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William Marsh Rice University - 2016

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Research Description

Research Description By Graduate Engineering Department


General areas of research are: biomedical imaging and diagnostics, biomaterials and drug delivery, cellular and biomolecular engineering, tissue engineering and biomechanics, computational and theoretical bioengineering, systems and synthetic biology.

Specific topics of current research in both medical and non-medical fields include: nanoscale contrast agents for molecular imaging; hardware systems to image and monitor cancers and other disease processes in vivo and in real time; the synthesis, fabrication, and evaluation of biomaterials for applications such as imaging contrast agents, tissue engineering scaffolds, drug delivery, and artificial viruses for gene therapy; understanding of biochemical, molecular, cellular and biomechanical characteristics of normal and diseased tissues; research to understand biological systems at multiple lengths of scale, and in the development of new technologies in fields such as plant science, environmental engineering, and chemical production; development of optimal culturing conditions for tissue engineered constructs; engineering of cell properties to improve production of specific chemicals or resistance to disease; modeling of bone, cartilage and cardiovascular tissue mechanics and stress effects on stem cells differentiation, tissue development; modeling of nanoelectromechanical transduction in cochlear outer-hair cell membranes; structural biology; modeling of evolution and immune system therapies; computational drug design based on inhibition of aberrant protein interactions; and investigations into methods in systems and synthetic biology that combine experimental and theoretical approaches from engineering and other disciplines to solve both fundamental and applied problems in the biosciences and medicine.

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Research areas include: advanced materials, nanotechnology, green chemistry, catalysis and reaction engineering, water clean-up catalysis, complex fluids and rheology of nanostructured liquids, colloids, microemulsions, systems biology, cell population dynamics, metabolic engineering, nutritional systems biology, stem cells, metabolic and transcriptional networks, synthetic biology, protein engineering, protein folding, microbial fermentation, chemicals and fuels from biomass, surface engineering, self-assembled monolayers, thermodynamics, petroleum chemistry, statistical mechanics, molecular simulation, interfacial phenomena, flow and transport in porous media, flow assurance, wetting phenomena, control and optimization, polymer design and synthesis, liquid crystals, polymer self-assembly.

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Research in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering includes environmental applications and implications of nanotechnology, hazardous waste treatment, and contaminated site remediation technologies. Also, investigation of structural mechanics and smart structures for applications in extreme conditions such as deep water, offshore technology, and earthquake engineering. There is strong emphasis on hydrology as it relates to flood prediction and groundwater remediation through contaminant transport modeling and advanced water treatment processes. Faculty are also actively involved in atmospheric monitoring programs, air pollution modeling studies and environmental policies designed to improve local air quality.

Computational and Applied Mathematics

Currently, the department’s faculty research interests lie in the areas of differential equations, inverse problems, scattering waves, mathematical modeling in the physical and biological sciences, numerical analysis, numerical solution of partial differential equations, optimal control, combinatorial and stochastic optimization, fast methods, iterative solvers and large scale computing. Current projects include signal recovery, compressed sensing, inverse wave propagation in elastic and inelastic materials, branch decompositions, iterative methods for linear systems and eigenvalue computations, model reduction, clique generalization, PDE constrained optimization, sparse optimization, numerical algorithms for multicore computing architectures, modeling of porous media and high order methods for the solution of partial differential equations.

Computer Science

Major research areas in computer science include artificial intelligence and robotics, bioinformatics, compilers, graphics and geometric design, networking and operating systems and parallel programming environments, programming languages and security, and verification. Faculty members collaborate with colleagues in biosciences, computational and applied mathematics, electrical and computer engineering, and statistics in several interdisciplinary research efforts. Current projects include algorithmic drug design, compilers for embedded applications, component-based software engineering, computer-aided design verification, high school computer education, wireless networking, multiprocessor cluster computing, machine virtualization, national computing grid, phylogenomics, and secure voting.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Electrical and Computer Engineering Electrical and Computer Engineering is a dynamic and broad discipline that uses principles in mathematics, physics, and chemistry to address the challenges in engineering materials, electronics, signals, and systems. The domain of applications, which is equally dynamic and broad, includes health, medicine, energy, computing, wireless communication, networks, environment, and security.

