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And They’re Off

This May, we asked 11 graduating seniors, one from each residential college, to sit for a portrait and reflect on their time at Rice. As they thought about memorable classes, favorite professors, hard-won lessons, proudest achievements and the music that defined their college experience, photographer Tommy LaVergne captured their reactions. Here’s to the Class of 2019!

Nicholas McMillan, Hanszen College Outside of Hanszen, I always had a camera in my hand. I was constantly videoing different parts of campus, events and people’s stories.

Naimah Sarwar, McMurtry College The advice I’d give my freshman self is not to hold back on doing the things you want to do. If there’s something you’re passionate about, ask about it. Apply to it. How much you’re able to accomplish will surprise you. 2 RICE M AG A ZINE SUMMER 2019

Jay Ryu, Duncan College The advice I’d give my freshman self is to get a better haircut. My girlfriend looked at my freshman photo and said she would not have dated me.

Avery Johnson, Wiess College The course I will always remember is Social Inequality taught by Ruth Turley. It was memorable because it allowed me to serve in organizations that addressed a form of social inequality.


Arlen Suarez, Lovett College Advice for my freshman self? You will definitely fail. That’s a given in college, but that’s part of the growth cycle. The important thing is that you keep moving forward and learn from the mistakes you made.


Eugenio Mesta, Will Rice College I think my proudest achievement is club soccer. It was a lot of work — we practiced three times a week and had games on weekends. I was captain my senior year and really enjoyed playing with the team.

Julia Wang, Baker College My most difficult achievement was completing the Center for Civic Leadership capstone project. While studying abroad in France, I worked with a refugee organization in Calais gathering data on Sudanese refugees. It was really difficult hearing the stories that people told me and trying to understand what they were going through.

Kseniya Anishchenko, Sid Richardson College As cheesy as it sounds, my proudest achievement is just getting through Rice, even though it was difficult. For the first two years, I struggled and felt that I didn’t belong. But I realized I wasn’t putting myself out there and finding my niche.


Felix Wu, Martel College My proudest achievement is getting the National Science Foundation fellowship for graduate school. I didn’t expect it at all! I woke up one morning and my adviser, Mikki Hebl, was sending me congratulatory texts. The fellowship covers three years of graduate school.

Mekedlawit Setegne, Brown College I’ll always remember the Gen Chem course where I was a TA. Helping to explain lessons in chemistry was a very formative experience, and I was able to work with amazing professors. I got to see what kind of professor I hope to be. 6 RICE M AG A ZINE SUMMER 2019

Senyte Pierce, Jones College I didn’t do well my first semester, but I had friends who told me to take control of my life and helped me take the steps to get there. I was able to transform my experience. That is my proudest achievement.






From tough challenges to proud achievements, 11 graduating seniors reflect on their time at Rice.

Fellow Owls (and more) offer advice on navigating the next stage of young adulthood.

Senior Faces


A Guide to Life After Rice







Lessons from Middle Earth, TV philosophy, summer harvest, debate competition, equestrian team, film trivia, mentorship


LilySpec, D. Colette Nicolaou, bioprinting, earthquakes, arboretum survey, Houston Area Survey, faculty books




Life in New Delhi, Teach For America, Classnotes highlights, poet laureate, alumni books

Last Look


Hats off to the Class of 2019!


FEEDBACK Dear Editor: I just happened to thumb through the Spring 2019 issue [“Bistro Love,” Page 43] and said to my wife, Laura, “Hey, our son is in this magazine!” Most people would not know Trey’s journey to the culinary world. After graduating from Rice with a degree in economics, he started law school in fall 2006. Over Thanksgiving break, he came home and announced that he had decided that he would never practice law; instead, he intended to apply to The Culinary Institute of America — he did and was accepted. Trey has been in New Orleans since graduating — except for the year and a half he spent at Romantik Hotel Spielweg under the tutelage of Karl-Josef Fuchs. Last spring, he opened SaintGermain with two business partners. To say we are proud parents would be an understatement. His education, entrepreneurial spirit and readiness for the world all started at Rice in 2002.



Office of Public Affairs Linda Thrane, vice president EDITOR



Jeff Cox, senior director EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Tracey Rhoades

Homework Assignment Pete Emmet ’96, who earned a Ph.D. in geology at Rice, wrote that he has been drawn to poetry as both a reciter and, occasionally, an author. He accepted our creativity challenge [“Variations on a Theme,” Page 42, Spring 2019] and sent a “single variation to explain my understanding of the content of the poem using a similar meter and rhyme scheme.” Thank you, Pete.



Tommy LaVergne Jeff Fitlow PROOFREADER

Jenny West Rozelle ’00 RICE CONTRIBUTORS

Variation on The Soul selects her own Society by Emily Dickinson Each one may choose a special private friend Others ignore One’s sovereign choice until the bitter end Yield to this score!

Jade Boyd, Jon-Paul Estrada, Sarah Brenner Jones, Jennifer Latson, Brandon Martin, Amy McCaig, David Ruth, Kendall Schoemann, Katharine Shilcutt, Mike Williams

With hardened heart she sees him proffer


Useless regrets

Bryan Najera Demoraes ’21 Mariana Najera ’21

Humiliation he might choose to suffer No warmth begets Exclusion is the greatest heartache Revealed Friendship now exchanged for heartbreak Congealed

If you missed any of these stories, go to to catch up.


Rice Magazine is published four times a year and is sent to university alumni, faculty, staff, parents of undergraduates and friends of the university. © July 2019, Rice University


laureate, R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” takes her back to being “a young student at Rice listening to pirated music in my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) dorm room.” For faculty member D. Colette Nicolaou, the subject of this issue’s Wisdom interview, the song that was on frequent rotation at college house parties was Real McCoy’s “Another Night.”


Robert B. Tudor III, chairman; Edward B. “Teddy” Adams Jr.; J.D. Bucky Allshouse; Donald Bowers; Bart Broadman; Nancy Packer Carlson; Albert Chao; Mark D. Dankberg; Ann Doerr; Douglas Lee Foshee; Wanda Gass; Terrence Gee; James T. Hackett; Tommy Huie; Patti Lipoma Kraft; Robert T. Ladd; Holli Ladhani; L. Charles Landgraf; Brian Patterson; David Rhodes; Jeffery A. Smisek; Guillermo Treviño; James Whitehurst; Scott Wise; Huda Y. Zoghbi. ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS

David W. Leebron, president; Kathy Collins, vice president for Finance; Klara Jelinkova, vice president for International Operations and IT and chief information officer; Kevin Kirby, vice president for Administration; Caroline Levander, vice president for Global and Digital Strategy; Yvonne Romero Da Silva, vice president for Enrollment; Allison Kendrick Thacker, vice president for Investments and treasurer; Linda Thrane, vice president for Public Affairs; Dantley Warren, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations; Richard A. Zansitis, vice president and general counsel. POSTMASTER

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

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


SHINY DAYS LONG AFTER THE PAIN of term papers and problem sets have passed, we remember the soundtrack that defined our college days and nights. You know the songs we’re talking about — the ones whose titles can’t be recalled without singing, out loud or to yourself, the opening lines. We polled the seniors whose portraits open this issue about their favorite college music and created an eclectic playlist for our readers to enjoy. Their answers are a window into the soundtrack of the Class of 2019. Hearing how much music meant to these seniors inspired us to ask a few more people who appear in the summer issue to tell us about the music that helped create lasting college memories. The catchy lyrics of Earth, Wind & Fire’s hit “September” transport Nicole Van Den Heuvel ’81, the director of Rice’s Center for Career Development, back to her days as an undergrad at Brown College. “I remember dancing to this song at so many Rice parties. My kids love this song too, and we dance to it at all family parties.” For Anastasia Bolshakov ’15, Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” were the unforgettable songs “played at every college night I ever attended.” For Jarvis Miller ’16, it was “anything by Mumford & Sons.” Van Den Heuvel, Bolshakov and Miller are among those who offer advice in our feature, “A Guide to Life After Rice.” For Leslie Contreras Schwartz ’02, who was recently named Houston’s poet

“Do you remember The 21st day of September Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders While chasin’ the clouds away …” — From “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire

Tanvi Nagpal ’16, who wrote us a letter from her home in New Delhi, recalls that studio all-nighters were accompanied by a heavy dose of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” “Some nights, it was not uncommon to see the whole studio dancing to this number through the glass windows facing Valhalla.” For President David Leebron, whose popular column appears each quarter, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” takes him back to undergraduate days. What song defined your college experience? Email us at lynngosnell@rice. edu or give us a call at 713-348-6768 to let us know what you think of this issue.



MOONSHOTS AND CURIOSITY FARRAGUT STATE PARK, Idaho, at the 1969 Boy Scout Jamboree. Like so many people, I remember exactly where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface 50 years ago. This was a remarkable achievement for many reasons, including the technology that needed to be developed and the speed at which it was realized. President John F. Kennedy set the goal in his famous speech at Rice Stadium. There are many great lines in the speech, including the general favorite at Rice: “Why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?” (The last line was handwritten into the text, apparently by Kennedy himself.) We remember his answer: “Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” But we often omit what came next: “Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.” It was not merely the goal that mattered, but the challenges along the way. So momentous was the achievement that the term “moonshot” has come to mean an extraordinarily ambitious project that aims to achieve something beyond what many might think possible. In the case of the Kennedy moonshot, what made it so was in part the ambitious timing he set, namely within seven years. This major leap was possible because the project built on existing technologies and developed new technologies, which emerged in part out of the fundamental research that had been undertaken in the decades and even centuries before. That is research not driven by some practical goal or application, but by the human curiosity to understand our world at the very deepest level. As we continued pushing the boundaries of knowledge in chemistry,


physics and earth science, people discovered applications for that knowledge — flight, rockets, computers and new forms of navigation. Without those curiosity-driven discoveries, the original moonshot would simply not have been possible or indeed conceivable. The lesson is simple: If we want to make moonshots, we must continue to invest in fundamental research. In June, I visited the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland. I met with a group of Rice scientists led by professors Paul Padley and Karl Ecklund of the physics and astronomy department. Because the accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is currently being maintained and upgraded, I was able to descend 100 meters and view the actual machine. It is massive and beautiful, in itself a remarkable human achievement made possible only by international collaboration. The work done at CERN received worldwide attention seven years ago because of the discussion of the previously elusive, but theoretically predicted, Higgs boson, a critical piece of the particle physics model. Rice scientists contributed significantly to that work. Of what practical importance is that? I’m not sure. But I’m willing to bet that it will ultimately prove useful to humanity, as has every significant scientific discov-

ery. Indeed, this incredible effort, involving thousands of scientists from dozens of nations working across decades, has already benefited humanity. The World Wide Web was invented to solve the information-sharing problem faced by scientists at CERN. Out of the work at CERN also emerged medical technologies such as the PET scan and new therapies for cancer. As Kennedy remarked at Rice, “The growth of our science and education will be enriched by new knowledge of our universe and environment, by new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.” In short, moonshots achieve much more than the goals they set. The very process of achieving such goals and the necessity for innovation produce new knowledge and technologies that make possible new and different moonshots — such as the building of the Large Hadron Collider. So as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original moonshot, we ought to remember that only through the constant pursuit of knowledge of our world — the fundamental mission of universities — can we continue to make both literal and metaphorical moonshots a reality in the future.




Teaching Tolkien

Maximilian Murdoch sees links between the fictional realm of Middle Earth and real-world history.




SALLYPORT students will study the history of the fictional world described by Tolkien as well as his creative development of that world. The class also will identify the real stories that influenced Tolkien’s writings. In the meantime, Murdoch is spending most of his summer in Leipzig, Germany, taking language courses at the University of Leipzig’s Herder-Institut, thanks to the Leipzig Fellowship. No doubt he will find some interesting reading along his journeys, even if it’s not Tolkien or even fantasybased — this time. “What’s important for me is a well-told story more than anything else.”


Maximilian Murdoch captured in Austin this May


SELF-DESCRIBED “unabashed bibliophile,” Maximilian Murdoch ’20 first became fascinated with the world of J.R.R. Tolkien when he discovered “The Hobbit” in the sixth grade. “I was totally hooked and reread it a handful of times over the next year or two before realizing there was more to the story,” he said. “I got my hands on a copy of ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ shortly after and dove in.” Murdoch’s enthusiasm for the works of Tolkien is obvious to those around him. His friends tell him that the two things he doesn’t stop talking about are Texas history and “The Lord of the Rings,” and he sees a link between his love of history and his love of all things Middle Earth. “The same impulse that drives me to seek patterns in the past is what makes a book like ‘The Lord of


the Rings’ deeply satisfying to read,” said the history and German studies major. “What attracts me to the study of history is the lack of easy answers and the need to keep investigating, to keep digging in order to make sense of it. In the case of Tolkien’s work, the world he built is deep and complex, and while the stories have narrative closure, their setting begs further questions. It allows me to mimic the historiographical process and look for answers in the body of work he built.” After a weekend of binge-watching the extended editions of “The Lord of the Rings” films with his Lovett suitemates, one of them suggested that he teach a class on it. The idea took root. This fall, Murdoch, who also has served his college as treasurer and as an O-Week coordinator, will teach a college course titled J.R.R. Tolkien and the History of Middle Earth. His

“Everyone should read ‘The Hobbit.’ It’s billed as a children’s book most of the time, but just because a text is accessible doesn’t mean it has nothing to give. It’s entertaining as all get up and serves as the bedrock for what we consider classic fantasy today. It’s also more morally complex than I think people give it credit for. The quest to slay the dragon is a pretty clear blackand-white case of good versus evil, but the actions of the characters involved in and surrounding the quest create tensions between competing loyalties, and the final conflict cleverly cautions against greed and selfishness.”


COMPUTER SCIENCE FIRSTS Rice’s Department of Computer Science (CS) is having a moment. This spring, a record 209 undergraduates earned CS degrees. What’s more, the chair of the department, Luay Nakhleh, received the George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Nakhleh is the first CS professor to PHILOS0PHY

Holy Forking Shirtballs We asked a Rice philosopher why ‘The Good Place’ is so … good.

IF YOU’RE A FAN OF NBC’S “The Good Place,” you know curse words are cutely censored in the show’s heavenlike utopia. You may not be aware, however, that you’re laughing along to a first-of-its-kind comedy that accomplishes the seemingly impossible — blending sitcom humor with serious philosophical constructs. Created by Michael Schur (whose credits include “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation”) and starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, the show features a group of recently deceased humans who earned spots in a colorful afterlife called “the good place.” Bell’s character, Eleanor, soon realizes

her admittance is a mistake, which the audience sees in hilarious flashbacks of awful behavior, like posting her cousin’s credit card number on Reddit for saying she looked tired. To avoid being discovered, she decides to try to become a better person, thus sparking a journey into moral philosophy. “As a person, I find [the show] absolutely hilarious, and as a professor, it is very philosophically informed,” said Gwen Bradford, associate professor of philosophy. “The show even inspired a student to enroll in my ethics class,” she added. “There seems to be a growing interest in ethics — certainly on Rice’s campus,” Bradford said. For example, the computer science department is adding an ethics and computing requirement, and the new data science minor will have a data ethics course requirement. Bradford is happy the show is helping audiences understand that ethics has a home in philosophy. “We’ve been studying it rigorously for more than 3,000 years. I’m grateful ‘The Good Place’ is showing that.”  — KENDALL SCHOEMANN

receive Rice’s highest teaching award, which is based on a survey of alumni who graduated within the past two to five years. “There are all sorts of awards that faculty are eligible for, but this one is so special because it comes from the students,” said Nakhleh, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor of Computer Science.



Ripe for the Picking


AT RICE’S BETTY AND JACOB FRIEDMAN Holistic Garden, horticulturist Joe Novak and his students lead groups of volunteers in maintaining the vibrant, flourishing garden. And the produce grown there is put to good use, as all of the garden’s vegetables, fruits and herbs make their way onto menus in the campus serveries. But you’ll discover more than what’s found in your typical grocery store. Novak says they love introducing new foods to the students. “And the [servery] chefs are so creative,” he adds. From sorrel and papalo to peppers and sweet corn, there’s no lack of variety within these walls. Here is a sampling of what was ripe for the picking in early June. — KYNDALL KRIST














Not Up for Debate Rice’s debate team is one of the best in the U.S.







HIS SPRING, RICE SENIORS teamed up to finish second at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) at the University of Nevada, Reno. Debate team captain Sonia Torres ’19 and Jason Barton ’19, who have been on the squad each of their four years at Rice, were defeated in the finals by a team from the University of California, Berkeley. Torres and Barton are the first Rice team to reach the finals at the NPTE, placing them among the top few pairs in the program’s history. The week before, the Rice debate squad, a 10-member team, took home third place in the National Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship Tournament. For coach David Worth, these competitions were a huge testament to his team’s reputation. The team is also coached by Shannon LaBove, lecturer in humanities and associate director of forensics. “This incredible accomplishment caps an outstanding year and career for the two seniors who regularly appeared in elimination rounds, brought home multiple speaker awards and were regarded by many as the smartest team in the nation,” said Worth, director of forensics and a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities. For Worth’s commitment and efforts, the NPTE board named him its National Coach of the Year. “It was so unexpected,” he said. “I was chosen by my peers, people who themselves are incredible coaches. I am truly honored.” Worth’s award wasn’t a surprise to Torres and Barton. “As a student in his rhetoric and communication classes, I see him masterfully make connections between difficult texts and daily life, enriching the learning process for all of his students,” Torres said. “He has provided indispensable guidance for honing our skills, developing our arguments and adopting a healthy attitude toward the activity, and he has fostered an inclusive, welcoming, fun and exciting environment in which the team has thrived,” Barton said.  — DAVID RUTH


FAST FACTS 1. Founded in 2003, the Rice Equestrian Team is a club sport. 2. No, you haven’t missed the campus stables. The team practices at the Southern Breeze Equestrian Center in Fresno, about 45 minutes from campus.

Jessica Hartz


Owls Love Horses

An inclusive team provides opportunities for training in horsemanship and equitation. SELIN ERGULEN ’19 and Jessica Hartz ’19 had very different levels of experience when they joined the Rice Equestrian Team their freshman year. While Ergulen rode horses growing up, Hartz only wished she had. “My parents always told me I could horseback ride in college if I still wanted to,” she said. “I got dumped off my horse at my first lesson, but I got back in the saddle and kept at it for all four years.” That’s the beauty of the team — anyone can join. “No riding experience is required,” Hartz said. “Some have com-


peted their whole lives, a few have tried trail riding and others have no riding experience.” While team members have different skill levels and backgrounds, they all share a love for animals and the outdoors. “I don’t necessarily even need to ride,” said Ergulen, who served as team president last year. “It’s a good mental break to get off campus, engage with animals and be in nature.” Coached by Cathy Strobel for the past 14 years, the team takes lessons once a week and works with about 20 horses. “It’s not good to get too used to a certain horse, because you never know which horse you’ll have for competition,” Ergulen said. The team also competes in shows and hosts one each season. They all pitch in to coordinate judging, cleaning, grooming and registration. “It’s such a great way to bond,” Hartz said. “I’ve met so many of my best friends on this team. It’s also another way to meet people at Rice — people from other colleges that you wouldn’t otherwise meet.”  — KENDALL SCHOEMANN

3. With about 10 members at any given time, the Rice Equestrian Team takes on big universities with more than 60 members in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, like LSU, Tulane and Texas State. 4. Their mascot is a miniature horse named Mini Cooper, who cheers the team on by sporting a Rice-branded blanket.

Selin Ergulen




Film School

MARCIA BRENNAN, the Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Humanities, teaches HART 180: 14 Films You Should See Before You Graduate. The inspiration for the class came from her own experiences with cinema seminars and university film societies as a student. “Film societies were part of this wonderfully porous boundary between doing something for fun and expansion and enjoyment, and learning something as part of our formal education,” Brennan said. Her syllabus includes some of the greatest hits from classic cinema, as well as less familiar works. Can you match the quote to its film? — MARIANA NAJERA ’21 

The Quotes 1. “The scientists do the thinking for the world, and the rest of us just live in it, is that it?” 2. “I may live in Milan, but I’m still Sicilian.” 3. “I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.” 4. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” 5. “I will fly the plane and release the bombs. The final act is mine.” 6. “A golf course is for golf. A tennis court is for tennis. A prison camp is for escaping.”

8. “R-o-s-e-b-u-d.”

Answers: 1-E; 2-F; 3-A; 4-D; 5-G; 6-B; 7-H; 8-C


7. “Trimmer is a very political dog.”

The Films A. It Happened One Night

E. No Highway in the Sky

B. The Grand Illusion

F. Mafioso

C. Citizen Kane

G. Fail-Safe

D. Sunset Boulevard

H. Seven Days in May

(Director: Frank Capra, 1934, American) (Director: Jean Renoir, 1937, French)

(Director: Orson Welles, 1941, American) (Director: Billy Wilder, 1950, American)

(Director: Henry Koster, 1951, English)

(Director: Alberto Lattuada, 1962, Italian) (Director: Sidney Lumet, 1964, American) (Director: John Frankenheimer, 1964, American)




Mentorship Magic

Finding an enthusiastic mentor helped Alex Hwang develop a love of research. THIS FALL, ALEX HWANG ’19 will head to the University of Cambridge for one year of graduate study as a recipient of the prestigious Churchill Scholarship. A double major in physics and electrical engineering, Hwang will spend the year doing what he loves best — scientific research in nanophotonics, a field where nanotechnology meets optics. “One of the things I’m proudest about is developing a passion while at Rice,” Hwang told Rice videographer Brandon Martin. “Finding a passion for research requires meeting really good people and really good mentors, which I did,” he said. In fact, Hwang met more than one mentor along the way, but the person who has had the most impact on his budding research career is Gururaj Naik — or Guru, as everyone in the lab calls him. In the fall of his sophomore year, Hwang began seeking out academic opportunities beyond the classroom. He’d spent the summer at Stanford writing statistical programs to predict surgical recovery using light-emitting smartwatches. “I knew I was interested in nanoscience and nanotechnology,” Hwang recalled. So he began “coldemailing” professors and asked to work in their labs. Naik had recently arrived at Rice as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and was just setting up his lab group. “I emailed him, and we hit it off,” said Hwang. “I really loved how he was super enthusiastic.” For the next three years, Hwang worked in the Naik lab as


part of a group that develops new and novel nanophotonic devices. “[Guru] basically gave me the framework to understand everything in this research area and about research in general. Things like how to be a good researcher, when to fight for [an idea], or when to try and think of a new idea and how to give a great talk,” he said. When Hwang was a junior, Naik encouraged him to present his research at one of the biggest international conferences in their field. Hwang told his mentor that he didn’t think he could present his research in front of these august professors. Naik’s response: “You’ll be great!” This approach — pushing but not micromanaging — is what Hwang refers to as “the magic of Guru.” From Naik’s perspective, he’s paying forward what he experienced in a doctoral program at Purdue Uni-

versity. “My Ph.D. adviser was amazing,” he said. “Every day, I remember him at least once. That was a privilege that I had and was one of the reasons I wanted to be in academia.” Naik added, “[Alex] has been a big asset to my lab — bright, enthusiastic and ready to put in the hours and study. It only requires three P’s to be a successful researcher: problem-solving, patience and perseverance. I encourage students who want to push the frontiers of knowledge to knock on the doors of their professors.” Hwang will enter a Ph.D. program in applied physics at Stanford after he completes his year at Cambridge. One day, he’ll be a mentor like Guru — encouraging while pushing his students to grow, telling them, “You’ll be great.”  — LYNN GOSNELL, KATHARINE SHILCUTT AND BRANDON MARTIN


Startup Speculation

This gynecological instrument is due for a makeover, and a Rice team aims to do just that. BY DEBORAH LYNN BLUMBERG




LilySpec’s Joanna Nathan wants to change the future of gynecology.



Named for its gentler blooming mechanism, the silicone and mesh speculum is still in development. The team hopes that in five years’ time, doctors in all major OB-GYN centers in the U.S. will be using LilySpec with their patients. The company emerged from a class project Nathan worked on with Christine Luk ’18, Kevin Smith ’19 and Katelin Cherry ’19, who earned their master’s degrees in bioengineering; UTHealth student Danilo Peña was also in this class, the Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship class offered through the Global Medical Innovation program. In their class at Rice, Nathan and Luk, who’ve worked for medical device companies, wanted to focus on a women’s health issue. The speculum was a good place to start, they thought.



Renderings of the silicone and mesh LilySpec speculum in collapsed and expanded states

So, they created a pitch, interviewed doctors and patients, and designed a prototype. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Luk says. Earlier this year, LilySpec was accepted into the H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Startup Competition, held in part by the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. LilySpec made it to the finals, taking home the Audience Choice award. “The experience really helped us hone our story,” Nathan says. Now, Luk is the LilySpec CTO, and Smith and Cherry work on product development. Named for its gentler blooming mechanism, the silicone and mesh speculum is still in development. The team hopes that in five years’ time, doctors in all major OB-GYN centers in the U.S. will be using LilySpec with their patients. This spring, the unlikely entrepreneurs impressed the judges at the RBPC, winning best elevator pitch and taking home $28,000 in prize money. LilySpec was Rice’s sole team out of 42 to compete. Most recently, LilySpec was accepted into OwlSpark, Rice’s startup accelerator. For 12 weeks this summer, Nathan, Luk, Cherry and Peña, who is now LilySpec’s COO, are working side by side with Rice professors, entrepreneurs and alumni to get the company closer to commercialization. “The comfort of women has been discounted for too long,” Nathan says. “We can do better.”

Lauren HoweKerr ’17, a doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology, and Alex Rovner ’19, an environmental science major, came up with an idea for raising awareness about environmental threats to coral reefs. They collected a mountain of colorful plastic lab waste from

across Rice’s campus and turned it into an ocean of sea creatures — spiny urchins, sea turtles and 6-foot-tall mounds of coral. During the spring semester, the Moody Center for the Arts provided a temporary exhibition space for viewers to consider the amount of plastic used — and discarded — on a daily basis. 



OANNA NATHAN ’11 ratchets open a metal vaginal speculum. “This device has been torturing women for the past 150 years,” she tells a roomful of mostly male angel investors and venture capitalists at the 2019 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC). “It’s in serious need of an innovative, patient-centered overhaul.” Nathan, who earned her MBA from Rice this year on top of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bioengineering, is CEO of LilySpec, a startup that aims to redefine the metal vaginal speculum. Used in more than 78 million pelvic exams and procedures in the U.S. alone each year, the speculum — known for its cold, uncomfortable, duck-billed design — hasn’t been revamped in more than a century.

WISDOM sciences lecturer at Rice for the past eight years and was awarded a George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching in 2018 as well as the 2019 Sarah A. Burnett Teaching Prize in the Social Sciences. Top Topics I teach a broad range of topics, including the brain, memory, consciousness, stress and health, interpersonal relationships, personality, motivation, development and many more. I like to show original footage of things like Pavlov’s dogs. I think it’s so cool that we have videos like that. I want to give students the history of the field and I want them to critically evaluate what the current research says. I also like to recreate original experiments in class demonstrations. Sometimes it’s a big hit and sometimes it’s a total fail. And that’s OK, because at least we have a good laugh together. It’s a great way to describe studies, note their limitations and experience how challenging research can be.


The Classroom Clinician

Despina Colette Nicolaou in her own words INTERVIEW BY JENNY WEST ROZELLE ’00


A LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, D. Colette Nicolaou’s academic pursuits are as varied as her teaching style. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in biology and anthropology, a master’s degree in physiology from Georgetown and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Drexel University. Nicolaou then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She moved to Houston intending to be a clinician. While awaiting her Texas license to practice, however, she took a walk through campus and fell in love. She has been a psychological

Making Connections I’ve worked a lot with children and families; that’s how I transitioned into teaching PSYC 321: Developmental Psychology, and I’ve loved it. My teaching style is really about connections — connections between the students and me, the students and the material, and the students themselves. When you make those connections in a classroom, it’s magical. For really deep learning to occur, there must be meaningful change, and I believe this often comes from an emotional connection.



it normalizes mental health and gives them hope. It’s a remarkable feeling.

Building Trust One of the first things I try to do is develop trust in the classroom. Once they trust me, they’ll listen, begin to trust each other and engage in discussion. Then they’ll fall in love with the material. I reveal a lot about my own life. I talk about my developmental journey, my family and my patients to highlight the application of the theories and research we are discussing. I share those experiences to model trust, and then they share their experiences as well. Now they’ve made a personal connection! Weakness to Strength Each student is different. You have to discover their strengths and nurture them. But don’t be afraid to identify their weaknesses. We can’t be scared to say “try again.” Sometimes, if a student isn’t doing well, we’ll meet and I’ll try to figure out why. Are they overwhelmed with their course load? Are they having personal difficulties that prevent them from focusing? Were they with their sick roommate in the emergency room all night? Or do they not yet have the study skills to master the material? Regardless, it is my job to guide them through any obstacles getting in the way of success in my classroom. Teaching With Toddlers Doing is learning, so my teaching includes a lot of experiential activities. My favorite class is when I bring my children in and allow students to work with them.

My favorite class is when I bring my children in and allow students to work with them. After exploring several developmental theories, students create ways to test them among children of different ages. After exploring several developmental theories, students create ways to test them among children of different ages. They’ve examined topics such as infant reflexes, Piaget’s limits of conservation, motor development, theory of mind, impulse control and emergence of gender identity. For example, students hold up a girl doll and a boy doll and ask, “Who goes to work? Who makes more money? Who is a scientist?” It’s remarkable to see how my kids — now ages 3, 5 and 7 — respond differently based on their developmental framework. The students are incredibly creative in their approaches, and it’s always a fun day — even when the kids don’t cooperate. Temper tantrums can be part of it! That’s what it’s like doing research with children. It’s hard. Honestly, it’s a little bit embarrassing,


but then it opens up a discussion about emotional regulation, brain development and parenting strategies. Shared Respect At the very end of PSYC 101, we cover psychological disorders. People are much more willing to share once we’ve developed a relationship as a class. For example, when discussing anxiety disorders, I might say, “Who’s had a panic attack?” On day one, no one would have told me. But by the end of the semester, they’re talking about their panic attacks, about being bullied, about depression, about alcoholism in their families, about trauma. They’re talking about it with 100 people staring at them. It takes a semester to get there, but when that happens, it’s amazing. When students hear their classmates share their struggles,

A Family Affair We are three generations at Rice: my dad, me and my three kids, who have attended the Rice preschool. After coming to Rice in 2011, I had a baby. And my parents [dad K.C. Nicolaou is the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry at Rice] were like, “What are we doing in California when our first grandchild has been born?” So my dad got a wonderful Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grant to do his research at Rice, and we just celebrated his 800th publication! Growing up, students were a part of our lives. My mom would cook for 100 people: students and their families. There would be Greek music playing. She’d be holding postdocs and Ph.D. students in a line, twirling a handkerchief, dancing around the kitchen table, feeding everybody. It was a great time. And the next morning, everybody was back in the lab, back to work, bright and early. That’s how we grew up. Mentorship, teaching, hard work and family all went together. You assume so many roles when you teach. I love learning from my students. As they grow, I grow. It is a remarkable honor to see them flourish and twirl their own handkerchiefs! An expanded version of this interview can be found at


A closeup look at the tiny 3Dprinted air sac created in the lab of Jordan Miller


Breakthrough in Bioprinting


A new technique raises hope for repairing damaged tissue.

IN THE LAB OF RICE bioengineer Jordan Miller, a tiny teardrop-shaped air sac expands and contracts in a steady rhythm. Blood flows through a shroud of vessels surrounding it. Though the entwined realms of blood and air never meet, life-giving oxygen moves from one to the other. This model represents a big leap in 3D printing technology for living tissue — and promises new treatments for diseases of the liver, heart, lungs and more.

Bioprinting living tissue could one day help in repairing or replacing damaged organs. The innovative technique for creating entangled vascular networks was created by Miller and bioengineer Kelly Stevens of the University of Washington (UW), along with 15 collaborators from Rice, UW, Duke University, Rowan University and Nervous System, a design firm in Somerville, Mass. “One of the biggest roadblocks to generating functional tissue replacements has been our inability to print the complex vasculature that can supply nutrients to densely populated tissues,” said Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering. “Our organs actually contain independent vascular networks — like the airways and blood vessels of the lung or the bile ducts and blood vessels in the liver. These interpenetrating networks are

physically and biochemically entangled, and the architecture itself is intimately related to tissue function.” “Tissue engineering has struggled with multivascularization for a generation,” Stevens said. “With this work we can now better ask, ‘If we can print tissues that look and now even breathe more like the healthy tissues in our bodies, will they also then functionally behave more like those tissues?’ This is an important question, because how well a bioprinted tissue functions will affect how successful it will be as a therapy.” The research was featured on the cover of the May 3 issue of Science. The team created a new open-source bioprinting technology dubbed the “stereolithography apparatus for tissue engineering,” or SLATE. The system uses additive manufacturing to make soft hydrogels one layer at a time. Layers are printed from a liquid pre-hydrogel solution that becomes a solid when exposed to blue light. The key insight by Miller and Bagrat Grigoryan, a Rice graduate student and lead co-author of the research study, was the addition of food dyes that absorb blue light. Tests of the lung-mimicking structure showed that the tissues were sturdy enough to avoid bursting during blood flow and pulsatile “breathing,” a rhythmic intake and outflow of air that simulated the pressures and frequencies of human breathing. Miller, a long-standing champion of open-source 3D printing, said all source data from the experiments in the published Science study are freely available. “We are only at the beginning of our exploration of the architectures found in the human body,” he said. “We still have so much more to learn.” The work was supported by the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, the John H. Tietze Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Gulf Coast Consortia.  — JADE BOYD





How to Predict Earthquakes

Julia Morgan, professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences, aims to unlock the mysteries of fault lines.

