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In the year of our 35th anniversary as a school, the George R.

Brown
School of Engineering at Rice continues to grow in size as we move
into our newest building, the Biosciences Research Collaborative.
This beautiful building takes us to a new level of commitment to
health, wellness and medicine in collaboration with our partners in
the Texas Medical Center. We continue to get stronger, too, through
the efforts of our outstanding faculty, students and staff, as we
welcome six new faculty members this year.

Our research profile continues to expand, and we congratulate our


faculty and researchers on new funding through the MURI and
DARPA programs. This funding significantly increases our already
sizeable portfolio of research in support of national security. Critical to
our research enterprise is an increase in the number of our graduate
population; this year we welcome a greater number of graduate
students than ever before.

We are celebrating the first year of operation of the Oshman


Engineering Design Kitchen by recognizing the ingenuity and hard
work of our students, especially those whose teams won national
awards for their designs. We applaud the team of Rice students
that has worked so hard on its beautiful entry in the DOE’s Solar
Decathlon and we wish them the best of luck in the competition.

We are seeing a tremendous interest in engineering from our


undergraduates, as 1/3 of Rice’s class of 2013 has entered as
engineers. These students will benefit from a greater emphasis on
leadership, design and communication throughout the engineering
curriculum, spearheaded by the Rice Center for Engineering
Leadership, which we are launching this fall.

With the growth in the undergraduate program, we have a


15 percent increase in international students, a development that
bodes well for our goal of increasing international engineering
experiences for our students. We believe that more exposure
to students from other cultures will feed our American students’
interest in studying, working, or doing research abroad.

As the economy has contracted and more people return to school


to improve their viability in the job market, we have seen a 67%
increase in the number of professional master’s students this
fall. Through this program, we are working to help meet National
Academy of Engineering goals for graduating more engineers with
five years of schooling.

In citing each of these landmarks for the school, I would like to


honor the dedication and contributions of the previous Deans of
Engineering, as their vision and guidance have been instrumental in
bringing us these years of continued success.

Sallie Ann Keller


William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering
2 New faculty

4 Center for Leadership: The game changer

5 Paving the way to optimization research

6 BRC: The school of engineering expands into new territory

8 A summer of encouraging engineering

10 DSP, nanotech drive MURI success

11 $16M in DARPA funding picks up the PACE

12 Rice refines biofuels research

14 Jim Thompson: It’s all in the data

15 Wireless at WARP speed

16 VIGRE reshapes the future of math research

17 Design spotlight

25 Awards

36 Alumni

Mechanical Engineering Building, the first engineering building at Rice.

CONTENT
John T. McDevitt joins the Rice faculty as the
Brown-Wiess Professor of Bioengineering and
Chemistry, coming from the University of Texas at
Austin. There, he led a large research group that
published more than 160 peer-reviewed papers
and secured 100-plus patents/patent applications,
one of largest patent portfolios in UT history.
n e w fa cu lty
McDevitt focuses on the development of
micro-medical devices fabricated with the same
methods used to make integrated circuits. They
show the potential to reduce health care costs John McDevitt
while improving treatments for cancer, stroke,
heart and neurological disease patients. His McDevitt is from the Silicon Valley area. He earned
group’s nano-biochip work earned the Science a chemistry doctorate from Stanford in 1987 and
Coalition’s Best Scientific Advances award and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from
Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New Award” California Polytechnic State University at San Luis
last year. He is a founder of Labnow, which targets Obispo in 1982. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at
release of HIV immune tests in poor nations. the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The idea was inspired by nature and the behavior


of bees and ants in performing individual tasks to
collectively contribute to group goals.

McLurkin has addressed audiences at


companies and universities, including the
Smithsonian Museum, Harvard University,
Infosys, IBM and Honda. In 2003, he was
recognized by Time Magazine as one of the
James McLurkin nation’s five leading robotics engineers. That
year, Black Enterprise magazine also ranked him
James McLurkin joins Rice as an assistant as among the “Best and Brightest” under 40
professor in the Department of Computer Science years of age.
from a role as a research associate at the
University of Washington in Seattle. A New York native, he received an
undergraduate degree in electrical engineering
His research interest is in developing distributed with a minor in mechanical engineering from MIT
algorithms for multi-robot systems, with a focus in 1995. He earned a master’s degree in
on both algorithm and systems design. During electrical engineering from the University of
five years as a lead research scientist at iRobot, California, Berkeley in 1999 and received a
he developed software for large swarms of master’s degree in 2003 and a doctorate in
autonomous robots called SwarmBots. computer science from MIT last year.

Deepak Nagrath joins Rice as an assistant professor


in the department of Chemical and Biomolecular
Engineering after serving as a research associate
in the Department of Surgery at Massachusetts
General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Nagrath’s research interests lie in the application


of systems-biology approaches to human
diseases. He uses transcriptional and metabolic Deepak Nagrath
design principles to analyze healthy and diseased
biological states. His research focuses on various
diseases such as metabolic syndrome, cancer, and Nagrath earned a doctorate in chemical
diabetes, and potential treatments using metabolic engineering and a master’s degree in applied
supplementation and embryonic stem cells. Nagrath mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic
uses engineering principles such as multi-objective Institute in Troy, New York in 2003. He received
optimality and non-equilibrium thermodynamics for a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from
analyzing complex disease states. the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorke, India.

2 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Her research interests are computational modeling
of molecular and cellular response to hypoxia,
cerebrovascular systems biology, engineering of
specialized blood vessels, design and computational
testing of microvascular therapies, and the integra-
tion of multiscale models.

Qutub, who is from Hoffman Estates, Illinois, spent


a year as vice president for administration and
director of corporate partnerships for the Founda-
tion for International Medical Relief of Children in
Amina Qutub Washington, D.C. She also founded a company, B3io,
Inc. in Berkeley, to provide tissue and membrane
Amina Ann Qutub comes to Rice as an simulation tools for the pharmaceutical industry.
assistant professor of bioengineering from
the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins A Rice graduate, she received a bachelor’s degree
University in Baltimore where she was a in chemical engineering in 1999. She earned a
postdoctoral fellow in the Department of doctorate in bioengineering from the University of
Biomedical Engineering. California, Berkeley and San Francisco in 2004.

Ilinca Stanciulescu joins Rice as an assistant


professor in the Department of Civil and
Environmental Engineering after serving
in a similar post at the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign.

Her research interests are in computational


mechanics (non-linear finite elements),
constitutive modelling of materials,
structural analysis, and non-linear dynamics.
She has co-authored a textbook, Ilinca Stanciulescu
“Post-Elastic Analysis of Structures.”

Stanciulescu, who is from Bucharest, She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering


Romania, previously served as a junior in 1995 and a master’s degree in science in
lecturer in the Department of Strength of 1996 from the TUCE. She received a bachelor’s
Materials of the Technical University of Civil degree in applied mathematics from Bucharest
Engineering (TUCE.) in Bucharest. She also University in 2000 and earned her doctorate in civil
worked as a structural design engineer for engineering at Duke University in 2005. She was
two different companies. also a post-doctoral research associate at Duke.

Most recently, Verduzco was a postdoctoral


scholar in the Center for Nanophase Materials
Sciences at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory
n e w fa cu lt y

in Tennessee, where he studied bent-core


liquid crystals, water-soluble dendrimers
for drug delivery, and conjugated olymeric
materials for organic electronics. This
work relies heavily on polymer synthesis,
Rafael Verduzco neutron and x-ray scattering, and surface
characterization tools.

Rafael Verduzco joins Rice as Verduzco is from Sugar Land, Texas. He


an assistant professor in the attended Rice, earning a bachelor’s degree
Department of Chemical and in chemical engineering in 2001. He earned
Biomolecular Engineering in a a master’s degree in 2003 and doctorate
chair endowed by the Louis and in chemical engineering in 2007 from the
Peaches Owen Foundation. California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 3


The game changer
Major gift launches leadership center

With the establishment of the Rice Center for Engineering


Leadership, the George R. Brown School of Engineering is
poised to help transform engineering education. Computational and Applied Mathematics
Professor Mark Embree will serve as the center’s
The center’s mission will be to ensure that students
interim director while a nationwide search is
experience engineering as a transformative force on both
a personal and societal level, said Sallie Ann Keller, the conducted to find a permanent director.
William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at Rice.

“We want engineering students to start thinking about and School leaders say the center and its activities will make
working on solutions to the problems facing society, from the study of engineering even more attractive and will likely
their first day to their final semester,” Keller said. “And we spawn an increased number of students entering engineering
intend to be a beacon for other universities by thinking far disciplines at Rice. The center also will help foster greater
outside the norm and emphasizing communication, ethics agility in developing new science, technology, engineering
and leadership throughout the curriculum to revolutionize and mathematics programs supported by Rice resources and
engineering education.” external grants.

The center is being made possible through a Rice The center will invite leading national and international figures to
Centennial Campaign gift of $15 million from longtime speak at Rice and expose students to critically important issues,
benefactors and engineering school alumni John and Associate Dean Bart Sinclair said. He added that the activities of
Ann Doerr. John Doerr ’73 is a well-known venture the center will get students excited about engineering as a field
capitalist and Ann Doerr ’75 is a longtime advocate for the of study that prepares them for leadership roles in addressing
environment. A matching component of the donation could those issues.
bring an additional $10 million to the center.
Plans also call for the center to coordinate interdisciplinary
“We are grateful for this extraordinary gift, which is courses offered throughout the school of engineering. The state-
generous not only in amount but in vision,” said Rice of-the-art Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen will fall under the
President David Leebron of the Doerr’s philanthropy. center’s organizational domain, as will additional programs in
“There is no limit to what talented and imaginative professional communications for engineers, Sinclair said.
engineers will be able to achieve, and the education this
gift makes possible will enable Rice to produce some of Computational and Applied Mathematics Professor Mark
the great engineers who will help solve the big challenges Embree will serve as the center’s interim director while a
facing our world.” nationwide search is conducted to find a permanent director.
“I’m grateful to Mark for providing his energy and vision to get
The Doerrs are passionate about the need for a focus on the Leadership Center started. This allows us to get its activities
engineering leadership to help prepare future engineers underway while looking for a permanent director who will help
to take on roles in solving pressing global problems. Ann us change the game in engineering education,” Keller said.
Doerr will serve on the center’s external advisory board to
help shape its goals. “We are looking for a director who is committed to achieving a
more diverse study body, increasing the number of industrial
partners, and fostering national and international collaborations
with other institutions—someone who has the determination
and character to lead us in developing future engineers who will
truly change the world.”

4 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Wotao Yin’s professional life is centered on optimization,
the field in applied mathematics that modifies complex
software systems to make them work more efficiently with “Let’s take the example of medical applications,” Yin
fewer resources. explained. “If we could reduce the amount of time it
takes to perform an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
“The idea,” the assistant professor in the Department examination from, say, 1 hour to 10 minutes, patients who
of Computational and Applied Mathematics said, “is to are very ill or children who couldn’t remain still could more
develop ways to allow computer programs to work better easily be examined.”
and faster while at the same time using less memory
storage or power.” At the same time, the machines would become more
efficient and could be better utilized, driving down the cost
Yin’s research involves developing more efficient algorithms of exams while making them more accessible for treating
for “compressed sensing” of data, or using less sensing a wider range of conditions and a larger number of patients.
effort to achieve equal or better results. The area has
important applications for technological improvements in Yin’s optimization work doesn’t end there, but also has
fields such as medical imaging, computer vision, machine major national defense implications. He is part of the Rice-
learning and satellite imaging, among others, he said. led team that recently won $6.3 million in funding from the
U.S. Army Research Office’s Multidisciplinary University
Research Initiative (MURI) for work on new techniques in
opportunistic sensing. The six-institution project is led by
Rice’s Richard Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor
Paving the way in optimization research in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The research could have a direct impact on the design


of future military ground and aerial surveillance systems,
allowing them to become more powerful, reliable and
better able to distinguish friend from foe on remote,
mountainous battlefields like those in Afghanistan, where
U.S. forces are now fighting.

“Better images equal better intelligence for commanders,”


said Yin, enabling them to make decisions that would
improve war-fighting capabilities while saving the lives of
vulnerable troops.

Yin came to Rice in 2006 from New York, after earning dual
master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in operations research from
Columbia University. As a student, he also worked as an
optimization researcher in medical imaging and computer
vision for Siemens Corporate Research in Princeton, New
Jersey. Seimens’ research goes into imaging products for
a number of medical uses, including oncology, cardiology,
radiology, neurology and interventional medicine.

Yin lauds the work environment within the George R.


Brown School of Engineering at Rice, where he teaches
introductory courses in computational engineering and
linear/integer programming, and a course on convex
optimization.

“There’s a very good level of cooperation between various


disciplines and researchers. This allows us to recruit
top students who can learn and contribute in the many
research projects we have under way,” he said.

Yin is leading additional research using funding from


a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the
Office of Naval Research and the Sloan Foundation.
“[At Rice] there’s a very good level of cooperation He is also involved in the Rice-Houston Alliance for
between various disciplines and researchers.” Graduate Education and the Professoriate program,
which encourages the education of women and minority
—Wotao Yin graduate students in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics. The native of China received a bachelor’s
degree in mathematics from Nanjing University in 2001.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 5


Rice University is taking its long history of
collaboration with the Texas Medical Center
institutions to a new level with the opening of
the Bioscience Research Collaborative (BRC). The
university’s vision is for the BRC to become the hub of
collaborative research for science and engineering in
the world’s largest medical complex. Plans also call for a high-tech visualization center
to be added, as well as an entire floor dedicated
“We believe that this building and the collaborative to biomedical informatics research. The
work that it will foster between Rice and other building features a green roof and three levels
institutions of the TMC will provide a new impetus to of underground parking, and meets Leadership
the leadership in the medical research of the Texas in Energy and Environmental Design standards
Medical Center,” said Rice President David Leebron. developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Rice’s Department of Bioengineering, as well as “The BRC will be at the heart of many of the
faculty and researchers from the chemistry and current and future collaborative projects between
biochemistry and cell biology departments, is moving Rice faculty and TMC researchers,” said Sallie
into the building. Ann Keller, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of
the George R. Brown School of Engineering.
The 477,000-square-foot, 10-story BRC was designed “Its presence offers exciting prospects for
with inter-institutional research in mind and houses biomedical innovation.”
laboratories, offices and classrooms. The building
features a 280-seat auditorium and a 100-seat In July, Texas Children’s Hospital became the first
seminar room, along with 10,000 square feet of retail non-Rice institution to lease space in the BRC and
space for a restaurant and shops to serve occupants. talks with several other TMC institutions about
Architects designed the building with room to grow, leasing space are under way.
and eventually a second research tower could be built
adding up to 150,000 square feet of space. The firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP
provided architecture for the building. The
Linbeck Group, a national firm with operations in
Houston, was general contractor.

6 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


ex p ands
The school of engineering

i nto new terri tory

“We believe that this building and the collaborative work


that it will foster between Rice and other institutions of the
TMC will provide a new impetus to the leadership in the
medical research of the Texas Medical Center.”
—Rice President David Leebron

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 7


Exploring statistics
For the seventh summer, Javier Rojo, professor of statistics,
organized the Rice University Summer Institute of Statistics
(RUSIS). The program brings undergraduates from around the
country to campus for 10 weeks for an intensive introduction to
the possibilities of a career in statistics.

“As part of exposing students to careers in statistics, we take


them to places like NASA and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,
where they meet statisticians who describe what they do,” said
Rojo, whose summer program brought 17 students to Rice.

Bioinformatics is among the fields with a growing need for


statisticians, said Rojo. The program is supported by the National
Science Foundation and the National Security Agency.

A summer of encouraging engineering


Although most students leave campus for the summer, Rice University remains a very busy place.

Mentoring students in the lab


Another summer program at Rice is aimed at students
from predominantly Hispanic South Texas magnet
schools and others from inner-city Houston high
schools. Managed by the Institute of Biosciences and
Bioengineering (IBB), the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute (HHMI) and Hamill Foundation-funded program
allows students to participate in bioengineering research.
Jennifer West, department chair and Isabel C. Cameron
Professor of Bioengineering at Rice, is the HHMI
professor leading this initiative.

The program uses a mentorship teaching model in


which graduate students and post docs are paired
with high school students in campus labs. Thirty-two
high school students participated, including pupils
from the Science Academy of South Texas, Milby High
School, YES College Preparatory School and Harmony
Science Academy. Tours of Texas Medical Center labs
were also arranged, and students attended scientific
demonstrations.

8 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Thinking about math in new ways
Summer Math Days brought 20 high school students from the Houston
Independent School District to campus for three days of looking at math differently.

“The idea,” said Béatrice Rivière, associate professor of computational and applied
mathematics (CAAM), “is to introduce students to a variety of interesting topics
in mathematics, like mathematics in art, mathematics in car racing, mathematical
modeling in biology, mathematical analysis, parallel computing, knots and toys.”

Faculty members and graduate students from CAAM and the Department of
Mathematics gave lectures and conducted workshops. Ahmad Qamar, a junior
from Debakey High School, said:

“Some of the presentations were mind-bogglingly amazing, like soap bubbles.


The message we got is that math is a way of thinking rather than simply a dry or
rote subject matter.”

Easing into engineering


The Engineering Summer Bridge Program was established to help incoming
freshmen transition smoothly into the university environment, said Carolyn
Nichol, the program’s organizational director and associate director of
education for the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology.
Thirteen students participated in the six-week pilot program.

“There were two parts to the program – Engineering 101, which is an


introduction to chemistry, physics and calculus, and Engineering 102, which is
an open-ended design experience,” Nichol said.

Eight of the students in the program were scholarship athletes, and the
others were from the greater Houston area. Several faculty members and a
high school teacher conducted the classes, which included the design of a
prosthetic arm using Lego’s Mindstorm.

Training teachers
At the same time, 12 high-school teachers worked
in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen for two
weeks, designing and building prosthetic hands as part
of the Rice Engineering Design Experience (REDE). The
goal of the workshop was to give teachers the skills
to motivate students and encourage them to pursue
studies in engineering.

Rice and the Southeast Texas Regional STEM Center


organized the workshop as a response to Texas’
recently enacted “four-by-four” program that requires
students to take four courses in math and four in the
sciences to graduate from high school.

“The usual science courses—biology, chemistry


and physics—account for three years,” said James
Young, director of REDE and professor of electrical
and computer engineering. “The fourth has to be
experimental or experiential in nature, and one of
the five approved courses is engineering design and
problem solving. Very few high school teachers are
prepared to teach engineering design.”

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 9


Rice showed its strength as a research university recently
when it won more than $9 million in research grants from
the Department of Defense, or about 3.5 percent of the total
funding awarded under the department’s Multidisciplinary
University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

Rice is the lead institution on one MURI project and a


member institution on two others. The MURI wins come in
areas where the university has notable research strengths:
digital signal processing, computation, nanotechnology,
quantum magnetism and high-temperature superconductivity.

Rice is the lead institution on a $6.3 million MURI project


that aims to build upon advances in sensor design, signal
processing, communications and robotics by developing new
techniques for “opportunistic sensing.” The project, which is
funded by the Army Research Office, is expected to directly
impact the design of future ground and aerial surveillance
systems, making them more powerful, more reliable and
better able to distinguish friend from foe.

The principal investigator on the project is Richard Baraniuk,


the Victor E. Cameron Professor in Electrical and Computer
Engineering. Co-principal investigators at Rice are Lydia
Kavraki, the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science
and professor of bioengineering; Wotao Yin, assistant
professor of computational and applied mathematics; and
Volkan Cevher, research scientist in electrical and computer
engineering. Member institutions are the University of
Maryland, College Park, the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign, Yale University, Duke University and the
University of California, Los Angeles.

DSP, nanotech drive MURI success


Leading a Rice team on one of two other MURI projects
is Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood
Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials
Science. He will lead Rice’s $2.2 million effort to forge new
techniques for creating graphene nanodevices. The University
of California, Berkeley is the lead institution for the project,
which is funded by the Office of Naval Research.

Rice’s co-principal investigators include James Tour, the


Chao Professor of Chemistry and professor of mechanical
engineering and materials science and of computer science,
and Boris Yakobson, professor in mechanical engineering and
materials science and of chemistry.

Emilia Morosan, assistant professor of physics and astronomy,


is leading Rice’s $1 million effort to create new and better
high-temperature superconductors. The project is sponsored
by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and led by
Stanford University.

All MURI award amounts are subject to negotiation between


the academic institutions and the Department of Defense
research offices making the awards. The five-year grants
resulted from a highly competitive program in which the
department received more than 150 proposals.

10 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


$16M in DARPA funding picks up PACE
With $16 million in funding from DARPA, Rice’s compiler “dream
team” is developing a new set of tools to improve the performance
of virtually any application running on any microprocessor. The “Our goal is to enable PACE tools to be used
funding is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s
Architecture Aware Compiler Environment Program. as a substitute for the time-consuming human
The PACE project—short for “platform-aware compilation
expertise that is currently needed to improve
environment”—centers on ubiquitous computer programs called the quality of compilers for any given platform.”
compilers. All microprocessors—not just those in PCs but also the
ones powering cell phones, game systems, cars and electronic —Vivek Sarkar
toys—have their own compilers to translate human-written computer
applications into the binary 1s and 0s that a processor can execute.

“To use a new computer system effectively, an applications Krishna Palem, Rice’s Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of
programmer needs a high-quality compiler, one that can translate Computer Science, said, “It is a rare treat to be working with this
the application in a way that achieves a reasonable fraction of the ‘dream team’ and continue Rice’s rich tradition in compiler research.
available performance,” said Keith Cooper, the John and Ann Doerr PACE involves many innovations using radical ideas intended to
Professor in Computational Engineering and a principal investigator allow compilers to learn and adapt, much as humans do during
on the PACE project. “Unfortunately, it typically takes about five infancy.”
years to develop a high-quality compiler for a new computer system,
and because that’s longer than the effective life cycle of most The PACE “dream team” includes researchers from Rice, Texas
microprocessors, we rarely see a case where applications make good Instruments, ET International, Ohio State University and Stanford
use of a processor’s resources.” University. Rice’s team consists of five pre-eminent compiler
researchers: Keith Cooper, John Mellor-Crummey, Krishna Palem,
The variety of microprocessors only adds to the problem. Most Vivek Sarkar and Linda Torczon.
electronic devices have a specialized “embedded” microprocessor.
New personal computers and laptops typically contain two or more Vivek Sarkar, Rice’s E.D. Butcher Chair in Engineering and professor
general-purpose processors on a “multicore” chip from Intel or AMD, of computer science, likened PACE’s challenge to the famous
as well as a high-performance graphics processor, a sound card test computer scientist Alan Turing posed in 1950: A computer
processor and other specialized processors. Sony’s PlayStation 3 could only be said to be truly intelligent if its actions were
game system has an IBM Cell Broadband Engine that contains one indistinguishable from a human’s.
general-purpose microprocessor and eight specialized processors.
“This is akin to a Turing Test for compilers,” Sarkar said. “Our goal
Cooper said the military’s interest in funding PACE stems from its is to enable PACE tools to be used as a substitute for the time-
heavy reliance on computing, ranging from supercomputers for global consuming human expertise that is currently needed to improve
weather forecasts to portable devices used by infantry. the quality of compilers for any given platform.”

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 11


Rice refines
ramon GONZALEZ

“With fundamental research, we have identified the pathways


and mechanisms that mediate glycerol fermentation in E. coli,”
Gonzalez said. “This knowledge base is enabling our efforts to
develop new technologies for converting glycerol into high-
value chemicals.”
Turning biofuels production waste into profit Gonzalez said scientists previously believed that the only
organisms that could ferment glycerol were those capable
In a move that promises to change the economics of biodiesel of producing a chemical called 1,3-propanediol, also known
refining, chemical engineers at Rice have developed a set of as 1,3-PDO. Unfortunately, neither the bacterium E. coli nor
techniques for cleanly converting problematic biofuels waste into the yeast Saccharomyces—the two workhorse organisms of
chemicals that fetch a profit. biotechnology—were able to produce 1,3-PDO.