Computer engineering spans the spectrum of computing from low power personal devices to large-scale parallel information systems, networked computing that solves myriad technology challenges for computer-aided-design, computer architecture, and VLSI design. Future computing technologies include the on-chip integration of systems and networks that will move us beyond current methods in silicon.

The area of Photonics and Nanoengineering includes photonic and plasmonic materials, optical physics, materials for engineering, and the study of the interaction of light and matter, which are used to develop innovative devices and technologies. These innovations include optical nanosensor and nano-actuator development; imaging and image processing, including multispectral imaging and terahertz imaging; laser applications in remote sensing, especially for trace gas detection; and applications of nanoshells in biomedicine.

The Systems research area includes communications, control, networks and signal processing. The focus is on understanding how to analyze and restructure signals and applications in a wide-range of areas including digitalized imagery and video, pattern recognition and learning theory, sensor networks, and communication systems. Emergent applications include high-performance, scalable and widely deployed wireless Internet, and expanding "broadband" services for residences and public spaces.

Neuroengineering is a multidisciplinary field that fosters integration of advanced scientific and engineering approaches to the analysis and control of the nervous system in order to enhance and restore neuronal function. Within Rice ECE, specific areas of research interest include interfaces at the device, circuit, and systems levels; neural signal processing; and brain-computer interfaces. For example, our research includes both the study of the behavior of neural circuits using nano-fabricated devices in tandem with optical, genetic and electro-physiological techniques, and the study of the hippocampus, the region in the brain where spatial learning takes place and where memories are formed, stored, and used.

Materials Science and NanoEngineering

The research in the department covers many important aspects of Materials Science and the emerging Nanotechnology areas. Some notable areas in which faculty members from this department made important contributions include: scientific investigation and engineering of carbon nanotubes and other low dimensional materials such as graphene, boron nitrides, etc; nanomaterials for energy applications; development of multifunctional nanocomposites.

Mechanical Engineering

Some current areas of research include: Mechanics, computational mechanics, stochastic mechanics, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, dynamics and control, robotics, biomedical systems, and aerospace sciences.

Collaborative research with other departments and institutions includes the areas of computational methods and optimization, robotics, electronic materials, biomehanics and biomaterials.


Areas of current research interests in the statistics department include: Statistical computing and graphics, pattern recognition and massive data sets. Modern Bayesian methods, stochastic process modeling, complex dependence structures and data fusion. Survival analysis, extreme values, time series and spatial processes. Bioinformatics, biostatistics, statistical genetics, imaging, environmental statistics, quantitative risk management and finance.

Research Description By Engineering Research Center

Center for Computational Finance and Economic Systems

The Center for Computational Finance and Economic Systems is dedicated to the quantitative study of financial markets and their ultimate impact on society. By integrating the talents of economists, finance experts, computational scientists, engineers, and other disciplines, we will advance the boundaries of modeling and computational science in this important arena. Using a systems approach we seek to enhance academic disciplines, business operations, and economic policy.

