the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering. Tzouanas is pursuing a doctorate in bioengineering at Stanford University. 35

STUDENT AWARDS F u l b rig ht Sc h olar sh ips A Rice graduate student and recent alumnus have received Fulbright Scholarships. Antonia Sebastian and Nathan Liu are winners of the prestigious awards. Sebastian, a third-year graduate student in environmental engineering, will use her Netherland–America Foundation Fulbright Fellowship in Water Management to spend nine months in the Netherlands researching flood mitigation and risk. Sebastian earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Rice in 2011 and began her research at the Delft University of Technology in September. “The Dutch have been dealing with flooding for centuries,” she said. “Thirty percent of their country is below sea level, and 60 percent is at risk of flooding. They have the premier flood-control system in the world.” In the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008, Sebastian worked in partnership with the Clear Lake City Water Authority to examine the effects of flooding and storm surge on coastal bayous. Her adviser is Philip Bedient, the Herman Brown Professor of Engineering. “In the Netherlands, I want to look at the increased flood risk posed by climate change and land use in densely populated areas. The methodology I develop will help us quantify the increased risk,” Sebastian said. “A large part of the study will focus on communicating the scientific results to end-users—that is, the decision makers in Houston.” Nathan J. Liu, ’14, bioengineering, will use his Fulbright to conduct research at Imperial College London, focusing on developing nanoparticle-based clinical tests to predict how cancer patients will respond to medications before they begin therapy. “This will allow oncologists to select drug regimens personalized to work for individual patients, helping to prevent unnecessary side effects, improve quality of care and save health-care dollars,” said Liu, who is also affiliated with the Whitaker International Program and will work toward a master’s degree in clinical research/translational medicine from Imperial. He plans to enter medical school and continue collaborative research in experimental medicine. For three years, Liu has worked in the lab of Rebekah Drezek, professor of bioengineering, researching gold nanoparticles for applications in cancer immunotherapy. In 2013, Liu was a Wagoner Foreign Research Scholar at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland. He was also a Clinical Research Fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Anto ni a Sebas t i an

“In the Netherlands, I want to look at the increased flood risk posed by climate and land use change in densely populated areas. The methodology I develop will help us quantify the increased risk.” —Antonia Sebastian


Nat han L i u

Uda l l Sc hol a rs hi ps Rice engineers Hutson Chilton and Zach Bielak have been awarded 2014 Udall Scholarships. The awards, presented by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, are given to students who show passion for careers committed to the environment. Chilton and Bielak are among 50 students nationwide to win the $5,000 scholarships. Chilton is a senior majoring in bioengineering with a minor in energy and water sustainability. She works in the lab of Professor Ka-Yiu San engineering bacteria to overproduce free fatty acids. “Free fatty acids (FFAs) are conventionally harvested from palm oil, leading to deforestation in Southeast Asia,” said Chilton. “We optimize microbial production of FFAs so that these important compounds can be sustainably produced using bioreactors instead of unsustainably harvested from palm forests.” Chilton is president of the Environmental Club, a leader of the Rice University Biodiesel Initiative, a Real Food Revolution member, Environmental Committee co-head and EcoRep at McMurtry College. Chilton plans to attend graduate school to study chemical and biomolecular engineering or bioengineering. “Receiving the Udall allows me to pursue my dreams and reaffirms that my goals are considered worthwhile, not only by me but by environmental leaders across the nation,” she said.”

Bielak is also a senior, majoring in mechanical engineering. He participated in the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking Program through the Baker Institute, which took him to Doha, Qatar over spring break. He has conducted research in the lab of Professor Pulickel Ajayan analyzing the technical feasibility of sustainable, organic lithium-ion batteries. He leads a sub-committee within Engineers Without Borders, working to create a water distribution system in El Salvador, is the Head EcoRep for Rice, and is music director for the Rice Philharmonics a cappella group. Bielak plans to pursue a career in technical sustainability, combining his engineering skills and love for the environment to create a “more energy-efficient, equitable, and resource-conscious world” for future generations, he said. “The Udall scholarship is important because it will connect me with similarly dedicated scholars across the nation, from whom I can learn and with whom I can share my passion,” Bielak said. “I have dreamed about entering this community of environmental leaders since I first heard of the scholarship, and I can’t believe that this dream has finally come to fruition.” The Udall Foundation is an independent federal agency established by Congress to honor former Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall and former Arizona congressman and Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall.