AS A GEOLOGIST, I STUDY THE mechanics of earthquakes. Right now, we have a good sense of how quakes happen — we know how the continental plates are moving in relation to each other, we know where fault zones are, and we know roughly how big and how frequently a fault will experience a quake. The problem is that we have no idea how to predict exactly where and when a quake will happen. It’s really a statistical game. We can say there’s a certain percentage chance that a quake will occur on a fault in


the next 100 years or so, but we can’t tell you if the ground will be shaking next Thursday. To do that, we need a much better understanding of the geologic precursors of earthquakes. For example, right now, one big mystery in my field is the relationship between quakes and “slow slip” events on a fault. Usually, when a quake happens, two plates are moving past one another, and pressure builds up between them until it violently releases. It’s over in a few seconds or minutes. But sometimes the same type of motion can occur slowly, over days to weeks. You get the same magnitude of movement, but it happens so gradually you don’t feel it. We’d love to know whether slow slip is an indicator that a quake will happen. Is it transferring pressure to different parts of the fault that will eventually cause a quake? We sometimes see it happen before a big seismic event, but not always; we’ve also seen it happen quietly, without any quake ever occurring. So what’s the link between the two? And can we use it to predict earthquakes? That’s what keeps me up at night.  — AS TOLD TO DAVID LEVIN

Four Rice faculty members and their colleagues have received grants to pursue big ideas. The awards of up to $75,000 will promote “high-risk, highreward” research and extend academic partnerships across the university. That’s the goal of Rice’s InterDisciplinary Excellence Awards (IDEA) program. This year’s winners are electrical and computer engineer Taiyun Chi, whose team will develop a dressing for smart wound care; psychologist Danielle King, whose team will study ways to foster resilience; sociologist Elizabeth Roberto, whose team will study segregation and the built environment; and astrophysicist Christopher Tunnell, whose team will assess machine learning and the search for dark matter. Learn more at 



Andres Gomez with the prototype that gathers signals from the brain ENGINEERING

A Wireless Solution Students prototype a device for recording and transmitting neural signals.

FOR THEIR CAPSTONE design project, a team of electrical and computer engineering majors developed an instrument to gather signals from a patient’s brain and transmit them wirelessly to a computer for analysis. The prototype — a cap with sensors — was the brainchild of junior Aidan Curtis and seniors Sophia D’Amico, Andres Gomez, Benjamin Klimko and Irene Zhang. Theirs was one of more than 100 teams working at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen last year. While their design for direct brain recordings would have applications for a variety of neurological illnesses, the team had patients with severe epilepsy in mind. Intractable epi-


lepsy may require surgical removal of small parts of the brain where seizures originate. First, doctors must figure out which parts are relevant, and to do so requires implanting electrodes that collect data during seizures. “That means patients need to be in the hospital for a long enough period to get the large sample size of seizures [doctors] need to understand where they’re coming from,” Curtis said. “There are a lot of costs associated with that, including psychological costs. Patients have to stay connected and can’t move around. They can’t go home.” Because that means longer and more expensive hospital stays, any degree of freedom would be a welcome relief, Klimko said. “These patients are already struggling because their seizures are at the point where they don’t have any quality of life,” Klimko added. “And it turns out a lot of people with intractable epilepsy have context dependency, so if they can’t move, they might not have as many seizures.” The students are working with Nitin Tandon, a professor of neurosurgery at the McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science

Center at Houston, and Caleb Kemere, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. Tracy Volz, a Rice professor in the practice and director of the Engineering Communications Program, coached the team on its competition presentations. Their proof-of-concept system shows high-quality data collected from electrodes in the brains of rodents transmitted wirelessly to a computer. “We used mostly off-the-shelf components for this, but to get to the next, more evolved level, we would need more complex and tailor-made hardware solutions,” said Tandon, who is also the director of the epilepsy surgery program at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. The team’s design is garnering international attention. In May, the students won the top prize in a student competition at the IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems in Sapporo, Japan.  — MIKE WILLIAMS Watch a video about the team’s project at



Parks and Restoration

Students help the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center with its master planning process.

IT’S A LITTLE WILD PLACE IN the city. The 155-acre Houston Arboretum & Nature Center beckons visitors to a natural sanctuary in the middle of Houston. One of the first nature centers to open in Texas, the park boasts 5 miles of trails in a range of ecological habitats and year-round educational programs for the public. But in the past decade, the arboretum has endured both damaging hurri-


canes and drought, collectively resulting in the loss of half of its tree canopy and the encroachment of invasive species. Today, master planning efforts and a capital campaign are underway. It’s these challenges and opportunities that make the nonprofit an attractive partner for Rice students participating on a Houston Action Research Team (HART) sponsored by the Center for Civic Leadership. Last spring, a team of four seniors — Tian-Tian He, Dawson Klein, Ramee Saleh and Sarah Torresen — were able to support the arboretum’s plans by collecting and analyzing visitor data. During weekday and Saturday morning strolls, they surveyed almost 200 visitors, gathering everything from demographic data to information on which trails and programs were most popular.

The HART members presented their survey findings to the arboretum staff at the end of the semester. Among the findings: Visitors skewed younger than both the students and the arboretum staff expected; dog walkers visited several times a week, but first-time visitors made up nearly half of those surveyed; out-of-towners came from a number of states across the U.S., but most of them had been brought by a Houstonian; parents with toddlers wanted more programs geared toward their children; and families wanted more free events. “The study results give us a lot of exciting food for thought as we move forward with our master plan and expand our programming and visitor amenities,” said Christine Mansfield, the arboretum’s marketing and development manager.  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT



Outlook: More Storms Expected


Focus: After Harvey


More than of the respondents in 2019 and 2018 said that Houston will experience more severe storms in the next 10 years.

SINCE MARCH 1982, the Kinder Houston Area Survey has been tracking trends, changes and urban issues from Harris County residents. What began as a class project nearly four decades ago has become the only survey in America to track one city for so many consecutive years. Directed by Stephen Klineberg, founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and professor emeritus of sociology at Rice, this year’s survey reached out to a randomly generated and representative sample of 1,000 adults living in Harris County to conduct 30-minute interviews. We looked at what this year’s survey revealed about the lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Climate Change Concerns Grow Inaction Traction

What’s Houston’s Biggest Problem?

When survey respondents were asked to name the biggest problem in the Houston area today, flooding issues were less salient in 2019 than the year before.


1% 2018

Respondents were less inclined in 2019 than in 2018 to favor prohibiting additional construction in flood-prone areas of Houston.








Percentage of survey respondents who say flooding and storms are Houston’s biggest problem.

Better Planning

Respondents increasingly believe that “we need better land-use planning to guide development” in the Houston area.

64% 2018 70% 2019 75% 2017

Since 2014, a growing percentage of respondents agree that the threat of climate change is a “very serious problem.”


40% 2016

46% 2018

52% 2019

53% The Takeaway Area residents continue to resist additional government interference in developer decisions, even though they also recognize the region’s deepening vulnerability to severe storms and the need for new forms of public action.

Source: The 2019 Kinder Houston Area Survey  M AG A ZINE . RICE . EDU 29



genuous to argue that Kennedy’s moonshot was a waste of money,” writes Brinkley, the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Professor in Humanities. “The technology that America reaped from the federal investment in space hardware … has earned its worth multiple times over.” In “American Moonshot,” Brinkley explores how Kennedy’s singular vision, bolstered by a “rare combination of leadership, luck, timing and public will,” allowed him to pull off one of the most ambitious, audacious achievements in history, and to take a giant leap forward not just for America, but for all humankind.

Epilogue: The Triumph of Apollo 11


American Moonshot

John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race Douglas Brinkley Harper, 2019

IN 1961, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY pledged to put a man on the moon before the decade’s end. Fifty years ago this summer, his lunar ambition was achieved — just five months shy of that target and more than five years after his death. The case has been made that America’s obsession with reaching the moon was a romantic rather than a scientific pursuit — an extraterrestrial embodiment of manifest destiny. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile, says historian Douglas Brinkley. “It’s fair to argue that NASA’s Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were just a shiny distraction, that the taxpayers’ revenue should’ve been spent fighting poverty and improving public education. But it’s disin-


N THE HOT SUMMERTIME OF 1969 NASA’s three-staged Saturn V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral. That July 16, the Apollo 11 crew headed to the moon, and Kennedy’s dream inched even closer to reality. Retreat wasn’t an option for there was no turning back. To honor the state of Texas, the three astronauts, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, had brought a Lone Star flag with them on the mission. Armstrong also brought along a wing fragment extracted from the Wright brothers’ famous Kitty Hawk plane as a good luck charm. … On July 20, a gangly LEM dubbed Eagle descended forward on a flat lunar field named Sea of Tranquility. In a moment of high tension radioed live into living rooms on Earth, the astronauts reported that their descent engines were kicking up dust. The first words spoken on the moon were “contact light” from Aldrin. This referred to an Eagle sensor that had lit, as anticipated, inside the lander. This was followed by Armstrong saying the iconic “Houston … Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” At the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, all the technicians erupted in spontaneous cheers. Time itself, it seemed, had stopped the second Armstrong had uttered those unforgettable words. The score was the United States had landed, and the USSR had not — game over. It was as if a new millennium had opened up for the world to embrace with awe and wonder. While Armstrong and Aldrin walked the lunar surface, Collins had been left piloting the Columbia command module around the moon. On his silent trip along the far side, he wrote, “I am ab-


Time itself, it seemed, had stopped the second Armstrong had uttered those unforgettable words. The score was the United States had landed, and the USSR had not — game over. It was as if a new millennium had opened up for the world to embrace with awe and wonder. solutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.” … The 528 million moon-mad global citizens who watched the historic spectacle on TV delighted in human achievement. It was as if America’s sins in Vietnam had been forgotten for a while. The astronauts wandered only a few hundred feet from the Eagle. But they opened up the moon for future travelers. “This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the creation,” President Nixon enthused to the astronauts with a broad grin of satisfaction. “As a result of what you’ve done, the world has never been closer together before.” NASA had beaten by five months President Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon by the decade’s end. After more than eight days in space, the Apollo astronauts splashed into the Pacific. At Mission Control in Houston, a sentence from JFK’s May 25, 1961, special message to Congress flashed on the large headquarters screen: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” An Apollo 11 logo also appeared on the NASA screen, offering the greatest honor of John F. Kennedy’s public career: “Task Accomplished July 1969.” At around that time, an unknown citizen had left a lovely bouquet of flowers on Kennedy’s Arlington grave with a thoughtful card that read simply: “Mr. President, the Eagle has landed.”

Excerpt of “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race” by Douglas Brinkley, used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

The Book of LIFE Joseph Campana Tupelo Press, 2019

IN THE OPENING POEM of his latest collection, Rice English professor Joseph Campana describes an encounter with a box of crumbling LIFE magazines destined for the trash bin — and the sudden impulse to save them. “And the years kept passing, all the pages/ passing so swift and delicate they might tear/ as I touched them. Didn’t I want them to tear?” he asks. “Didn’t I want history to rip itself open/ and take me in?” The poems that follow frame an individual life within the larger context of the historic events documented in LIFE. Many of those events — the Great Depression, the Korean War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Kennedy and King assassinations — predate Campana, but all are part of what he calls “my America,” noting that “Walt Whitman called America the greatest poem ever written.” And they continue to shape our collective and individual consciousness. “The past isn’t really ever past, which is why my reading of those magazines was, at times, so haunting,” Campana told Rice News. “I’m thinking especially of a poem I wrote [‘Count’] about the University of Texas clock tower shooting. When I read that poem some years back on campus — before I even knew this would become a book — someone in the audience had been in the plaza that day. I think that poem must have been hard to hear — to relive those memories. As I recall, that person still has a notebook with a bullet hole in it.”