Center for Multimedia Communication

The Center for Multimedia Communication (CMC) conducts basic theoretical and experimental research that leads the transformation of wireless communications and networking by bringing together expertise from computer networking, signal processing, optics, applied mathematics, computer engineering, VLSI, and mobile computing. Since 2004, CMC has established an at-scale deployed wireless network in collaboration with Houston non-profit Technology For All (TFA, see details at With the driving goal of a completely programmable and deployed operational network, CMC has also developed an open-source platform, which allows implementation of novel wireless network stacks. The platform, Wireless Open-Access Research Platform (WARP), is in use not only at Rice but also at over 100 academic and commercial research labs; see for more details. The WARP platform has been used to create the Rice Argos Massive MIMO testbed for 5th Generation (5G) wireless research; see for more details. The CMC Lab has prototyping capabilities for wireless sensors and embedded systems as well as a full suite of wireless test equipment and graphics processing unit (GPU) testbeds, see The CMC has been applying concepts from wireless communications, including sensor arrays, data detection, and energy harvesting, to healthcare applications in neuroscience and cardiology. Current activities and new initiatives in the center include wireless communication systems focusing on full duplex, cognitive radio; massive MIMO; and scalable mobile healthcare.

Earth Science Center for Computation

The Earth Science Center for Computation was established in 1998 to promote research in data and computationally intensive aspects of the Earth sciences, in response to the data tsunami from the wide-range of Earth observing systems and the ever-growing need for computation for data processing and imaging. The ESCC is one of a number of Rice centers affiliated with the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, a Rice institute to advance research in computing and information technology. The ESCC provides department level linux computing platforms and mass storage, and partners with Kennedy Institute members to develop proposals for large cluster computing systems.

Institute for Bioscience and Bioengineering

The Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering (IBB) - - fosters crossdisciplinary research and education programs encompassing the biological, chemical, and engineering disciplines. Today, 108 faculty members representing all of Rice's engineering and science departments work across departmental boundaries in areas where movement from basic science discovery to practical application occurs with amazing speed: protein-based blood substitutes, non-rejectable replacement materials for bone or organ transplants, synthetic cell fabrication, engineered tissues, heart and cancer diagnostic tools and treatments, nutritional formulations, and targeted drug delivery systems. With its relocation to the University's new BioScience Research Collaborative, specifically fostering collaborations with other institutions in the Texas Medical Center, IBB remains at the forefront of discoveries that hold extraordinary promise for practical applications to human health.

Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology

The Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology is dedicated to the advancement of research in the fields of computing, data science and information technology. Our goal is to provide broad support for a strong community of research experimentation that challenges traditional disciplinary limits. We see our most important role as being a catalyst for research collaboration across the conventional boundaries of school, department, center and laboratory. We work to encourage partnerships with industry, government and other universities to help solve real-world problems.

From our roots in Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computational and Applied Mathematics, and Statistics, we have grown to encompass faculty from all the schools at Rice spanning engineering, natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, business, architecture and music. The Ken Kennedy Institute is currently the virtual home of over 160 faculty members and senior researchers from across Rice University. Institute members receive most of their funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health. In addition to these funding sources, we work closely with members to develop funding opportunities and partnerships with industry and private foundations.

Laboratory for Nanophotonics

The Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP; is an educational and research resource with the mission to (1) advance our understanding of light manipulation and light-matter interactions at nanoscale dimensions, (2) to develop new functional materials, devices, components, and systems based on nanoscale manipulation of light, and (3) to advance and apply nanoscale photonics within the multidisciplinary fields of optical sciences and engineering.

Current active members of LANP include Prof. Naomi Halas, Prof. Peter Nordlander, Prof. Stephan Link, Prof. Jason Hafner and Prof. Isabell Thomann. Research funding for LANP is via DoD MURI and BRC awards in the areas of active plasmonics and line shape engineering. LANP also hosts a monthly poster/pizza session for everyone to share the latest research in an informal setting.

Rice Center for Engineering Leadership

The Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) seeks to develop Rice engineering students into effective leaders who blend technical expertise and an entrepreneurial spirit with fluent communication skills and professional and personal integrity to envision and deliver innovative solutions.