“Receiving the Udall gives me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and reaffirms that my goals are considered worthwhile, not only by me but by environmental leaders across the nation” —Hutson Chilton


FACULTY AWARDS Nati onal A c ade my of En gin eeri ng

Rice University Professor Naomi Halas has joined the elite club of scientists elected to both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). She was one of 67 new NAE members announced in 2014, after being elected to the NAS in 2013. Less than 5 percent of NAS and NAE members have dual membership, and Halas is one of 12 women chosen for the honor. Election to these academies is one of the highest distinctions conferred on U.S. scientists and engineers. Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering, chemistry, and physics and astronomy. She is the founding director of Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics and director of the Rice Quantum Institute. She is the first person in the university’s history to be elected to both the NAS and NAE for research done at Rice. “Election to a national academy is an honor bestowed by one’s peers in the academy, and the fact that Naomi has earned the rare distinction of being elected to both the NAE and the NAS is testament to her sustained and fundamental contributions to cross-disciplinary science,” said Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering and professor in materials science and nanoengineering and in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Halas’ research straddles applied physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, medicine and optics. She joined Rice in the first wave of researchers recruited by the late Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley to explore the frontiers of nanotechnology. Halas, who worked at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center and at Bell Laboratories, was well positioned for nanoscience because of her training in both chemistry and physics.


Naomi H al as

She rapidly rose through Rice’s academic ranks, but it was her invention of gold nanoshells in the mid-1990s that first drew international attention. Halas’ nanoshells were among the first optically tunable nanoparticles, and the discovery established her as a pioneer in nanophotonics, a then-nascent field dedicated to the exploration of nano-optics. About 15 years ago, Halas and Rice bioengineering researcher Jennifer West hit upon the idea of using nanoshells to treat cancer. Nanoshells have the capacity to convert light into heat. By tuning them to interact with near-infrared light, an invisible wavelength that shines through skin and muscle, Halas and West showed they could use nanoshells to destroy cancer with heat. The method is now in clinical trials. Her accomplishments resulted in her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Materials Research Society, the Optical Society, the American Physical Society, the International Society for Optical Engineering and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Halas has a B.A. in chemistry from La Salle College, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in physics from Bryn Mawr College. She joined the Rice faculty in 1989.

National Scie nc e Foun dat i on CAREER Aw a rd Three junior faculty members in the George R. Brown School of Engineering have received 2014 CAREER Awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further their research. Honored with the prestigious grants were Caleb Kemere, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Rice’s Realtime Neural Engineering Laboratory; Isabell Thomann, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering; and Rafael Verduzco, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. About 400 CAREER Awards are given each year by the NSF. The five-year awards, which come with about $400,000 in research funding, are given to “junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.” Kemere’s NSF-funded research focuses on improving the effectiveness and durability of deep-brain stimulators (DBS), devices that counter the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease by sending an electrical current into nerve centers near the brain stem. Kemere said today’s DBS systems must periodically be manually adjusted by neurologists. In his next-generation DBS, such adjustments would be made automatically, many times a second. The batteries in current DBS systems last for about 10 years, and achieving comparable battery life for a more dynamic system will require development of low-power embedded microprocessors. Thomann’s research focuses on using sunlight to reduce the carbon produced by power plants. “We are interested in improving photocatalysis, a class of processes in which we use light to drive chemical reactions,” she said. “This grant will focus on the reduction of carbon dioxide using sunlight, but the methods that we study have many applications.” Part of her work focuses on designing and testing photocatalytic nanomaterials, tiny bits of matter that interact with light to foster chemical reactions. Thomann’s research could allow chemical engineers to optimize solar-powered CO2 conversion systems. Verduzco’s research explores the use of organic materials in wearable and even disposable electronics. His research group is developing flexible organic solar cells that could be used in electronic applications and devices. Though not as efficient as silicon-based solar cells, organics could reduce the cost of solar energy in many applications. Recently, his lab produced a cell based on block copolymers, organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct nanoscale layers. “These materials are cheaper than silicon,” he said. “They can be painted or inkjet-printed on a surface. Organic solar cells are not going to compete with current technology, but we believe there’s a new set of applications that will come about from their development.”

C a l e b K e m e re

Isabell Thomann

Ra f a e l Ve rd u z c o



R i c ha rd Ta pi a

Richard Tapia, University Professor, the Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering and a professor of computational and applied mathematics, has earned the National Science Board’s (NSB) 2014 Vannevar Bush Award. The award is given annually to leaders in science and technology who have made contributions to the welfare of the nation through public service activities in science, technology and public policy. The NSB is the governing board of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and policy advisers to the president and Congress. Tapia joined the Rice faculty in 1970, and his research has focused on optimization theory and numerical analysis. As director of Rice’s Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity, he has directed or co-directed more underrepresented minority and women doctoral students in mathematics than anyone in the country. Tapia also directs the NSF-funded Empowering Leadership Alliance, which engages underrepresented minority students in computing at research institutions nationwide.

National Scie nc e Board Va nnev a r B us h Aw a rd Tapia was the first Hispanic elected to the National Academy of Engineering, in 1992. Four years later he received the inaugural Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. That same year he earned a presidential appointment to the NSB, the nation’s highest scientific governing body. Among his many other honors, Tapia received the National Medal of Science from President Obama in 2011.

A m e ric an Ac ad e my o f Arts an d S c ie n c es F ellow

P ol D . Span os


Pol Spanos, the Lewis B. Ryon Professor in Mechanical and Civil Engineering, and one of the world’s leading experts on the dynamics and vibrations of structural and mechanical systems, was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). A member of the National Academy of Engineering since 2005, Spanos’ research focuses on devising computational models with applications in vehicle and robot dynamics; estimation of seismic spectra; flow-induced vibrations of offshore rigs, marine risers and pipelines; certification of payloads in space shuttle and space station missions; directional oil-well drilling; vibration and aseismic protection of structures and equipment; wind loads simulation; and signal processing for electrocardiograms, electroencephalograms and bone mechanics.

Spanos has published more than 350 technical papers, authored or edited 18 books and supervised the theses of more than 75 master’s students and the dissertations of more than 55 doctoral students. He is a member of the Academy of Europe, the National Academy of Greece and the Indian National Academy of Engineering. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Mechanics, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has twice received Rice’s George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching. Spanos earned a Ph.D. in applied mechanics from the California Institute of Technology in 1976 and joined the Rice faculty in 1984. Founded in 1780, the AAAS is among the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in the country.

Rebe c c a Ric h ards-K o rtum

Op t ic a l Soc i e t y F e l d B i o p hotoni c s Award The Optical Society (OSA) honored Rebecca Richards-Kortum with the 2014 Michael S. Feld Biophotonics Award in recognition of her “exceptional contributions to advancing the applications of optics in disease diagnosis and inspiring work in disseminating low-cost health technologies to the developing world.” Richards-Kortum is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. She is director of Beyond Traditional Borders and Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technology and oversees the Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging Laboratory.

Established in 2012, the Feld Biophotonics Award honors researchers for their contributions to biophotonics. It is named in honor of photonics pioneer Michael Feld, and will be presented at OSA’s Frontiers in Optics Annual Meeting in Tucson. In 2013, Richards-Kortum was elected a fellow of the OSA, the leading professional society for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-world applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008.

N o rthrop G rum ma n I nnov a ti on Aw a rd

Ayd in Babakhan i

Aydin Babakhani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and director of the Rice Integrated Systems and Circuits Laboratory, has won the Northrop Grumman Innovation Award for research into miniaturized THz radars using silicon technology. He was the only recipient of Northrop Grumman’s challenge on Future Radar Waveforms. Babakhani, who describes the project as “radar on a tiny silicon chip,” received the one-year, $100,000 award from the American global aerospace and defense technology company. He earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from

Caltech in 2005 and 2008, respectively. In 2010-2011, Babakhani worked as a research scientist at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, and joined the Rice faculty in 2011. In 2012, he received a Young Faculty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. Among the other applications for the sensor technology Babakhani is investigating are security, consumer electronics (gesture-capturing devices like Microsoft’s Xbox, for instance), oil and gas exploration, and medical imaging (including hand-held devices).


FACULTY AWARDS A m e rican Soc iet y fo r Engineeri ng Educ a ti on Fel l ow Ann Saterbak, professor in the practice of bioengineering education, associate chair for undergraduate affairs in the Department of Bioengineering and associate dean for engineering education, has been elected a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for her contributions to undergraduate engineering education. ASEE is the largest U.S. engineering education society. Election as a Fellow is confined to one-tenth of one percent of its members in any year. ASEE currently has 262 fellows. Saterbak earned a B.A. in chemical engineering and biochemistry from Rice in 1990 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995. She joined the Rice faculty in 1999 as a lecturer and director of laboratory instruction. With the support of a National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education grant, Saterbak co-authored the textbook Bioengineering Fundamentals, published by Prentice Hall in 2007. She won the Robert G. Quinn Award (2007) and the Theo Pilkington Outstanding Educator Award (2013) from ASEE, the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2011) and the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2013) from the Association of Rice Alumni, and the Department of Bioengineering Teaching Award (2012). Saterbak became a member of ASEE in 2000, and is a frequent presenter at the organization’s conferences and expositions. She was elected to ASEE’s National Board of Directors in 2009, and has served in various positions within the organization, including chair of the Biomedical Engineering Division, member of the Awards Policy Committee and reviewer for the Journal of Engineering Education.

An n S at e r bak

In st it ute of El ec tri c a l a nd El ec tron i c s Engineers Fel l ow

Ashutosh Sabharwal


Ashutosh Sabharwal, professor of electrical and computer engineering and founder of the Wireless OpenAccess Research Platform (WARP) at Rice, was elected a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for his contributions to the theory of and experimentation in wireless systems and networks. The IEEE names fellows from among its members who make significant contributions to the discipline. Sabharwal’s primary research is in the development of theory and protocols for wireless networks, including a recent breakthrough in full-duplex wireless technology for cellular networks.

As founder of the WARP project, he has helped develop an open-source research and education platform for advanced wireless network prototyping and experimentation in use at more than 125 research organizations worldwide. More recently, he has expanded his research into the application of mobile technology to address global health problems. He is the founder of the Rice-based Scalable Health Initiative, the purpose of which is to develop innovative medical devices and applications. Sabharwal earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Ohio State University in 1995 and 1999, respectively. He joined the Rice faculty in 1999.

O ptical Societ y Fe llow Rebecca Richards-Kortum has been elected a fellow of the Optical Society (OSA) — the leading professional society for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-world applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. She is one of 71 OSA fellows named this year. OSA fellows are nominated by current fellows and selected for their overall impact on optics as gauged through specific scientific, engineering and technological contributions, a record of significant publications or patents related to optics, technical leadership in the field and service to OSA and the global optics community. Richards-Kortum is Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. She is director of Beyond Traditional Borders and Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technology and oversees the Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging Laboratory. For two decades, Richards-Kortum has focused on translating research that integrates advances in nanotechnology and molecular imaging with microfabrication technologies to develop portable optical imaging systems that are inexpensive and provide point-of-care diagnosis. This basic and translational research is highly collaborative and has led to new technologies to improve the early detection of cancers and other diseases, especially in impoverished countries. R e b e c c a R i c h ards- Ko r t u m

A m erican Che mic al S oc iet y P M SE Fel l ow Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering, has been named a fellow of the American Chemical Society’s Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Division. The honor recognizes Thomas “for seamlessly integrating and advancing polymers and materials, particularly in the area of structural control of waves in polymer-based materials.” Thomas holds joint appointments in the Departments of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Chemistry, and collaborates with scientists and engineers in the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice. His current research focuses on using 2-D and 3-D lithography, direct-write and self-assembly techniques for creating metamaterials with unprecedented mechanical and thermal properties. He is author of the undergraduate textbook, The Structure of Materials, has coauthored more than 425 papers and holds 17 patents. Thomas is the former head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he held from 2006 until his appointment at Rice in 2011. He is the founder and former director of the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology (2002-2006), and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. E d w i n L . “N e d ” T h o mas

S P I E F ellow Frank K. Tittel, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, professor of bioengineering, and a pioneer in the development of laser technology, has been named a fellow of the SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering. A member of the Rice University faculty for 46 years, Tittel is being honored for his “clear demonstration of significant technical contributions in one or more fields of optical, photo-optical and optoelectronic applied science and engineering.” Tittel earned three degrees in physics from Oxford University, culminating in a Ph.D. in 1959. He went to work for the General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., and on his first day was asked to recreate the laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) first built by Theodore Maiman in May 1960 at the Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, Calif. At Rice, Tittel created one of the world’s first tunable lasers, with a wavelength that could be set to specific frequencies. It became critical to many advances in laser applications and critical to the development of spectroscopy. Tittel is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and the American Physical Society. SPIE, formerly the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers, was founded in 1955 and has more than 17,000 members. Frank Tittel 43

FACULTY AWARDS A m e rican Soc iet y o f Mec h a ni c a l Engi neers Fel l ow Marcia K. O’Malley, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has been named a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, said of O’Malley: “Her work in robotics, particularly the human-robot interface and the important role of haptic feedback, is well recognized nationally. Her team of students, both graduate and undergraduate, is helping her create the next generation of medical robotic devices.” In her citation from ASME, O’Malley is singled out for her contributions to “the dynamics and control of mechanical systems, particularly those designed to physically interact with humans. “These include the design and clinical implementation of robotic exoskeletons for upper limb rehabilitation after neurological injury, the use of haptic feedback to enhance skill acquisition, training and interaction in virtual environments, and the use of interactive haptic devices for education at the undergraduate level.” O’Malley earned her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2001 and joined the Rice faculty that year. In 2004, she was named an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator, and the following year she received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. She earned the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice in 2008. ASME has 140,000 members in 158 countries, of whom about 3,300 have been named fellows.

Ma rc i a O’ Ma l l e y

A s s o ciation of Co mput ing M a c hi nery Fel l ow

John Mel lo r-Cru mmey


John M. Mellor-Crummey, professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering, has been named a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for his contributions to parallel and high-performance computing. Mellor-Crummey is one 50 ACM members from universities, corporations and research labs so honored by the organization this year. He earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Rochester in 1989, and that year joined Rice as a research associate in computer science and the Center for Research on Parallel Computation. He became a Faculty Fellow in 1992, a Senior Faculty Fellow in 1998, an associate professor in 2004 and full professor in 2008. Mellor-Crummey served as deputy director of the Center for High Performance Software Research at Rice. His research focuses on software technology for high-performance computing, including performance analysis, performance modeling, parallelizing compilers, programming tools and applications of high-performance computing to science, engineering and medicine. According to Google, Mellor-Crummey’s scholarly papers have been cited 7,200 times, of which more than 2,700 have been since 2009.


El i zab eth Gillis Award Debra Purtee, executive administrator in the Department of Bioengineering, received the 2014 Elizabeth Gillis Award for Exemplary Service. The award, named for the wife of former Rice President Malcolm Gillis, recognizes Rice staff members who demonstrate unflagging commitment and service to the university. Gillis and President David Leebron presented Purtee with the award at the April 2 town hall meeting in Rice Memorial Center. Purtee went to work for Rice in 1994 in the Computer Science Department as its senior administrator. Moshe Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering and professor of computer science who was chair of the department then, described her as “a fantastic administrator who professionally juggled numerous responsibilities: overseeing the department’s staff, managing the department budget, supporting the faculty in research proposal submission and seeing to the welfare of our graduate students.” In 1996, Purtee was recruited to the newly created Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies as an assistant vice provost. In 2007, that office split into two divisions — Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Office of Research. Purtee assisted the newly hired Vice Provost for Research, Jim Coleman, and was charged with the management of all supporting business activities of the division. She joined the Department of Bioengineering in 2011. Purtee was recognized with the Centennial Star Award in 2012.

Debra Purtee

K a t h r y n O’ Br i e n

H a rdy B ourl a nd Awa rd Kathryn O’Brien, events administrator for the George R. Brown School of Engineering, was presented with the Hardy Bourland Award at the annual School of Engineering/School of Natural Sciences ice cream social in April. O’Brien joined the Rice University staff in 1998 as an executive assistant in the Center for High Performance Software Research. In 2002, she was promoted to conference coordinator, and was hired by the dean of engineering’s office in 2006. There she is responsible for planning events hosted by the school’s nine academic departments. The award is named for Hardy Bourland, who served as associate dean of engineering from 1975 until his retirement in 2000. It honors a member of the school staff whose contributions significantly improve his or her department, the school of engineering or the university as a whole. O’Brien was also the recipient of the 2010 Outstanding Employee Award, cited for her dedication and expertise.

In M em or i a m J o e H i g h t ow e r Joe Hightower, a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Rice University who pioneered the fields of catalysis and chemical kinetics and advanced development of the materials essential to the catalytic converters now mandated in motor vehicles, died July 25 at the age of 77. Hightower earned his bachelor’s degree at Harding University in Arkansas and a doctorate in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. After postdoctoral studies at the Queen’s University in Belfast and the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, he joined the Rice faculty in 1967, became full professor in 1970 and retired in 2002. He served as department chair, director of sponsored research, a member of the University Council and secretary of the faculty. He was a faculty adviser to the Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Hightower co-founded and for more than 40 years served Hospitality Apartments, a volunteerrun, 46-unit Texas Medical Center facility providing free housing for families coming to Houston for medical care. Hightower received the Jefferson Prize for Public Service in Houston in 1982.




SECURITY His company’s rather cryptic name, Bromium, is dense with implications, as Gaurav Banga and his co-founders intended. First, there is bromine—among the non-metallic elements, the only one that remains a liquid at room temperature. It evaporates readily—disappears from sight, like effective computer security. It’s useful as a fire-retardant and disinfectant—powerful stuff. And a bromide is a pithy bit of conventional wisdom. “We wanted a name that got people thinking, that would suggest something powerful and maybe a little bit mysterious,” said Banga, who earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in computer science from Rice University in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Banga has developed a new approach to computer security. It’s based on hardware isolation of unknown computer code and content and uses novel virtualization technologies. He seems to have a success story on his hands. Bromium has attracted almost 100 customers since its founding in 2010, including the New York Stock Exchange, Automatic Data Processing and BlackRock, the multinational investment management corporation. Twenty of its clients are Fortune 500 companies. Banga came to Rice in 1994 after earning a bachelor of technology degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi that year. “As an undergrad, I was attracted to the field of parallel computing. Some of the most cutting-edge work being done in that field was at Rice, under Ken Kennedy. He was number one,” said Banga, referring to the late Ken Kennedy, the John and Ann Doerr University Professor at Rice and director of the Center for High Performance Software Research. Peter Druschel, now a member of the Distributed Systems Group at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany, was Banga’s adviser at Rice. “Gaurav was my very first Ph.D. student after I joined Rice as an assistant professor. He and I were my group during the first year, so we worked together very closely. He spent day and night at the lab during those years, living on pizza and Coca-Cola. Not accidentally, those are the names he gave the two lab computers he was working with at the time,” Druschel said. Banga’s doctoral thesis at Rice was titled “Operating systems support for server applications.” Druschel recalled: 46 RIC E ENGI NEERI NG

“I saw plenty of the entrepreneurial spirit that would mark Gaurav’s later career. His resourcefulness even got him into a bit of trouble when he used some computing equipment without authorization. There was no ill intent. He just wanted to do an experiment in the middle of the night rather than wait until the morning.” The freshly minted Ph.D. moved to Silicon Valley in 1998, and his timing was superb. “That’s where all the action was happening. There was no better place to be for working on the bleeding edge,” he said. Banga had contemplated a career in academia, but said, “I started having so much fun—research fun. I found more focus and more freedom in industry,” he said. Before founding Bromium, Banga was chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering at Phoenix Technologies Ltd. There, he drove the transition from the traditional BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) product, which loads the operating system, to the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) standard. While at Phoenix he also led the creation of HyperSpace,

p h o t o : C hr i s C h o w an i e c

the world’s first firmware-integrated client hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor. Before joining Phoenix, Banga was vice president of product management at Intellisync. He was also co-founder and CEO of PDApps, the creator of VeriChat, a mobile instant-messaging solution acquired by Intellisync in 2005. Banga started his industry career at NetApp, where he worked for more than five years on the Data ONTAP system and led creation of the virtual filer (vFiler) product. Bromium is a venture-backed startup headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., “in the backwaters of Apple,” Banga says. It was named one of CNBC’s 50 Disruptors—companies that will “change the way we do things.” Bromium is in the Enterprise Security category. It uses a patented micro-virtualization approach—isolation as opposed to detection—to upend existing security models. “It’s designed to protect an executive working in his hotel room or a salesperson connecting from a coffee shop—a highly mobile work force that is extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks. With

Bromium, each web page, document or computer program runs its own disposable (and invisible) virtual computer. You end up with hundreds of virtual PCs being created and destroyed behind the scene as the user does their work. A bad program or web page cannot compromise anything because it is isolated in a dedicated virtual computer. Since Bromium works invisibly, and automatically, this is a solution for everybody,” Banga said. Bromium now has more than 160 employees and revenues are increasing rapidly. “All the detection-based security technologies have proven ineffective. They’ve been unable to keep up with new developments like BYOD, cloud, smartphones and tablets. As the market embraces our approach, we’ll be able to get closer to our ultimate goal— restoring trust in computing,” Banga said. His former Rice adviser, Peter Druschel, remembered a story Banga’s father shared at the commencement festivities: “He informed his family as a little boy that he would become a doctor, as in Ph.D., and referred to himself as ‘Gaurav Banga Doctor.’ He seems to have had his priorities straight pretty early.” 47

ALUMNI R EA names 20 14 Ou t st and i ng Engi neeri ng Al umna a nd O u tstand ing Yo un g Engine eri ng Al um nus

S andra Joh n s o n

Rak e sh A g r awal

It was a Bell Laboratories mentor who encouraged Sandra Johnson ’88 to apply to Rice for her Ph.D. work in electrical engineering. While earning her master’s degree from Stanford, she realized she enjoyed research, and she trusted her mentor when he suggested Rice. Once here, she fell in love with the small, neighborly campus. “I’m from Lake Charles, so it was near to home,” she said. “The department size at Rice made it an intimate learning experience.” Johnson’s research focused on computer hardware and highperformance computer design; specifically, memory sub-systems in supercomputers. She looked for ways high-end computers could improve shared memory without compromising the machine’s power. That research led her to IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where she did cutting-edge computer research and design. “It’s so interesting to me that I was on the bleeding edge of research at that time and now we see how quickly our computing capabilities have developed; you have your computer on your phone now.” Johnson left IBM last February, after 25 years with the company. Instead of retreating to her home in North Carolina, she decided to use her retirement to begin a second career. SKJ Vision Engineering, LLC was born in April. “I consult with enterprises to assist C-level executives (CFOs, CEOs, CIOs) develop tech solutions to help drive the economy of sub-Saharan Africa,” she said. She saw the need for such a venture while traveling to Africa for IBM. “I get to work one-on-one, helping people develop their objectives and improve conditions for commerce—and living—in their countries.” Though she’s been in business for herself only a short time, she’s has already discovered it suits her. She enjoyed working for IBM, but finds that devising creative solutions to clients’ problems is gratifying. “I bring ideas to bear without having to be part of the global corporate identity of a parent company,” she says. “It’s tremendous freedom.”


The future is what Rakesh Agrawal ’98 was thinking about in his third year at Rice, when he decided to stay on for a fifth year instead of graduating in four. He wanted to take classes outside the engineering core and distribution requirements. Agrawal took art history and never regretted the decision to stay another year at Rice. He graduated with a double engineering major, mechanical engineering and computer science. “It was great for me. I didn’t feel like I was rushing, and I realized that in 10 years it wouldn’t matter much if I walked in 1997 or 1998.” Agrawal is founder and CEO of SnapStream, a company combining digital television recording with a search engine component so companies can monitor TV coverage. It’s the tool “The Daily Show” uses to create its montages. Any viewer of Jon Stewart’s riffs has seen the fruit of Agrawal’s labor. He didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur but planned to enter his father’s business, Piping and Technology Products, which he did. He continues to divide his time between SnapStream and the family company. While traveling for the family business, he wondered, “What if you could watch what was on your own television from anywhere in the world?” He and a high school friend devised a product that would permit viewers to do that. Agrawal admits the product wasn’t as consumer-friendly as today’s comparable devices. It required a bit of tech savvy: installing hardware and software on a computer. But it did turn a user’s home computer into a recording device. “It sold well, but we knew it was too complicated to sell in the millions,” he said. “So we began to look at new directions we might take the company.” The friends launched a TV social network called Couchville. They contemplated building a TV recording product for businesses instead of consumers. Over the years, the company had been contacted by a variety of organizations that wanted an enterprise version of SnapStream. The present version of SnapStream was born, and Agrawal shifted his focus from the consumer to the enterprise market. The company customizes its “TV search appliance” device to the needs of individual clients, allowing them to search, record and store as many channels as needed. “We have a few hundred customers and it’s a group that’s constantly growing,” he said. “There’s a lot that I’m proud of at SnapStream.” Agrawal has become an “angel investor,” providing entrepreneurs with start-up capital, and he credits Rice with nurturing his ideas and introducing him to “an amazing peer group.”

R EA p res iden t , Mic h ael Ev a ns , s pea k s out The most important thing for the Rice Engineering Alumni (REA), Michael Evans ’65 (MECH) feels, is to continue evolving into a more impactful organization as the bridge between the university and engineering alumni. “Over the last three years, the REA has given a lot of thought to the kind of organization it needs to be and how it can increase the engagement of alumni for the benefit of the George R. Brown School of Engineering and its students,” Evans said. To that end, REA has increased the number of scholarships it has awarded and taken on sponsorship of student design teams. The group has also worked with the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen to determine what is necessary for continued student success, such as donating money for a table saw with special safety features. “Our members are able to see their donations going to tangible things that have a direct impact on future engineers,” Evans said. He notes that there will be some changes within REA over the coming year, the most significant of which will be allowing members who are not on the Board of Directors to serve on committees. Committee structure will also be streamlined. Those changes are meant to build a sense of community among Rice engineers and to ensure that any alumni who want to give time or skills to help the organization support Rice can do so.

“Since moving back to Houston in 2005, I have had the opportunity to get involved in a number of organizations on campus, including the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, OwlSpark, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, and of course REA,” Evans said. “It is very rewarding and stimulating to see what our engineering students are doing today. “I think there are many engineering alumni with strong connections to Rice who want to engage with the School. Over the years, the REA has made the transition from a social organization to one that looks for ways to assist the School and its students. Members have been judges at the Design Showcase and mentored students. They’ve donated to scholarship funds. And, as we continue to grow as an organization, we want to keep that kind of giving and mesh it with the needs of the School.” Evans feels that fostering a stronger connection between engineering alumni and the School of Engineering is beneficial to everyone involved; alumni see they have a lasting relationship with their alma mater, and the School of Engineering can tap into the group’s expertise for projects and resources. “When I graduated in 1965, there were only about 400 people in the entire graduating class,” he said. “This past spring, 338 undergraduates got their degrees—just in the School of Engineering—so the need for alumni engagement has never been greater. Engineering has always been a part of Rice, and still plays a huge role in academic life on campus. The way I see it, the REA has an important role to play as well.”



A pi cnic for t h e rec o rd bo ok s ! The REA has had a very good year. As if achieving a record-breaking year with fundraising wasn’t enough, the annual Rice Engineering Alumni–School of Engineering picnic set two records this year—for attendance and for scholarship dollars awarded. At this year’s event, $112,100 in engineering scholarships and awards were presented. That translates to nearly 40 scholarships, merit awards and grants for engineering students who were recognized for scholastic excellence and innovation. The picnic set record attendance, with 250 students, faculty, staff and alumni taking part in the afternoon’s activities. Organizers said they were pleased to see so much representation from across all engineering disciplines. In his remarks, Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, thanked the REA for supporting the School, not only by offering generous scholarships to its students, but also in serving as mentors and judges for competitions. This year’s endowed award winners were: The Buckley-Sartwtelle Scholarship in Engineering Erika Danckers MECH

The James F. Waters Creativity Award Blaine Rister ECE

Endowed by Jack Boyd Buckley, ’48 and Helen Sartwelle Buckley, ’44 in memory of their parents

Endowed in 1968 by an anonymous donor in honor of James S. Waters, ’17

The Bob Dickson Endowed Prize Sonia Garza BIOE

The Hershel M. Rich Invention Award Neelam Singh, Charudatta Galande and Pulickel Ajayan MSNE

Endowed by H. deForest Ralph, ’55 and his wife Martha, with additional funding from Dale Dickson Johnson and others

Endowed by Hershel M. Rich, ’45, ’47 and his wife, Hilda

The Thomas Michael Panos Family Engineering Students Award Matthew Horn MECH Endowed by Michael Panos, ’52 and his sister, Effie

The Harrianna Butler Siebenhausen Award Jason Gaspar CEE Endowed by C.H. Siebenhausen, ’50 in honor of his wife, Harrianna Butler

The Ralph Budd Thesis Award Mark William Knight ECE In memory of Ralph Budd

For a complete list of recipients of 2014 REA awards and scholarships, see


The Willy Revolution Award and the REA Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen Team Grant White Mirror – Virtual Fitting Room Xuaner Zhang and Lam Yuk Wong ECE Established by Brian Sweeny ’88, part of the team of students who rotated the William Marsh Rice statue in 1988, from which the award takes its name.

Leadership Excellence Award Vivaswath Kumar, ECE and Shaurya Agarwal MECH Research Excellence Award Stephanie Tzouanas BIOE Outstanding Senior Stephanie Tzouanas, BIOE Distinguished Seniors Nathan Liu, BIOE and Melody Tan, BIOE Outstanding Junior Ravi Sheth, BIOE Distinguished Juniors Kamal Shah, BIOE and Thor Walker, MECH

Be an REA Sponsor

S u ppo rt En gi n e e ri n g Design Last year, the REA gave more than $15,000 in support of engineering design at Rice, enabling teams like BoxyClean, who began work on a low-cost transportable medical instrument sterilization unit for use in low-resource parts of the world. The team’s concept is to compact existing sterilization systems into a 20-foot shipping container with the goal of minimizing energy costs and maintenance and maximizing affordability. BoxyClean will provide decontamination, steam sterilization and storage of general surgical tools. Help students unleash their engineering potential! Become an REA sponsor today! For more information, see:


Rice Engineering Magazine 2014  

Rice University, George R. Brown School of Engineering, 2014 magazine

Rice Engineering Magazine 2014  

Rice University, George R. Brown School of Engineering, 2014 magazine