Looking into The Book of LIFE Much traveled, yes, always in realms of yellowed paper, black and white and blue: the whole a globe in a book in a box and on each page a face, a name, some wonders of use and want. Was this how it began? A boy who stared at stars, a boy in love with the moon. A swirl, some sheer and stirring roundness that was sky. Apollo, now that I have opened the book, it is so quiet I can hear beneath the dense and layered noise of life. So little of my body that will last, and those I love now fade to black before my eyes. You pass. Far-darter, light-bringer, tell me what’s true: Living is not coming to be but passing away.

“Looking into The Book of LIFE,” reprinted from “The Book of LIFE” collection by Joseph Campana. Published by Tupelo Press, used by permission.


A Guide to

Life After Rice

Life after college is a strange algorithm of the familiar and the novel on a spectrum ranging from reassuring to utterly daunting. On most days, though, we’re guessing that the post-undergraduate life presents a mix of mundane and new tasks. We know you’re up for it because, as Rice grads, you’ve already had lots of practice finding your path, working ridiculously hard, overcoming challenges and having fun. To help make this exciting and likely stressful change, we’ve gathered some practical advice from your fellow Owls (and more) about navigating the next stage of young adulthood.


Grad School? Internship? Full-Time Job?


Each year, hundreds of Owls transition from being a Rice undergraduate to graduate students, job seekers, employees, entrepreneurs, volunteers, adventure seekers and more. If college life involves well-worn paths of classes, internships and campus-based opportunities, postcollege life can unfold as an unwieldy, multilayered map that spills across the table with any number of roads, byways and detours. This journey requires stamina, determination, optimism, a heavy dose of critical thinking and all of the skills that a Rice education bestows.



Employed full time


Military, volunteering, caregiving or other


Undecided or unknown


Seeking continued education


Seeking employment

Nick Fleder ’17 considered all of these options. A sport management major, Fleder became interested in basketball analytics through an internship with the Houston Rockets. After a few months of watching the Rockets organization capture data, he approached Rice basketball and was soon leading a team of students who collected and analyzed data on Rice practices and games. Fleder then parlayed his data skills into an internship with the Indiana Pacers after his junior year. Even with his deep dive into real-life data analysis, there were no full-time openings in the NBA when he approached graduation. He also saw plenty of candidates with graduate degrees or five to 10 years of work experience getting the few coveted data analyst positions. This knowledge, along with an understanding that machine learning was becoming an indispensable part of the data industry, convinced Fleder that he needed graduate school to complete his skill set. While at the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, Fleder kept the conversation going with his contacts at the Pacers. When a job opened, he interviewed and received an offer.


Continuing education

 M AG A ZINE . RICE . EDU 33 I L LUS T R AT I O NS BY RYA N S NO O K *Data from various Class of 2018 surveys


Interviewing Sending your resume out via the internet can be something akin to tossing a stone into a deep, dark pool at midnight, in the middle of a tornado, while standing on your head. So when

you land an interview, call your mom, celebrate and do your homework. Rice’s Center for Career Development offers a host of consulting services for students looking for internships or jobs. Here’s what they recommend.

Before the Interview

During the Interview

After the Interview

Think of the interview as part of your exploration, not as a test

Answers should be appropriate to the questions and well organized

Prepare by doing research about the employer (sources include company websites, Vault, Glassdoor and news publications)

Summarize your career goals

Send a customized thank you note within 24 hours via email to everyone you interviewed with

Consider your first impression; be on time and dress appropriately Prepare responses to the most common interview questions, like “Why should we hire you?” and “What are your weaknesses and strengths?”

Ask questions about the position and the employer Be aware of your nonverbal behavior, such as: • Posture, expressions and eye contact • Personal space boundaries • Filler words and consistent volume • Enthusiasm and confidence

Close the interview by asking about the hiring timeline, restating interest in the role and clarifying who makes the next move

Keep a record of important dates and details for following up

BE PREPARED “The key to having an effective interview is thorough preparation and identifying what the interviewer is looking for.” — Nicole Van Den Heuvel ’81, Center for Career Development

JUST FOR OWLS Get a job, find a mentor or seek career advice. The Association of Rice Alumni’s Sallyportal is a networking and professional development tool created exclusively for Owls that can help grads. With new jobs posted regularly and almost 9,000 members, Sallyportal offers 24-hour access to Rice wisdom — parents and alums working in hundreds of industries. There, you’ll find these features: PERSONALIZED FEED

Customize your Sallyportal feed to fit your interests and specialties. EXPANDED GROUPS SECTION

This feature allows you to grow your network based on professional interests and affiliations.



Mentoring is at the core of Sallyportal, and the expanded “willing to help” profile features and a dedicated mentoring section help to connect Owls with similar career paths. Mentors can offer resume advice, consult on building a personal brand or create networking opportunities.

BOOK LEARNING “The Strategic Career: Let Business Principles Guide You” by Bill Barnett

Drawing from his popular career strategy course, Barnett, an adjunct professor in management at the Jones Graduate School of Business, applies business strategy principles to optimal career planning.

“Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

This book, written by Stanford experts, is all about transitions, including moving from college life into a career and adult life.

“Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam Grant

A perfect read for when you’ve landed your first job. Grant, a professor in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, will convince you that being a “giver” is the key to success in all aspects of life.

LASTING REWARDS “Seek a field of work where you’ll naturally emphasize the service you provide to others, build an expertise that makes you proud and strengthen an institution you value. You may enjoy the immediate rewards from work, such as pay and prestige, but those factors never will matter as much to you as the fundamentals of the work itself. If you find this field and if you’re well qualified there, you may have found your calling.” — Bill Barnett

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED … When Maggie Edmunds ’16, a psychology major, started her first job out of college as a strategy consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, she was anxious to use her talents in communications, but she was especially interested in learning more about data analysis. In just her second project assignment, she got her chance — she was charged with building a model around trade promotion. It didn’t take long for her to feel underwater. “I was working pretty much 24/7 to get this project organized,” Edmunds remembers. “But I didn’t have the tools necessary to be successful.” In the end, she delivered a working model but felt frustrated and uncomfortable about the way her work had unfolded. “I had never failed at something like that. This was real life, and I knew I’d need to repair my reputation.” After that disastrous assignment, Edmunds was faced with a choice: seek out projects that played to her communications strengths, or develop the skills necessary to be a first-rate data analyst. Ultimately, she challenged herself to master the skills she lacked and began putting together a plan to increase her analytical expertise. She sought out mentors, asked a lot of questions and pursued small analytics projects. Her hard work paid off some months later when she landed a spot as the chief data analyst on an eight-month project. This time, her performance was a resounding success, and the client lauded her as the strongest analytics consultant they had ever worked with.

ASK FOR HELP “Don’t play it safe by sticking with skills you’ve already developed. It’s OK to ask for help and have some hard conversations. Those are the experiences that will shape your career.” — Maggie Edmunds ’16


If you’ve lived off campus, you already have plenty of experience with real-world expenses: rent, gas, groceries and more. New homes, jobs or graduate schools mean new opportunities to improve your financial literacy — including learning terms like credit scores and IRA investments. From the best budgeting tools to how to make tax time less painful, we’ve compiled practical advice on managing your financial life. Fellow alumni weigh in with tips on how to smartly spend, save and — this is important — splurge.


Take your after-tax income and spend 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings or investments. Heard of the 50/30/20 rule? Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (also a lawyer with an expertise in bankruptcy) made it popular with her book “All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.” It’s a great way to structure your budget. Gita Kulkarni ’05, the president of a management consulting company who earned an MBA at Rice, gives a little more leeway. She says recent grads should try to live off of 55%–70% of their take-home salary. Also, set financial goals. These goals could be:

Save up for a down payment on a house

Pay off your student loans in five to 10 years

Build up three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund

Improve your credit score



Build Credit Your credit score is a threedigit number (850 is the max). Having good credit can help you qualify for a mortgage or get a cellphone plan or a job offer. Employers can’t see your exact credit score, but they can access your credit report. They may frown upon a report that shows you’re always late paying your credit card or other bills. So, how do you build your credit and keep it in good shape?

Apply for a credit card, aiming for one that meets your situation as a young adult. Or, get a secured credit card. How does it work? You make a cash deposit up front, then use it like any other card. Pick one with a low annual fee and make sure it reports to the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Do your research. Credit Karma, NerdWallet, and Money Under 30 offer advice on the best credit cards for your current situation and financial profile.

KEEP YOUR CREDIT CLASSY Pay off your statement balance in full every month so you don’t accrue interest. Pay on time. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on payment history. Keep tabs on your credit score. You can get a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus once a year. 36 RICE M AG A ZINE SUMMER 2019

SOCK IT AWAY “Save as much money each paycheck as you can, and then don’t touch it! You never know when a $100, $500 or $1,000 emergency will come up, or when you’ll have to pay more taxes than you expected. Small hack: Stop buying coffees from coffee shops! Rice Coffeehouse will no longer be accessible after graduation, which means inexpensive coffee is no longer accessible.” — Jaecey Parham ’18, an associate producer for a film production company in Houston

1. If you commit to saving for retirement before your expenses grow, it’s part of your routine and you’re more likely to stick with it. Does your company have a 401(k) plan? If so, max it out from the get-go, says Bryan Guido Hassin ’01, especially if it comes with an employer match. It’s free money! 2. Set up a Roth IRA — an after-tax retirement account — and max that out as well. Set up automatic transfers and treat the money as already spent. What about when you change jobs? Don’t take your money out of your 401(k). That’s a mistake a lot of people make. Instead, roll it over into an IRA.

Pay Off Student Loans SAVE AND PAY The first thing Anastasia Bolshakov ’15 did after graduating and finding a job was to pay down her student loans. “Having that interest was going to harm me in the long run,” she says. Her method was to set aside money from each paycheck to go toward that debt.

THE SNOWBALL METHOD With this debt repayment method, you make minimum payments on all your loans except the smallest. Funnel as much money as you can into that one. Then, once it’s paid off, move on to the next smallest loan and keep going from there.

FIND A GENEROUS EMPLOYER More and more companies are helping employees with student loans. Ask about this during job interviews. Aetna, for example, offers matching student loan repayment help for eligible employees. So do Fidelity and Random House.

VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME SponsorChange matches volunteers with work based on their skills, then rewards them with money to put toward student loan payments.


This free app links with your bank accounts and categorizes your spending so you can see where you might need to cut back. Push notifications alert you when you have a payment coming up, when you’ve overdrawn an account or when you’ve made a big purchase.

Clarity Money

This AI-driven app helps you track monthly expenses and save toward a goal. It shows when you overspend and helps you cancel unwanted subscriptions. It’s free, but if you benefit from its bill negotiation service, you pay a fee.


Free for the first 30 days, this app analyzes your spending and allocates a little bit each day for savings — toward an emergency fund, or maybe a down payment. After the first month, it’s $2.99 a month.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

This is a good app to consider if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. It has a debt paydown feature where you can watch the money you owe dwindle as you pay it down. The app is free for 30 days, then it’s $5 a month or $50 a year.


The days swirling around graduation are filled with cliché advice: The world is your oyster; you can do whatever you set your mind to; and follow your passion. So whether your next move takes you across the world or down the street, surrounded by friends and family or in a city full of strangers, here’s a practical guide to help with the endless logistics involved in finding and securing your first home after graduation. Let’s take it step by step.


The internet and cellphones are your biggest allies when searching for apartments. The following sources can help you find your next place — from scouting to signing. Realtors Some cities (like Houston) have apartment realtors who can help you find a place. The apartment complex you select will pay the realtor, not you.

Reddit Every major city has a Reddit forum flowing with helpful information about the city and an active audience to answer questions. In some cases, you can view rentals directly.

Craigslist Use the map feature to focus on your top neighborhoods. Apps Download free apps like Zillow Rentals, Zumper, Hotpads and

Social networks Post your inquiry on the Rice alumni Facebook page in your desired city to see what your fellow Owls can share.


FINDING THE PERFECT ROOMIE Remember Rice’s first-year roommate information forms? Use the same premise to determine whether you and a friend (or someone you’ve never met) will be compatible roommates. Here are a few questions to ask a potential roomie.

Winging the Search John Rudd ’18, who works as an architect in London and shares a flat with a Rice alumna, found that sometimes you just have to improvise your moving plans, especially an overseas move. “As much as we tried to plan our move to London, we just had to show up with nothing but a few of our belongings, a 10-day Airbnb reservation and ourselves. The day we arrived, we made a few phone calls, walked into some real estate agencies and saw a few flats. Luckily, we found a place we liked,” Rudd said.

WHAT MATTERS? Central air conditioning? High-speed internet? A dishwasher? Which features in a rental matter most to you, and what can you live without? Is it a neighborhood location, the distance to work, a porch or patio, or a full kitchen for dinners with new friends? For Thu Nguyen ’17, who works in Washington, D.C., as a communications manager, an important amenity was an in-unit washer and dryer. Proximity to work was also a big plus for Nguyen. “Our row house rental is in the middle of two different Metro stations and four bus stops and is a 10- to 20-minute walk to work, groceries and restaurants.” For Rudd, the amenity that makes his London flat feel like home is access to the outdoors. “Other than the location, we took our flat because it has a generous private terrace. It allows us to have people over at our place when the weather is nice,” he said. 38 RICE M AG A ZINE SUMMER 2019

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A ROOMMATE? This will help you understand if they’re looking for someone to simply split rent with or if you’ll lock in a lifelong best friend. HOW DO YOU SOCIALIZE? Do you want your space to be the setting for social events or a quiet zone at all times? What kind of music do you like? WHAT’S YOUR WORK SCHEDULE? Will you and your roommate be ships passing in the night? DO YOU WORK FROM HOME? If a potential roommate works from home, you may rarely have the apartment to yourself

and might be expected to keep the noise down during certain hours. ARE YOU IN A RELATIONSHIP? How often would their significant other spend time in your space? HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAVEL? Depending on if you like having space to yourself, the answer to this question could be very important.

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPLIT APARTMENT COSTS? Make sure to discuss rent costs if bedrooms are different sizes. Also discuss utilities, household items and parking logistics. DO YOU LIKE TO COOK? It’s not a bad idea to discuss how often you will be in the kitchen and when.

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO TEMPERATURE ON THE THERMOSTAT? Something to keep in mind as temperature preferences affect energy bills each month. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO DIVVY UP CHORES? How will shared spaces, like living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms, be cleaned?

Making It a Home

Whether your new abode is a fifth-floor walk-up, a townhome or a house with more room than you’ve ever had, it’s important to create a space that ignites joy and helps you relax at the end of the day.

Furniture Search thrift stores, Craigslist and Nextdoor for secondhand finds. Try Ikea and Amazon for new, affordable basics. Shelving Get your belongings organized and off the floor.

Paint A neutral paint color can make a cramped space feel brighter and larger.

Lighting Switch out harsh lighting for softer incandescents.

Window treatments Simple blinds or curtains assure privacy and needn’t be costly.

Plants Adding greenery is an inexpensive way to bring nature inside the house.

Roommate Routines Whether you and your roomie are besties or just share a space out of economic necessity, being fair and thoughtful is always appreciated. Having a roommate, as you surely know, ranges from exasperating to fun. Here’s what our young alumni had to say about sharing a home.

Tessa Fries ’18, who lives in Kona, Hawaii, shares a home with three roommates and teaches high school through Teach For America. “I have to do monthly fridge purges, but it’s also a lot of fun.” “My two roommates and I responsibly take care of things when we can and try to be fair about it. We all kind of know when it should be our turn to take out the trash. The best part about roommates is sharing food. I love to bake and sometimes I don’t want to eat everything.” — Thu Nguyen ’17 “Getting to know people in a big city can be difficult, but at least I know there’s someone who’s usually down to go on some silly adventure or just talk through serious issues.” — John Rudd ’18


Busy alumni, a mental health professional and a dietitian agree that there is not just one definition of healthy living. Each individual has to define their own goals and priorities for how they will live a life that balances mental, physical and emotional well-being. Here are some essentials they’ve learned in their pursuit of a healthy life.

PURSUING HAPPINESS Jarvis Miller ’16, a data scientist at BuzzFeed in Los Angeles, defines a healthy life as “being happy and content with the decisions I’m making.” IF NECESSARY, REBOOT YOUR CAREER DIRECTION After Rice, Miller entered a doctoral program in statistics, which left him feeling dissatisfied, alone and unhappy. But he thought it was what he “should be doing.” Several months after quitting his Ph.D. program and moving to LA for a new data scientist job at BuzzFeed, Miller says he is much happier.

EXPAND YOUR FRIEND NETWORK After moving to LA, Miller attended a couple of tech events to meet new people. He also used the best friends feature on the Bumble app to look for guys who had also just moved to the city and wanted to explore. Through the app, Miller found a few friends to hang out with every week.

FITTING IT IN Lauren Heller ’17, an investment banking analyst in Houston, maintains a healthy lifestyle by focusing on what’s in her control with a demanding work schedule.

Work out when it works for you

Since Heller works 70–100 hours a week, she’s accepted that her sleep schedule and work routine are out of her control. She packs a healthy breakfast and lunch every day and tries to work out at night after dinner before returning to the office.


“It’s hard leaving your really close friends and keeping in touch with people.” Heller schedules outings on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, when she is sure that she’ll have time off.


Befriending Routines Olivia Hsia ’17, a KIPP graduate teaching fellow in Houston, maintains a healthy life by being disciplined and trying new routines. Here are her tips.

Cut yourself some slack

“I hate cooking. I despise being in a kitchen, but eating well is obviously a super important part of being healthy.” Though not the most cost-effective option, Hsia buys prepackaged salads and meals to avoid the hassle.

Make workouts easy

Try something new …

“The postcollege years are a chance to join new gyms, take classes and find something you really like. All of a sudden old friends are traveling the country to go rock climbing or run their first triathlon.”

… or swim in the familiar

“I eventually figured out that I need to have all of my [workout] equipment already in the car. I even bag up my workout clothes each week.”

“Because I stayed in Houston, I kept up with some familiar activities, like Rice’s master’s swimming team. It’s an adult swim team that I joined in college, and I continue to go almost every day.”

Consider hiring a trainer

“Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but for me it was an intentional decision that has helped me get so much better at weightlifting and also helped me save time at the gym.”

Mix it up

ClassPass and trial gym memberships make it really easy to try different workout routines.

A LIFE BALANCE Chas Taylor ’17, a first-year law student at the University of Chicago, believes that the key to a healthy life lies in keeping his relationships well balanced. “A healthy life is one in which we establish rhythms that allow us to flourish in our most fundamental relationships.” Seek balance Taylor says law school has shown him that he can push himself academically, but he makes sure that school doesn’t overwhelm the other parts of his life. “I need to be careful that by pushing my limits as a student, or an attorney, I am not sacrificing my responsibility and cherished identity as a husband or child of God.”

“A healthy life means that eventually I need to be content with a ‘lower rank’ academically or professionally in order to thrive holistically.”


Dietician Rhea Li is a nutrition consultant at the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. She understands that all the advice around health food fads and diets can be confusing. We asked her for the nutritional scoop on a few millennial meal staples. Here, Li takes aim at a few myths — and suggests ways to season your diet with a dash of healthful knowledge. Eggs

Embracing Perspective Tahir Malik ’17, a secondyear medical student at Baylor College of Medicine, stays healthy by embracing perspective and making the most out of his free time.

Set realistic goals

Prioritize relationships over success


Malik is currently on rotation at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he is working on the 19th floor. Because his 10- to 14-hour days make it challenging to work out, he chooses to take the stairs. On his off days, he tries to live a more active lifestyle and heads to the gym.

Keep doing the small things that are important to you On Friday nights, Malik says he stops studying and heads to the Burger Joint or goes for a run.

They’re full of dietary cholesterol — and healthful nutrients. According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate egg consumption — up to one egg a day — is not associated with increased heart disease. Li follows the “moderation is key” guideline. “For those who love eggs on a daily basis, I have recommended one egg a day, whether in recipes or on their own.”

Delivered Meal Kits The calorie count in meal kits can be as high as 700–800 calories, but they should be 600–700 calories per meal, at most. She recommends choosing lower-fat options when selecting meals and making meals without added sauces. Use healthy oils instead of butter and milk instead of heavy cream in kit recipes.

Avocado Toast Li says avocados have good fats, but their healthfulness depends on how much avocado you put on your toast. She says that one-third of an avocado is a good serving size.


Can busy, budget-conscious millennials incorporate travel into their lives? Kay Rodriguez ’15, the proprietor of Jetfarer, a website that’s packed with travel guides, tips and itineraries, says, “Yes!” A self-described “adventure addict,” Rodriguez turned an undergraduate summer travel blog into a travel career focused on helping “ambitious, travel-loving young professionals” see the world in a smart and budget-friendly way. We’re happy to share this travel pro’s advice.

A JETFARER IS BORN After her freshman year at Rice, Rodriguez decided to sell her car and use the money to travel all summer. She went to Guatemala, the Philippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong. “That whole summer really opened my eyes to different types of travel, traveling on a budget and traveling by myself without family members,” Rodriquez said. To keep family and

friends up to date, she started a blog called The Kay Days, where she posted her travel stories and photography. “By the end of the summer, I had more than 500 subscribers,” Rodriguez recounted. “I said to myself, ‘Well, these people care about what I’m writing about and like seeing my photos, so I can’t just stop.’” Rodriguez continued to travel and share her experiences while still a student at Rice. After graduation, she landed management consulting positions — including a stint at National Geographic — but her wanderlust could not be stifled. She grew The Kay Days’ audience to about 5,000 viewers per month but considered going in a different direction. “I started writing posts that I would want to read as a millennial, as a fulltime employee and as somebody who loves travel but feels constrained by the amount of time and money that I had.” It was then that Jetfarer — a name she invented that combines “jetsetter” and “wayfarer” — was born. “I decided to build Jetfarer from scratch,” Rodriguez said. While growing Jetfarer, Rodriguez learned how to monetize the blog through travel-related display ads and affiliate marketing. Seeing that alternate source of income, she took a major risk. “I decided I would take a year off [from work] and give this Jetfarer thing a spin,” Rodriguez said. “I would use the money that I’d saved, travel around, write about my adventures and if at the end of the year I could not make this business work, I’d recruit for jobs again.” At the time of writing, Rodriguez is nearing the end of her trial year. In that time, she has visited more than a dozen countries and more than doubled Jetfarer’s audience to 50,000 viewers per month. She has been successful in supporting herself with income from the blog, supplemented by freelancing and independent consulting gigs. To date, the 26-year-old has seen more of the world than many adults twice her age — so much so that she no longer counts how many countries she’s been to. “I lost count in 2018 at about 55 [countries],” she said.


TRAVEL LIKE A PRO Consider the per-day cost of your destination, not just the cost of a cheap flight to get there.

“A lot of people get sold on this idea that if you get a cheap flight, then you’re going to have a cheap vacation, but that’s definitely not the case. For example, there are cheap flights to Iceland, but Iceland is a super expensive destination. Once you get there, you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars a day. On the other hand, a flight to a place like Peru or Guatemala is a little more expensive, but places are significantly cheaper per day.”

Identify where you want to splurge and cut back elsewhere.

“I have an article on Jetfarer called ‘On Dining at a Michelin-Star Restaurant While Staying at a Hostel.’ I paid more than $100 for my meal at this Michelinstar restaurant, and I went back and stayed in the dorm room at a hostel.”

Maximize time off by combining company holidays, weekends and vacation days to extend your trip.

“Every Thanksgiving, I took the whole week off. I only used three vacation days, but I was able to travel for nine to 10 days.”

Don’t be afraid of traveling solo!

“If there’s any aspect of travel that’s impacted me the most, I would say it’s traveling solo. It’s really forced me to get out of my comfort zone, to be independent and resourceful, to put myself out there to make friends and meet people, and to evaluate risks and learn how to identify warning signs when they show up.”

Choose a place where you actually want to go, even if it isn’t the most popular destination with the most tourist infrastructure.

Be flexible with your time to save money. You’ll pay more for speed and convenience.

“People often choose to take a taxi from the airport to their accommodations because public transportation is difficult and there’s a language barrier. For example, in Chile, depending on where you’re staying, a taxi could cost anywhere from $60 to $100 from the airport. Taking a direct bus to the bus station and connecting to the metro is easy. You don’t need to know Spanish because all you have to do is look at the names of the stops. You would pay about a tenth of [the price of a taxi] or less.”


“I recently spent four months in Central Asia. For most of the time I was there, there were zero tourists. I met tons of locals and I got to learn about nomadic living, which is totally unique and different from anything else I’ve ever experienced.”

Set up a travel savings account.

Rodriquez advises setting up two bank accounts for paychecks. Put 10% into the travel savings account and 90% into a household account — or whatever percentages work for you. “[Funds] go directly into savings for those vacations and big trips. I think if it had come from my checking account first and I had seen it there, I would have been more reluctant to put it away.”


Young Explorers South America

“The most expensive places in South America are about the same price as traveling around the U.S., and the least expensive places in South America you can easily get by on less than $40–$50 per day. You also only need to learn one, maybe two languages in order to get around multiple countries. It’s great for hikers and for people who love culture, food and history. There are a lot of amazing places that people have on their bucket lists, like Machu Picchu in Peru or the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia.”

Read more about “Life After Rice” online at

Southeast Asia

“After I graduated from Rice, I spent nearly four months in Southeast Asia. There are so many different cultures there that you can get to know. The locals are really kind when it comes to helping with directions, even if there’s a huge language barrier. There’s also great tourist infrastructure, and it’s budget-friendly. The flights between countries are cheap, and you’ll meet plenty of other travelers — whether you like it or not.”

The Balkans “An up-and-coming area of Europe is the Balkans. I’ve spent significant time in Slovenia in particular. It’s an under-the-radar destination and economical — much cheaper than traveling in Western Europe and Scandinavia. Because it’s not such a hot spot for tourists quite yet, it’s a lot easier to meet locals.”  — Kay Rodriguez ’15




Greetings From New Delhi Tanvi Nagpal ’16 embraces the chaos and beauty of Indian cities.





T’S 6 P.M. My colleague picks me up from a meeting at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and we head to Old Delhi to see a friend’s photography exhibition. First, we drive through the tree-lined streets of colonial Lutyens’ Delhi. For a moment, I’m taken back to my daily walk to Rice’s campus from my apartment — until the sound of honking cars and auto-rickshaws brings me back to the present. Turning onto narrower streets, we’re soon stopped in traffic by a large protest; next, we halt suddenly due to a procession taking place near a temple. The air is filled with the scent of jasmine, and I can hear priests chanting above the ringing bells. As I take a closer look at the artfully decorated Hindu idols, we arrive at one of busiest crossings in the city. I spend the long wait at the red light admiring the sparkling new 400-meter-long skywalk over the junction. After 45 minutes of negotiating the infamously brutal Delhi traffic, we make it to bustling Chandni Chowk. I meet my friend, who is exhibiting her work at a restored building overlooking Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. Making my way home, I glimpse the Red Fort, a Mughal dynasty marvel built in the 1600s, reminding me just how lucky I am to be living in this tempestuous, chaotic and glorious city. As an architecture major, I had set ideas about a career trajectory. I spent allnighters at Anderson Hall and dreamed about the first building I would design. Through classes and experiences like working at Project Row Houses, I came to appreciate the immense power and influence of well-designed public spaces. I ended up designing a degree to help me better understand the complex ecosystem of cities. In 2017, I moved to Bhopal to work for the CEO of Bhopal Smart City. We wrote India’s first “placemaking guidelines.” These guidelines encourage cities to reclaim wasted or overlooked spaces. Seeing previously littered and obscured


I spent all-nighters at Anderson Hall and dreamed about the first building I would design. Through classes and experiences like working at Project Row Houses, I came to appreciate the immense power and influence of well-designed public spaces. corners transform into vibrant hubs for city life encourages my passion for people-centered development.

As a professional woman in India, I have also had my share of low points. I work hard to be taken seriously by contractors and site workers, many of whom are not accustomed to instructions from females. With my intermediate understanding of local dialects, there are often communication gaps. Today, I am based in New Delhi and work throughout India as an urban development consultant. I love the plurality of experiences that my profession and travels allow me to have. My life has not gone as my freshman self planned it, but it has been an incredible adventure that continues to challenge and surprise me at every street turn.


Physics for America


In Memphis, a teacher helps students develop a love of science, one problem set at a time.

“ASTROPHYSICS WAS REALLY cool, but I realized working in a lab wasn’t going to be for me,” said Jack Replinger ’07, who found a home in the classroom instead. Replinger recalls the path that took him from stargazing at Rice to teaching physics in Memphis, Tenn. as a member of the Teach For America (TFA) corps. After a rough start as a novice TFA teacher, Replinger persevered to become one of the longest-serving teachers in the corps. He’s won numerous teaching awards and expanded the scope of his teaching methods far beyond his own classroom with an interactive platform designed “for physics learners of any background and their teachers.” Today, the physics problems Replinger — Mr. Rep to his students — creates for his website, Positive Physics, are being used to teach students the “how of everything” in all 50 states and in 70 countries. We met at an artsy coffee shop in Memphis’ revitalized Cooper-Young district, an area of hip bars, boutiques and restaurants more reminiscent of Replinger’s native Seattle than the Memphis of Graceland tours and Beale Street blues. To those with more than a passing familiarity with the city, deprivation, sadly, comes to mind as well. Almost 50% of Memphis’ children live in poverty and only 6% of young men and women leave high school college-ready. Cities and rural regions like the nearby Mississippi Delta that generate such depressing statistics are TFA’s stock-intrade. The nonprofit’s mission is to pair recent graduates of elite universities with classrooms in 51 low-income rural and urban school districts in order to,

in their words, “grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.” Replinger started out at Memphis’ Kingsbury High School, where his classroom experiences ranged from high to low. “My first years were a roller coaster, but the kids just brought so much energy! Let’s put it like this: I’m from Seattle and I don’t need coffee.” Looking back, he regrets his classroom methods of those early years. One day, one of his favorite students sullenly handed in a blank exam. “At first, I was really mad. But then I realized he didn’t know how to start the [physics] problems.” Replinger’s reaction was the first step to launching Positive Physics. Replinger began breaking down the problems into building blocks and made sure students mastered each building block before asking them to complete the full, traditional problems. Once he came up with that method, all his priorities changed. For the first

time in its history, Kingsbury students passed AP physics exams. Since he’s been teaching at Soulsville, a charter public school located behind the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Replinger has seen 100% of his students accepted to two- or fouryear colleges. His teaching methods have spread to every corner of the planet via his website. Each morning, he logs on to the Positive Physics website to see who among his 12,000 internet students has logged in, and from where. His plans include moving from a donation-only, self-financed model to a sort of Robin Hood-style arrangement. He also wants to crowdsource problems in order to expand to other subjects. “I think we could change the way teachers create material similar to the way ride-sharing has changed personal transportation.” So even if Replinger doesn’t partake in Seattle’s preferred beverage, he thinks on a Bill Gates scale. — JOHN NOVA LOMAX



Cajuns, Crime Labs and Trivia Champs Excerpts from Owlmanac


Barry Moore (Wiess: BA) explores the progress of architectural preservation in Houston from its beginnings to the present. Among the preservation projects Barry directed was the distinctive restoration in 2009 of the beautiful Julia Ideson Building of the Houston Public Library. Ralph Adams Cram designed a larger library, but the Great Depression loomed and budget cuts resulted in an entire wing being eliminated. Guided by the original plans, Barry enlarged the building to an updated version of what Cram originally intended. — Contributed by class recorder Eleanor Powers Beebe (Jones: BA)


“Randy King ’79 (Wiess: BA, 1980), Ian Jones ’11 (Martel: BA) and I started playing Last Call bar trivia in Portland, Ore., in 2018. In April 2018, our team qualified for the local finals and finished in third place. Nationwide, we scored well enough in the finals to earn an invitation to the championship tournament in Kentucky in April 2019. We played the finals in August and came in 11th place but hope to do better in the fall

season. If anyone in the area or traveling through would like to try pub trivia with us, contact one of us and we’ll try to make it happen.” — Contributed by Karen Chen King (Baker: BS)

Update: In April 2019, the CLASS OF 1951 team tied for second place in I discovered that Tom Eubank (BA) and I were born in the the Portland finals. Then, they same hospital in Port Arthur, Texas, a few months apart. When tied for 22nd place among I told him that I thought he was born in Louisiana, here was 75 of the best teams in the Tom’s colorful response: “Every time someone identifies me country in Last Call’s national as a Cajun, a ferocious growl develops inside me. My mother tournament in Covington, Ky. and father met in school on the Vanderbilt Prairie of Jackson County, Texas; they married there in 1923 and moved to Houston. “In Houston, my father entered  Kress’ training program and became a manager CLASS OF 2005 of Kress stores in Texas, Oklahoma and Akilah Mance (Jones: BA) was hired as general Louisiana.  Yes, I was born in Port Arthur counsel for the Houston Forensic Science in a hospital that I heard later became a jail. Center, an independent crime lab serving the When I once joked that I was born in a jail, I city of Houston and its police department. The caught heck. If I was, so were you. My father organization is a nonprofit local government left Kress, and we continued moving around corporation formed by the city of Houston’s mayor a lot. In 1945, we moved to Shreveport, La., and council in 2012 to provide scientific analysis where I attended Byrd High for my last two of evidence. The lab is one of the few independent years before Rice. I was elected senior class crime labs in the nation and serves the fourth president and governor of Louisiana Boys most populous city in the U.S. — Contributed by State. That did it. I had a Cajun sign around class recorder Alex Sigeda (Hanszen: BA) my neck. That I am a fifth-generation Texan and Houstonian never could surface.” — Contributed by class recorder Gene To access digital Classnotes, create a Rice Portal account at Langworthy (BA; BS, 1952) Once registered, log in and click “Owlmanac Online.”




City Poet

Leslie Contreras Schwartz steps into a public role as Houston’s poet laureate.

WHY DOES HOUSTON NEED poetry? That’s a question Leslie Contreras Schwartz ’02, an editorial assistant in Rice’s Department of Bioengineering, is already answering in her new capacity as Houston’s poet laureate. Her two-year term began in May. “Poetry allows us to express ideas and experiences that are not available to us in everyday conversation,” said Contreras Schwartz, who graduated with an English degree from Rice before earning her master’s degree in poetry from the prestigious Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. As poet laureate, she’ll be hosting workshops and teaching others — especially those in marginalized communities or suffering mental health issues — how to use the power of poetry to convey their feelings, frustrations, hopes and dreams. A fourth-generation Houstonian, Contreras Schwartz hopes her deep roots will help in achieving her goals, which include elevating the voices of minority populations to achieve a greater recognition of the city’s diversity. Her great-grandfather came here as one of the first Mexican Americans to immigrate to Houston, opening a blacksmith shop near the First Ward on the site of what is now the Downtown Aquarium. Contreras Schwartz grew up in Aldine and graduated from Eisenhower High School before attending Rice as a transfer student from the University of St. Thomas. An introvert, Contreras Schwartz’s transition to a new school her sophomore year was tough, she said. She found comfort immersing herself in writing classes, including fiction writing with Max Apple, a favorite course. But she knew she’d found


Contreras Schwartz hopes her deep roots will help in achieving her goals, which include elevating the voices of minority populations to achieve a greater recognition of the city’s diversity. the right place when she took a class with Susan Wood, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor Emerita of English, who retired in 2013. “I was extremely, mortifyingly shy when I took her class, but she encouraged me.” Contreras

Schwartz continues to credit Wood as the mentor who changed her entire outlook on writing. “To go deeper than just studying something and to figure out how the study of that thing could enhance your life, that’s not something you find at every university,” she said. “Rice absolutely helped me get to this place.” Contreras Schwartz’s own work takes on complicated social issues: mass shootings, women with mental illness and girls who have been trafficked or forced into sex work. These subjects and more fill the pages of her third collection of poetry, “Who Speaks for Us Here?” “I write about pretty dark things,” she said. “But we need to talk about the dark things. We’re not given many spaces in which to do that. Poetry is a great space to express those ideas.”  — KATHARINE SHILCUTT




Alumni Books

that we demand them from a stranger who is just trying to get through the checkout line at Whole Foods with her kid. But since she’s open to talking about difficult subjects, we asked her some intrusive questions anyway.


How is Shiv’s experience of growing up black in Houston different from your experience of growing up brown in Memphis? I think there’s quite a bit of overlap. A key difference is the fact that Shiv is part of a mixed-race family; she’s the only black person in our family. At the same time, she sees many more representations of blackness in the world around her than I did of brownness growing up. Shiv’s school environment and neighborhood in Houston are much more diverse than mine were growing up in Memphis.

Nishta Mehra (left) with Shiv and Jill

NISHTA MEHRA ’05 IS BROWN-SKINNED. Her wife, Jill Carroll ’94, is white. Their adopted child, Shiv, who was born a boy but identifies as a girl, is black. And their family dynamic proves endlessly perplexing to the people standing near them in line at the grocery store. After fending off enough intrusive questions — “Are you his nanny?” “Does he look like daddy?” — Mehra was tempted to print a set of passive-aggressive note cards that say: “The next time you’re tempted to ask deeply personal questions of complete strangers, please try to remember that the world and its possibilities are far bigger than your little narrow purview attests. Check your assumptions. We don’t owe you an explanation. Neither does anyone else.” Mehra’s book, “Brown White Black,” is not, therefore, an explanation. Her life, and her family, are not here to serve as an educational experience for the rest of us. Instead, her essays grapple with the idiosyncrasies of the American social structure that make many of us, especially if we are white and heterosexual, feel threatened by deviations from what we see as the social norm — and so entitled to answers


The panic is always there, under the surface; it gets triggered from time to time, but I try not to focus on it. I think I learned a bit about this emotional experience in becoming a parent of a black child in America — that panic is also always under the surface, easily accessed but crippling if you focus on it. The panic may be justified, but it doesn’t serve anyone, certainly not Shiv. And on a daily basis, what I am mostly struck by is how fully selfexpressed and embodied my child is, which is a beautiful thing to see as a parent. And practically, though we may have a seemingly unusual family makeup, we also deal with fairly universal concerns like packing lunch, managing play dates, birthday party RSVPs and bedtime. Those kinds of things help you get from one day to the next.


After Shiv told you she was “actually a girl,” you describe the period of “parental panic” that ensued as you worried about the challenges her future might hold. Has that panic subsided?

The Man Who Was Never There William A. Wheatley ’66 W&B Publishers, 2018

Brown White Black

An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion Nishta Mehra ’05 Picador, 2019

You describe the term “postracial” as a fantasy — and an absurdity — and race relations in America seem to have only backslid lately. The same seems true for gay and transgender rights. Are there reasons to be hopeful for the future? As a teacher, I have become increasingly convinced that the most important thing I can do in my classroom is push my students — and myself, let’s be clear! — to look at and talk about difficult things, to disagree while really hearing each other. I believe that so much of what we are seeing right now is the result of our tendency to turn away from those hard topics, or the ways in which we will gloss over the hardest parts or push to get to the “good news” of how we as a society have improved. This means that our students — who eventually become our adults, our voters, our citizens — lack the skills to move around inside of ambiguity, to handle complexity and nuance, to discuss topics that don’t have easy answers. We have to do this hard work! So anyone who is practicing and/or modeling how to do that work, whether at the individual or collective level, gives me hope right now.

William A. Wheatley has real-life experience in not being there. He got an early start in military intelligence during his freshman year at Rice, when he joined the Navy ROTC just as the Cuban missile crisis broke out, and was sent to Guantanamo Bay to help analyze aerial photos of possible missile facilities. The summer before his senior year, he did surveillance in Cambodia from the back seat of a Navy jet doing low-level flyovers above the jungle. But officially, as he puts it, he was never there. These experiences provided the raw material for his first novel, “The Man Who Was Never There.” After a career spent keeping secrets, Wheatley acknowl-

edges openly that his protagonist, Arthur Cornwallis Harris III, is a not so thinly veiled version of himself. But Harris gets in a little more trouble than Wheatley did, as far as we know. Harris is shot down while flying his own jet over Cambodia and must rely on his Boy Scout wilderness training to survive and eventually escape from the jungle. Like Wheatley, Harris must be prepared — and leave no trace. “You may be curious about the path I followed, but I don’t want to have to kill you, so I can’t tell you my own story,” Wheatley explains in the book’s preface. “This work is fiction, based very loosely (but very directly) on the real world and times in which I have lived. However, some of the events are described exactly as they happened.”

Houston, Space City USA Ray Viator

Texas A&M University Press, 2019

Ever since 1965, when Houston began serving as Mission Control for NASA’s manned space flights, the city’s name has been the first word astronauts utter when they do something historic — like, say, take the first steps on the moon. Ray Viator grew up enthralled by the starring role Houston played in the Space Age. As a journalist and photographer, he made it his own mission to document the ways the city still serves as NASA’s nerve center when it comes to sending people into space. The result, “Houston, Space City USA,” is what Viator calls a “visual celebration” of Houston’s lunar legacy. It’s been half a century since the Apollo 11 mission, but the photos in Viator’s collection show that Houston’s enthusiasm for space has waned little since those heady

days. Everywhere you look, outer space makes its home in this terrestrial city, from the space science department at Rice — the nation’s first when it was launched in 1963 — to 1980s-era tourism posters proclaiming “Houston: First word from the moon,” to the countless tributes on murals and plaques across town, down to the patches on Houston police uniforms that read “Space City U.S.A.” Many of Viator’s photos capture the moon itself juxtaposed with notable Houston landmarks. He captions the book’s final photo with a haiku: “Exploring Houston/ I find the moon everywhere/ Hiding in plain sight.” Editor’s note: While Viator is not a graduate of Rice, we included the book here because Rice itself plays a starring role.






04.19.2019 // Gabrielle Stanton ’19 // Academic Quadrangle

UNCHARTED The fourth of five children in a single-parent household, McKinzie Chambers ’20 watched carefully as her older siblings left for college. By the time it was her turn, McKinzie and her mother were very familiar with higher education financing and knew the value of Rice’s financial aid package. “When I was figuring out how to pay for college, I knew I needed to be prepared to take on loans,” McKinzie says. “Rice helped me to take on fewer loans than expected, and with The Rice Investment this fall, I won’t need any.” As the president of Sid Richardson College, McKinzie is using her own experiences to educate her peers about managing finances as a college student. “When I heard about The Rice Investment, I was incredibly happy. Rice does things that sound impossible, and this plan is a model for other universities that challenges them to prioritize their students and mitigate the barrier of cost.”

With the support of the Rice community, The Rice Investment will significantly expand scholarship support for low- and middleincome students. Visit thericeinvestment to learn why your support is vital to the success of this important initiative.

unconventional. unlimited. uncharted. unmatched.

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

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



“We choose to go to the moon in this decade”

On Page 30, we review and excerpt “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race” by historian Douglas Brinkley, the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Professor in Humanities. Go online to hear Brinkley talk about the inspiration for his latest book and Rice’s seminal connection to the advent of the U.S. space program. MUSIC

Senior Playlist

One of the five questions we asked each senior featured in our cover story was “What song or musical artist will always remind you of Rice?” To capture the range of musical styles and genres that impacted each student, we created a playlist to share with our readers.

WHEN JASON LOPEZ ’19 signed up for leadership coaching as a sophomore, he wasn’t sure what he was getting into. “You hear the word ‘leadership’ and it’s kind of a buzzword, right?” But Lopez discovered that the approach taken by Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders is far from conventional. For one thing, leadership training is available to every Rice student who is interested — from the lifelong introvert to the college O-Week leader. The institute is the vision of John ’73 and Ann Doerr ’75, who donated $50 million to their alma mater for the purpose of helping students develop their potential as leaders through training, experiences, coaching and feedback. We profile the Doerr Institute’s unique approach to leadership development in the fall issue. 4 RICE M AG A ZINE SUMMER 2019


“To my only rival, the United States Cavalry”

In “Film School” on Page 19, we highlight Marcia Brennan’s popular course, HART 180: 14 Films You Should See Before You Graduate, complete with a challenge to match these films with a quote from each one. Go online for the full list of Brennan’s 14 films and quotes. How well did you do? PHOTO CREDIT TK

Profile for Rice University

Rice Magazine | Summer 2019  

Rice Magazine | Summer 2019