RCEL students are exposed to the fundamentals of engineering leadership theory and development, while practicing and honing their leadership skills in an engineering context. Challenging, innovative, and interactive exercises based on engineering leadership theories are used specifically to help students become better leaders. Students have the opportunity to lead other students, participate as a member of a team, and observe the practical application of leadership practices in an engineering team setting. Students get candid feedback about their performance as a leader and develop their unique “Engineering Leadership ” based on that feedback and the Rice Engineering Competencies Model
RCEL students are assigned leadership positions within the cohort, providing additional opportunities to lead their fellow students and projects. Importantly, the more senior RCEL students are key stakeholders, and assist in advancing the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, as well as assist with the planning, leading, and evaluating the success of weekly Engineering Leadership Labs during the academic semester.

Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity

The Richard Tapia Center for Excellence and Equity was established at Rice University in 1995 with a mission to recruit, engage, and sustain underrepresented groups in engineering and sciences and to support academic excellence and opportunity for all. The Center manages a wide variety of successful programs that provide mentoring, training, professional development, national conference participation, community building programs, and research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students. The Center also provides inspiration and support for K-12 students, teachers, and support staff with collaborative opportunities at Rice University including lectures, training, and advising. The Center’s "Math is Cool" video has been shown to students across the country to create an awareness and interest in the importance of math in all of our lives. The Center regularly hosts webinars, faculty workshops, a series of invited speakers, and other guests throughout the year to bring visibility to the successes of minority and women scholars in STEM. The Center led the National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Broadening Participation in Computing program, "Empowering Leadership: Computing Scholars for Tomorrow," which includes hundreds of members and dozens of partner institutions including national laboratories, research centers, corporations, and other universities. At present, the Center manages the Empowering Leadership Alliance and XSEDE Scholars Program and is a partner in the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS).

Severe Storm Prediction Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center

The Center organizes leading universities, researchers, emergency managers, and private and public entities to better address severe storm impacts and mitigation strategies in the Gulf Coast area. The center focuses on (1) severe storm and hurricane research and storm surge prediction, (2) radar-based rainfall and flood warning systems for urban and coastal areas, (3) state-of-the-art educational programs for workforce training and public awareness, (4) infrastructure risk assessment, (5) evacuation plans linked to the best warning and transportation systems, and (6) societal needs and impacts. One of the main goals is to improve lead-time and accuracy of prediction and to deliver the information in real time to emergency managers for improved evacuations or sheltering in place.

The SSPEED Center will create synergism between various experts in both universities and private and public sectors, and will educate students in disaster prediction and management areas where there is a shortage of professionals. The Center is currently proposing the construction of a gate system at the mouth of the Ship Channel near Hartman Bridge. This major structural alternative could have the highest cost-benefit ratio of all of the mitigation proposals. The low-lying coastal wetlands and prairies of the upper Texas coast provide enormous storage capacity for storm surge. Protecting these areas from unsustainable development will help to protect the greater populated region. The Center is proposing to designate a recreation, conservation, and economic development area. Researchers at the Center are developing protection strategies for Galveston Island using sophisticated modeling to represent various levee scenarios. In addition, the Center is also working to design extensive flood alert systems in coastal communities along bayous west of Galveston Bay. A pilot study is being conducted in the Clear Lake area, which is one of the most populated and vulnerable communities along the coast and home to the Johnson Space Center.

The SSPEED Center was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2007. We have received generous funding from the Houston Endowment, Inc., through 2014 to study the effects of Hurricane Ike that hit the Texas Gulf Coast in September 2008.

Smalley-Curl Institute

Rice University has merged two of its multidisciplinary research institutes, the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Rice Quantum Institute, to form a new entity, the Smalley-Curl Institute (SCI). The new Institute will be the home of the Applied Physics Graduate Program and of several endowed postdoctoral research fellowships, will establish strong industrial collaborations, and will foster new educational and outreach programs. It will assist its members in forging new, cross-cutting and interdisciplinary research areas, and in seeking new means of supporting their work. Research in SCI encompasses advanced materials, quantum magnetism, plasmonics and photonics, biophysics and bioengineering, ultracold atom physics, condensed matter and chemical physics, and all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology.