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The Magazine of Rice University


BIRD CALLS Each spring, Professor Cin-Ty Lee helps students and novice birders alike experience the thrill of spring migration. ALSO: Mother Cecilia’s sacred music, breaking down bacterial communication, Wayne Graham’s milestone, and more campus and research news.

The sisters from the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus follow the Benedictine Rule of Life, which is centered on work and prayer. Led by Mother Cecilia (Martina Snell ’99), the small monastery in Gower, Mo., has gained fame for their recordings of sacred chants and hymns.

The Magazine of Rice University

spring 2014





Breaking Cancer’s Social Network Eshel Ben-Jacob brings his intellect and imagination to the cause of cancer research at Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics.

Sallyport 5

By Madhumita Venkataramanan



Colors of Holi, 90-second thesis, Fox news, student profile, and Noted and Quoted.

Scoreboard 11 Hoops queen Jessica Kuster’s record-breaking reign.

Scene 12 Wayne Graham hits 1,000.

A Bird’s-Eye View During spring migration, Rice’s campus is alive with birds. Earth scientist and master birder Cin-Ty Lee guides us on a birding tour across campus and to the coast. By Scott Solomon

Ora et Canta Alumna Martina Snell ’99 left a career as a professional musician to become a cloistered nun. Today, she presides over a priory of nuns whose angelic voices are selling CDs. By Sherrie Voss Matthews

President’s Note Professor Leebron goes back to class.

Abstract 15 Strong magnets, noninvasive malaria tests, expanded bus bike racks, clever billboards, merger advice, a soldier’s lament and sociology research by the numbers.

Voices 41 Meet Rice staff member Jessica Campbell and Faculty Women’s Club volunteer Mary Lou Margrave.

Arts & Letters


The Shepherd School’s East Coast musical tour de force, “Crossing the Farther Shore” by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê, and faculty and alumni books and CDs.

Parting Words On the cover Photographer Tommy LaVergne caught this image of a bright yellow prothonotary warbler, one of High Island’s common spring migrants. This photo was taken in the swampy Boy Scout Woods section of High Island.



Graduating senior Helene Dick delivers the Convocation speech May 16. Dick is the first student to speak at a Rice graduation.

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Follow what’s going on throughout campus and beyond the hedges through the Office of Public Affairs’ photography, videos and social media outlets. Join us in the conversation about Rice.


Nelson Mandela Rubik’s Cube Mosaic Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative building recently featured a portrait of Nelson Mandela in its first-floor Rice Public Art gallery. What was unique about the image — a bright mosaic about 3.75 feet by 5.5 feet — was that it was created entirely from Rubik’s Cubes. Members of the Jones Graduate School of Business’ Rice Cube Club planned and carried out the project in honor of Black History Month. “I spent a lot more time planning this project than actually executing it,” said Cory Thigpen, the Jones School MBA student who came up with the project. After mapping out the project into 5,400 yellow, orange, red and blue pixels, club members spent about three hours twisting and turning 600 puzzle cubes into the assigned color combination. See Brandon Martin’s videos of this delightful project.


(“Breaking Cancer’s Social Network”) is an editor at Wired UK, where she oversees the culture pages that cover the intersection of science, technology and the arts. SHERRIE VOSS MATTHEWS

(“Ora et Canta”) is a San Antonio-based writer with St. Louis roots. Her articles have appeared in a variety of alumni publications (Drury University, University of Texas at San Antonio) and more. SCOTT SOLOMON

(“A Bird’s-Eye View”) is a professor in the practice in Rice’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a resident associate at Baker College. He teaches courses on biology, ecology, evolution and scientific communication. AMY HODGES

INSTAGRAM #ricecoffeehouse Every day, the student-run Rice Coffeehouse, located in the Rice Memorial Center, serves plain and fancy coffees, baked items and good vibes to legions of campus customers. Check out the menu, history and catering information here:

R ICE MAGAZINE ON ISSUU View recent and past issues, dating back to 2003.

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TWITTER @RiceMagazine Follow the progress of each quarterly magazine.

(“Shepherd School on Tour”) is a senior media relations specialist for Rice’s Office of Public Affairs. When she’s not reporting on the adventures of Rice students and faculty, she enjoys traveling, politics and spending time with her fiancé.

forEword The Magazine of Rice University SPRING 2014 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



Jeff Cox senior director Dean Mackey senior graphic designer Jackie Limbaugh graphic designer Tracey Rhoades editorial director Jenny W. Rozelle ’00 assistant editor Tommy LaVergne senior university photographer Jeff Fitlow university photographer CONTRIBUTING PUBLIC AFFAIRS STAFF

B.J. Almond, Jade Boyd, Jeff Cox, Jeff Falk, Amy Hodges, Tracey Rhoades, Jenny W. Rozelle, David Ruth, Mike Williams INTERN


Leticia Treviño ’16

A Field Guide to the Unexpected



In the process of reporting a story — one we’ve planned, researched and assigned — we often discover a new angle, element or quality. These are (generally) welcome surprises that add another layer or dimension to the story. So how did this phenomenon — let’s name it “the Owl effect” — play out in the Spring 2014 issue? Last spring, we sent Rice ecologist and science writer Scott Solomon to document local birding habitats with Cin-Ty Lee, a master birder and earth scientist. Scott delivered a wonderfully observed story reported at the height of spring migration, which takes readers from Rice’s campus to Bolivar Peninsula’s High Island — a worldwide birding mecca. With Tommy LaVergne’s nature photography, we knew we had a winning package. Then, we learned about Cin-Ty’s talent for drawing and painting birds. We gently inquired if he would illustrate a few local birds for our readers. See his answer on Pages 32–33. Our profile of alumna Martina Snell ’99, a graduate of the Shepherd School of Music, also brought a surprise — this one in the form of an unexpected Rice connection. As Mother Cecilia, prioress of a tiny monastery in rural Missouri, Snell leads a group of nuns whose voices create exquisite harmonies — and best-selling CDs. The profile, in the works for more than a year, finally came together last fall, as freelance writer Sherrie Voss Matthews was given permission to visit the monastery over Thanksgiving. Then, we learned that the CD’s award-winning producer was another Shepherd School grad, Blanton Alspaugh ’87. Bonus. Finally, the story about Eshel Ben-Jacob’s research at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics took an artistic turn. Eshel, who has found unexpected beauty in the bacterial organisms he studies, creates exquisite and other-worldly “bacterial art.” See Page 24, and check out the link to his other creations. We hope this issue exceeds your expectations and delivers a few welcome surprises. —Lynn Gosnell s p ri ng 2 0 1 4 | Ric e M aga z i n e   3


Reader Response DEAR EDITOR

I enjoyed the article by Dan Oko in the Winter 2014 issue of Rice Magazine. I was surprised, however, that there was no mention at all of an earlier Rice–Bhutan link. Were you aware of the fact that the current king’s father, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, lived at Will Rice College for the better part of a year in the late 1960s? … —Charles Tremoulet ’71

REPLY: In investigating this additional Rice– Bhutan connection, we discovered that it was the future king of Bhutan’s nephew — Jigme Wangchuk Yapshi Pheunkang — who attended Rice. The prince of Sikkim is in the 1971 Campanile. Thank you, Charles, for helping us unearth this fascinating piece of Rice history. It was great reading about the outdoor performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Winter 2014, Pages 10–11). There is an old tradition of outdoor Shakespeare performances set against the campus architecture. I remember fondly Rice Players’ productions when I was in high school. My English teacher, a Rice grad, hinted at extra credit if we attended! It was wonderful seeing Jim Bernhard ’59 playing Falstaff, with the soldiers on the battlements of the Physics Building in the background, and the following year, Bernhard and Ginger Purington ’59 (the future Mrs. Bernhard) channeling Shylock and Portia inside the physics lecture hall due to a rainout. As a freshman, I was unforgettable as a page with one line in “Twelfth Night,” with the chemistry building behind us. Frank Dent ’59 was a standout that year. I think the tradition may have ended with the graduation of those fabulous actors — but the buildings remain to inspire future generations of thespians!

—Barry Moore ’62 REPLY: Barry, thank you for this wonderful vision of thespian talent and bravery, too.


WINTER 2014 SURVEY FINDINGS Congratulations on the randomly selected winners of our Rice Magazine Winter 2014 issue survey drawing — Kathy Wang ’97, James Rhodes ’62 and Richard Miller ’75. Thank you for providing valuable feedback about our quarterly issue. Each winner received an “Unconventional Wisdom” T-shirt. If you receive a spring issue survey, please fill it out and enter our next drawing. SELECTED COMMENTS AND STATS FROM OUR WINTER 2014 ISSUE SURVEY ABOUT THE FEATURES

“Frontside Forces” Earth scientist and longtime shredder Adrian Lenardic turns the art of skateboarding into a “public display of science.” “I cannot say that I have any interest in skateboarding, but the science aspect of the article was interesting.” “Loved the photos and infographics.”

“In the Land of the Thunder Dragon” Rice linguist Christina Willis Oko treks to remote Bhutan to research the endangered language known as Khengkha. “Loved the photos and how they brought part of the world back to Rice.”

“OwlSpark” Student startups are emerging from all corners of campus and getting serious support. “This one made me wish I had gone into engineering, although I wouldn’t have had the benefit of OwlSpark back then.”

WANT TO WRITE FOR US? Rice Magazine’s features and departments are open to experienced freelance writers. Before you pitch, please request a copy of our writers’ guidelines and tips via


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Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Keith T. Anderson; Doyle Arnold; Laura Arnold; Albert Chao; T. Jay Collins; Mark Dankberg; Lynn Laverty Elsenhans; Doug Foshee; Lawrence Guffey; Ben Hollingsworth; John Jaggers; Larry Kellner; R. Ralph Parks; Lee H. Rosenthal; Jeffery Smisek; Charles Szalkowski; Robert M. Taylor Jr.; Guillermo “Memo” Treviño; James S. Turley; Randa Duncan Williams. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS

David W. Leebron, president; George McLendon, provost; Kathy Collins, vice president for Finance; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Chris Muñoz, 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 Resource Development. EDITORIAL OFFICES

Creative Services–MS 95 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 713-348-6768 POSTMASTER

Send address changes to: Rice University Development Services–MS 80 P.O. Box 1892 Houston, TX 77251-1892 ©April 2014 Rice University

News and Updates from Campus



n March 15, Rice students celebrated the Hindu spring festival known as Holi, the “festival of colors,” in the Duncan-McMurtry quad. What began as a college-specific event has now grown into a universitywide celebration, said organizers. To mark Holi, participants toss brightly colored powders in the air and on one another, resulting in colorful clouds and rainbow-hued students. The students sourced the powders as well as traditional Indian sweets from a local Indian grocery. An estimated 100 to 150 students participated this year. “We aimed to bring a cultural opportunity into the hedges,” said McMurtry sophomore Cindy Thaung. s p ri ng 2 0 1 4 | Ric e M aga z i n e   5


When a group of Rice students performed mariachi music for a party given by the Latin American Graduate Student Association, they thought it would be a one-night gig.


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find the band a great place to express their musical talents outside their fields. Mariachi Luna Llena’s historic founding is gaining notice in the media as well as from the Rice community. “Family members and alumni from Mexico have written to us to show their support. It has been more than what I, or the group, would ever have imagined,” Rodriguez said. The group can be reached at —Lynn Gosnell

With 12 alumni currently volunteering in the Peace Corps worldwide, Rice is one of seven schools with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates that are tied for No. 14 in the rankings. Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., is ranked No. 1; it has 22 undergraduate alumni volunteers. Beth Crompton ’10 served two years in Tanzania after graduating from Rice with a master’s in computer science. “I learned to deal with just about any situation,” said Crompton, who taught information technology and programming. “Now I have a lot of confidence, because nothing about life in the U.S. will ever be as difficult as life in East Africa.” In recommending service to Rice grads, she said, “The Peace Corps model is valuable for stressing capacity building and sustainability, as well as being a stopgap source of trained professionals. There is a serious shortage of teachers in Tanzania, particularly computer teachers.”



But the crowd’s enthusiastic response said otherwise, and now Mariachi Luna Llena (Mariachi Full Moon) is an official student organization. Since last fall, the 11-member band has been performing the beloved, traditional Mexican music at campus events, elementary schools, quinceañeras, weddings and other special events. The group’s founder, Alberto Rodriguez ’15, a civil engineering major, was raised in Monterey, Mexico. “My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and everyone around me knew and would listen to mariachi music,” Rodriguez said. “The beauty of mariachi is its passion and versatility. It’s music you can dance to, sing to or just relax to.” A typical mariachi ensemble features violins, trumpets, guitars, a vihuela (a guitar-like stringed instrument) and a guitarrón (a large bass guitar). Thanks to successful fundraising efforts, the group has been able to buy instruments, and this spring, they debuted traditional mariachi outfits. The group’s members include Rodriguez, who sings and plays the vihuela; Mauricio Arreola-Garcia ’15 (guitarrón); graduate student Mario Bencomo (vocals/trumpet); staff member Andrea Galindo-Escamilla (vocals/guitar); Itzak Hinojosa ’16 (guitar); Jorge Quintero ’17 (guitar); Jackie Rios ’17 (vocals/ guitar); Janie Rios ’14 (violin); Spencer Seballos ’16 (trumpet); Alex Clouse ’15 (violin); and Laura Gama ’17 (trumpet). Richard Tapia, the Maxfield-Oshman Professor of Computational and Applied Mathematics, and David Medina, director of Multicultural Community Relations, serve as advisers. The band practices twice a week and currently has 20 songs in its repertoire, including such favorites as “Mexico Lindo y Querido” and “El Rey.” Clouse is the only student enrolled in the Shepherd School of Music. The ensemble’s other members

The Peace Corps ranked Rice among the top 20 volunteer-producing colleges and universities for 2014 in the small-school category.


Established in 1961 with an executive order from President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Over the years, 232 Rice alumni have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers. —B.J. Almond

17,715: That’s the number of applications to date for admission to Rice’s fall 2014 freshman class. The number represents a 15 percent rise in the number of applications for admission since fall 2013, the largest year-to-year increase in the institution’s history. The university, which has increased the size of its undergraduate student body by 30 percent since 2007, plans to enroll 945 freshman students in the fall. Chris Muñoz, vice president for enrollment at Rice, said applications have simultaneously grown in quality. “We offer a culture that is very inviting to a lot of students,” Muñoz said. “We’ve worked hard to improve the applicant pool, not just in number but also quality, in terms of academic preparation and other attributes we look for in students and how they can make Rice a better university.” Read more:


Rice’s Commencement celebrations (May 16–17) will undergo some changes to make the ceremonies “more personal and meaningful,” according to Rice President David Leebron.

They’re 40 yards out; they’re 30 yards out! Ready, set! The day of Rice’s Beer Bike event dawned cloudy and a little chilly, but by the time the bike race began, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful afternoon. Students and alumni from each college and from the Graduate Student Association cheered on their teams, who attempted to chug (water) and bike their way to victory.

BEER BI KE 201 4 RE S U LTS ALUMNI RACE 1st Will Rice 2nd Graduate Student Association 3rd Hanszen WOMEN’S RACE 1st Jones 2nd McMurtry 3rd Will Rice MEN’S RACE 1st Will Rice 2nd McMurtry 3rd Jones

The changes follow nearly a year of planning by a committee of graduate students, undergraduate students, faculty, college masters, Commencement marshals and alumni. The campuswide plenary Commencement ceremony will remain on Saturday morning and will include the invited Commencement speaker along with a full academic procession, the official conferral of all degrees and the traditional exit of the graduates through the Sallyport. s p ri ng 2 0 1 4 | Ric e M aga z i n e   7



1,300 1,000 5,000 78 CUP OF AMBITION 900 22 90 BLACK COFFEE








To complement the existing doctoral hooding ceremony and the Jones Graduate School of Business hooding ceremony, both of which will remain on Friday afternoon, a new master’s degree ceremony will be held Friday morning and a new bachelor’s degree ceremony Friday evening. At each of these four events, every student will be presented individually by name as they proceed across the platform. The undergraduate ceremony Friday evening will be in the Academic Quad and will include speeches by a member of the graduating class and by a faculty member. Undergraduate student award winners will be recognized at this event, which will replace Convocation. Read more at —Amy Hodges

In fall 2013, a Norwegian comedic duo named Ylvis released a dance pop song and video called “What Does the Fox Say?” and quickly found worldwide fame for their preposterous lyrics and silly costumes. Seeing an opportunity, a group of clever Rice School of Architecture (RSA) students decided to raise money by printing T-shirts pairing the song title with the visage of esteemed architectural historian and RSA lecturer Stephen Fox. Sales of “What Does the Fox Say?” T-shirts benefit RSA students. Contact or 8 


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713-348-4864 for information on purchasing the $10 shirts. Oh, by giving permission for the use of his visage, the Fox said, in effect, “Support RSA students.” —L.G.

Humbling. That’s how I’d describe the task of judging the Graduate Student 90-Second Thesis Competition held in February. I volunteered to be part of a panel of Rice faculty, staff and alumni judges for this competition, which is only in its second year. The elevator pitch-style format challenges graduate students to deliver a brief, well-organized description of their research — with bonus points for flare.



To get ready, the judges practiced listening to and ranking presentations from past years. Our instructions were to rank the students on how well they engaged their audience intellectually. That meant paying attention to both the student’s message (topic, clarity and substance) and delivery (audience engagement and pacing, for example). Essentially, their task was to make a general audience care about their research. Therefore, every second counted. The students were coached by Rice’s Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication. Without such tools, skills and practice, how else could a student turn “Terahertz Waveguides: A Highway Between Research and Application” into a winning presentation, as Kimberly Reichel did? Reichel, an applied physics and electrical and computer engineering grad student, rode a Star Trek metaphor all the way to the grand prize. Her sign-off Vulcan salute didn’t hurt. Reichel shared the grand prize with Steven Lu, a bioengineering graduate student. His thesis, titled “Cartilage Regeneration Through Tissue Engineering,” began with a provocative question: “Kobe Bryant, basketball superstar, and my grandma — what do these two people have in common?” (Answer: bad knees.) How did I do as a judge? I definitely gave extra points for humor and creativity. My top-ranked presentations made it to the winner’s circle — including two favorites, “‘Lie to Me’ — Adherence to









Steven Lu, Department of Bioengineering, “Cartilage Regeneration Through Tissue Engineering.” Kimberly Reichel, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, “Terahertz Waveguides: A Highway Between Research and Application.” AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Mayank Kumar, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, “Noncontact Detection of Vital Signs.” BEST NATURAL SCIENCES PRESENTATIONS

Eslam Elshahat, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, “Going Back in Time.” Chad Byers, applied physics, “Lightbased Electrochemistry at the Nanoscale.” BEST HUMANITIES PRESENTATION

Aundrea Matthews, Department of Religious Studies, “Telling Stories Without Words.” BEST SOCIAL SCIENCES PRESENTATION

Heather Dial, Department of Psychology, “Bat, Pat, Zip, Ship: Speech Perception and Short-term Memory Processes in Stroke.” BEST ENGINEERING PRESENTATION

Rajoshi Biswas, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, “‘Lie to Me’ — Adherence to Asthma Medication.”

Asthma Medication” by Rajoshi Biswas, an electrical and computer engineering grad student (best engineering presentation) and religious studies grad student Aundrea Matthews’ thesis about quilts, “Telling Stories Without Words” (best humanities presentation). To watch a video of the competition, go here: graduate.rice. edu/90secondthesis. —L.G.

You hire a bright, passionate, determined person, give them a blank sheet of paper and get to work. We are too tied to job descriptions. Angela Blanchard, president and CEO of Neighborhood Centers Inc., speaking Feb. 14, 2014, at the 14th Annual Women in Leadership Conference. The sold-out conference was sponsored by the Rice chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs.

These adults had no idea I was this dork in my parents’ house. They just knew me as someone with a skill they didn’t have that was valuable. Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of social media platform Reddit, who spoke at Rice, Feb. 26, 2014. Ohanian’s visit was sponsored by the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. His speech can be viewed here:

The reason I work as an artist is to ask questions — that is to say, ‘What is it?’, not to say what something is. Robert Wilson, renowned director, playwright and visual artist, who gave three talks at Rice for this year’s Campbell Lecture Series, March 26–28, 2014.

In talking to women and listening to women … whatever matters to their children is what matters to women. It’s about their health, their education, their economic security. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaking at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, March 18, 2014. s p ri ng 2 0 1 4 | Ric e M aga z i n e   9


THE ACTIVIST Colleen Fugate ’14 was honored as one of the Sociologists for Women in Society’s (SWS) 2014 Undergraduate Social Activism Award winners. The award is given annually to recognize students who make a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through activism. Fugate was honored for her work on transnational migration, reproductive health and conservation. In March, Fugate found herself in select company as one of 43 students across the country who were awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for 2014– 2015. Another Rice senior, Heather Olson, was also awarded a Watson. They each will receive $28,000 for a year of world travel and independent study.

COLLEGE Duncan MAJOR/MINOR Sociology and the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality; minor in the Program in Poverty, Justice and Human Capabilities FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE Sponsoring and mentoring a refugee family from Somalia in Columbus, Ohio, when I was a high school senior. When they arrived, I helped them get settled — we would go grocery shopping and visit historic parts of the city, and I helped them with job applications, driver’s license tests and getting their son enrolled in Head Start. LIFE-CHANGING COURSE It’s a tie: Poverty, Gender and Human Development with Diana Strassmann [the Carolyn and Fred McManis 10 

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Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Humanities], which opened my eyes to issues of gender inequality around the globe and the on-the-ground efforts to improve women’s lives. And Work and Occupations with Sergio Chavez [assistant professor of sociology]. I ended up spending two summers in Mexico to help with his research and to conduct my own research on gender. ON WORKING IN ECUADOR I learned the most about migrant and refugee experiences from the informal conversations I would have with people on the street. ON WORKING IN PERU It was my last summer as a Rice student, and I applied for and was awarded the Loewenstern Fellowship. I spent my days caring for and feeding the animals at Taricaya Rescue Center

in an ecological reserve in Peru, helping nearby farmers harvest their crops and assisting with various research projects with birds, bats and insects. PROUDEST VOLUNTEER ACHIEVEMENTS AT RICE Starting the Planned Parenthood club on campus as a way to give students an outlet to get involved in their work. Also, my conservation work in Peru last summer. It was so immersive and physically challenging, and I would see the tangible results of my efforts each day. STAMPS IN PASSPORT Scotland, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Mexico

FUN TRAVEL DESTINATION The Great Barrier Reef, but I’m not sure when I could ever afford it! CONNECTING MIGRATION, REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND CONSERVATION For me, they all connect to issues of social and environmental justice and the importance of doing something that goes beyond oneself. ADVICE FOR FELLOW STUDENTS Finding and mobilizing a network of people who care about the same issues as you is essential. It keeps you motivated and ensures that your efforts will not simply dissolve after you graduate.


HOMETOWN Columbus, Ohio

Sports News and Profiles

Jessica Kuster is Rice’s all-time scoring record holder in basketball.

Kuster Ends Record-Setting Reign at Rice Senior Jessica Kuster, a 6-foot-2-inch forward for the Rice women’s basketball team, may be graduating and leaving campus in May, but her legacy on the court will be a part of Rice’s history and its record books forever.



ince joining the Lady Owls in 2010, Kuster’s game plan has been breaking and setting records. While all achievements are memorable, Kuster hit a shot in late January that put her points scored at 1,852, breaking the previous record of 1,851 set by Pat Krieger ’82 in the same number of games. With the season now complete, coach Greg Williams summed up Kuster’s contributions: “I don’t think there’s any argument she’s the best player to play at Rice in women’s basketball history. She’s left a legacy and mark on the basketball program that will always be remembered.” And here are just a few reasons why. Kuster set the Rice basketball all-time scoring record (men’s or women’s) with 2,081 career points, as well as the women’s alltime rebounding mark (1,376), becoming just the 145th player in NCAA Division I history to amass more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

She was the first player in C-USA history to be named to both the All-Conference First Team and All-Defensive Team in four consecutive seasons.­­ During the 2013–14 season, Kuster averaged 20.9 points and 13.4 rebounds per game en route to a career-best 26 double-doubles. Her 628 points and 400 rebounds were both Rice single-season records, making Kuster the Owls’ all-time leader in career points, rebounds, made field goals and made free throws. Kuster was named the team’s MVP four consecutive seasons, becoming the first player in history to do so. Kuster will earn an economics degree in May. And then? “I am praying for the opportunity to continue playing. If that were to be in the U.S., that would be awesome,” she said, a week before the WNBA draft. “I’m pretty open to possibilities.” See more: —tracey rhoades s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 | R i c e M a g a z i n e   11



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1,000 and Counting Photo by Tommy LaVergne

At a spry 77 years, head baseball coach Wayne Graham reached the milestone of 1,000 Rice wins when his 2014 squad beat Texas State in a dramatic comefrom-behind victory, Feb. 18. Winning that many games at one school is an amazing feat, accomplished by only 22 other coaches in the history of NCAA Division I baseball. Now in his 23rd season at Rice, Graham has amassed an impressive fourth-best overall record in the nation among active coaches (minimum five years coaching). Under his leadership, Rice baseball has won 18 consecutive conference championships (including regular season or conference tournament titles), and the Owls have been to the NCAA Regional Tournament in each of the last 19 seasons. His 2003 Owls team won the NCAA National Championship, a first for any team sport at Rice. How much longer will he coach? Now 78, coach Graham said he will continue to do what he loves as long as he feels he can be successful. Some may say he shows a wrinkle for every win and a gray hair for every loss, but the beloved coach continues to recruit talented players to Rice that excel on the field and in the classroom. —JEFF COX

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To paraphrase what is said on the passing of a royal ruler: The classroom is dead, long live the classroom! You will read a lot these days about the future of higher education, including assertions that the traditional (and very expensive) model of higher education has no future. It will be replaced, we are told, by the MOOC — Massive Open Online Course — or more likely some version of a MOOC offspring that creates opportunities for both interaction and evaluation that aren’t yet possible in the current digital education environment. And it will do so at a fraction of the cost of today’s colleges and universities. The new possibilities in higher education require that we conscientiously reexamine what we are aiming to achieve and how the resources of an elite research university such as Rice are best applied to the teaching endeavor. This spring, I returned for the first time in over a decade to teaching a full course, or more accurately, co-teaching a full course, every week for 2 1/2 hours each Tuesday afternoon. Our goals for the course are fairly simple: to give our students a deep and lasting understanding of the constitutional protection for religion (and nonreligion) in American society, to introduce them to legal materials and legal analysis, and to make them smarter. On this last point, I am bolstered by Albert Einstein, who famously remarked that the value of a college education “is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” The goal of making our students smarter is not an easy one, given that the students at Rice are already frightfully smart. But by requiring that students digest the raw material of judicial decisions, come to class and explain and advocate for their point of view, and write essays that set forth critical insights and arguments, we hope they will emerge from the course (as well as from their other courses) with the ability to bring both critical and creative reasoning to bear not only in their professional endeavors, but in all engagements as thoughtful citizens. For much of the nearly thousand-year history of the university, classroom lectures were the means of delivering content, that is, substantive knowledge. In light of the digitized information available to every 14 

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Back to the Classroom A veteran professor returns to his teaching roots.

student with a computer or a smartphone, we now understand that it is an incredibly inefficient means of doing that. We hope to accomplish our goals, as do many other teachers, through a Socraticstyle pedagogy that engages students in the difficulties of the materials. We don’t spend very much time simply laying out the materials, or providing an analytic framework we expect them to accept, although my co-teacher, University of Texas law professor Larry Sager, has written a provocative book that is part of the assigned materials for the course. Instead, both in class discussion and in the assignments, we encourage and test their ideas. More important than coming to class prepared in the sense of having done the assignments is coming prepared to think and discuss. (Of course, for the most part you can’t do that unless you already have done the assigned reading.) With students of Rice caliber, Larry and I learn

something new in every class. Not every teacher will use the classroom in the same way. Some will use it for interactive problem-solving, some will use it to foster collaborative skills and teamwork, and some will use it to develop other important skills, including public presentation. And I have no doubt that there will always be some lecturers who are so extraordinarily inspirational and effective in the presence of students that they should continue to teach in that mode. But the pedagogy of many classes will change, and that will necessitate fundamental changes in classroom design. And even more so than in the past, teachers will be expected to bring their educational efforts outside the classroom setting, for example, mentoring students in areas such as leadership and research. Of course, none of this is entirely new, especially at Rice. But the emphasis will change, and the result should not be the elimination of the classroom as part of higher education, but a different purpose and utilization that will provide our students an even greater advantage as they enter their professional and civic lives. This semester I have been reminded that Edgar Odell Lovett was indeed right when he spoke of “the pleasures of teaching.” Teaching an incredibly talented group of students in a personal setting is an intensely rewarding experience for both teachers and students and will remain so if we evolve it in light of the new possibilities that confront us.


President’s note


Findings, Research and more

A palm-sized coil is the heart of RAMBO, a Rice-built tabletop system to expose experiments to high magnetic fields.


A Small and Mighty Magnet Rice scientists have pioneered a tabletop magnetic pulse generator that does the work of a room-sized machine — and more. The device, called the Rice Advanced


Magnet with Broadband Optics (RAMBO), will allow researchers who

visit the university to run spectroscopybased experiments on materials in pulsed magnetic fields of up to 30 tesla. (A highresolution magnetic resonance imaging system is about 10 tesla in strength.) The Rice lab of physicist Junichiro Kono created RAMBO in collaboration with Hiroyuki Nojiri at the Institute for Materials Research at Tohoku

University in Sendai, Japan. RAMBO is possible, Kono said, because of Nojiri’s development of a small and light minicoil magnet. A little bigger than a spool of thread, the magnet allows Rice researchers to perform on campus many of the experiments they once carried out at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University or at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “High magnetic fields have been around for many years. Ultrafast

spectroscopy has been around for many years. But this is the first combination of the two,” said Kono, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of physics and astronomy at Rice. “This opens up all kinds of possibilities,” he said. “Scientists working in different areas will come up with new ideas just by knowing such a thing is possible.” Read more: —mike williams

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New Test for Malaria

Rice researchers have developed a noninvasive technology that accurately detects low levels of malaria infection through the skin in seconds with a laser scanner. The “vapor nanobubble” technology requires no dyes or diagnostic chemicals, and there is no need to draw blood. A preclinical study published earlier this year shows that Rice’s technology detected even a single malaria-infected cell among a million normal cells with zero false-positive readings. The new diagnostic technology uses a low-powered laser that creates tiny vapor nanobubbles inside malaria-infected cells. The bursting bubbles have a unique acoustic signature that allows for an extremely sensitive diagnosis. “Ours is the first through-the-skin method that’s been shown to rapidly and accurately detect malaria in seconds without the use of blood sampling or reagents,” said lead investigator Dmitri Lapotko, a Rice scientist who invented the vapor nanobubble technology. The diagnosis and screening will be supported by a low-cost, battery-powered portable device that can be operated by nonmedical personnel. One device should be able to screen up to 200,000 people per year, with the cost of diagnosis estimated to be below 50 cents, he said. Malaria, one of the world’s deadliest diseases, sickens more than 300 million people and kills more than 600,000 each year, most of them young children. Despite widespread global efforts, malaria parasites have become more resistant to drugs, and efficient epidemiological screening and early diagnosis are largely unavailable in the countries most affected by the disease. The gold standard for diagnosing malaria is a blood smear test, which requires a sample of the patient’s blood, a trained laboratory technician, chemical reagents and a high-quality microscope. These are often unavailable in lowresource hospitals and clinics in the developing world. Lapotko said the first trials of the technology in humans are expected to 16 

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Rice bioengineering students presented an innovative bike rack solution at the ninth annual Texas Transportation Forum. 35 in. Main Frame

33.5 in.


Wheel Mount

Support Arms Sliding Attachment

60 in.

Locking Mechanism

begin in Houston this year. He is a faculty fellow in biochemistry and cell biology and in physics and astonomy. Read more: —Jade Boyd ENGINEERING

Racking Their Brains

A team of six Rice engineering students who designed a rack to transport three bicycles at a time via a METRO bus have won this year’s Texas Department of Transportation’s College Challenge. The team — bioengineering students Ken Groszman and Sharon Ghelman, mechanical engineering students Max Hasbrouck and Annabelle McIntireGavlick, and chemical and biomolecular engineering students Kivani Sanchez and Brian Barr — took the $3,000 top prize with a presentation at the ninth annual Texas Transportation Forum earlier this year. The team was one of three finalists asked to develop innovative concepts that address the state’s mobility, connectivity and transportation safety issues. The other finalists were from the University of Houston and Austin College. The students were motivated by a recent study by the Houston-Galveston Area Council that anticipates the region’s growth will make racks that

can hold two bikes on current METRO buses insufficient to meet the needs of commuters. “Ridership is up significantly systemwide, and people want METRO to solve the ‘last-mile’ problem,” said Matthew Wettergreen, a lecturer at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering who works with freshman design teams at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). The contest required students to submit a project proposal and a video. It didn’t require them to actually build the project, but the Rice students manufactured a fully functional prototype of the slide-out rack for testing. The prototype cost less than $900 to build at the OEDK, which should easily meet METRO’s cost requirement of roughly $1,100 per unit when scaled up for manufacturing. The project’s future now is in METRO’s hands. “METRO is enthused by the success of the project and will assist by introducing the students’ ideas to manufacturers with a goal of providing more access to transit systems in the U.S.,” said Doug Peck, director of bus maintenance support. Watch a video about the project: —Mike Williams




School District) Teacher of the Month award for January; and Andrew Touma received Kempner High School’s (Fort Bend Independent School District) 2013– 14 Rookie Teacher of the Year award. Judy Radigan, director of the Rice University Teacher Education Program, said the MAT program made a commitment to go into Houston’s public schools, and the awards speak to this commitment. Read more:



Drive-by Art

In January, four billboards in and around College Station, Texas, displayed artwork created by visual and dramatic arts students at Rice. The students’ works of art were part of Christopher Sperandio’s Outside Context course, which examined the evolving role of art in contemporary society. The four billboards measure 22 feet by 11 feet each. Sperandio, assistant professor of visual and dramatic arts, said the students’ art was designed to be thoughtprovoking and seen by a wider audience. “We wanted to make artworks that were either quizzical on purpose or set in some kind of context,” he said. The context was determined by the students, who wanted to engage with students at another university and ultimately chose Texas A&M University (TAMU). After researching different ideas and meeting with TAMU students and faculty, the Rice students went through a design phase to create artworks that aimed to illustrate their chosen topics in a visually engaging display. Brevity was key, Sperandio said. “The message needs to be incredibly simple if people are going to be driving by at 40 mph.” “Howdy?”, a one-word billboard created by Michael Loconte ’15, seeks to bring to light the apparent duality of Texas A&M’s famous “Howdy!” greeting. Loconte painted the greeting’s letters in the rainbow flag colors signifying the LGBT community. While the greeting “Howdy!” is a harmless and traditional Texan welcome, he said, it also can raise questions about LGBT inclusion on a university campus that has been ranked as one of the least LGBTfriendly in the nation. Other student-created billboards included: “What’s Left? Her Right to Write,” by Yutian He ’15, who wanted to highlight gender inequality in education around the world. “Trust people with dirt on their hands,” by Heather Olson ’14, who worked with TAMU students at the Howdy Farm, a sustainable student-run farm, to create the billboard.


Merging Companies? The Customer Comes First.

“Have you seen this child?” by Constance Lewis, a Master of Arts in Teaching graduate student, who addressed the state of art education in public schools. The “missing child” depicted in her billboard is a 15-year-old Pablo Picasso. See all the billboards here: —Jeff Falk EDUCATION

Beginners and Masters

Recognition came as a sweet surprise for four students in the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies’ Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. In their final semester of the program, all four were recognized as outstanding “rookie” teachers by the Houston-area public schools where they’ve been interning in their first year of teaching. Elisa Cardnell received Carnegie Vanguard High School’s (Houston Independent School District) 2013–14 Beginning Teacher of the Year award; Grace Magnani received both Ridge Point High School and Fort Bend Independent School District’s 2013–14 “Rookie of the Year award; Ranjani Sheshadri received Manvel High School’s (Alvin Independent

Merging companies that focus on a dualgoal emphasis of simultaneously enhancing efficiency and customer satisfaction show the highest increase in long-term financial performance, according to a new study from Rice University, Kent State University and the University of Pittsburgh. “However, achieving a dual emphasis is very difficult,” the study’s authors said. “Managers need to be prepared with a realistic timetable and implementation plan.” Study co-author Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business, said there are many recent examples where firms have overestimated their ability to achieve a dual emphasis. When Hertz merged with Dollar Thrifty in November 2012, the Federal Trade Commission forced Hertz to shed its subsidiary Advantage Rent a Car brand. Unable to stay efficient, Advantage recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Similarly, when United Airlines and Continental merged, Continental clearly had more satisfied customers than United, Mittal said. After the merger, the combined satisfaction declined as the merged entity — marketed as “United” — tried to become more efficient. “It has taken Continental-United over three years,” Mittal said. “They are still in the process of achieving a dual emphasis.” This paper was published in the Journal of Service Research. Read more: —Jeff Falk s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 | R i c e M a g a z i n e   17


Soldier's Lament: Why Haven't You Written?

A newly deciphered 1,800-year-old letter from an Egyptian solider serving in a Roman legion in Europe to his family back home shows striking similarities to what some soldiers may be feeling here and now. Rice religious studies graduate student Grant Adamson took up the task in 2011 when he was assigned the papyrus to work on during a summer institute hosted at Brigham Young University. The private letter sent home by Roman military recruit Aurelius Polion was originally discovered in 1899 by the expedition team of Grenfell and Hunt in the ancient Egyptian city of Tebtunis. It had been catalogued and described briefly before, but to this point no one had deciphered and published the letter, which was written mostly in Greek. “This letter was just one of many documents that Grenfell and Hunt unearthed,” Adamson said. “And because it was in such bad shape, no one had worked much on it for about 100 years.” Even now, portions of the letter’s contents are uncertain or missing and not possible to reconstruct. Polion’s letter to his brother, sister and mother, “the bread seller,” reads like one of a man who is very desperate to reach his family after sending six letters that have gone unanswered. He wrote in part: “I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me … .” Adamson believes that Polion was stationed in the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior at Aquincum (modern day Budapest), but he said that the legion to which Polion belonged is known to have been mobile and may have traveled as far as Byzantium (modern day Istanbul). 18 

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“Polion was literate, and literacy was rarer then than it is now, but his handwriting, spelling and Greek grammar are erratic,” Adamson said, which made English translation of the damaged letter even more difficult. Watch a video: —David Ruth SOCIOLOGY

Is Demography Destiny?

Texas must keep pace with the educational and economic demands of its burgeoning population to avoid becoming poorer and less competitive nationally, according to a new book based on extensive research by Rice University sociologist Steve Murdock. Drawing on nearly 30 years of prior analyses of growth, aging and diversity in Texas populations and households, Murdock and his co-authors examine key issues related to future Texas population change and its socioeconomic implications in “Changing Texas:

Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge” (Texas A&M University Press, 2013). “It’s no secret that Texas is growing and diversifying at a rapid pace,” said Murdock, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas. “However, poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are currently two to three times higher than those of non-Hispanic whites and Asians. In addition, 14 percent of AfricanAmericans and 40 percent of Hispanics have less than a high school education.” What does this mean? Murdock said the data is clear. In the absence of any change in the socioeconomic conditions associated with the demographic characteristics of the fastest growing populations, Texas will become poorer and less competitive in the future. “It’s inevitable,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way to avoid it if current socioeconomic conditions remain unchanged.” So, what do we do? Murdoch has been sounding the alarm on the effects of demographic shifts in Texas’ population since he was appointed Texas state demographer in 2001 by Gov. Rick Perry. Murdoch also served as U.S. Census Bureau director. “Research has clearly demonstrated that across all ethnic groups, education pays, both for individuals and the state as a whole. Education helps decrease poverty among individuals and leads to a stronger, more vibrant workforce, which will make Texas more competitive as a destination for business and industry.” Murdock hopes “Changing Texas” will inform governmental and privatesector policies that will have important implications for the future of Texas. The book was co-authored by Michael Cline, P. Wilner Jeanty and Deborah Perez, all researchers at Rice’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, and Mary Zey, professor emerita at the University of Texas at San Antonio. —Amy Hodges





Not as Fraught? Sociologist Uncovers New Insights Into Religion and Science Views


hat factors shape attitudes toward science? Is it religion, class, race or educational background? All of the

above? And how do scientists perceive religion? At the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in February, Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and co-author Christopher Scheitle, a sociology professor at Saint John’s University, released a portion of the findings from a nationally representative survey



Pray several times a day: 19 Attend weekly religious services: 18 Consider themselves very religious: 15 Read religious texts weekly: 13.5

of more than 10,000 Americans conducted between 2013 and 2014, including those from various religious


traditions and scientists themselves. The study also includes 320 in-depth interviews with those in synagogues, mosques and churches in Chicago and Houston conducted between 2011 and 2014. Four years of data collection reveal surprising areas of agreement in some cases — and unmoving opposition in others. Among the findings Ecklund presented was a more



Percent of all surveyed who believe science and religion are in conflict: 27 Percent of general population who think most religious people are hostile to science: 20 Percent of scientists who think most religious people are hostile to science: 22

nuanced view of science and religion’s relationship than the general public typically encounters in the media. The data revealed more of “a hopeful message for science policymakers and educators, because the two


groups don’t have to approach religion with an attitude of combat,” Ecklund said. “Rather, they should approach it with collaboration on common issues — such as taking actions to save the environment — in mind.” Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program. She is the principal investigator of the Religious Understandings of Science (RUS) study, the



Believe scientists should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations: 38 Pray several times a day: 26 Attend weekly religious services: 20 Consider themselves very religious: 19 Read religious texts weekly: 17 Are likely to consult a religious text or religious leader about science questions: 4.5

largest study of American views on religion and science, as well as the Religion Among Scientists in International Context study, which examines what scientists in eight different nations think about religion, ethics and gender. The latter includes a survey of 20,000 scientists and in-depth interviews with 800 of them. —david ruth

To read more about the RUS study parameters, findings and analysis, go here:

The RUS is funded primarily by the John Templeton Foundation with additional funding from Rice University, the Shell Center for Sustainability and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

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WORDS Madhumita Venkataramanan PHOTOS Jonathan Bloom and Eshel Ben-Jacob

SHEL BEN-JACOB is taking cues from the collective intelligence of bacteria to learn how to interrupt communication between cancer cells. The physicist and senior scientist at Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics tells how this strategy could turn the disease against itself. The creativity in Ben-Jacob’s ground-breaking approach to cancer research has its corollary in the “bacterial art” he creates — beautiful and intricate images of the very bacterial strains he studies.

A colony of Paenibacillus vortex, a strain of bacteria discovered and studied by physicist Eshel Ben-Jacob. This bacterial colony has been grown in a petri dish and its image captured and manipulated by the scientist to help illustrate the bacteria’s social sophistication. Each dot in the image is a dense collection of up to a million cells.

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As a physicist, why are you studying cancer? I study pattern formation in natural systems and have been promoting the idea of bacterial collective intelligence for three decades now. That began because, philosophically, I wanted to find the special difference between a nonliving particle and a single-celled organism. And what I found is that these organisms can sense the environment, measure it, process information and use stored data to make a decision. They behave as a community. I had been working on this for 20 years when I learned of alarming discoveries about cancer. It dawned on me that like bacteria, cancer behaves as a networked society of smart cells. To my delight, I realized we could make use of what I had encountered in social bacteria to better understand cancer.

Your research into bacteria included the discovery of two new species. What is special about them? These bacteria, Paenibacillus dendritiformis and P. vortex, live in colonies, each about 100 times the size of the human population on Earth. So it is like a big globe with very sophisticated communication systems. The messages are elaborate: If they encounter antibiotics or some other threat, they send a message to the center of the colony and stop moving; if they encounter something positive, like food, they send the bacteria best at ingesting and degrading food ahead, so they can feed the whole colony more efficiently. The other interesting thing is that they distribute tasks just like multicellular organisms and even engage in collective decision-making. I created a scoring system for the social IQ of bacteria and found that these species were three standard deviations higher than the median. In human-speak, people If the like Einstein show the equivalent score.

How did all of this remind you of cancer and the way it spreads? People used to think cells in bacterial colonies were almost identical, but we have since found that they distribute tasks and differentiate. Similarly, in cancer, people assumed the primary tumor was monoclonal — that all cells were the same. Now we know that’s not the case: tumors are multiclonal and the cells show a similar differentiation of task and function. It’s a programmed venture, not random mutations.


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Were there other similarities between social bacteria and tumors? When I looked closer, I found more things. Cancer can induce genetic changes in the cells around them — to make surrounding cells feed them, just as bacteria do. Studies have also shown that cancer cells do not settle in just any human tissue, but instead carefully choose and prepare new sites by sending out spy cells, which again is similar to the behavior displayed by bacteria.

So cancer is “smart” just like bacterial colonies. How does it use its smarts to survive? Here’s a concrete example. When you have a blood clot, a factor called thrombin is released in the blood. Cancer cells have receptors that can detect the presence of thrombin. This gives them a hint that if there is a clot now, there is likely to be a situation of hypoxia — a shortage of oxygen — in the future because the blood supply will be limited. So even before hypoxia develops, they prepare for it. They increase their level of reactive oxygen species and get ready to use oxygen in a more effective way. This means cancer can prepare for the future.

Drawing on these social aspects of cancer, you developed a theory about a new way to fight the disease. Tell me about that.

If the success of cancer is because it is a society of smart and highly communicating cells, then we can fight it by using the methods of cyberwar. In other words, temper the control and communication, and even send signals to confuse them. With chemotherapy, cancers can escape, regrow or even success of become resistant. Our idea is instead cancer is because to shock and disrupt channels of communication, making it harder for it is a society of cancers to spread and evolve resistance.

smart and highly communicating cells, then we can fight it by using the methods of cyberwar. ESHEL BEN-JACOB

What’s an example of how you could disrupt cancer’s communication channels? You can use a targeted molecule to trigger the thrombin receptor on a tumor so the cancer starts preparing for hypoxia. Then put the person in a hyperbaric chamber with high levels of oxygen. To prepare for the oxygen shortage, the cancer will increase its

The bacterial colonies pictured were grown by Inna Brainis in Ben-Jacob’s microbe complexity lab at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

reactive oxygen species. But when there are high levels of oxygen in the environment, this is toxic to the cell. So the cancer cells will be dead because of their own preparation. You might also compel the cancer cells to destroy each other. I’ve studied the cannibalism phenomenon used by bacteria in sibling colonies to kill each other and even cracked the communication code that drives this behavior. It turns out that cancers, too, use cannibalism — engulfing adjacent cancer cells when they run out of resources. So it is possible to take advantage of the mechanism and drive them to consume each other.

In particular you focused on the way cancer spreads through the body, or metastasizes. How does this happen? We focused on cancer metastasis because more than 90 percent of people who die from cancer die because of metastasis. In cancer, you have a primary tumor and at some point its cells switch from epithelial — the type that lines cavities of the body but stays put — to mesenchymal cells — the type that can migrate to new locations. They then switch

back to epithelial cells, which create new outposts for the cancer in the body.

What do we know about the way cancer cells switch between states to spread in the body?

Robert Weinberg and his team at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass., among others, have discovered that during the transition from epithelial to mesenchymal, some cells become a hybrid, a chimera that has characteristics of both types of cells. And Sendurai Mani’s group at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston found Eshel Ben-Jacob that in this hybrid state they are similar is a senior scientist to stem cells, in that they can reprogram at Rice’s Center for or differentiate into a different cell type. Theoretical Biological That means they have a chance to develop Physics and a professor resistance to drugs. of physics at Tel Aviv University, Israel. He What we found is that the circuit investigates complex controlling this switch between types of systems such cancer cell is coupled to many other circuits. as pattern formation We are studying that genetic network. in social bacteria and metastatic cancer.

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The “bacterial art” created by Eshel Ben-Jacob evokes images of sea creatures, snowflakes or tiny fractal animations. This image of Paenibacillus dendritiformis is one of the “socially intelligent” bacterial strains discovered by Ben-Jacob. “The bacteria do not have colors. We stain them with Coomassie Brilliant Blue, which is used to make blue jeans,” he said. The seemingly benign and beautiful image illustrates bacteria’s adaptive responses — the way they can communicate to act against antibiotics, for example. To see more examples of Ben-Jacob’s bacterial art, visit

So how do cancer cells switch from one state to another? The switch circuit in cancers is made of two genes, each coupled to a type of molecule known as microRNA, which plays a role in regulating how RNA molecules are translated into proteins. One gene-microRNA pair acts as a decisionmaker, the other as an integrator of information, combining incoming signals. We discovered something unique in cancers: The switch from one type of cell to another — from epithelial to mesenchymal — is not two-way but three-way. It has a state that is in between, which is when the cells are in a hybrid state. We succeeded in breaking the cancer decision code. It’s a whole new logic.

How can this be used to thwart cancer? When the cells switch from epithelial to mesenchymal, they go through the hybrid state that helps them develop resistance. But when they transition back to epithelial cells, they don’t become hybrids again — it’s a direct transition. Looking at the operating principle of the switch means you can trick it. In other words, you might be able to prevent the cells from switching back. If they stay in mesenchymal state, they cannot create outposts and form metastases. If they stay in the epithelial state, they cannot move to new organs.

So, using this switch, could you reprogram cancer cells to make them harmless? One of the things you can do is play with factors of the immune system, such as TGF-beta (transforming growth factor beta), which regulates the epithelial-mesenchymal switch. If you manipulate the levels of TGF-beta, which can be done using the widely used anti-diabetic drug Metformin, you can toggle the switch. But the dream I have is to reprogram the cancer cells into benign or less aggressive cells, similar to how people have taken skin cells, say, and turned them into stem cells.

Are there other ways that our understanding of bacteria can help to tackle cancer? Another fascinating direction is trying to use bacteria themselves to fight cancer. A group at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, demonstrated that salmonella bacteria engineered to express specific cancer-related antibodies can recognize and specifically destroy malignant lymphoma cells by infecting them with toxic cargo. I am interested in studying the nanotechnology systems that deliver that toxic cargo to kill cancers. The underlying foundation of the parallels with bacteria mean that the bacteria themselves should be powerful smart troops to fight cancer. A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED RECENTLY IN NEW SCIENTIST MAGAZINE AND IS REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF REED BUSINESS INFORMATION.


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Rice’s Cancer Cyberwar Center


need to get beyond the notion that cancer is a random collection of cells running amok,” said Herbert Levine, co-director of Rice’s Center for Theoretical Biological Physics (CTBP). “These cells lead sophisticated social lives.”


The center moved to Rice in 2011 when renowned physicists Herbert Levine and Jose Onuchic and chemist Peter Wolynes were recruited to the university to expand their groundbreaking biological studies into cancer research and treatment. The goal, said Onuchic, is to take a highly interdisciplinary approach to medical problems and treatments. Today, more than four dozen senior scientists, postdocs and graduate students are affiliated with the interdisciplinary center, which is located at Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative. The center benefits from the proximity to and close collaboration with leading cancer researchers at MD Anderson, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Eshel Ben-Jacob joined Rice last summer as a senior scientist with CTBP. He is the Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems and professor of physics at Tel Aviv University and splits his time between Tel Aviv and Houston. At Rice, Ben-Jacob is continuing


a collaborative partnership with Levine, Onuchic and Wolynes that began almost 20 years ago. Their cancer research started with investigations of bacterial decision-making when the CTBP was headquartered in San Diego. The paradigm-shifting research studies cancer as a networked society of smart cells. “To outsmart cancer requires the effort of researchers from diverse disciplines,” Ben-Jacob said. “All four of us are experts in dynamic systems and statistical physics, which are needed to study the decision-making of cancer gene networks.” Onuchic and Wolynes bring a high level of expertise in understanding molecular machinery — the properties of proteins. Additionally, Levine and Ben-Jacob are leaders in the field of collective behaviors of microorganisms. “We now apply our collective expertise toward understanding cancer migration during metastasis,” Ben-Jacob said. CTBP’s efforts align with the latest trends in cancer research, including investigations of cancer immunotherapies and with recent studies


that showed how cancer cells cooperate to elude chemotherapy drugs, much like bacteria that communicate and act as a team to resist attacks from antibiotics. “If we can break the communication code, we may be able to prevent the cells from going dormant or to reawaken them for a well-timed chemotherapeutic attack,” said Ben-Jacob, whose studies document similarities between the behavior of bacterial colonies and cancerous tumors. When Ben-Jacob travels to Houston several times a year, his work gets a boost by the faceto-face interactions with colleagues, he said. “Thinking out of the box to define new questions, research directions and all other creative tasks requires face-to-face brainstorming.”  What’s the end game? Ben-Jacob and his collaborators believe that the cyberwar on cancer may turn the disease into a chronic, but manageable, form “rather than the deadly malady it is today.” —JADE BOYD


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For earth scientist Cin-Ty Lee, observing the world includes the view through his binoculars. WORDS SCOTT SOLOMON | PHOTOS TOMMY LAVERGNE ILLUSTRATIONS CIN-TY LEE AND TANYIA JOHNSON


IN-TY LEE arrives on campus before dawn. He does not

head straight to his office, nor does he stop at the gym. Instead, for an hour or so, he can be seen slowly walking the grounds, peering through a set of large, black binoculars.

“I generally avoid the residential colleges, because I don’t want to look creepy,” he jokes as we make our way through the open space behind Wiess College. Lee is looking for birds, and for the last 12 years he has been meticulously noting every species that has touched down on Rice’s campus. The current total is 216, which Lee guesses might be a record for an American university, except for a few coastal colleges in California. It is impossible to know for sure, since most schools don’t keep track of such things. But for Lee, a professor of earth science, watching birds is more than


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a numbers game — it is a way of connecting to the natural world. He does it mostly for fun, but he also sees his observations as forming an important set of data about which birds can be found where, and when. “It’s almost obsessive-compulsive,” Lee admits. “I go out almost every day, and you could say, you’ve seen all the birds by now and every year is the same, but it’s not true — there’s always a little bit of unpredictability.” The biggest surprises come during the spring and fall, as thousands of birds pass through the Houston area on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

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“Houston in general is along the flyway so there are a lot of birds going through, but they don’t necessarily stop if there’s nothing to stop for,” Lee says, referring to the major routes used by migrating birds. All the trees and shrubs that comprise the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum make Rice’s campus an oasis of sorts for these nomads — a green island in a dense, urban sea. According to Lee, Rice is mentioned in guidebooks as one of the best places in the city to watch birds. He is often joined on his morning walks by a handful of fellow birders, and he is very welcoming of newcomers, including nonbirders like me. As we make our way toward the grove of oak trees in front of Lovett Hall, Lee calls out each bird he sees as if he is naming old friends. Tennessee warbler. Common yellowthroat. Red-eyed vireo. He identifies some based only on the way that they fly; others he does not see at all, but can recognize by their calls. He pays a little less attention to the year-round residents like grackles and mockingbirds. It’s the migrants that really get him excited. But to fully experience the thrill of the spring migration, Lee recommends that novice birders get outside of the city. He invites me to join him and his Field Bird Biology Lab (EBIO 237) on an excursion to the epicenter of Texas birding — a place called High Island.

Baltimore oriole


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A lot of these habitats are stopover habitats. You can think of them as a Buc-ee’s rest area — the birds are going to stop in, refuel, take advantage of our water features that we have there, get a drink, get salt off their wings and be on their merry way. RICHARD GIBBONS

A BIRD SANCTUARY Leaving campus before dawn on a Sunday in mid-April 2013, we drive first to Galveston, then cross by ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula. We make a few stops to look for birds in the scrubby mudflats and along the beach, then move on to the main attraction. After following the chocolaty-brown waves of the coast for about 20 miles, Highway 87 abruptly veers inland, and we find ourselves climbing the only hill visible in any direction. We park our cars in a U-shaped gravel parking lot and walk a short distance down the narrow asphalt road to a place on High Island called Boy Scout Woods. There, next to a small wooden shack where volunteers are selling birding gear and High Island hats and T-shirts, are a set of bleachers. A couple dozen people are sitting and standing, looking quietly but intensely through binoculars and spotting scopes into a small clearing beneath the trees. Following Lee, we eagerly break out our binoculars, anxious to discover what avian treasures await. But those of us who are relatively novice birders quickly learn that trying to spot a small bird in a thick tangle of leaves and branches is not always easy. Lee’s ability to identify birds by their calls gives him a definite advantage, and he helps us by providing detailed directions for where to point our binoculars. “You see that spot in the sun? There is a branch at a 45-degree angle. Go to the base of the tree. About a foot

off the ground,” he directs. I catch a quick glimpse of a dark bird before it flutters off deeper into the brush. Identifying each species seems next to impossible after such a cursory glance. I’m a biologist, but I’m used to looking through a microscope at insects mounted on the end of a pin. Birds, I thought, should be easy — after all, they are fairly large and often brightly colored. But there, with so many different species all in the same spot, it’s somewhat overwhelming. Thankfully, our group is chockfull of experienced birders. In addition to Lee, Rice professors Mark Kulstad and Diana Strassmann have joined us for the outing, as well as graduate student Ben Van Allen, who is co-teaching the lab with Lee. Kulstad has been coming to High Island for 40 years and clearly enjoys sharing his passion for birds with anyone who is interested. Moving beyond the bleachers, we walk slowly along the well-maintained trail, chatting without making eye contact, always looking up into the trees. Suddenly, he spots something and his binoculars shoot up to his face. “White-tailed kite! Straight up through the trees!” he shouts. There is a collective “ooh” as the students raise their binoculars and catch a glimpse of the large, predatory bird flying overhead. As we arrive at an intersection along the boardwalk with a large tree stump on one side, Kulstad stops, puts down his binoculars and gestures overhead.

The Rookery at Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary, High Island

“This spot used to be called the Cathedral,” he explains, “because it had large trees that created a canopy and was filled with birds, and so it felt like a holy place. Until a hurricane came and knocked them down.” For many, High Island really is almost sacred ground, a sort of mecca for birders. More than 10,000 visitors arrive each year, according to Richard Gibbons, director of conservation for the Houston Audubon Society, which owns and operates Boy Scout Woods and three other sanctuaries within High Island. “A lot of these habitats are stopover habitats,” explains Gibbons. “You can think of them as a Buc-ee’s rest area — the birds are going to stop in, refuel, take advantage of our water features that we have there,

get a drink, get salt off their wings and be on their merry way.” Many of these birds have just made a marathon crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, a journey that can take 15 hours or more, according to Gibbons. A few come from as far away as the Atlantic coast of Brazil, flying nonstop for more than two days. High Island is one of only a handful of suitable places along the Gulf Coast where they can finally stop to rest and recover. At 28 feet in elevation, High Island is just high enough to prevent flooding during the tidal surges that often accompany hurricanes, says Gibbons. Consequently, the vegetation on High Island is completely different from that of the surrounding coastal plain. “It’s that

forest in a sea of marsh that makes it so attractive to birds,” Gibbons says. As we make our way to Smith Oaks, another sanctuary on High Island, Lee explains to the students that High Island’s elevation is caused by a salt dome pushing up from beneath the surface, a feature that also has made it an important site for the oil and gas industry. FROM THE MANTLE TO THE SKY Lee should know. He is, after all, a geologist. His research focuses on the origin and evolution of the Earth’s crust, for which he has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America. In his nomination for

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the award, Lee is described as “a Renaissance man ... one of the best and brightest of the new generation of multidisciplinary geoscientists.” Lee’s ability to move between disciplines has allowed him to make contributions to both geology and ornithology. In addition to an extensive set of peer-reviewed research articles on geology, Lee has published some 18 articles on birds and birding. According to Gibbons, “He has contributed a lot of notable records and some intriguing observations that have helped people think about birds in a different way.” Despite their apparent differences, Lee sees the two fields — geology and biology — as being two sides of the same coin. “Everything’s interconnected,” he says. “From the birds, to the bacteria, to the rocks, to the deep earth, to the atmosphere. They’re all connected.” Lee’s interests in both geology and biology stem from a childhood fascination with nature. He grew up in rural California, on a five-acre lot where his parents grew orange trees, and where he quickly developed a fondness for identifying wildlife.

Fulvous whistling-ducks at Brazos Bend State Park, a typical destination for Lee’s field biology classes. By the age of 10, upon realizing that he had already seen all of the snake species that could be found in the area, he turned to birds, which offered a more challenging pursuit. Painting the birds he saw there helped to train his eye, and he soon found he could associate a bird

Cin-Ty Lee finds Rice’s campus to be a surprisingly rich birding habitat. To date, he has documented 216 species.


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with its song; before long he was able to identify many of the local species without the aid of his reference books. Now, many years later, Lee can identify not only the birds from California, but in most of North America. He estimates that he has seen — or heard — around 1,500 species in his life, nearly 700 in North America alone. But he doesn’t keep track of them with detailed “life lists” the way many birders do. Instead, Lee is more interested in monitoring the birds on campus. “I’ve gotten more excited now about birding locally, keeping a list for Rice, and I really enjoy that,” he says. “Obviously you can go out to High Island and get way more. But it’s a local place. It’s our place, and I like that.” Lee has the same expression of boyish enthusiasm when watching flycatchers at Rice as he does when chasing warblers at Boy Scout Woods. Although he enjoys the spectacle of High Island, the convenience of Rice makes the campus his personal favorite place to watch birds. He also hopes that his detailed observations, which he records with pen and paper

See more photos of migratory and local birds on our Flickr site

A great egret in breeding plumage on High Island. In the background are roseate spoonbills.

Students in Cin-Ty Lee’s field bird biology lab scan the skies at Brazos Bend State Park. as soon as he returns from an outing, might someday help researchers keep track of how birds are being affected by climate change. Contemplating how birds, climate and people are all linked makes Lee reflective: “It’s sad in a sense because it makes you feel very mortal.” Lee recognizes that there are only so many spring bird migrations he will have the pleasure of personally observing. Witnessing their annual arrival is a chance to be a part of

an ancient cycle. Long before the construction of Lovett Hall or even the arrival of the first human settlers in southeast Texas, the ancestors of these birds have been pausing here on their long journey north. He hopes they will continue to do so for thousands of years to come. For now, Lee is content to watch them one at a time, grinning broadly from behind his binoculars as yet another familiar shape descends from the sky.

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Field Habits


lthough Cin-Ty Lee’s professional expertise lies in igneous and metamorphic petrology and geochemistry, his main desire is “to be a natural historian of the Earth.” His research immerses him in deep time as he studies the Earth’s innermost worlds — its ores, metals and magma. “My tools are my eyes, the rock hammer, state-of-the-art geochemical facilities, mathematical modeling, and yes, old books and maps.” There is one tool he does not mention — a paintbrush. “My favorite pastime when I’m not getting paid is field biology and ecology.” A lifelong birder, Lee has combined his love of observation with keeping a record. He illustrated these local and migratory birds for our story, working in mixed gouache, watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil. “I’ve always liked drawing, and I just ended up drawing animals and plants as a kid. Eventually, I picked up the paintbrush,” said Lee, with characteristic modesty. Inspired by his college friend Andrew Birch, who illustrated the “Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East,” Lee kept painting, eventually taking a scientific illustration class at Harvard. This assignment marks Lee’s return to illustrating birds, after a hiatus of a few years.

American redstart


Blue jay


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Rose-breasted grosbeak

Yellow-crowned night heron

Canada warbler

Yellow-throated warbler

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Sherrie Voss Matthews

Sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles and De Montfort Music




uring her years at Rice, Martina Snell ’99 was known as a quiet French horn player with a bright smile and a calming presence. Marty Merritt, facilities manager at the Shepherd School of Music, recalled someone who was not quite the typical horn player. “Horn players are a loud, confident bunch,” he

said. “Martina was kind and friendly, but by the standards of her classmates of the horn studio, she was very much reserved.”

Bill VerMeulen, professor of French horn, remembered a fresh-faced student from upstate New York, an “insanely gifted” performer who was nonetheless naïve about professional musicianship and culture. He watched her grow within the horn studio, moving from last chair to first, becoming the

reserved leader of a tight-knit group. “She was respected on every level — musically, personally, professionally, you name it,” said VerMeulen. She planned outings and study groups and was widely viewed as the heart of the horn studio during the late 1990s. Snell, though, felt off-measure in her life.

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She attended class and concerts and did the things years-long spiritual quest. A key piece fell into place on that college students do: hang out with friends, babya trip to visit family. In upstate New York, she visited sit for spare cash. She lived at a rental nicknamed the a parish where the choir’s rendition of plaintive and “slug farm” with roommates Leslie Wren ’99 and Elisa ancient chants, along with the Extraordinary Form of Moore Scheuer ’98. A lifelong Catholic, she sang in the Mass, left “a searing mark on my soul.” the Catholic Student Center choir. “We were the wild This form makes use of the Roman Missal of 1962 partiers at Rice,” Moore Scheuer said. “We drank tea — and is celebrated in Latin. Unlike the post-Vatican II Lipton Soothing Moments tea.” liturgy, which is generally celebrated in a congrega“I confess that I didn’t feel as though I completely fit tion’s vernacular language, the Extraordinary Form in and lacked the kind of ardent zeal that was focuses more on the Mass as sacrifice with the shared among the other horn studio members,” priest facing east. It is accompanied by elabosaid Snell. “I didn’t even think of myself as a murate Gregorian chant propers and more often sician. In reality, I just felt like a very simple soul makes use of older musical forms. who happened to play the horn, going down the Finding that spiritual home, however, didn’t path that opened up to me at the time.” quell a general sense of restlessness. “I actually That path led the young Rice student to knew in the depths of my soul that God was callMARTINA SNELL ’99 discover music that lay outside the orchestral ing me to something special from a very young Brown College sphere — music that drew her deeper into age,” Mother Cecilia said. “I just didn’t know PORTRAIT FROM 1999 “CAMPANILE” the Catholic faith — and eventually to put her what exactly it was or what form it would take.” musicianship to use as a successful recording artist and During the year after graduation, Mother Cecilia musical director. No surprise really for a Shepherd School played full time with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, as alumna. What’s unique about this accomplishment is that well as performing with the Houston Symphony on a Mother Cecilia is the prioress of a cloistered Benedictine tour of Germany and Switzerland. When an audition monastery. While the lives of these Benedictine sisters for the Columbus, Ohio, orchestra was imminent, she remain hidden, dedicated to ancient offices of prayer, their prayed that God might grant her a clear answer to the stunning harmonies have gone out into the world, earning question “Where should I be?” She felt that winning a them critical acclaim and a fair measure of fame. chair in the orchestra would be the sign from God that she should pursue a career in music. If not, she would INCIPIT “go home and start seriously discerning contemplative religious life,” she said. It was at Rice that Mother Cecilia first learned of such In fact, Mother Cecilia won a seat as the fourth horn great Renaissance composers as Giovanni Pierluigi da with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Over the Palestrina (1525–1594), William Byrd (1540–1623) and next three years, she did what she thought she should Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594). Listening to “Miserere be doing with her life — playing, practicing, buying a Mei, Deus” by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652) in a fellow house, owning a car, walking her dog. “Deep down I student’s red sports car — complete with an amazing could not cast off this knowledge that I was meant to sound system — was a transcendent moment. “I had give my whole being, body and soul, to the service of never in my life heard music so profound, so beautiful, God,” she recalled. so heavenly,” she said. “I was thoroughly captivated.” But that music was much different from the guitar and I N T E R LUDE piano-led post-Vatican II music that she had been singing at the nearby Catholic Student Center and, indeed, In an attempt to determine what direction her life had been hearing at churches her whole life. should take, she took a “grand pause,” which in musical “I thought, how is it that my soul could be so parlance is a rest that lasts for several measures, profoundly elevated to God through the music in the sometimes minutes. Mother Cecilia decided to remove sports car and not through the music at church, week herself from all distraction — friends, family, the dayafter week?” That question sent Mother Cecilia on a to-day — and pray.


The gate entrance to the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Mo., bears the message “Peace to those who enter” in Latin. The sisters form a line to unpack a delivery of CDs in 2012. | Gleaning the fields surrounding the priory. | A detail from the sewing room, where the sisters hand stitch details on vestments, priestly apparel, sacred linens and altar cloths. Sewing vestments for priests is a major enterprise of the priory.


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“Heart speaks to heart in silence, so when I unplugged, I could properly discern His voice in my soul,” she said. “And that voice was unmistakable.” After this period of reflection, Mother Cecilia began to search in earnest for a contemplative religious community, one that celebrated the Latin Mass and the accompanying Divine Office that she had grown to love. She soon found a home in a Benedictine monastery in Starrucca, Pa. She entered the order Sept. 15, 2003. Reactions varied: Her mother was pleased. (Her father had passed away before she joined.) Most of her four siblings were surprised, but happy. Her colleagues at the Columbus Symphony weren’t too surprised — but the Italian conductor’s response was especially moving. “He actually knelt down in front of me and said what a beautiful and noble thing I was doing. It was very touching!” Her friends knew she was from a religious family and that her mother had thought about joining a convent before marrying. A few worried about the drastic lifestyle change. “I always knew she had it in the back of her mind that she would join a convent,” said Moore Scheuer, who attended her friend’s investiture ceremony at the convent in Pennsylvania. There, she received the habit and was given the name Cecilia, after the patron saint of music. “Martina does this thing when she gets really happy — she squishes up her nose and laughs,” she said. “The whole ceremony was very symbolic and beautiful, and during the recessional part, she squished up her nose and was beaming. This is where she is supposed to be.” A CAPPE LLA The monastery of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles is located in tiny Gower, Mo., surrounded by soybean, wheat and cornfields, an area that was once

farmland itself. In 2006, the order moved from its original location in Pennsylvania to Missouri, becoming part of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. A new chapel and living quarters had to be built, and today the priory is home to 21 nuns, who perform their daily chores — sewing, gardening, housekeeping — in traditional black-and-white habits. Within their gated community, there is relatively little contact with the outside world. The main building is bright and airy. Its sturdy ceiling is held aloft by reclaimed beams from a Thomas Edison facility. Walking through the front doors, visitors are engulfed in a sense of cozy solitude. The chapel, which glows with the morning light through its multitude of windows, stands directly beyond the front entry and great room. Any noise, even the sound of a visitor’s steps, echoes in the quiet space. The monastery’s walkout basement houses sewing machines and fabrics for the sisters’ thriving business creating vestments for priests with a waiting list that extends two years. One wall is lined with ancient wooden library card catalogs donated from Conception Abbey in Maryville, Mo. These now contain the sorted trimmings, thread, needles, notions and sewing implements. Daily life begins at 4:30 a.m. with Matins, or early morning prayers, and follows a routine that is centered around prayer, silence and giving service to God and the church. All of the sisters sing and chant during the multiple prayers and liturgies said each day. This musical performance is radically different from Mother Cecilia’s time within an orchestra. “The biggest difference is the audience,” she said. “When I played in the Ohio Theater in Columbus, I was playing for an audience of hundreds. When I sing in our little chapel, I am pouring my heart and voice out to an audience of one. Every note is for God and His glory alone.”

The simple but beautiful priory chapel at the home of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. The sisters follow a monastic schedule of daily prayer offices, beginning at 4:30 a.m. with Matins.


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M A G N I F I C AT Some years ago, the sisters created a few mix CDs for family, friends and benefactors. Through serendipity — or what the sisters would call divine intervention — a copy landed in the hands of Monica and Kevin Fitzgibbons at De Montfort Music, a boutique music company specializing in chant, polyphony and sacred music. When the Fitzgibbons’ 5-year-old son found the CD in a stack and asked his parents to play it, it went from slush pile to prospect. “It was beautiful, even though the sound quality wasn’t all that great,” Monica said. The Fitzgibbons wrote to the sisters, and Mother Cecilia invited them to visit. Before long, a deal was struck for De Montfort to produce the sisters’ next recording. For the monastery, the timing was fortuitous. “We had prayed a novena to St. Therese in summer 2012, asking her to help us pay the remainder of our debt, which was still quite substantial at that point,” Mother Cecilia recalled. “After meeting with them, I was positive that this was the answer to our prayers,” she said. Monica Fitzgibbons and De Montfort now serve as a go-between for recording company Decca Records, the monastery and others within the business who need or desire access to the sisters. Mother Cecilia serves as a buffer between the sisters and the outside world, which now increasingly wants contact. The sisters themselves are shielded from publicity requests. They don’t listen to the radio or television exposure that their work has received, nor do they read any news stories. The sisters allow the sound engineers and producers to come to the monastery during recording sessions, and the schedule is altered slightly for the time necessary to record. The recordings, along with the vestment sales, help pay off debts. (Their first two CDs with De Montfort

sold close to 100,000 units, the label reports.) “Advent at Ephesus,” the monastery’s first CD with De Montfort, hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart of traditional classical albums in December 2012 — and the media came calling. “It took off,” said Monica. Moore Scheurer was washing dishes when she heard her friend’s convent mentioned on the radio. “I was listening to NPR’s ‘All Things Considered,’ and I heard that a group of nuns from Missouri hit the top spot,” she recalled. “I heard Martina being interviewed, after not hearing her for years. I immediately called Leslie [Wren].” Wren added, “I think what surprised me so much was that this cloistered convent did something so public; it was very public, and they are not a very public convent.” In many ways, she said, her friend’s path “is counter to the culture of professional musicianship. It is just so beautiful; she got there through such a path of love.” This February, the nuns released “Lent at Ephesus,” a 24-track compilation of traditional sacred music for the Lenten season, with arrangements by Mother Cecilia. Not only did the CD debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical traditional chart (as their previous two CDs had), but the first week of sales surpassed their prior sales numbers. The Shepherd School is justly proud of an alumna who took a different path to her success. “Nobody in all of the years of the Shepherd School — even on the faculty — has made it to the No. 1 spot of the Billboard classical music charts,” VerMeulen said. “Even though she felt a different calling, the minute she let that music out of her body, it was special. It was not just the sisters of her convent; she’s given her art and gift to millions of people with this music.”

Mother Cecilia leading the nuns during a recording session for “Lent at Ephesus” last fall.

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The nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles have released five CDs of their music, the last three with De Montfort Music, a boutique label specializing in sacred hymns and chants.



Advent at Ephesus Released in 2012 De Montfort Music and Decca Recordings 16 tracks

Angels and Saints at Ephesus Released in 2013 De Montfort Music and Decca Recordings 17 tracks

Lent at Ephesus Released in 2014 De Montfort Music and Decca Recordings 23 tracks


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INCE graduating from Rice, Blanton Alspaugh ’87, a Grammy-winning classical producer, has worked with a multitude of musicians through the company Soundmirror. Most recently, Alspaugh found himself recording with musicians in unlikely locations: religious monasteries and convents.

In early 2013, Alspaugh was asked by De Montfort Music to produce an album with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a convent in Ann Arbor, Mich. Later that year, De Montfort tapped Alspaugh for another religious assignment. This one, however, was slightly different. The prioress was a fellow Rice Owl. He knew this assignment would be an unconventional kind of experience. Although his work is typically done on location in concert halls, opera houses, theaters and cathedrals, this location would be unique — a cloistered monastery that could be found only after driving miles and miles down rural gravel roads. Last November, Alspaugh traveled to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles’ home in Gower, Mo., to record “Lent at Ephesus,” the nuns’ third professionally produced recording of sacred music. Alspaugh always wonders about how his collaborations with artists will work. Will the partnership meld to bring forth great music? “We were instantly able to understand each other and what the other was trying to do,” he said of Mother Cecilia. “There’s always an extra element of rapport when you’ve got the school in common,” said Alspaugh, who earned his Master of Music in orchestral conducting.

Alspaugh said there are challenges recording outside of a sound stage, but the challenges at the monastery were not the ones you might expect. “They have a fairly specific discipline and a regimen and practice that they adhere to,” he explained, referring to the practice of praying the Divine Hours, not to mention the need to keep up with daily chores and other tasks of monastic life. “One of the things we are very much mindful of is vocal stamina,” Alspaugh said. Although the nuns sing or chant every day, they are not professional singers and their voices could easily become strained. From a Monday to Wednesday, they did 20 hours of session time that ultimately produced an hour of edited music. Mother Cecilia communicated directly with the recording crew as they worked to perfect the recordings in the monastery’s bright, high-ceilinged chapel. If the sisters had a question, they made the sign asking for permission to speak. “They cultivate their singing, but we use the process of recording to help them become better singers,” he added. Their commitment to the craft and artistry of music shows through in the final product. “It was a real joy to help them do that.” —S.V.m.


Stories from the rice community


Jessica Campbell



he nine-person staff in Rice University’s career services, renamed the Center for Career Development three years ago, includes the ever-cheerful Jessica Campbell, who was hired as associate director for employer relations in May 2011. Campbell has already made her mark — she was named the 2012 Rookie of the Year for the Dean of Undergraduates division for her significant contributions to Rice and was named presidentelect of the Houston Area Consortium of Career Centers to take over as president for the 2014–15 year. There’s no such thing as a typical day, which I love. My team, the employer relations team, handles recruiting on campus — on-campus interviews, planning the career expos, information sessions, job postings,

any number of things. We have a robust recruiting program for such a small school. When I came on board, there wasn’t an employer relations team. One of the positive changes that has happened in

the past few years is shifting the focus back to where there’s a balance of employer relations and career counseling, since both aspects are necessary to have a successful career center. Every month, we get about 400–500 new job and internship postings from companies that are specifically looking to hire Rice students. I don’t think students always understand how many opportunities are out there. A lot of our focus has been on increasing our visibility with the students — during O-Week and at the colleges — to let them know about all the great resources so we’re better able to connect them with these opportunities. We’re also working

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vo ices

—As told to Jenny West Rozelle ’00 42 

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Mary Lou Margrave The space isn’t fancy. No windows, no artwork, no high-tech filing system. But the 20-by-20-foot room, known as the “Loan Closet,” filled with stacks of gently used plates, pots and pans, blankets and sheets, hand mixers, toasters, silverware, tables and chairs, lamps and blenders, is a mecca for Rice graduate students. Established in 1990, the Loan Closet was housed at Rice’s first graduate student housing complex at the corner of South Main Street and University Boulevard (the former Tidelands Motor Inn), where the BioScience Research Collaborative now sits. Marilyn Hellums, a member of the Rice Faculty Women’s Club, started the closet, with the help of other club members, a handful of household items and monetary donations. Hellums maintained the contents of the closet, which was a small storage space on a stairwell landing at the old hotel, until leaving on sabbatical with her husband, David Hellums, Rice’s A. J. Hartsook Professor Emeritus, a few years later. The meager inventory of skillets and toasters was then turned over to Mary Lou Margrave, another member of the Faculty Women’s Club. Margrave’s late husband John Margrave was a beloved member of Rice’s chemistry department for 40 years and a former dean and Rice vice president. Margrave admitted that she thought she would head up the effort until Hellums returned, but nearly 20 years later said, “I am still here.” Under Margrave’s guidance, the Loan Closet has moved to its current location at the Rice Graduate Apartments on Bissonnet and has grown exponentially in size and contents, now offering more substantial furniture such as apartment-sized couches, desks, and dining tables and chairs. “We now have a check-in/check-out center and smaller items in one room,” said Margrave, “and two additional store rooms and an outside pod during the summer to store larger items. We’ve come a long way.” In the beginning, the Loan Closet only

lent items to international graduate students, but by the second year, that changed to include all graduate students and postdocs. It now serves nearly 1,000 graduate students at any given time and often for up to six years. One such student, Hussain Hijazi, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics, recalled his experience with the Loan Closet. “Setting foot in a foreign country for the first time can be overwhelming,” he said. “The Loan Closet offers everything a student might need. The process is easy and the quality of the items is very good. When I return to my country, Jordan, I will try to replicate the Loan Closet experience at Jordanian universities.” Margrave relies on a cadre of volunteers, many from the Faculty Women’s Club, to help distribute, find and donate items. “All the students need to do is register and put down a $25 deposit if they are a graduate student or $30 for postdocs,” Margrave explained. “Each year after that, yearly membership dues decrease by $5.” To most, keeping track of what is lent and what is returned would seem an arduous task, but Margrave has a simple check and balance system — an oversized file box filled front to back with large index cards. Each card contains the student’s name, contact information and what items they have in their possession. When a student returns an item, a line is simply drawn through the entry. “It’s a lot of work and people think I am crazy to do it,” Margrave admitted, “but some things are just worth doing when there is a need.” To check out the Rice Faculty Women’s Club, go here: —Tracey Rhoades


to fight the misconception that we serve only seniors or certain majors. Data shows that the earlier a Rice student engages with our office, the more likely they are to have a job at graduation. One of our largest challenges is finding space on campus to accommodate all of the organizations that want to hire our students. I hate to turn employers away from a job fair because I want Rice students to be exposed to as many opportunities as possible. There’s a definite energy on the day of the expo. I love seeing students making connections and seeing alums come back to recruit other students. We also have formed a new group on LinkedIn called the OWL Career Mentor Network. It’s a group of not only alumni, but also parents and recruiters who are willing to be a resource for Rice students. In less than a year, we have more than 1,300 people in the group. It’s a great opportunity for students to reach out to people and ask them questions about their industry, career path or major. It can be intimidating for students sometimes when they have to make cold calls to people for things like informational interviews, which are so valuable. This resource makes it easier. I always say that our office helps students figure out what they want to do and how to get there. Our career counselors do a great job of helping students explore their options and come up with a plan on how to achieve that. We don’t really have a stake in where students go after they graduate. What we care about is that they end up somewhere that is a good fit for them. At the end of the day, students have to be able to make a living after graduation, but we get to focus on helping students figure out how to confidently do that and be happy.

arts & letters

creative ideas and endeavors

Shepherd School on Tour On Feb. 14, 106 students from the Shepherd School of Music orchestra, along with their instruments and

a handful of Shepherd School staff members, boarded a chartered plane for Washington, D.C. After many


months of preparation and rehearsal, they were on their way to perform at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore Feb. 15 followed by a performance at Carnegie Hall Feb. 18.


he East Coast tour featured Berlioz’s “Le corsaire, Op. 22” and Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra.” In addition, the Baltimore program featured Jon Kimura Parker, professor of piano, in Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43,” and the New York performance featured Cho-Liang Lin, professor of violin, in Christopher Rouse’s “Violin Concerto.” Larry Rachleff, the director of orchestras for Rice’s Shepherd School of Music and the Walter Kris Hubert Professor of

Orchestral Conducting, led both performances. As for the actual repertoire, Rachleff said the Shepherd School aimed to pick a program that would speak to the students. One of the musical selections, “Concerto for Orchestra,” was a sentimental choice. “Bartók’s ‘Concerto for Orchestra’ is a really important piece for the Shepherd School, because it was the piece we performed to inaugurate Alice Pratt Brown Hall 23 years ago,” Rachleff said. Both pieces of music, featuring Shepherd School faculty s p r i n g 2 0 1 4 | R i c e M a g a z i n e   43

arts & letters

Dress rehearsal at the Meyerhoff


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Shepherd School faculty members Timothy Pitts and Kathleen Winkler; alumna and winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music Caroline Shaw ’04; and Rice President David Leebron

ONLINE TOUR The Shepherd School’s 2014 East Coast tour was well-documented in words and images. Audio of the Feb. 13 preview concert will be available at FLICKR WEBSITE

Cho-Liang Lin onstage at the Carnegie Hall concert.

Carnegie Hall


soloists, were selected specifically with the performer and venue in mind. The Rachmaninoff piece first premiered in Baltimore in 1934 with Rachmaninoff himself performing as the soloist, and the orchestra’s performance marked the 80th anniversary of the world premiere. The Rouse composition was written especially for Lin, who gave its world premiere at the Aspen Music Festival in 1991. Rouse, the composer-in-residence of the New York Philharmonic, attended the Carnegie Hall performance. Founded in 1975, the Shepherd School is one of the nation’s youngest major university-level music programs. In its short history, the school has built one of the nation’s pre-eminent orchestral programs under the artistic direction of Rachleff. The performances were attended by Rice President David Leebron and Y. Ping Sun, along with many patrons, alumni and trustees. Robert Yekovich, dean of the Shepherd School and the Elma Schneider Professor of Music, called the orchestra’s Carnegie debut “exhilarating, beyond description.” —Amy Hodges

arts & Letters

European Folkscapes

performed by Apollo Chamber Players (Matthew Detrick ’03, Matthew Dudzik ’04, Whitney Bullock ’07, Anabel Ramirez) (Navona Records, 2014)


Peaceful Visions From Wartime SCHOOLGIRLS IN KNEESOCKS. A mother and child in a tropical park. A well-dressed family gathered around a table laden with food. Baby photos. A bride holding flowers. A little boy standing in a puddle. Smiling faces. The small black-and-white photographs on display in Dinh Q. Lê’s installation, “Crossing the Farther Shore,” at Rice Gallery are strikingly ordinary — the kinds of unfiltered and unassuming images that you may find in any family album of a certain era. But these particular images are from pre-1975 Vietnam. They have been collected and assembled into rectangular shapes that resemble mosquito netting and hung from the gallery’s ceiling in Lê’s mesmerizing installation. Text — excerpts from oral history interviews with Houston’s Vietnamese community — accompany many of the carefully woven images. These disembodied voices add a poignant layer of loss to the imagery. Also written on the backs of some photos are quotes from “The Tale of Kieu,” a beloved Vietnamese epic poem from the 19th century. How did Lê come to possess all these images? The answer is what gives this exhibition its quiet power. Born in 1968, Lê’s family fled war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s. He grew up in Los Angeles and studied fine arts in college before moving to New York to study photography,

earning an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. In 1996, he moved from New York to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), where in 2007, he co-founded Sàn Art, an artistrun exhibition space and reading room that promotes young Vietnamese artists. “When I first moved back, I visited secondhand shops. They had lots of photos,” Lê said. He began to collect the abandoned photos, “hoping to find RICE GALLERY my own family.” Sewall Hall (ground floor) Free and open to the public. (Lê has noimages For more information, of himself as a visit child.) What he found instead was “a surrogate family album,” one that provides a counternarrative to iconic, journalistic images of death and destruction that typically symbolize the Vietnam War. What’s more, by turning these photos into art, Lê effectively preserves the photographs — and their power to evoke memory — from further abandonment. “Someone will value them and take care of them,” he said. In turn, each net of words and images offers shelter for the imaginary dreamer within, a dear image of protection across time and space. Crediting his mom for inspiring this work, Lê said, “Every time my mom had a dream of Vietnam, she was so happy. It was like she got a free trip back.” —L.G.

Apollo Chamber Players showcase traditional European folk melodies in interesting new contexts, featuring original arrangements. The album features “Fantasy on Bulgarian Rhythms” composed by Karim Al-Zand, an associate professor of composition and theory at the Shepherd School of Music. Artistic director and violinist Matthew Detrick, cellist Matthew Dudzik and violist Whitney Bullock are all graduates of the Shepherd School of Music.

Holy War X

performed by Rodrieg Ensemble (Mark Rodrieg ’89, Julien Gernay, Maja Bogdanovic) (Eroica Records, 2013) Flutist Mark Rodrieg leads the Rodrieg Ensemble, an international trio that includes Serbian cellist Maja Bogdanovic and Belgian pianist Julien Gernay. This album explores the dawn of modern classical music and the enduring influence of Claude Debussy.

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arts & letters

Does God exist? Excerpt from Anthony Pinn’s new book, “Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist,” (Prometheus Books, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the publisher. It was a difficult question to ask, but to live and work based on a lie, and to convince others to live in accordance with that same lie, would be even more difficult. If the answer was no, if God didn’t exist, all that God supported in my thinking and in my ethics would fall apart. It would mean I had spent years bending myself to the will of an illusion and working to bring others in line with my delusional thinking. If God didn’t exist, I was no better than those who took advantage of human need and gave people “snake oil” when they needed surgery. Was God present in the world in a knowable way, in a manner demonstrating concern with the conditions of life?

Nothing about the traumas of human existence, the sad realities in that playground across from Grant Church, and the continuation of oppression suggested God was present and concerned — certainly not a God worth all that the ministry required of me.

Or perhaps, I reasoned, God’s presence is found in the nastiness of life? Maybe God is found in the injustice in the world? That was a radical idea for me, but even that possibility didn’t satisfy. It wasn’t that I couldn’t stand the idea of a God who isn’t good and compassionate but instead is the source of misery and pain. Even this idea of God lacked the evidence I needed. There was no sign, no real indicator that the pain and suffering encountered had a depth and tenacity that couldn’t be accounted for through human will and idiosyncrasies. Just as the good in the world was easily explained through the efforts of humans, so was the nasty shit. Everything pointed back to human activity in the world, without any appeal to extra-human forces at work in the world. With a greater sense of ease than I would have anticipated, I said it: There is no God.

Q&A “Writing God’s Obituary: How a Good Methodist Became a Better Atheist” (Prometheus Books, 2014)

It’s not often we see memoirs from academics. What motivated you to choose this genre? I’m very interested in exploring theological and religious questions in ways not confined to academic jargon and academic structures of investigation. This memoir is one example. I also have a novel in press that attempts to wrestle with the theological issue of human suffering, but it does so in a less abstract way than is typical within academic discourse. One of the amazing stories you recount of your experience as a young minister is that of casting out demons. What do you make of these “spiritual gifts” from the perspective of humanism? While I was in the church, those moments spoke in powerful ways to the presence of a spiritual world impinging on our material existence. Now, reading these events as a humanist, I understand those occurrences as having nothing to do with spiritual forces. Instead, I believe they speak to dimensions of human existence more solidly explained through the sciences than through scripture. What motivated you to write your life story? I wrote it to celebrate humanism and to applaud the courage 46 

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and work of humanist communities. I also see this book as an opportunity to say something concerning not only the nature and meaning of humanism, but also the circumstances motivating some to embrace this particular orientation. What advice, if any, do you have for people of religious faith who are wrestling with belief? My advice is to embrace the struggle, push, explore and recognize the value of good questions.

Read more about the book and author at www.anthony

What do you think will surprise readers about your book? For those who assume the book will be marked by an apologetic tone or that anger will guide the book will be surprised by what I hope comes across as a more balanced and measured presentation. Does your experience as a preacher influence the way you tell the stories? Certainly. I think there are elements of the sermonic style that continue to influence my writing as well as my presence in the classroom. —Lynn Gosnell

arts & Letters

On the Bookshelf Houston’s Hermann Park: A Century of Community by Barrie Scardino Bradley; afterword by Doreen Stoller ’91; foreword by Stephen Fox ’73 (Texas A&M University Press, 2013) With its publication coinciding with the yearlong celebration of Hermann Park’s centennial in 2014, Bradley’s book uses the park’s history to demonstrate the development of Houston into one of America’s greatest cities. She includes historic and contemporary photographs, illustrations and maps throughout the various stages of the park’s development. Fox is a lecturer of architecture at Rice. Stoller is executive director of the Hermann Park Conservancy.

The Self Unstable

by Elisa Gabbert ’02 (Black Ocean, 2013)

Gabbert experiments with our ideas of the self, happiness, love, aesthetics, sex and memory in this compilation of lyric prose, autobiography and poetry. The book defies definition with its innovative style; it unsettles concepts of truth and reveals peeks of the absurd in shards of wisdom. Gabbert is the content marketing manager at WordStream, where she manages the WordStream Internet marketing blog, social media and other content marketing efforts.

Starting Up Silicon Valley: How ROLM Became a Cultural Icon and Fortune 500 Company by Katherine Maxfield (Emerald Book Company, 2014)

Maxfield gives an insider’s view of the story of how Gene Richeson ’62, Ken Oshman ’62, Walter Loewenstern ’58 and Robert Maxfield ’63 founded and developed the ROLM Corporation. The book includes lively anecdotes from Silicon Valley’s most respected leaders and reveals ROLM’s continuing influence on the area. Maxfield is a retired marketing executive and wife of Robert Maxfield.

School Board

by Mike Freedman ’14 (Chin Music Press/ Broken Levee Books, 2014)

Freedman debuts with this satirical fictional novel set in our very own Houston, Texas, in the last year of the 20th century. “School Board” tells the story of a high school senior, Tucker “Catfish” Davis, who campaigns to be elected to the local school board. Tucker’s goal: to help the “little people” of Houston. Freedman is a candidate for an MBA at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.

Clinton, Louisiana: Society, Politics, and Race Relations in a NineteenthCentury Southern Small Town

by V. Elaine Thompson ’97 (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2014)

Thompson pays deep attention to the history and development of Clinton, La., a small southern community. The book unveils the substructures of violence, exploitation, political strife and slavery post1865. Thompson is an assistant professor of history at Louisiana Tech University.

Measuring and Improving Social Impacts: A Guide for Nonprofits, Companies, and Impact Investors by Marc J. Epstein and Kristi Yuthas (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014)

The authors present a five-step model that helps the socially responsible company or investor measure and evaluate social impacts. Epstein is a distinguished research professor of management at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.

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Parting Words


next few minutes, nobody can ask me what I’m doing next year. I can’t help but think about when we first stepped through the Sallyport and how much we didn’t fear, but relished the future. I think about how excited we were and about the energy we had back then. The 949 undergraduates who matriculated in 2010 were proud, foolish dreamers. As freshmen we planned on four majors with a minor in business, threefold that many extracurricular interests, co-founding the next Google, designing a new major on reality TV, volunteering, writing, leading, publishing, maybe a bit of partying — all while gaining fluency in an obscure dialect of a near-dead language on the side. Graduating seniors, I have great news for you: We’re about to be freshmen again! And I challenge us to not simply accept that but embrace it. Because I think we need to finally address just how much we fear that brutal question — you know the one! So, what are you doing after graduation? Because these past few years, when I’ve witnessed seniors mechanically and sometimes painfully describe their prospects, far too often I miss the voices of those dreamers I entered the Sallyport with. Not because we failed in our ambitions — amidst this class I see a group of skilled, driven leaders, ready to shake up the world. But if I had to be honest, I’m not always sure if we really dream like we used to. Wonderful, unrealistic dreams. Entering Rice we saw the sky as the limit. Exiting, we nervously tread the ground beneath us praying it won’t give way. Far too often, we talk about our plans not in terms of what we aspire to accomplish but rather about how we strategize to survive — trading news of jobs and school prospects like some sort of bizarre game I like to call “Reverse Survivor.” Last one left on the island lives in their parents’ basement. If figuring out your life has always been confusing, it can be soul crushing if you look up what the rest of the world’s already gotten up to by their early 20s. How are we supposed to dream in a world where we already know it’s


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too late to be Mark Zuckerberg? Some contend it’s only natural we exchanged some optimism for realism. As every student here knows, they tell you there are three areas to student life at Rice: sleep, study and social life. Then, they tell you to pick two. We can get so overwhelmed, as students we can stop dreaming and settle for breathing. At some juncture we exchange awe for apathy and forget to aspire for more. Because here’s the truth we all learned: ambition can be exhausting. I took it for granted that this spring would be my best semester. Instead, I caught mononucleosis, and while bedridden I thought I’d seen the worst. Then, these final months that should have been about joy and celebration met sudden personal tragedy and grief. I found that life had other plans, and it didn’t really feel like dreams fit into our lives anymore. I cannot pretend to make sense of events that felt so senseless, but in writing this speech, I had to ask myself: Where do we go from here? And I thought back to that ambition that brought us right here in the first place, through the Sallyport beneath an August night sky filled with fireworks, to this very spot, and I see hope. I remember dreams. These are my plans: I want to find another home amongst quirky, diverse and yes, unconventional thinkers. I’d like to give back and volunteer my time coaching high school kids in speech and debate. I hope to live in New York, Portland, Paris and San Francisco — all at the same time. I want to learn how to parallel park. I aspire to impact the world of communications and media, and if I’m lucky, help break a glass ceiling or two. Someday, I think I’d also like to get married. To the seniors of the Class of 2014, my heartfelt congratulations on becoming freshmen again. A version of this speech was given by Martel senior Helene Dick during Convocation, May 16, 2014. Dick was the first student chosen to speak at a Convocation ceremony. This year, all undergraduate degree recipients were encouraged to apply to give the speech, and Dick was selected for the honor by a committee of students and faculty members.

Decades after Carl ’30 and Lillian Horlock Illig ’30 graduated from Rice, their love of their alma mater was still as vibrant as ever. Carl, the associate general counsel for Humble Oil, a trustee emeritus and a recipient of a Gold Medal from the Association of Rice Alumni, along with Lillian, an expert gardener and published writer, repeatedly told their children how much their Rice educations had done for them and how important it was for the couple to give back to the university they loved so much.

MUSTAFA YORULMAZ, Rice’s first Carl and Lillian Illig Postdoctoral Fellow in Nanotechnology, explores new frontiers in basic science (pictured with wife Saime and daughter Elif).

“They felt humility and gratitude toward Rice for changing their lives,” said daughters Elaine Illig Davis ’57 and Carol Lake. “Rice provided an education during the Depression, and it made all the difference.” “My parents were from a modest background,” recalled their son, Dale. “They were ordinary Rice graduates who used their education and did well. The university was such an important part of their lives that I often thought of Rice as one of my siblings.” The Illigs were so grateful to Rice that, when they wrote their wills, they divided their estate equally among their three children and Rice. One of their bequests — which Lillian designated after Carl’s passing — was the Carl and Lillian Illig Postdoctoral Fellowship in Nanotechnology. The fellowship, which was inspired in part by Lillian’s meeting with Nobel Prize winner Richard Smalley, is dedicated to supporting some of the brightest scholars in the field, like Mustafa Yorulmaz, whose research on gold nanoparticles may further the development of photonic and optoelectronic devices. To learn more about the impact of the Illig’s gift to support nanotechnology, visit

The Office of Gift Planning is happy to help you craft your own personalized gift that will have a lasting impact at Rice. For additional information, please contact us at 713-348-4624 or

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

Where you go, Rice goes

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Permit #7549 Houston, Texas

PRODUCED BY CREATIVE SERVICES IN THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, WALLPAPER IMAGES — UNIQUELY RICE — CAN BE DOWNLOADED TO PHONES, TABLETS AND DESKTOPS. The wallpapers include iconic Lovett Hall, campus architecture and a priceless shot of baby owls that nested near the Academic Quad last spring. Simply click on the size you need and download to one, two, three or all of your electronic devices. Please check back regularly as new images will be added to the library. The shot included here is the ceiling of Lovett Hall’s Sallyport, which all students pass under as they matriculate to Rice and later as they graduate. Photos by university photographers Tommy LaVergne and Jeff Fitlow. Download wallpaper here:

Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Spring 2014  

The magazine of Rice University. Bird Calls

Rice Magazine | Spring 2014  

The magazine of Rice University. Bird Calls