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The Magazine of Rice University

Winter 2018

The Quest The molecular mystery of cells, dark matter and life with robots are a few of the questions that keep Rice scholars up at night.


A picture — or laptop — is worth a thousand words, especially when Rice students tell their own story with stickers.


A Rice alum uses his computer science acuity to expand the accessibility of African-American artifacts virtually.


Allen Matusow interviews John Boles ’65 about his book, “Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty.”

The Magazine of Rice University

winter 2018

Contents F EATUR ES



Photographs by Jeff Fitlow



By David Levin Rice’s renowned faculty burn the midnight oil, trying to make sense of the unknown.



By David Volk Travis McPhail ’04 helps museumgoers interact with African-American history.


THE JEFFERSON PARADOX Interview by Allen Matusow More than 50 years of research for historian John Boles ’65 culminates with the release of “Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty.”



By Kendall Schoemann Katherine Whaley’s ’04 predawn preparations are a crucial component for Houston commuters across the city.

D EPA RTM EN TS P R E S I D E N T ’ S N OT E  S A L LY P O R T  News and views from campus


Big Bend National Park, 2006. Photo by Peter Brown. This photograph appears in “Hometown Texas” (Trinity University Press, 2017). To learn more about this collection of stories and “lyric documentary” photographs, turn to Page 45.

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SCOREBOARD Dispatches from Rice Athletics


A B ST R ACT  Findings, research and more


S C E N E 20 A glimpse at campus life ARTS & LETTERS  Creative ideas and endeavors


FA M I LY A L B U M  From Rice’s archive


on the web Featured Contributors


A YEAR IN THE LIFE Videographer Brandon Martin’s highlight reel of 2017 captures a year in Rice’s life that was far from ordinary. And yes, that’s snow! ABSTRACT EXTRA

CLIMATE CHANGE AND HURRICANE HARVEY Researchers from World Weather Attribution, Rice and other institutions found that human’s impact on climate change made Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall roughly three times more likely and 15 percent more intense in Houston. CLASSROOM SPOTLIGHT

LEARNING KOREAN Peek into KORE 263, where students are developing strong Korean language communication skills with the help of virtual reality headsets and a computer interface that transports them to a supermarket in Seoul. ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

MACHINES AND YOU Computational engineer Moshe Vardi discusses the “epic balancing act” between the growing human-technology interface in the workplace. Video by Brandon Martin.

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David Levin (“We Don’t Know”) is a Boston-based science writer, producing print, radio and web content for clients around the country. He has interviewed Nobel laureates, flown in homemade aircraft, chased tornadoes through the Midwest and spent a month at sea with scientists studying the ocean floor. Marina Muun (“We Don’t Know”) is an illustrator based in Vienna. Her colorful creations have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Wired and MIT Technology Review. Isaiah Rodriguez ’18 (“The Health Researcher”) graduates from Rice this semester with a double major in political science and policy studies. Born and raised in Houston, Rodriguez loves writing about current events and pop culture. David Volk (“Virtual Historian”) is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in many alumni magazines. He is also the author of “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle.”

On the Cover

Do you tweet? Rice Magazine shares news and views — and connects with alumni around the world — via our Twitter account. @RiceMagazine 2 

Are you more of a visual person? Would you like to see more of Rice’s beautiful campus? Catch our behindthe-scenes photos, campus shots and more via Instagram. @Rice_Magazine

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Illustration by Marina Muun


The Magazine of Rice University Winter 2018 Rice Magazine is published four times a year and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, parents of undergraduates and friends of the university. Published by the Office of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, vice president EDITOR











Jade Boyd, James Costanzo, Jon-Paul Estrada, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Amy McCaig, David Ruth, Kendall Schoemann, Mike Williams INTERNS

Taegan Howells ’18 Isaiah Rodriguez ’18

Our Quarterly Quest


E L C O M E T O T H E first of our quarterly issues for 2018, our Janus view, where we take stock and look ahead. First, a look back: There’s no better summary of 2017 than videographer Brandon Martin’s “A Year in the Life” five-minute showcase of an unforgettable year at Rice. To watch this video, go to — you’ll find all our stories and videos from the past two years in an easily shareable format. And speaking of highlight reels, this past year we harnessed words and imagery to keep you informed and connected to Rice’s teaching, research and community outreach missions. For example, Rice staff traveled to Malawi to document an ongoing international effort to save newborn lives (“Breathe Easy, Repeat”) and Luis DunoGottberg recounted a (inadvertently) historic trip to Cuba with Rice’s baseball team (“The Caribbeanist”). Closer to home, Houston writer and folk music scion John Nova Lomax recounted Rice archivists’ race to document and preserve Houston’s relatively unknown folk music scene (“Folk Revival”), and writer Jennifer Latson recounted dinner out with food critic extraordinaire Alison Cook ’69 (“Undercover Eater”). Judging by your correspondence and our analytics, the entire Houston food-themed summer issue caught your attention. We’re not about to pick favorites — but you did. A spread about burger-chan founders Diane ’07 and Willet Feng ’06, featuring an annotated

close-up on their eponymous burger (“Meat Cute”), was our most-read online story in 2017. In the Night Owl series, audiences were starstruck by Rick Fienberg’s ’78 homemade observatory (“Stargazer”). This quarterly series is dear to our heart, so when night owl Andy Einhorn ’04 agreed to let our writer sit in the orchestra pit while he conducted “Hello, Dolly!” it was our turn to be starstruck. Which brings us to our special issue on Hurricane Harvey (“Storm Stories”) — also expanded online. You appreciated knowing what happened on campus and what Rice expertise can contribute to averting another disaster. “The thing I love about Rice is that it is an incredible community,” said Provost Marie Lynn Miranda, while mucking out a home belonging to Rice employees. “And at Rice we take care of our own, and we take care of and love Houston.” Back to the present. As excited as we are about the scope and variety of stories in the issue you’re holding or reading online, we’re just as excited about the changes in the works for the coming year. For starters, we’ve kicked off the new year by moving from saddle stitch to perfect binding — did you notice? Behind the scenes, we’ll also be undertaking a redesign and aiming for a big reveal next fall. As always, we’re looking for your feedback and seeing which stories you’re reading online. The quest for next year’s highlight reel begins now! — LYNN m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   3


Dear Editors: B E I N G A P R O U D L O V E T T alum, I was interested to read about the Lovett traditions, but was a little surprised that no one commented on the real reason for the grating. When I was at Lovett, the masters had a scrapbook of Lovett history, and one of the early things was the architectural proposal for the new college. The designer talked about the grating and mentioned that it was (at least partly) there to prevent students from throwing water balloons off the college, except for the second and top floors that the designer assumed would be reserved for the older and more mature students. I assume that the materials that I saw are still with the college. 


I N “ M I N D T H E G A P,” [a book review of “Mind the Gap: How the Jewish Writings Between the Old and New Testament Help Us Understand Jesus”] the author states that “Jesus lived in the first century CE, but the last books of the Old Testament were written in the fourth century BCE — that’s a gap of almost half a millennium.” It should be pointed out that the books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees are part


of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons, even if they are not part of the Protestant Old Testament or the Jewish Bible. The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ended when Herod the Great became king of Israel and was designated “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate, effectively transforming the Hasmonean kingdom into the Herodian kingdom. (Yes, that’s the same Herod the Great who appears in the Gospel of Matthew as the ruler of Judea who orders the Massacre of the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus.)  — ERICH WOLZ ’85 Editor’s Note: We asked the book’s author, Matthias Henze, the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice, for a response, which follows. I T I S A P E C U L I A R FA C T of the Christian Bible that the Old Testament takes more than one form in different Christian churches. The Old Testament of the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include a group of books that are not included in the Protestant Old Testament or in the Jewish Hebrew Bible. These additional books are known as the Apocrypha. 1 and 2 Maccabees are part of the Apocrypha, and they may have been written in the second or early first century BCE. So, from a Catholic or Orthodox point of view, the gap between the Testaments is much shorter than it is for the Protestant Bible.

Have a comment, criticism or story idea? Write to us at 4 

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Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Nancy Packer Carlson; Albert Chao; T. Jay Collins; Mark D. Dankberg; Ann Doerr; Douglas Lee Foshee; Terrence Gee; Lawrence H. Guffey; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Ruth J. Simmons; Jeffery A. Smisek; Amy L. Sutton; Gloria Meckel Tarpley; Guillermo Treviño; Scott Wise; Huda Y. Zoghbi. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE RS

David W. Leebron, president; Marie Lynn Miranda, provost; Kathy Collins, vice president for Finance; Klara Jelinkova, vice president for IT and chief information officer; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Caroline Levander, vice president for Strategic Initiatives and Digital Education; Yvonne Romero Da Silva, vice president for Enrollment; Allison Kendrick Thacker, vice president for Investments and treasurer; Linda Thrane, vice president for Public Affairs; Richard A. Zansitis, vice president and general counsel; Darrow Zeidenstein, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. E DITORIAL OFFICES

Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 Phone: 713-348-6768 POSTMASTE R

Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 © February 2018 Rice University

president’s note DAVID W. LEEBRON



I C K S M A L L E Y, one of Rice’s Nobel Prize winners, famously said, “Be a scientist, save the world.” One of the absolute privileges of being president of a research university of Rice’s quality is spending time with our faculty. They are an extraordinarily passionate and brilliant group striving to advance knowledge and contribute to the betterment of our world. In December, I had the wonderful experience of attending the presentations in Chicago by the four finalists for the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. The finalists included our own Rebecca Richards-Kortum. Rebecca and her global team developed NEST360°, a collaborative project based on work by Rice 360°, which will develop 17 low-cost technologies to provide neonatal treatment to babies in Africa and eventually other low-resource environments. They project that they can save 500,000 babies per year in Africa at a cost of just $1.48 per birth. Although NEST360° didn’t win the $100 million prize, they were given a $15 million grant by the foundation, and we’re confident the team will raise more. Our scientists — and I am using that term here broadly to include researchers in every field — work to discover new knowledge and improve the world. That is their motivation, and it is our mission. It’s based on three simple propositions that ought to be incontrovertible and uncontroversial: research matters, facts matter and knowledge matters. Ultimately, we seek to make use of research, facts and knowledge to better understand our world, to better predict the future, and to use knowledge and discoveries to make that future better. As I said in my inaugural address at Rice more than 13 years ago, “Our universities exist because of a faith that knowledge will lead to enlightened understanding, which in turn will lead to a betterment of our world and the people who inhabit it. That sense of the unlimited potential of a great university to contribute to human progress is the faith and vision upon which we are founded.” Research universities matter not only because we identify problems in need of solutions and sometimes design those solutions, but also because we identify things we don’t know and wish to learn, and that leads to fundamental advances. Rick Smalley, Bob Curl ’54, Harold Kroto and others weren’t seeking to lay the foundation of nanotechnology three decades ago; they were simply seeking to understand some observations that couldn’t yet be explained, and through that curiosity-driven research,

they discovered new things. Namely, the discovery of Carbon-60 and its structure took them in new directions to further findings and to establish an entirely new way of understanding and synthesizing materials. I have written before of my own work studying 19th-century chemistry and the emergence of a theory on how atoms in molecules in space are physically arranged. The very question of whether we could know the physical arrangements of things we could not see was controversial, but new theories and new observations led to vastly increased capabilities of using chemistry to human benefit. Such theories are often controversial at the beginning, and most turn out to be wrong in some respect. Isaac Newton’s discoveries were in some sense later shown to be wrong as our understanding of physics advanced, just as the powerful understanding of molecular structure in the late 19th century also turned out to be wrong. But as Isaac Asimov responded to someone who claimed that all theories are eventually proven wrong: “When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” In sum, to discover truth and knowledge, we must dare to be wrong. More than 72 years ago, Vannevar Bush submitted his report to President Harry S. Truman outlining the need for a continuing and future partnership of the government and universities to support basic research. He titled the report “Science, the Endless Frontier.” As we advance knowledge, the frontier advances as well. The more we discover and learn, the more we see our ignorance, and the more we are able to identify error in truths previously discovered. As President John F. Kennedy said in his 1962 speech at Rice Stadium, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” In this issue you will read about what drives and concerns six accomplished researchers, all stars in their respective fields. They encompass fields ranging from the sociological study of health to computer science and the physics of biology to educational effectiveness. They include three immigrants. Each of them is a visionary; each is dedicated to advancing the frontier of knowledge. Together with some 700 others, they are changing our world by pushing the frontiers of knowledge and inspiring our students.

To discover truth and knowledge, we must dare to be wrong.

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N e ws a n d VIEWS f ro m Ca m p u s

Pregame Power THE RICE MARCHING OWL BAND, better known as the MOB, always performs its unofficial fight song “Louie Louie” with enthusiasm. Here, director Chuck Throckmorton, drum major Bonnie Miller ’19 and drum minor Bailey Covell ’20 dance the hand jive for a crowd of Rice football fans before a game. In a temporary departure from the band’s usual satirical shows, the MOB joined the University of Houston’s marching band this season to perform “Amazing Grace” as a celebration of Houston’s resilience. The MOB also invited Louisiana Tech’s marching band onto the field to play a tribute to The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” See this issue’s Family Album article for a profile about John “Grungy” Gladu, a long-standing MOB trumpeter and the namesake for the new band hall.  — TAEGAN HOWELLS ’18


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sa l ly p o rt


Through the Sallyport — or Not




Princeton University as a prospective student, tour guides point to an ornate metal gate and describe a tradition: Incoming freshmen enter the gate and are forbidden to traverse it again until they graduate. Brown University tour guides will show you a stone gate with the same narrative. Sound familiar? If you graduated from Rice before the early 1990s, probably not. But more recent alumni know that an “age-old” tradition prohibits Rice students from using the Sallyport from their matriculation until the day of their graduation. How did this tradition arrive at Rice? A cynic might suggest that somebody with Ivy League envy simply imposed it on Rice undergrads. But the truth appears to be less straightforward. The annual commencement ceremony was moved to the quad in 1986 after decades of being held Saturday night in Founder’s Court — just on the other side of the Sallyport. The evening had become a circus, thus prompting the move, said Bob Patten, the Lynette S. Autry Professor Emeritus in Humanities and Professor Emeritus of English, who served as head marshal for the better part of 30 years. “The early colleges got drunk and disorderly, parents couldn’t take good pictures in the dark and various pranks were practiced on President Hackerman,” Patten recalled. “One student left Hackerman shaking a department store dummy’s hand and arm; another tried to pie him; several wore nothing under their robe and let us know that.” A couple of academic committees looked into the matter, and it was

eventually decided that commencement should be moved back to the quad where it had been held in the Rice Institute’s early days. On Saturday morning, graduating seniors would exit the quad via the magnificent arch through Lovett Hall with their diplomas in hand. Another change contributing to the Sallyport tradition was the decision to move matriculation. In the late 1980s, incoming freshmen gathered on the Founder’s Court lawn and marched through the Sallyport to join their respective colleges. That custom didn’t last long because, according to Greg Marshall ’86, “the pranks the students pulled at the ceremony escalated from releasing live chickens into the audience to rappelling down the side

of Lovett Hall to a nude Lady Godiva riding by on an actual horse.” But the “symbolism of ‘entering Rice’ through the Sallyport and exiting again as Rice graduates,” Marshall believes, begat the notion that students were not to use the Lovett Hall shortcut during their undergraduate years. By 1992, the tradition had taken hold. Because the early 1990s are a good quarter century behind us, Marshall noted, the tradition is viewed as embedded in history.  — FRANZ BROTZEN ’80

Melissa Kean ’00 greatly assisted in this research by posting about the current Sallyport tradition on her blog, Rice History Corner. Read the lively debate that ensued:

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sa l ly p o rt | sy l l a b u s



Narratives for Change


This new interdisciplinary course featured faculty experts who mentored teams of students working on issue advocacy. The course provided an overview of and training in how to affect public policy through advocacy campaigns, legislative lobbying, federal rule-making processes and more. Through lectures, skills-based practicums and visiting speakers, students gained a better understanding of how social change happens, which factors influence successful and unsuccessful advocacy campaigns, and how to develop and implement advocacy work around a specific issue.

POLI 260

Advocating for Change (Fall 2017) DEPARTMENT Political Science DESCRIPTION Advocating for Change is an experiential learning course that teaches students how to engage in issue advocacy as a method of social change. Students work in teams with faculty mentors to develop and implement an advocacy plan for a particular cause or policy of interest.

Advocating for Change In the wake of the 2016 election, 12 female faculty members met in January to discuss how they could help more civic-minded students get involved in the political process. The group coined themselves the “positive posse” and talked about creating a class. Melissa Marschall, professor of political science, and Elizabeth Vann, director of programs and partnerships for Rice’s Center for Civic Leadership (CCL), stepped up to co-teach the course. The class was created in six academic units: architecture, the CCL, global health technologies, political science, psychology and sociology. “We wanted it to be open to any type of student interested in advocacy,” Vann said. “We have a diverse class roster from freshmen to seniors, spanning various majors.” The Power of Personal Narrative I met the class on an evening that featured two panelists: Carlos Duarte, Texas state director of Mi Familia Vota, and Dona Kim Murphey, founder of Pantsuit Republic. Murphey launched Pantsuit Republic, a network that aims to increase activity in the Texas political process and


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find ways to support progressive initiatives, as a space to share narratives. “Narrative is a great way to pull people in, and then you can advance your agenda,” she said. “They need to connect to the story in some way. That’s what makes people want to listen. Stories are very powerful.” Duarte has extensive experience with the power of narrative through Mi Familia Vota, a civic engagement organization that focuses on social and economic issues that impact the Latino community. “It’s challenging, but a few principles still ring true,” he said. “Unless you present a vision of how things can be different, use your narrative to empower and motivate, and create a strategy to get you there, you won’t be successful.”

science, got his first taste of advocacy experience through the class. “All of the work was framed in both accomplishing something outside of class and in an academic setting, which was unlike any course I had taken at Rice,” he said. Mensing and his team focused on advocating for increasing unaccompanied immigrant children’s access to lawyers in immigration court. “We had the opportunity to sit down with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s legislative aid and Rep. Vicente Gonzalez’s chief of staff to pitch our issue,” he said. “Throughout the class, I learned that advocacy doesn’t happen with large and sudden breakthroughs, but rather through small, incremental changes.”

Student Advocacy Groups The class was divided into teams focused on a specific advocacy issue. Each team wrote an issue brief with a specific ask in regard to a piece of legislation and presented it to a policymaker; the teams also created a video or podcast that advocated for their issue. Eli Mensing, a junior majoring in economics and political

Lessons Learned “We wanted to expose students to how things really work,” Vann said. “They’ve had opportunities to interact with a long list of impressive people. I think the students have learned how powerful networking is and that we’ve helped them to build those networks.” Marschall and Vann hope to teach the class again next fall.  — KENDALL SCHOEMANN

Adelina Koleva stands in front of the Victoria and Albert Museum


Cheers From London ADELINA KOLEVA ’14


ONDON — THERE’S nothing quite like it. Nine million people, stretching 600 square miles and nearly 2,000 years of history. I first arrived in 2014 to complete the one-year internship requirement for Rice’s architecture degree. Though that year was a difficult adjustment, it was like the world was at my doorstep. Following my graduation in 2016, I received a job opportunity and decided to return. I am currently working at AFK Studios, an Australian practice that established its London outfit a few years ago. The project I am working on is a boutique office building in Shoreditch, near the new Amazon headPHOTO BY TOM MEDWELL

quarters. Since the destruction of the area in 1940 by German bombing, East London is still attracting new development today. For an architect, it’s extraordinary how comfortable London is being both a historic site and a 21st-century metropolis. My home — a plain but agreeable tower block from the 1960s — seems entirely at peace with its stylish Victorian neighbors. Even a monument like the Victoria and Albert Museum can be the subject of bold contemporary additions. London taught me that an intelligent design recognizes building tradition, and in doing so takes a more precise position on if, and how, to depart from it. Though I enjoy architectural practice, my intention is to enter graduate school in a few years’ time. Last summer, in an inspired attempt to revisit academia, I enrolled in a program with the Architectural Association Visiting School. During the course, I moved to the Dorset countryside to learn advanced timber fabrication techniques such as

steam bending, which is normally used in wooden boats and barrels. We applied this knowledge to the construction of a small library sited in the middle of the campus forest, currently underway. Outside of the city, I became more familiar with English people and culture. As a foreigner in London, I more often run into other foreigners, so it is difficult to meet local people. Thankfully, I have now made some English acquaintances who can laugh at me when I ask them what Marmite is. I find myself wondering where I’m headed and how this one decision — based almost entirely on sentiment and a weakness for adventure — will alter the course of my life. If that’s what they call a personal journey, then I’m definitely on one while living in London.

Are you a young alum living and working outside the U.S.? Write us a letter and tell us about your day-to-day experiences: m aga z i n e . ric e . e du   9

sa l ly p o rt | U nc o n ve n t i o na l wi s d o m

The Health Researcher Since joining Rice’s Department of Sociology in 2002, B R I DGE T G OR M A N , professor of sociology, department chair and magister of Will Rice College, has seen the department grow from seven tenuretrack faculty members to 13, the launch of a graduate and postdoctoral fellows program, and the emergence of affiliated programs and centers. Gorman has focused her research efforts on examining disparities in morbidity, physical functioning and medical care use across major U.S. demographic groups and how social conditions and experiences shape group differences in health and well-being among children and adults.


I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had cycled through a variety of potential majors as an undergrad [at Western Washington University], and I remember flipping through the general announcements and reading about sociology, and I thought it sounded really interesting. So, I signed up to take social theory, which is really funny because that’s not what I do at all. I had a very charismatic professor and I decided after the first day to declare and see how it went. It was the best decision I ever made. I had to declare a concentration, and after I took a methods class on demographic techniques, I decided to declare demography as my concentration, which is the total nerdy population statistics kind of line. DE MO G R A P H Y, H E A LT H A N D DI S PA R I T I E S

I did my graduate work at Penn State. As a research assistant there, I looked into Puerto Rican infant and maternal health. That got me really interested in racial disparities in health and also thinking about migrant status and how the health of migrants differ from the native born. That has been an interest that has been maintained in the work I do, even though I do just as much work now — in many ways more — looking at gender and sexual 10 

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U nc o n ve n t i o na l wi s d o m | sa l ly p o rt

orientation. Health wasn’t on my radar, but by the time I was through my first year of grad school, it was what I was studying. At the end of the day, health disparities are driven by social determinants of health. That’s the overarching thing. I do population health work from a more social side than from a biological side.

been functioning very well, so my main goal was to keep this going along the same way. We have a young doctoral program that requires a lot of attention, so I’ve been involved in that. B E YON D T H E C L A S S R O OM

All of my work is looking at health disparities very

years, trying to have larger probability-based samples of sexual minority adults in the U.S. It’s a topic that I’ve become more engaged in and has grown bigger as a result. WOR K I NG W I T H S T U DE N TS

I’ve worked with students consistently during my time here. I’ve published with a


They were hiring at the time for someone who did medical sociology. I came in 2002. The department was smaller then, and I was the first “health” person on the faculty that they had hired. I applied for the position not knowing anything about Rice, but the ad was looking for me. I came down to interview and I knew in five minutes that I wanted the job. I loved the people, I loved the place and it seemed very intellectually vibrant. I wasn’t inclined to like it coming through the door. I am originally from Seattle, and I still wear Birkenstocks. But I love living here. I could just tell it was a fit for me. G R OW I NG DE PA RT M E N T

I’ve been involved directly in hiring some terrific faculty. We’ve had three tenuretrack faculty join us since I started, and I’m currently trying to hire two more. More generally, the sociology department has been on a great trajectory. When I took over, the department had

At the end of the day, I am a professor, which makes me a teacher. I like teaching students, helping them do research directly and learning about their lives.

broadly. I have a couple of different projects; one of the biggest is looking at health disparities based on sexual orientation and trying to understand the different social conditions and circumstances that lead to differences in physical, mental and behavioral health between heterosexual and LGBTQ people. It’s a topic that hasn’t been wellstudied because, for a long time, there simply wasn’t any data. A lot of health surveys didn’t even ask the questions. I’ve been working on a large data aggregation project for the last few

lot of different undergraduates and am working with three students now on projects for publication. Undergraduates come into my orbit in different ways, whether through formal mentoring programs, from classes, or who come through my door because they’ve read my research. And, of course, I also mentor graduate students and postdocs who are also included in my work. I wear a lot of hats, and I like the hats I wear, even if they make my life busy. At the end of the day, I am a professor, which makes me a teacher. I like teaching

students, helping them do research directly and learning about their lives. L I V I NG W I T H S T U DE N TS

Being a magister is different than when I was an RA at Jones, where I lived amongst the students rather than in a separate house. Living at Will Rice, we are front row for “Radio Free Sid” since our house is at the base of Sid tower. It shakes our windows, but I still love it. I get to know students on their own terms and learn about what they care about. I don’t just see the college as this place where shenanigans happen. I also see a lot of academic activity. And our community is diverse. There are people from all walks of life, and students need different things to thrive and be successful. They have different challenges, hold different identities and have various concerns about the climate we are living in right now, etc., so we’ve had many conversations over the years about those things. L E AV I NG A M A R K

I have always had an attitude that we are just temporary, nothing is permanent. We all come and go, so the best thing that you can do is leave it better than you found it. I was lucky to take the reins from people who did wonderful jobs. I feel like when I go, I can say I did my best and did what I could for the department and for the college.  — INTERVIEW BY 


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di s pat c h e s f ro m ric e at h l e t ic s


Team Ogwumike

N 2015, T H E HOUSTON C H RON ICL E named Erica Ogwumike its high school player of the year in a story that dubbed her and her sisters — Olivia, Chiney and Nneka — “Houston’s first family of basketball.” When she made her college decision, it was covered by ESPN and included an overture to the “end of an era in Texas girls’ basketball.” Earlier this summer, Bleacher Report upgraded them to “the real first family of hoops,” challenging the LaVar Ball family for on- and off-court supremacy. Strolling into Brochstein during finals, however, the Ogwumike sisters are far more concerned with biochemistry than LaVar Ball. “I just learned about the citric acid cycle,” said Olivia, proceeding to name each multisyllabic step. “It makes me sound really smart, but that is the bare minimum you have to know.” Unlike their older sisters — both No. 1 picks in the WNBA draft — Erica and Olivia have their sights set on medical school, which is the main reason they transferred to Rice from


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Pepperdine in 2016. “We transferred for a multitude of reasons,” said Erica. “A ‘plethora’ sounds better,” said Olivia, jumping in. “I don’t use ‘plethora’ because everyone always wants to use ‘plethora’ when they want to say a big word,” Erica responded. Their back-andforth is rapid-fire, the type of chemistry (and comedic timing) only a lifetime together could perfect. “We felt like [coming to Rice] was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down — in our home city, playing basketball, getting a great education,” said Erica. “What else can you ask for?” In their first season with the Owls, Erica, a redshirt sophomore, leads the defending Women’s Basketball Invitational champions in scoring and rebounding while Olivia, a redshirt junior, leads C-USA in 3-point field goal percentage (as of press time). The women’s basketball regular season goes through March 3. Learn more at  — JAMES COSTANZO



Connor Cashaw ’19


THURSDAYS (GAME NIGHT) 7:15 a.m. Wake up without an assist from the snooze button

8:15 a.m. Breakfast with the team in Tudor Fieldhouse. Last season, this meant fried hash browns, biscuits and sausage. This season, it’s a healthier approach. Goodbye, hash browns.

“My favorite food.”

9:25 a.m. Class: Sport Management Practicum SPORT




10:50 a.m. Class: Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Noon Lunch at Sammy’s with some teammates

2 p.m.




Connor Cashaw ’19 came to Rice from the same Illinois high school basketball scene that produced the likes of current NBA players Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor. His high school team competed in three straight title games. “In the state championship game, Jabari Parker was guarding me,” he said. “I was like 15, and he was 18 — a future NBA star. It was real.” After averaging eight points per game as a sophomore at Rice, Cashaw nearly doubled his average points per game while leading the team in scoring, rebounding and steals, as of press time. He played an integral role in the team’s response to Hurricane Harvey, volunteering at the George R. Brown Convention Center and helping his teammates raise over $193,000 in relief funds.

“The vibe is a balance between being super zoned in and super energized.”

Light weightlifting session

2:30 p.m. Shoot around, go over the game plan and get a good sweat going

3:15 p.m. Pregame meal with the team

5:15 p.m. Get ankles taped by Dean Miller, head athletic trainer, and begin team warmups

6:30 p.m. Coach Pera gathers the team together for the scouting report and keys to winning.

6:50 p.m. Starting lineups are introduced. Many creative handshakes are exchanged.

7 p.m.

“I have a lot of handshakes with different guys.”

Opening tipoff “After a win, we’ll log on together with the mics in and talk to one another. We’re playing this game called ‘Fortnite.’ It’s like ‘The Hunger Games.’”

9:15 p.m. Postgame meal and, finally, a chance to unwind with an episode of “Game of Thrones” or video games with some teammates

11 p.m. Sleep

Stanford’s Mike Bloomgren was named Rice’s 19th head football coach by Joe Karlgaard, director of athletics, recreation and lifetime fitness. Bloomgren agreed to a fiveyear contract. “Mike Bloomgren is a bright, driven and relentless coach who fits perfectly with our vision for championships on the field, scholarship in the classroom and service to others,” Karlgaard said during the Dec. 6, 2017, press conference announcing the new hire. Bloomgren comes to Rice after seven seasons with the Cardinals, first as the offensive line coach and then assuming the reins of Stanford’s pro-style offensive attack in 2013. Stanford has won eight or more games in each of Bloomgren’s seasons and reached the Pac-12 Football Championship four times, winning three titles. He most recently served as associate head coach and offensive coordinator. “I am excited and humbled to lead the football program at Rice,” Bloomgren said. “In my seven years at Stanford, I have seen firsthand how elite college athletics and academics can not only coexist but thrive together. I want to create an environment at Rice where every player’s dreams are realized on and off the field.” A 1999 graduate of Florida State with a bachelor’s degree in sport management, Bloomgren earned his master’s degree in higher education from Alabama in 2001. A native of Tallahassee, Fla., Bloomgren and his wife, Lara, have two sons, Tyler and Parker. Bloomgren replaces David Bailiff, who served as head football coach for 11 years. Bailiff finished his tenure with a 57-80 record, including a 3-1 bowl game record and a Conference USA title in 2013. In both 2008 and 2013, he was named Conference USA Coach of the Year. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   13


Early Warming System Fossil reefs record punctuated bursts of sea-level rise during warming period. Above: An octocoral — a type of soft coral — called a golden sea spray


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C I E N T I S TS F R OM Rice University and Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies have found clues in long-dead reefs about the way Earth’s oceans may respond to climate change. Fossil evidence from drowned reefs off the Texas coast showed that sea level rose in sharp, punctuated bursts at the close of the last ice age. “What these fossil reefs show is that the last time Earth warmed like it is today, sea level did not rise steadily,” said André Droxler, a study co-author and Rice marine geologist. “Instead, sea level rose quite fast, paused, and then shot up

again in another burst and so on. This has profound implications for the future study of sea-level rise.” Given that more than half a billion people live within a few meters of modern sea level, punctuated sea-level rise poses a particular risk to those communities that are not prepared for future inundation. “We have observed sea level rise steadily in contemporary time,” said Jeff Nittrouer, a study co-author and Rice coastal geologist. “However, our findings show that sea-level rise could be considerably faster than anything yet observed, and because of this situation, coastal communities need to be prepared for potential inundation.” Each of the punc-


F i n di ng s , Re s e a r c h and m o re

tuated bursts found in the fossil record lasted less than 100 years, and some may have lasted just a few decades. The study’s evidence came from a 2012 cruise by the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor. During the cruise, Droxler, Rice graduate student Pankaj Khanna, and Harte Research Institute colleagues John Tunnell Jr. and Thomas Shirley mapped 10 fossil reef sites with a state-of-the-art sonar called a multibeam echo sounder that created high-resolution 3-D images of the seafloor. All the dead reefs had terraces. Khanna said the stairlike terraces are typical of coral reefs and are signatures of rising seas. For example, as a reef is growing at the ocean’s surface, it can


Health Apps and Personal Data Be concerned about how apps collect and share your health data.


A high-resolution 3-D map of Southern Bank off the South Texas coast clearly reveals terraces, which are a characteristic coral reef response to rising sea level

build up only so fast. If sea level rises too quickly, it will drown the reef in place. If the rate is slightly slower, the reef can adopt a strategy called backstepping. When a reef backsteps, the ocean-facing side of the reef breaks up incoming waves just enough to allow the reef to build up a vertical step. Khanna said it’s likely that additional fossil evidence of punctuated sea-level rise will be found in the rock record at sites around the globe. “Based on what we’ve found,” he said, “it is possible that sea-level rise over decadal time scales will be a key storyline in future climate predictions.” — JADE BOYD

AS OF 2016, there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available through the Apple App Store alone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates only a fraction of those. Americans should be concerned about how these apps collect, save and share their personal health data, according to Kirsten Ostherr, the director of Rice’s Medical Futures Lab. Ostherr has been doing research on health and medical media for more than 20 years, from “old” media like celluloid films used for medical education to “new” media like smartphone apps. “Part of my research is looking at ways the boundaries between medical and nonmedical environments are dissolving through the proliferation of apps that allow people to manage their own care outside of clinical settings,” she said. “In some ways those boundaries are breaking down because a lot of things that used to only happen inside of hospitals can happen outside of them now.” Federal and state policy regulations that shape how personal

health data is shared are currently in place. They set rigid boundaries between traditional clinical settings or “medical domains” and domains outside of traditional clinical settings, Ostherr said. But depending on how an app is classified by the FDA, the healthrelated data an app collects might not be protected. She said apps that make medical or therapeutic claims are considered a medical device and must go through the FDA procedures for approval and regulation. However, the vast majority of apps provide “helpful hints” in response to userentered data instead. “If your app carefully sidesteps claiming any kind of medical intervention, then it’s a health and wellness app and not a medical device — and it is not regulated,” Ostherr said. Regardless of whether an app is regulated, they are all “capturing tons of personal data, some of which would be classified as personal health information if it were subject to oversight by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.” — DAVID RUTH m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   15

a b s t r ac t


Building the Future

RICE UNIVERSITY engineers are using 3-D printers to turn structures that have until now existed primarily in theory into strong, light and durable materials with complex, repeating patterns. The porous structures called schwarzites are designed with computer algorithms, but Rice researchers found they could send data from the programs to printers and make macroscale polymer models for testing. Their samples strive to use as little material as possible and still

provide strength and compressibility. It may someday be possible, researchers said, to print an entire building as one schwarzite “brick.” Schwarzites, named after German scientist Hermann Schwarz, who hypothesized the structures in the 1880s, are mathematical marvels that have inspired a large number of organic and inorganic constructs and materials. Such structures remained theoretical until 3-D printers provided the first practical way to make them. The Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, in collaboration with researchers at the


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University of Campinas, São Paulo, investigated the bottom-up construction of schwarzites through molecular dynamics simulations and then printed those simulations in the shapes of polymer cubes. “The geometries of these are really complex; everything is curved, the internal surfaces have negative curvature and the morphologies are very interesting,” said Rice postdoctoral researcher Chandra Sekhar Tiwary, who led an earlier study that showed how seashells protect soft bodies from extreme pressure by transferring stress throughout their structures. “Schwarzite structures are very much the same,” he said. “The theory shows that at the atomic scale, these materials can be very strong. It turns out that making the geometry bigger with polymer gives us a material with a high load-bearing capacity.” “It is a little surprising that some atomic-scale features are preserved in the printed structures,” said Douglas Galvão, a professor at the University of Campinas who studies nanostructures through molecular dynamics simulations. He suggested the project when Tiwary visited the Brazil campus as a research fellow. “After some tentatives, it worked quite well. This paper is a good example of an effective theory-experiment collaboration.” In the far future, the researchers envision printing 3-D schwarzites with ceramic and metallic materials on a grander scale. — MIKE WILLIAMS


MacArthur Foundation Gives $15 Million for NEST360° NEST360°, an international team of engineers, doctors and global health experts, has won $15 million through the MacArthur Foundation’s inaugural 100&Change competition. Four finalists from a field of more than 1,900 applicants vied for a $100 million top prize, which was announced Dec. 20, 2017, by the foundation. “Our whole team is committed to continuing our work to scale NEST (Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies) across Africa in order to save 500,000 newborn lives every year,” said Rice bioengineering professor and NEST co-founder Rebecca Richards-Kortum. NEST partners include Rice 360° Institute for Global Health, the University of Malawi, Northwestern University, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and 3rd Stone Design of San Rafael, Calif. “We’re doubly grateful to the MacArthur Foundation, both for its $15 million commitment and its confidence in making us a 100&Change finalist,” said RichardsKortum, director of the Rice 360° Institute for Global Health. More than 1 million African newborns die each year, and most could be saved with simple technologies that keep babies warm, help them breathe, and help doctors diagnose and manage infections. NEST360° is creating a rugged package of 17 Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies for African hospitals, as well as the distribution network to affordably deliver and repair them continentwide. Twelve of the 17 NEST technologies have already been created or are in clinical testing, and prototypes exist for five more. Several NEST devices were invented by Rice students at the university’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and were improved and tested by Rice 360° students and staffers in Houston and Blantyre, Malawi.  — JADE BOYD


Researchers use 3-D printers to turn century-old theory into complex schwarzites.

a b s t r ac t


is inspired by Stanley Milgram’s experiments in social networks; actor Kevin Bacon’s eponymous parlor game; the stellar academic genealogies of Rice graduate students, alumni and faculty; and the enduring awesomeness of Valhalla, Rice’s graduate student pub.



Martin studies modern art across the Americas and Europe under Gordon Hughes.


HUGHES (b. 1965), the Mellon Associate Professor of Art History and co-director of Cinema and Media Studies at Rice, specializes in 20th-century French modernist paintings. He received his Ph.D. at Princeton under the guidance of Hal Foster.


FOSTER (b. 1955) is a fellow of

the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he studies postmodernist art considered ahead of its time. Foster studied with Rosalind Krauss at The City University of New York.



BARTHES (1915–1980) was a French philosopher, linguist, critic and literary theorist who greatly influenced many different schools of thought in the social sciences, including structuralism, social theory and anthropology.

BOIS (b. 1952) is a professor of


KRAUSS (b. 1941), university

professor at Columbia, studies 20th-century painting, sculpture and photography and has curated art exhibits at renowned international museums. Krauss received her doctorate at Harvard, where she met classmate and colleague Annette Michelson.

art history at Princeton who has written many books and articles on European modernist art. He received his Ph.D. in France under Roland Barthes.

MICHELSON (b. 1922), an art

and film critic, started a journal on French poststructuralism with Krauss called October. She currently sits on the journal’s editorial board with Krauss, Foster and Yve-Alain Bois.





Zaibaq is a doctoral candidate in chemistry at Rice.

m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   17

a b s t r ac t | Fac ult y B o o k s

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman (Catapult, 2017)

DAVID EAGLEMAN ’93, A STANFORD NEUROSCIENTIST, AND ANTHONY BRANDT, PROFESSOR of composition and theory at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, believe NASA engineers and Picasso have something in common: a form of mental dexterity that defines what it is to be human. What we create, the authors argue, is not as important as how we create — the “cognitive software” that sets us apart from every other species. In a captivating narrative that spans the arts and sciences, Brandt and Eagleman document humankind’s superpower and make the case that we should do more to foster it in future generations.

What is special about the human brain that enables us to innovate?

Animal behavior is largely preprogrammed. That’s why a sign hangs in national parks telling you how to act if you see a bear: back away slowly, hold your arms wide, etc. You can’t reason with the bear and say, “I’m a big supporter of this park, you don’t want to eat me.” The bear is operating largely on autopilot. Humans have a couple of evolutionary tweaks that make our behavior much more flexible. We’re also one of fewer than two dozen species on the planet with a need to engage with each other and collaborate. If you take our enhanced ability for internal simulation and couple it with our desire to surprise and impress each other, you get a rich output of human imagination.

Are there any examples of creativity in the rest of the animal kingdom? As part of their courtship ritual, male Vogelkop bowerbirds create free-form structures made of items they find in the forest, such as moss, fruits, flowers, stones and shells. There’s a lot of improvisation and decision-making that goes into these bowers, each of which is unique. But the bowerbird doesn’t apply creative thinking to any other aspect of its life. So while the bowerbird’s creativity is a beautiful example of animal creativity, it is circumscribed. Humans, on the other hand, operate on an entirely different level. When it comes to innovative thinking, we appear to be in a league of our own. 18 

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You talk about creativity “remaking” the world — the brain takes in raw material from the outside world and shapes it into something novel. Are there any true eureka moments?

Our experiences are the raw materials from which we fashion new ideas. A recent medical case helps illustrate this. Lonni Sue Johnson was a successful illustrator, designing covers for The New Yorker. She was stricken with encephalitis, which destroyed her longterm memory. With nothing to reference from her experiences, she was unable to mentally conjure anything to draw. That doesn’t mean eureka moments don’t exist. It’s simply that they are novel mixtures of things we’ve seen before. But our conscious minds are often the last to know what’s been going on under the hood. Eureka moments are the rising up into conscious awareness of an idea that your brain may have been working on for a long time. What feels to us like a lightning bolt from the outside is actually the result of ongoing electrical thunderstorms in the brain.

What are some examples of innovations that were ahead of their time — or in the wrong place?

Indeed, our culture sculpts our thoughts and innovations; we’re vessels of our place and time. In 17th-century France, a play’s action had to take place in one location in the course

fac ult y b o o k s | a b s t r ac t

The Cinema of the Soviet Thaw: Space, Materiality, Movement by Lida Oukaderova (Indiana University Press, 2017)

Anthony Brandt

David Eagleman

of a single day. Not so in Japan, where two characters could stand side by side but not be in each other’s presence. Similarly, Beethoven was the most experimental composer of his day. But he never asked musicians to play deliberately out of tune — something that was happening in music half a world away. There’s nothing inherently different about the brains of these creators; it’s just that their work arose in different milieus.

You mention that our education system doesn’t necessarily foster or reward innovation. How can we change that?

Companies of all stripes are clamoring for innovators — and as computers and robots take over rote tasks, it’s clear that human jobs of the future will require more creativity. Yet too many school systems are doubling down on standardized testing and a curriculum pointed toward the answers in the back of the book. We argue that skills and creativity aren’t an either/or proposition — we need both.  — JENNIFER LATSON

RUS S I A N C U LT U R E C H A NGE D DR A M AT ICA L LY after Joseph Stalin died and Nikita Khrushchev came to power. During the period known as the Soviet Thaw (or the Khrushchev Thaw), from 1953 to the mid-1960s, censorship declined, Cold War tensions eased and millions of Gulag prisoners were freed. It also was a time of unprecedented film production in Russian cinema. Lida Oukaderova, an assistant professor of art history and co-director of Cinema and Media Studies at Rice, explores the changing cinematic landscape of the period — including its literal embrace of a panoramic perspective on Russian society — and how those changes fit within the larger context of political and cultural liberalization that characterized postStalinist culture. Oukaderova focuses on the preoccupation of Thaw-era filmmakers — including Mikhail Kalatozov, Georgii Danelia, Larisa Shepitko and Kira Muratova, among others — with “the reorganization of public, private and natural spaces.” This, she argues, was not just a reflection of the changing times, but also an effort to play an active role in shaping those changes. “From shifts in architecture and urban planning to renewed pushes to conquer nature, from new practices of interior design to growing interest in urban walking, Soviet films of the 1950s and 1960s not only mirrored the broad spectrum of spatial phenomena occurring in Thaw-era Soviet culture but aimed in fact to prompt their reorganization,” she writes. Using existing film technology to achieve new effects, Russian filmmakers critiqued and reconsidered the way public space was being used and how it could be transformed. Oukaderova concludes, “The distinct spatiality of cinema, in short, was to be a primary engine for rethinking and reinventing social space itself.”  — JENNIFER LATSON

Editor’s Note: The authors collaborated on the answers to these questions. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   19


Let It Snow COME RAIN, COME SNOW … Rice’s campus and the city had a taste — and then some — of both in 2017. Students, faculty and staff were surprised with this serene and unlikely scene on campus in December, providing one early riser with a picturesque walk to Lovett Hall. While the fluffy stuff didn’t last long, there was enough accumulation for a few hours of snowman building, and the perfect photo opportunity for senior university photographer Tommy LaVergne to capture this rare occurrence. 20 

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Rice students spend so much time with their laptops, they practically become extensions of themselves. So it’s no surprise that many adorn their machines with stickers and memorabilia as a form of self-expression and creativity. Read how students describe their minicomputers. For more laptop photos, visit





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Phot o by Je s f Fitlo f w m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   23


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We Don’t Know By David Levin Illustrations by Marina Muun

At Rice, one of the country’s most recognized research and teaching institutions, we talk a lot about what we know — our scholarly expertise and the brilliant faculty, staff and students who drive the pursuit of knowledge. “Knowing” is the coin of the realm. So when a book titled “We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe” by alumnus Daniel Whiteson ’97 and Jorge Cham arrived in the mail, we were inspired to ask some of our distinguished faculty from various disciplines to tell us what they didn’t know. Our pitch to faculty was straightforward: “Tell us what we need to find out, what questions keep you up at night and what answers seem completely out of reach — for now.” The response was so robust that we decided to create a regular department in future issues of the magazine. Our scholars are pursuing frontiers of knowledge that range from the tiniest specks of life to the vast expanse of the universe. Their quests frequently lead to new questions, especially about the ethical implications of their findings. And to learn more about our inspiration — Whiteson and Cham’s entertaining, informative book — turn to Page 46. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   25

Solving Molecular Mysteries of the Cell

Peter Wolynes thinks about big questions and tiny structures in biology, chemistry and physics. His collaborative research at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics is helping to map the architecture of the human genome. In my lab, I’m trying to understand really funda-

mental things about biology. Our work often opens up more questions than answers. We first have to uncover how individual molecules in biological systems work, then see how they cooperate with each other. The ways that genes are regulated on a biochemical level is still a big question. We know regulation happens, but what’s really going on at the molecular level? Biochemistry has made huge advances on such questions by taking molecules out of cells, finding out what they are and then showing that they’re involved in chemical reactions of various types. But we don’t always know if those molecules behave the same way inside a cell. Does the structure of the cell matter? Does it change anything? We do not know how structures are set up on the cell scale. Protein folding is a great example of something we think we understand on a molecular level. We know for the most part how proteins fold — they’re long, stringy molecules, and certain spots on the molecule are attracted to other specific spots. As a protein shakes around randomly inside a cell, those spots eventually find each other and assemble the molecule in three dimensions in a very predictable way. As you get to bigger structures like the DNA in the genome, though, it’s not clear exactly how the physics works. A chromosome is a much bigger molecule than a protein — so how much of its structure emerges automatically? Is it shaped by random jostling as well? Or is it powered by specific motors that push it into place? The mathematics of how to describe the architecture and machinery of the cell in molecular terms doesn’t exist. However, it affects everything in our bodies.

Peter Wolynes is the D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science, a professor of chemistry, physics and astronomy, and materials science and nanoengineering. His lab is part of the Center for Theoretical and Biological Physics. 26 

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Wasted Energy

What if we could make chemical reactions on an industrial scale much more energy efficient? Naomi J. Halas sees the benefits. Right now, we don’t really know how to

run chemical reactions on an industrial scale without using vast amounts of energy. For any chemical reaction to take place, an atom’s electrons need to be excited and moving at a specific rate. We’ve been doing that the same way for more than the last 100 years — by adding huge amounts of pressure and heat. The problem is, that’s inefficient. To get the end product you want, you might start with three or four ingredients, create a reaction between them and wind up with your chemical — plus a few, or many, unwanted byproducts. The process also takes an incredible amount of electricity. At one large chemical plant I visited recently, they had their own reactors, and each one could power the city of Chicago. So how do we get around this? Ideally, we want to surgically re-engineer molecules to drive these reactions in a more focused way. Using nanoparticles, we might be able to insert energy into a reaction to make it happen on demand without creating wasteful byproducts. Depending on the size of a nanoparticle, it would absorb sunlight at a very specific fre-

quency. Bigger particles could absorb lower wavelengths, and smaller particles could absorb shorter ones. If you include these particles in certain reactions, you can design really specific energy levels right into the mix — you’d expose the whole thing to a sweep of white light, and they’d take the energy they needed in a surgical manner. If we can do that, we can make ammonia for fertilizer sustainably and feed more people worldwide. We can make hydrogen fuel on demand for new types of cars. We can even remediate some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that contributes to climate change. If we could really control chemistry, we’d have a more sustainable planet. It’d be as revolutionary as splitting the atom was in the last century.

Naomi J. Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a professor of chemistry, bioengineering, physics and astronomy, and materials science and nanoengineering. She directs Rice’s Smalley-Curl Institute and is a member of both the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   27

Our Common Universe You, me, the stars and planets. What do we have in common? Frank Geurts explores the mysteries of the universe. In physics, there are a lot of things we don’t

know! For instance, visible matter only makes up about 5 percent of the universe — the rest is stuff we haven’t figured out, like dark energy and dark matter. I work on that 5 percent of stuff we know about, and even then, I have to admit we still don’t know that much about it. What I want to know is, What makes mass? It’s not something we generally think about. But all the visible stuff in the universe — the atoms and molecules that make up you and me, stars, planets — is built out of smaller structures we can’t see, but we can infer their existence through experiments. We know, for instance, that the nucleus of every atom is made of particles called protons and neutrons. Protons give the atom mass, and by extension, give everything in the visible world mass. We also know that protons consist 28 

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of three smaller particles called quarks. But if you take the masses of those quarks and add them all up, you don’t get a proton’s mass at all. It adds up to just a small fraction. So, where is the rest of that mass coming from? How do the interactions between the quarks add up to this, and what fundamental symmetries in nature play their role? It’s still a bit of a mystery. Are the quarks in visible matter all there is? Or are there partners to these quarks that we haven’t been able to see with current accelerators? Are those mystery particles also responsible for dark matter? Even our most powerful particle accelerators aren’t at a point where we can make that observation.

Frank Geurts is an associate professor of physics and astronomy who studies nuclear physics.

The Achievement Gap Ruth López Turley’s research asks fundamental questions about access to education.

There are huge inequities in education, but we

don’t always understand why they exist and what can be done about them. And in cases where we do know what the problem is, the broader public often doesn’t have the knowledge or will to respond accordingly. We know, for instance, that achievement gaps correlate strongly with school segregation, and those gaps will persist unless we target school segregation. So what do we do about it? That’s what researchers in my field are trying to figure out. How do you get people to make a decision that we consider to be personal — like where they decide to live or send their children to school — and steer them to do what’s best for society? How do we incentivize people to integrate without feeling like they’re sacrificing their kids’ future? We need solutions on various levels. Regionally, if you look at the school districts in the center of Harris County where Houston is located, white students and advantaged students are highly underrepresented, but in the suburbs, they’re overrepresented. We don’t really have research that presents a solution to that problem. We can learn from past efforts to integrate. We can look at what went wrong from those efforts and see what we can do today to make the effects of desegregation last longer. Mandatory busing, for example, worked but didn’t last. If we focus on incentivizing people instead, we could be far more productive. How do we do that? One way is to offer affordable housing in high-income neighborhoods, or inclusionary zoning where land use policy allows for low-income families to live in high-income communities. Another is to develop magnet schools designed to encourage families from varying racial, ethnic or economic groups to attend the same schools, coupled with targeted outreach and inexpensive transportation options. Research-practice partnerships like HERC, the Houston Education Research Consortium, inform decision-making with the goal of closing these achievement gaps. This type of research can help districts, especially neighboring districts, test and evaluate integration policies.

Ruth López Turley is a professor of sociology, the director of HERC and associate director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   29

Living With Machines Moshe Vardi is at the forefront of research into the growing role of machines in the workplace. How will humans live with our intelligent machines? I’m a traditional computer scientist, so my

one fundamental question is, What tasks are currently being done by humans, and how can we automate them with machines? It’s really all about mechanization or automation. I mean, the goal of ENIAC, the first programmable computer in 1946, was to compute ballistic tables for the military. That used to be done by people called computers. It was a job title, but now we mechanize it. In a sense, as we get more and more sophisticated with our technology, more questions pop up that we didn’t think about before. Twenty years ago, it was, How do you find information on the web? After that, it was, How do you get meaningful information? Today, what keeps most computer scientists up at night is thinking about, What are the things we want machines to do in the future, and what’s the most economical way to do it? That’s the first half of the night — the second half, the witching hours, are spent tossing and turning, thinking about the societal effects new technologies might have. For example, if we make reliable self-driving cars, that would have a huge impact. Nearly 1.25 million people die in car crashes every year worldwide, many of which are caused by human error. We’re terrible drivers, so we could save lives! Sounds great, right? But then you start thinking, Wait, if we automate cars, it takes the jobs of 4 million drivers. What about them? It’s an important social job for lots of people. For humanity, it’s an epic balancing act between mechanizing more and understanding what it ultimately means for us as a culture. The role of technology is determined by what we decide to do with it — so we’re really in charge of the process. But where is humanity going? That’s the biggest question of all.

Moshe Vardi is the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering and director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. 30 

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A Better Human Genome?

Gang Bao is an expert in the emerging technology used to edit genes — fascinating tools with lifesaving and ethical implications. The big question we want to answer

is how to modify the human genome to treat genetic disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 6,000 “single gene” disorders, each of which are caused by genetic defects such as mutations in just one gene. They’re often really serious, like sickle cell anemia, and most have no cure — unless, that is, we figure out a way to repair the genome itself. Right now, we’re able to do that to a limited degree. We have genetic tools that can replace a damaged section of a gene like replacing a section of leaky pipe. The question is, How effective is this approach? The best tool we have, called “CRISPR/Cas9,” is really powerful for editing specific genes, but it can also cause inadvertent mutations in other genes during the process (“off-target effects”). My guess is it will take 10–20 years before we have a powerful, mature technology to do gene editing on people as a routine procedure in the clinics and can effectively modify human

genes without running the risk of detrimental effects. To get there, we’ll need better tools and a better understanding of how to eliminate offtarget effects. You don’t want to start doing this sort of thing in human patients without being able to predict the off-target effects of largescale gene editing first. There are also major ethical questions we’ll have to address. On one hand, if we can fix broken genes at birth instead of waiting for diseases to develop, we could save a lot of lives and dramatically improve people’s quality of life. That would be ideal. On the other hand, if we have technology that can edit DNA reliably, it opens the door to other choices — making a baby smarter, more beautiful or changing eye color. Is that sort of thing okay? Is it worth the risk of going through gene editing? The ethical question may be thornier than the technical one.

Gang Bao is the Foyt Family Professor of Bioengineering and a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas scholar in cancer research. ◆ m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   31

Virtual Historian Software engineer Travis McPhail ’04 helps create better mapping technologies for Google. But recently, these skills have taken him down a very different path — helping visitors explore the past at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

By David Volk Portrait by Kyle Johnson

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture


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museum. Then he asked the invited audience — members of the Black Googler Network, a diversity resource group led by McPhail at the time — to help. “He asked us to reimagine what a museum would be like in the modern age,” McPhail recalled. “There are not many opportunities in life where you actually get to play a part in a major point in history,” he said. “The museum was telling the story of my family and people whom I know. I felt a duty to do this.”

Project Griot

McPhail gathered a dream team of user experience specialists, software engineers and other members of the Black Googler Network. The volunteers approached the challenge of adding cutting-edge technology to the museum systematically, targeting the “pain points” that needed solving first. They gave their project an informal name — Project Griot, after a traditional West African word for historian and storyteller. The first problem the Googlers noted was one of space, he said. Although the museum is large enough to display such blockbuster artifacts as a 77-ton Jim Crow-era railroad car, a 21-foot-tall tower from the notorious Angola Prison and the iconic stage prop, its collections comprise many more historic artifacts than can be displayed at any one time. In fact, the five-story, Parliament 350,000-square-foot building only has enough Funkadelic’s Mothership room to display about 3,500 items from its overall collection of more than 40,000 artifacts. Though 350,000 square feet may sound spacious, that’s not much room



he National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened to acclaim Sept. 24, 2016, houses thousands of rare and valuable artifacts, ranging from Harriet Tubman’s hymnal to a trainer plane used by the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II — each one telling a story of key moments in African-American history. But when Rice alumnus Travis McPhail ’04 visited the museum in the days before its official opening, one pop culture touchstone caught his eye. “The very first time I went in there, they were putting up the ‘Mothership.’ I was like, ‘Is this the infamous Mothership that was onstage in the 1970s for all these lovely concerts?’” he Harriet said, referring to a larger-than-life prop that Tubman’s was a regular feature at George Clinton and hymnal Parliament Funkadelic concerts. Indeed it was. “It’s smaller in person than I thought,” McPhail recalled. As a Google software engineer who works on improving digital mapping technologies, McPhail had never been involved in museums, their artifacts or the museum experience — except as a visitor. So when Lonnie Bunch, director of the museum, visited the tech giant’s Mountain View, Calif., campus in late 2014 to talk about his vision for the new museum, McPhail was intrigued. Bunch reviewed the 100-year quest to establish the museum, which dates back to 1915 when African-American Civil War vets called for construction of an African-American history

for 40,000 objects, noted W. James Burns, chairman of the American Museum Alliance’s Curators Committee. Burns estimated that most museums are lucky to display more than 3 percent of their overall collection at any given time and often rotate items in and out of storage. “It’s just a matter of dollars and cents,” Burns said. McPhail and his team attacked another big challenge in museum exhibition displays — the difficulty of creating an exhibit that wouldn’t quickly become obsolete or dated. “Typically when [display companies] work with [museums], companies provide some sort of technical solution,” McPhail said. “They agree on what that solution is and the tech is frozen from that point on. The content of that interactive exhibit doesn’t change unless there’s a contract for the company to come back later on.” McPhail not only wanted the group to find a tech-oriented solution to both issues, he also wanted to help the museum tell more stories and cover more of the history that is “critical to the founding of the nation.” He started by looking for existing technology to repurpose. “Hey, we’re Google,” McPhail told himself, “we should be able to help the museum share more of the artifacts they have in their collection and tell the stories in a more meaningful and interesting way.” The team considered and rejected the use of 2-D smart glass and having a display where smartphone users could manipulate the artifacts. Next, they looked at scanning. The museum was already scanning in 3-D, but using much slower equipment. Artifacts that would take the museum up to several hours to scan could easily be done in about eight minutes on Google’s equipment. McPhail’s team opted to create a 3-D interactive experience that would attach meaning to artifacts by telling the stories behind each one. The visitor sees a touch kiosk with a 3-by-3 grid of screens that allows them to explore each stored object by zooming in or out and rotating them to interesting spots on the artifacts. The exhibit also uses those items as jumping-off points to take visitors on journeys that help them understand how each piece represents an intersection between AfricanAmerican history and U.S. history as a whole.

more information becomes available “is new territory for a museum,” McPhail said. With the Google employees volunteering off-site and the challenges of creating a brandnew kind of interactive exhibit, the original spring 2017 opening was delayed. The postponement, however, worked to the exhibit’s advantage, McPhail said, giving the team time to see how the public interacted with the new museum and to figure out what impact the exhibit would have on the museum space as a whole. “The curators, designers and architects for the museum could have a better perspective on how the tech could fit into their space, because they had more time to thoroughly think about the project as opposed to being rushed,” he said. “We came out better on the other side because of that.” At press time, the exhibit was scheduled to open in late February. And judging from the museum’s attendance numbers — a million visitors in its first few months and so much interest that the Smithsonian had to implement a timed-entry pass system to regulate traffic — museumgoers are eager to experience the complex narrative of African-American history. McPhail’s Google team will have played an integral part in bringing the lessons of these precious objects to life. One example of their work is the display of a small tin labeled Madam C.J. Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower — one of many offerings in a line of early 20th-century beauty products for African-American men and women. Viewers will not only be able to rotate the object to view it from all sides, they’ll also be able to read about Sarah Breedlove [C.J. Walker], who pioneered a Madam C.J. successful manufacturing business and became Walker’s a millionaire. Wonderful Hair Grower McPhail’s Rice education — which includes three degrees in computer science and one in electrical engineering — came in handy during the process thanks to his focus on graphics research and graphics programming, and his extensive experience with 3-D modeling and scanning technology. The former Brown College resident is still in touch with mentors on campus. And Google, he noted, hosts lots of interns from Rice’s Department of Computer Science. “Before this project, I really didn’t put a good deal of thought into what my legacy might be,” he said. “But as I look at my contributions to showcasing the extraordinary things that ordinary people did in their lives, it’s humbling. A small bit of the work that I do will help document the history of America through the lens of the African-American experience.” That legacy is personal for McPhail, too. “I’m looking forward to being able to take my son [who will celebrate his first birthday in April] to the exhibit. I’m waiting for the time he can actually recognize and process what’s going on, and I want to see how he takes in the experience.” To view more about this interactive exhibit and related exhibitions at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, go to ◆

McPhail’s team opted to create a 3-D interactive experience that would attach meaning to artifacts by telling the stories behind each one. The visitor sees a touch kiosk with a 3-by-3 grid of screens that allows them to explore each stored object by zooming in or out and rotating them to interesting spots on the artifacts.

Viewer Experience

The advantages of a 3-D system for artifact display are numerous, McPhail said. First, “everyone can get a better appreciation of the physical object in its entirety, including seeing nuances and characteristics. There’s a lot more context to the stories behind the object,” he added. The team created a back-end system that will allow curators to add more features to the display, such as movies, videos, pictures or even trivia questions about the object. Being able to update the exhibit as needed or as

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Interview by Allen Matusow

mulated knowledge of Jefferson and his complicated legacy — especially the well-established fact of his relationship with the slave and house servant Sally Hemings — he set out to write a biography that addressed Jefferson in full. “It is a comprehensive biography of Jefferson that is fully conversant with the last 50 years of scholarship,” Boles told Rice News. “I talk about Jefferson in art and architecture, in science and music, in diplomacy and politics; Jefferson as father and grandfather, and as gardener and slaveholder.” To conduct our interview, we sought out another eminent historian of American history, Allen Matusow, who arrived at Rice as a faculty member in 1963. A noted scholar of 20th-century U.S. history, especially of the post-World War II and Cold War era, Matusow is the author of many books, including “The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s” (University of Georgia Press, 2009). He is the academic affairs director at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the William Gaines Twyman Professor Emeritus of History. Matusow and Boles got together late last summer in Boles’ Fondren Library office — a fifth-floor nook overflowing with books, papers and files that features a spectacular view of the Academic Quad and Lovett Hall. It’s not surprising that Matusow’s interview turned into a wide-ranging and informative conversation about the eventful life of a most extraordinary Founding Father. To read more of their conversation, go to


OHN BOLES ’65, THE William P. Hobby Professor of History, could not have had a more distinguished and influential career at Rice. Since joining the history department in 1981, he has been accorded numerous honors and awards for his teaching, scholarship and service, and he has directed 61 doctoral dissertations. A noted scholar of the American South, Boles edited the Journal of Southern History for 30 years (1983–2013) and has served as president of the Southern Historical Association. Last year, Boles garnered widespread critical acclaim for the publication of “Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty” (Basic Books, 2017). The book is in many ways the culmination of Boles’ long-term study of America’s third president, an interest first sparked in his undergraduate years at Rice in the 1960s and continued while attending graduate school at the University of Virginia. At UVA, Boles ultimately expanded his interests, delving deeply into the region’s religious history for his dissertation. It wasn’t until Boles retired from his position at the journal in 2013 that he was able to once again focus his attention on Jefferson. With his and other scholars’ accu38 

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John Boles, left, discusses Thomas Jefferson with Allen Matusow

so many important things. How do you write comprehensively about someone who wrote so much, did so much, lived so long and keep it within a reasonable compass? I found that really frustrating.

AM: The first review of your book was written by Jonathan Yardley, who for 30 years had been the book reviewer for The Washington Post. This is what he said: “‘Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty’ is perhaps the finest one-volume biography of an American president. Boles … has spent many years studying Jefferson’s native American South in all its mysteries, contradictions, follies and outrages, as well as its unique contributions to the national culture and literature. This biography is the culmination of a long, distinguished career. I admire it so passionately that, almost 2 1/2 years into a happy retirement, I had no choice except to violate my pledge never again to write another book review.” How long did it take you to write this book, and what were the most difficult challenges you faced in the course of writing it? JB: My senior year at Rice, I took a course called Jeffersonian-Jacksonian Democracy, taught by Sanford W. Higginbotham. We read historian Merrill Peterson’s great book “The Jefferson Image in the American Mind” along with a book of about 500 pages of Jefferson’s letters. I thought they were fascinating. In fall 1965, I went to graduate school [at UVA] to study Jefferson and there took a yearlong seminar with Peterson on Thomas Jefferson. In a sense, I began the book then, even though my dissertation was on something different. For 45 years, I wrote about different kinds of things, but I continued to read the literature on Jefferson, biographies and monographic studies. He was never totally absent from my mind, but he wasn’t what I was researching. When I retired from editing the Journal of Southern History in 2013, I thought if I’m ever going to study Jefferson, I better get to it. I decided to start with Volume 1 of “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson” and just read all the way through the 53 volumes. Jefferson lived a long time, wrote thousands of letters and was involved in

AM: There’s been an extraordinary decline in Jefferson’s reputation. And the major reason for that, of course, is the contradiction between the man who wrote “all men are created equal” and the man who was a slave owner. The accusation against Jefferson is that he’s a hypocrite writ into the origins of our republic. How do you reconcile this contradiction? JB: I decided the way to approach him was to say, “Let’s not boil him down to a person who’s only a slave owner. Let’s look at the whole range of his life and his contributions. And more importantly, let’s look at him in the context of his time.” You’d almost forget by conversations in American popular culture that Jefferson was not the only slave holder — so were George Washington, James Madison and John Marshall. Jefferson spoke out more forthrightly against slavery than any of the Founding Fathers, and, on many occasions, he tried to enact provisions that would have ended slavery. For example, he proposed a constitution for Virginia that would have

ended all slavery in 1800. And he proposed in 1784 that slavery not exist in all the territories west of the Appalachians — Alabama, Louisiana and so forth. He was defeated in all those efforts. He also began to realize, along with the others, that the issue of slavery was so controversial that if you really pushed antislavery, you would destroy the nation. A key moment came in one of the early debates of the first Congress in March 1790, when there was a debate over freeing slaves. The delegates from South Carolina and Georgia went berserk and talked about secession and ending the nation — that really frightened the Founding Fathers. Every one of them worried about whether the union would survive. That doesn’t occur to us as a problem, because we know it did survive. To the founders, the union was very fragile. None of them — not Washington nor Marshall nor Hamilton, etc. — risked their political career or, in their belief, risked the nation, to end slavery. That’s frustrating and upsetting to us, but if we’re going to judge Jefferson, we need to put him in the context of that time. AM: George Washington, in his will, freed his slaves. Jefferson did not. Why? JB: When Jefferson’s father-in-law died,


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his wife inherited, which means Jefferson inherited, her father’s land and slaves, plus a lot of debt. He wasn’t able to get out from under that debt his entire life. A law was passed in Virginia in 1792 that said if a person was in debt, any slaves he might free could be seized by his debtors. So Jefferson was always under the cloud that he couldn’t free his slaves because they could be seized by his debtors. Also, in 1806, a law was passed in Virginia that said if a person freed slaves, those slaves had to leave the state within one year or they’d be seized by the state [as slaves]. So Jefferson realized that even if he avoided that 1792 law about debt and freed his slaves, they had to be expelled. He didn’t have the means to buy animals or land or tools to set them up [in another state]. He felt hamstrung by that. He also had a lot of kin — children and grandchildren — whom he was supporting. At any one time, Jefferson was supporting 15–20 family members at Monticello. In contrast, George Washington was wealthy and was not in debt, so he wasn’t affected by the 1792 law. Washington had no biological relatives — no children, no dependents he was taking care of. When he decided to free his slaves after his and Martha Washington’s death, they could stay on the land there because that 1806 40 

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law hadn’t been passed [when he died in 1799]. ... So Jefferson, as much as he believed slavery was morally wrong, was trapped by his responsibility to his white dependents, his debt and by the 1806 law. AM: Let’s talk about Sally Hemings, with whom Jefferson had intimate relations for decades. She bore him five children, whom he didn’t acknowledge. How do you address that in the book? JB: In 1965, when I first went to UVA, the idea of the Sally Hemings affair was considered a scandalous story that his political enemies used against him. Jefferson scholars like Dumas Malone and Merrill Peterson believed it was unthinkable. It wasn’t so much a question of immorality as the status difference between the two. In 1974, Fawn Brodie wrote “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History,” which highlighted that affair. She thought in some sense it made him more human. Still, it was controversial. It’s not until the late 1990s that historian Annette GordonReed made a persuasive argument that this was not just a scandalous rumor, but that this was almost certainly true. And then she published another book in 2008 called “The Hemingses of Monticello,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and is just a

brilliant piece of historical research. Also, in the early 21st century, there was some biomedical evidence — a genetic marker that goes through the male line — that showed up in the descendents of Sally Hemings. Just the totality of the evidence has convinced nearly every historian that there was in fact a long-term monogamous relationship. The Hemingses are important, because Jefferson’s father-in-law, John Wayles, had a long-term relationship with a slave woman named Betty Hemings, and she bore him five or six children. So Jefferson’s personal valet in Paris and Sally Hemings are the half brother and sister of Jefferson’s wife. By 1794–1795, Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings had become solidified. Gordon-Reed argues that the relationship was consensual and affectionate. She says that when Sally Hemings was in France [having accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to France], slavery wasn’t allowed, so Jefferson treated her and her brother as servants and paid them wages. They both knew, because they spoke French, that if they simply raised their hand, they would be freed. So Jefferson realized he could not require them to come back to America, but she had cousins and sisters and brothers and relatives in Monticello. She could have stayed free in Paris, but she returned. AM: How old was she by then? JB: She was about 16 or 17. She was to be his concubine — which meant substitute wife — from 1794 at least until his death. For his last 15 years, Sally Hemings lived in a room in the basement of Monticello. She apparently took care of his room and did his laundry. He never acknowledged her publicly, nor did he acknowledge fathership of her children, although when he died, he freed them. He did not technically free her because then she’d have to leave the state, so he told his daughter to treat her as free and gave her a house. AM: There’s this contradiction we’ve talked about between Jefferson the champion of liberty and Jefferson the slave master. There’s another contradiction — Jefferson the aristocrat and Jefferson the democrat. The Constitution he proposed in 1776 for Virginia struck me as the perfect example of how

“ V I E W O F T H E W E ST F R O N T O F M O N T I C E L LO A N D G A R D E N ” ( 1 8 2 5 ) , JA N E B R A D D I C K P E T I C O L A S

advanced his political thinking actually was at that time. JB: At that time there were property qualifications for voting, so he said let’s take land from the state’s western territories and give it to white men without sufficient property so they can become eligible voters. His idea was of a state where every white male was a landowner and was a voting citizen. Jefferson is a combination of things that don’t seem possible. He was born and educated and lived as an aristocrat, but I think he was the most thoroughgoing democrat of the Founding Fathers. He was born and lived and died as a slaveholder, and he was a passionate enemy of slavery. There are just so many things

about him that don’t seem to match. In so many areas, he seems so modern, so beyond his time, that we find it unusually frustrating when he’s not progressive in everything. People don’t attack Marshall or Madison for not freeing their slaves, but we attack Jefferson because somehow we expect more of Jefferson — he justifies that expectation. Ironically, it’s his words about liberty and freedom that undergird later efforts to free the slaves. AM: The end of Jefferson’s life makes for depressing reading, as he becomes enmeshed in financial problems, and he can’t find his way out. What happened? JB: Virginia was in a long economic decline. Land sold for less than what you could rent it for per year, so in a sense Jefferson was land-poor. Tobacco had

AM: Jefferson wanted three of his achievements to be remembered and inscribed on his tombstone: the Declaration of Independence, the founding of the University of Virginia and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The Virginia statute is a major event in our history, as well as in his life. JB: He said that was the most difficult political fight he ever had. I believe that since Constantine, every place in Europe had a state religion. Sometimes it was Protestant, usually it was Catholic. But there was an assumption that the state determined your religion, and Jefferson wanted to sever that tie. I believe the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom is the first time in Western civilization that by law, the state has no mandate on what your religion should be. Jefferson believed in what he called the “illimitable freeMonticello, dom of the human mind,” and as painted in 1825 he believed that no one — no monarch, no president, no priest — should have authority or be between a person’s conscience or reason and their belief in and worship of God. He wanted to make it clear that religious freedom was not just freedom for Protestants and Catholics, but for Protestants and Catholics and Jews and Hindus and Muslims. There weren’t any Hindus or Muslims around at the time, but he wrote it in such a way that there would be complete reliHe’ll have periods of grief and depresgious freedom. He saw that as absolutely sion because of debt and death, but on essential. the whole, if you wanted to characterize He believed in it so strongly that Jefferson, you’d say his personality or outalthough he didn’t like to give speeches — look was optimistic even though he had Adams said in the Continental Congress to overcome a constant stream of death of that you never heard him speak more the ones closest to him. I found that really than three sentences at a time — he affecting, the way he was able to do that. wrote out and gave a passionate speech to Weren’t you kind of surprised? the Virginia Legislature on behalf of religious freedom. It didn’t pass until 1786 AM: Yes. I wondered whether death like when he was in France, but that was of that was common in those times? extraordinary importance to him. JB: Death was common, but if you read And I think it’s at the basis of reliJohn Adams’ biography, death was not gious freedom, the basis of the First and nearly as common as it was with JefferSecond amendments, and is the motif son. And he was very stoic about it. In his running through Jefferson’s life. He saw memorandum book, he would say, “My the Declaration of Independence as a buldaughter died last night” or “my wife died” wark for political freedom, the Virginia or “my mother died.” As a young boy, he Statute as religious freedom and the read a lot of philosophers and believed that University of Virginia as freedom from you had to face adversity by being stoic. ignorance. ◆ worn out its stay, and wheat had replaced it. Tobacco was being raised in the new, fresher lands of Kentucky and so forth. So he was faced with not just his own personal economic collapse, but also the whole economic collapse of the Virginia economy. He ended up incredibly depressed at the end of his life, because he saw no way out. It’s a sad ending. Jefferson is too often seen as just this intellectual being, so I wanted to capture his personality and his interests in everything from farming to family. I liked that role of Jefferson as a doting grandfather, but I was also taken by the amount of tragedy in Jefferson’s life — the death of his father, mother, sister, children, best friend and wife. It’s really kind of astonishing.

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NIGHT OWL A series that profiles Owls whose work takes flight at night

Traffic Talk By Kendall Schoemann


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ONG BE FOR E SUN R ISE EACH MOR N ING, Katherine Whaley ’04 wakes up to help drivers in the nation’s fourth-largest city navigate 575 miles of freeways and expressways. She has worked since 2014 as a traffic anchor for KTRK-TV ABC13 Houston. Whaley’s weekday alarm goes off at 3 a.m. She gets dressed, puts on makeup, throws her hair in rollers and is on the road by 3:45 a.m. When she arrives at the studio, she begins a multitasking ritual of gathering traffic information, updating social media and sipping on tea while teasing and spraying her hair and touching up makeup. Forty-five minutes later, she’s on the air for the “Eyewitness News” morning show until 7 a.m. and does local cut-ins every half hour during “Good Morning America” until 9 a.m. With no script to rely on, she keeps an eye on the traffic camera network to deliver the most timely and significant PHOTO BY JEFF FITLOW

Her early career took her away from Houston, but it was always her goal to return to her hometown. “I feel I have a much stronger connection with viewers in a community where I really have a stake in what’s going on.” Her connection to Houston was especially strong during Hurricane Harvey, which Whaley says was the most challenging event of her career. “People were making decisions of whether or not to be on the road,” she says. “It was truly a life-or-death situation.” ABC13 reported 118 straight hours of Harvey coverage. “I lost track of time, hours, days,” she says. “I was receiving

viewers are consuming information.” On average, Whaley sends out 10–12 tweets per hour each morning. She also supplements her on-air time with live morning updates on Instagram and Facebook, often posting stills from traffic camera footage to show what’s contributing to delays. With Whaley’s swift judgment and confident on-camera demeanor, you wouldn’t suspect that she had no formal broadcast journalism training. She earned a history degree from Rice and soon after graduation started at ABC13 as a news intern and videotape editor. “Going into TV was an exercise in setting a goal and making

“It’s been tremendously rewarding communicating information that so many people rely on every day. Traffic is a quality-of-life issue — people decide where they live and which job schedule they work based on traffic.”

information. “There is an accident on the Gulf Freeway northbound at the 610 South Loop slowing down your inbound commute. Use Telephone Road as an alternate route. Current drive time on the Southwest Freeway inbound Grand Parkway to downtown is 24 minutes and the South Freeway inbound Beltway 8 to downtown will take you 17 minutes.” While Whaley appears poised on screen, seconds before going on the air, she is juggling traffic camera angles and making snap decisions about which topics she’ll cover on her walk over to the green screen.

hundreds of questions about rerouting, and I did my best to help everyone as road conditions and closures were changing minute by minute.” While road safety and transportation are especially important during times of crisis, Whaley has found traffic to be an issue that connects people of all walks of life on a daily basis. “It’s been tremendously rewarding communicating information that so many people rely on every day,” she says. “Traffic is a qualityof-life issue — people decide where they live and which job schedule they work based on traffic.” When Whaley isn’t reporting or checking traffic resources, she’s updating her more than 50,000 social media followers. “Social media is something I was discouraged to check when I was starting my career, but today reporters are measured by social media reach and engagement,” she says. “Social media is another way to share information that our audience needs. People don’t always rely on a broadcast at a fixed time and we have to be nimble to keep up with how

it happen,” Whaley says. “I just went into everything saying, ‘Sure, I’ll do it!’ And I’d figure out how to do it later.” Whaley developed a demo reel at ABC13 that landed her a job as a reporter and weather forecaster in Victoria, Texas. A year later, she moved up to a larger market in Lafayette, La., as a reporter, anchor and weather forecaster. After two years there, she relocated to Las Vegas for a reporter and anchor position, where she also earned her meteorologist certification. When a traffic anchor position opened up at ABC13, Whaley felt she had gone full circle: back at her first station and just down the street from her alma mater. While her 8 p.m. weekday bedtime presents a number of social conflicts, she doesn’t let it keep her from enjoying a fun evening once in awhile. “I allow myself one normal night each week to emcee an event, try a new restaurant with my husband or grab drinks with my girlfriends,” Whaley says. “I like to think of myself as being in a different time zone. That helps me stick to my schedule.” m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   43

c re at i ve i de a s a n d e n de avo r s

Performing Proust


disciplines, including business, political science, English and music. The class explored the creative world of Marcel Proust, particularly his masterpiece “In Search of Lost Time,” together with the music, paintings and people who inspired it. The course culminated in fully staged public performances in the Moody’s Lois Chiles Studio Theater. Rothenberg, the writer and director of “A Proust Sonata,” was joined onstage

by students from the Shepherd School of Music alongside professional actors and a set designed by a Tony Award-winning team. Recognizing Rice’s role as part of a greater creative community, the Moody encourages collaborations with local arts organizations in ways that provide meaningful engagement with students, broadening their experience of life on campus while offering a glimpse into the city’s dynamic cultural landscape.


H E M O O D Y C E N T E R for the Arts served as the incubator for a course that paired students and faculty with one of Houston’s innovators in musical performance, Da Camera. Making Music with the Media of the Stage: A Proust Sonata, taught by Ken Goldsmith, professor of violin, and Sarah Rothenberg, artistic and general director of Da Camera, attracted students from diverse

By Connie McAllister


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HOM ETOW N T EX A S Photographs by Peter Brown | Stories by Joe Holley (Maverick Books and Trinity University Press, 2017)



photography classes in Rice’s continuing education program, inspiring hundreds of students along the way. For the past quarter century, he has been drawn to landscapes and smalltown scenes. In this collection, Brown collaborates with Joe Holley, who writes the “Native Texan” column for the Houston Chronicle, to create a portrait of Texas that ranges widely in subject matter while being devoid of the usual stereotypes — a Texas far from the bragging crowd. Dividing the state into regions, Brown contributes imagery that creates a visual context for Holley’s illuminating essays on rural life. In the book’s introduction, Brown writes, “Our collaboration describes the

way we feel: That there is much to be seen, heard and appreciated in these little towns. That there are creative and energetic people working with good ideas that they apply locally, and that their stories are worth passing on and celebrating.” While the photographs are not intended to illustrate specific essays, image and story are perfectly in sync in their appreciation of a side of the Lone Star State that rarely makes the headlines. Brown’s photographs are collected in museums across the country, and he is the award-winning author of numerous collections, including “On the Plains” (Norton, 1999), “West of Last Chance” (Norton, 2008) and “Seasons of Light” (Rice University Press, 1988). — LYNN GOSNELL m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   45

a rt s & l e t t e r s | A lu m n i b o o k s

What made you want to focus on what we don’t know instead of what we do know?

WHITESON: It just seems more exciting.

All the things we don’t know are the things we will figure out in the future, so it’s more fun to look ahead and think about how the world in the future will see things so differently than we see them. We also had the sense that a lot of people have the wrong impression. They think that science has most things figured out; we’ve made such dramatic progress. We wanted to remind people that there are basic facts about the universe that we still don’t know the answer to. They are basic facts that, once we do know the answer, will change the way we see the universe and our place in it. CHAM: It felt like there was a need for a different point of view; to say, all this

Author Q&A (Riverhead Books, 2017)


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stuff that we’ve figured out is amazing, but think about all that we haven’t figured out, what amazing potential there is. That was the motivation — to join that conversation.

Why was it important for the book to be so approachable? WHITESON: We wanted to communicate

this information to people who had an interest in the question but didn’t necessarily get the chance in their professional lives to explore it scientifically, so we wanted to reach as broad of an

in a lot of cases, we know the answer must be one of a small set. For example, is there intelligent life in the universe other than ours? The answer is either yes or no. What’s exciting is that any of those possible answers will blow your mind, right? Either there is other intelligent life in the universe, which is crazy and fascinating and — wow — what could we learn from them? Or there’s not and we’re all alone in this vast cosmos. Either of those scenarios is incredible and hard to understand, but we know one of them is the truth and eventually we’ll know which it is. That blows my mind — for all of these big questions, there are answers. CHAM: We get comfortable and feel like we have everything figured out — we have iPhones and gene editing and can stream television 24/7. But there’s still a lot about the universe and the world around us that we still don’t know and really have no idea, which I think is exciting and it wakes you up from your everyday routine. The answers could be anything; it could be anti-gravity boots or other dimensions or alien life. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities.  — INTERVIEW BY KYNDALL KRIST


We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe


What excites you about what we don’t know? WHITESON: What excites me is that

Daniel Whiteson ’97 and Jorge Cham

with science writing’s coverage of the Higgs boson discovery, Daniel Whiteson ’97, a professor of experimental particle physics at the University of California, Irvine, decided to act. He emailed Jorge Cham, the creator of PHD Comics who earned his doctorate in robotics at Stanford, to propose a different strategy. With their unique collaboration of skills and knowledge, Whiteson and Cham created a book that explores enduring questions about the universe with a fun and curious spirit. Combining witty cartoons and a humorous writing voice, the authors present accurate yet approachable science to the reader.

audience as possible. There are a lot of people out there who think about these kinds of questions, but also don’t think they are allowed to or don’t think they necessarily have the preparation. We wanted to make them realize that these are accessible questions that can be explored in an accessible way. That was the idea behind including cartoons; they bring down the intimidation factor. CHAM: In a lot of the science writing that’s out there, [the authors] try to impress you, and it’s basically all about how crazy and complicated these things are. Our point of view was to avoid approaching this topic with as much reverence. [We wanted to] talk directly to people in the same way that you might have a conversation with somebody, or if you hung out with a physicist and asked them questions.

A lu m n i b o o k s | a rt s & L e t t e r s

ON THE BOOKSHELF Teaching Poetry, Embracing Perspectives: A Guide for Middle School Teachers

Term Life: A Novel of Love, Death, and Computer Security William H. Boyd ’76 (Black Rose Writing, 2017)

Sharon Discorfano ’92

IT ALL STARTED WHEN GUS BISHOP, a computer security

professional in Austin, keyed the following Google search: “What is the difference between whole life and term life [insurance]?” Shortly after, a strange insurance salesman approaches him with an intriguing proposition. What if, instead of an insurance policy covering one’s death, it guarantees that the client can control their life — and death — on their own terms? Gus buys in, but at what cost? In his debut novel, William H. Boyd ’76 examines the themes of life, death and discovery within the context of current cybersecurity threats.

Wayfarers Katrinka Moore ’76 (Pelekinesis, 2018)

“Things So Light They Find the Act of Falling Heavy Going” On yellow wings too light to touch down a swallowtail crosses the sun-shining river — her wavy path, tiny ups and downs. Yellow wings too light to touch down most of her life spent far-shore bound. What’s over there that she can’t find here? On yellow wings too light to touch down she crosses, unswallowed, the sun-shining river.

(Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)

The Last to See Me Mylène Dressler ’93 (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017) TO SAY EMMA ROSE

Finnis has an intimate knowledge of her small village in Northern California is an understatement; she died a century ago, but her ever-present spirit continues to reside in the palatial Lambry House. In this world, ghosts are accepted as a reality, but the living are committed to destroying them. When a wealthy couple purchases Lambry House, they hire a ghost hunter to “cleanse” the estate of Emma’s occupancy, inciting a struggle between the living and the dead. Emma must do what it takes to avoid being forgotten forever, which begs the question: How do we leave a lasting mark when we’re gone, and what sacrifices must we make to do so? Mylène Dressler ’93 has authored novels, short stories and essays, and has been published in literary journals and magazines. She is a professor of writing and literature at Guilford College.

POETRY CAN OFTEN be an intimidating subject, especially for young students. In her book, Sharon Discorfano ’92 channels more than 20 years of experience in writing and education to show teachers how to make poetry accessible and engaging to their students. In fact, Discorfano attests that middle schoolers are the ideal age to introduce to the study of poetry. “Developmentally, middle school students are right on the cusp of starting to think more abstractly. In addition, poetry characteristically expresses complex emotions that they are just starting to experience for themselves,” she writes. This comprehensive guide is split into two parts, one on reading and the other on writing poems, to emphasize the great impact this field of study has on children both inside and outside the classroom.  — REVIEWS BY KYNDALL KRIST

m a g a z i n e . r i c e . e d u   47

The MOB’s Crazy Uncle



Marching Owl Band since he joined in 1973. To some MOBsters, this means he has become an essential part of the MOB, perhaps even embodying the spirit of the satirical band. However, Gladu disagrees. “I don’t feel that extraordinary. I’m just a guy who stuck around,” he said.





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Nevertheless, his track record as a trumpeter in the MOB is long and varied. He originally joined the MOB because Houston Baptist College, the university he attended at the time, did not have a marching band. Gladu remembers Robert Linder, an HBU band director who told his class that if they missed participating in marching band, they should talk to Bert Roth at Rice University. Roth was the director of bands from 1967 to 1980. Gladu rode his motorcycle to the Rice band hall in the Rice Memorial Center basement and signed up that day. Since then, he has worn many hats for the band, including script coordinator, librarian, announcer and leader of MOB cheers. Outside the MOB, Gladu provides desktop support for a medical school department. When looking back at his time in the MOB, Gladu reminisced about people, songs and games that stood out in his mind. Some of his favorite games were against Texas A&M, where the MOB had to choose their words wisely, and games against the University of Texas, where “you could do anything you wanted to them; they would love it.” Gladu wishes that the MOB would bring back cheers, most of which were written by Andy Kopra ’77, including this so-called existential cheer: “We’re from Rice. Ain’t that nice? Who are you? Do you know?” However, he speaks highly of today’s band, praising the improved musicality and the close-knit family atmosphere. “The 1970s were full of slackers … and that’s how we wound up with 300 people in the band,” Gladu explained. The now-smaller MOB, he said, is full of people who really care about the band. Despite never actually being a student or faculty member at Rice, Gladu’s presence is cemented into history with the new name for the band hall within the Cox Fitness Center, where the MOB moved last year. When asked how he feels about the John “Grungy” Gladu Band Hall, he listed many other people from the MOB’s history whom he thought would be deserving of the honor — people like Lee Chatham, the first director of bands at Rice, or Roth. Gladu is more down-to-earth about his own place in the MOB, calling himself the “uncle, grandfather, adviser type.” He wants to keep playing in the MOB as long as possible but is happy with being the figure in the background about whom people say, “Oh, that’s just Grungy.” As long as he can stay within the MOB family, he is content.  — TAE GAN HOWELLS ’18



UNLIMITED Maryam Elizondo ’19 was thrilled to pursue a future in research and medicine at Rice, her dream school. But the aspiring bioengineer faced a challenge upon arrival: Coming from a high school with limited resources, she started out with fewer credits and less subject matter exposure than her peers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Fortunately, the Rice Emerging Scholars Program (RESP) was ready to jumpstart her Rice career with an academically intensive summer course and proactive advising, giving her the knowledge and tools to thrive as an engineering major. “I wouldn’t have survived my first semester without RESP. My mentors and fellows showed me what an efficient, effective Rice student looks like. More importantly, I learned how to become one. Now, people come to me for help.” There’s a lot more to Maryam’s story, and to RESP. Read more at

unconventional. unlimited. uncharted. unmatched.

Rice University, Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892


sandwich at the now-shuttered Alfred’s Deli, getting a $1.75 haircut at Times Barber Shop or enjoying a beer at The Ginger Man, every Rice grad has a special memory of time spent in the Village, long known for its eclectic mix of stores and sometimes quirky shopkeepers. In the 1980s and 1990s, a new management company brought in big-name stores and gave Rice Village a shopping mall feel. Over the years, wear and tear set in. Recently, Rice became more involved in developing the Village, and plans are now underway to revitalize it while staying true to its roots. Changes include bringing in new businesses like Hopdoddy, SusieCakes and Shake Shack, giving stores a face-lift, creating murals and other public art, and designing inviting outdoor spaces for events and for students and community members to congregate. Look for the story in our spring issue.

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Rice Magazine | Winter 2018  
Rice Magazine | Winter 2018