The latest research has yielded a fermentation process that allows E. Gonzalez’s research revealed a previously unknown metabolic
coli and other enteric bacteria to convert glycerin—the major waste pathway for glycerol fermentation, a pathway that uses 1,2-PDO,
byproduct of biodiesel production—into formate, succinate and a chemical similar to 1,3-PDO, that E. coli can produce.
other valuable organic acids.
“The reason this probably hadn’t been discovered before is that
“Biodiesel producers used to sell their leftover glycerin, but the rapid E. coli requires a particular set of fermentation conditions for
increase in biodiesel production has left them paying to get rid of this pathway to be activated,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t easy to
it,” said lead researcher Ramon Gonzalez, the William W. Akers zero in on these conditions, so it wasn’t the sort of process that
Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. someone would stumble upon by accident.”
“The new metabolic pathways we have uncovered paved the way
for the development of new technologies for converting this waste Once the new metabolic pathways were identified, Gonzalez’s
product into high-value chemicals.” team began using metabolic engineering to design new
versions of E. coli that could produce a range of high-value
About one pound of glycerin, also known as glycerol, is created products. For example, while run-of-the-mill E. coli ferments
for every 10 pounds of biodiesel produced. According to the glycerol to produce very little succinate, Gonzalez’s team has
National Biodiesel Board, U.S. companies produced about 450 created a new version of the bacterium that produces up to 100
million gallons of biodiesel in 2007, and about 60 new plants with a times more. Succinate is a high-demand chemical feedstock
production capacity of 1.2 billion gallons are slated to open by 2010. that’s used to make everything from noncorrosive airport
deicers and nontoxic solvents to plastics, drugs and food
In 2007, Gonzalez’s team announced a new method of glycerol additives. Most succinate today comes from nonrenewable
fermentation that used E. coli to produce ethanol, another biofuel. fossil fuels.
Even though the process was very efficient, with operational costs
estimated to be about 40 percent less than those of producing “Our goal goes beyond using this for a single process,” Gonzalez
ethanol from corn, Gonzalez said new fermentation technologies said. “We want to use the technology as a platform for the
that produce high-value chemicals like succinate and formate hold ‘green’ production of a whole range of high-value products.”
even more promise for biodiesel refiners because those chemicals
are more profitable than ethanol. Technologies based on Gonzalez’s work have been licensed
to Glycos Biotechnologies Inc., a Houston-based startup
company. The research was supported by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, Rice University
and Glycos Biotechnologies.

12 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


biofuels research
pedro ALVAREZ

Will biofuels lead to a ‘drink or drive’ choice?

Rice University scientists warn that the


United States must be careful that the new emphasis on
developing biofuels as an alternative to imported oil takes into
account potential damage to the nation’s water resources.

“The ongoing, rapid growth in biofuels production could have far-


reaching environmental and economic repercussions, and it will
likely highlight the interdependence and growing tension between
energy and water security,” said a report titled “The Water
Footprint of Biofuels: A Drink or Drive Issue?”
The debate over biofuels must also “recognize the impact
The report, written by Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown of increased agricultural activity on water quality as well as
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and three water consumption,” the authors said. Raising biofuel crops
colleagues was funded by Rice University’s Shell Center in some areas will require greater use of fertilizers, with the
for Sustainability. runoff affecting local aquifers and even coastal regions like
the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, it warned.
The researchers asked if increased biofuel-driven agriculture
will affect water-resource availability and degrade water quality. The report acknowledged that some biofuel sources, like
They pointed out that fuel crops require large quantities of water switchgrass and other lignocellulosic options, can “deliver
and that water pollution is exacerbated by agricultural drainage more potential biofuel energy with lower requirements for
containing fertilizers, pesticides and sediment. agricultural land, agrichemicals and water.” Accordingly,
the authors urged that crops be chosen based on their
“These potential drawbacks,” which the authors labeled the “water appropriateness to the local climate and that producers raise
footprint,” must be “balanced by biofuels’ significant potential to crops that can be sustained by rainfall rather than irrigation.
ease dependence on foreign oil and improve trade balance while
mitigating air pollution and reducing fossil carbon emissions The report called on policymakers to evaluate the water
to the atmosphere.” footprint as they devise an environmentally sustainable
biofuels program. “Through energy conservation and careful
The report analyzed the amount of water needed to grow planning that includes adoption of agricultural practices and
particular crops used to produce biofuels and noted that certain crop choices that reduce water consumption and mitigate
crops yield more biofuel energy while using less land, fertilizer water pollution from agrichemicals, and identification of the
and water. “Thus, from a water supply perspective,” the authors local and regional water resources that will be needed to
said, “the ideal fuel crops would be drought-tolerant, high-yield meet the biofuel mandate,” the authors said, “we can have
plants grown on little irrigation water.” our drive and drink our water too.”

To demonstrate their point, the authors estimated it takes about The report was supported by a fellowship from the
50 gallons of water to produce enough irrigated-corn ethanol Baker Institute Energy Forum and by the Shell Center for
in Nebraska to fuel an average car for one mile. Given differing Sustainability at Rice University. It is available at http://
land use practices and other factors, that number decreases to 23 cohesion.rice.edu/centersandinst/shellcenter/research.
gallons for Iowa-grown corn and rises to 115 gallons for cfm?doc_id=11975. Alvarez’s co-authors were Susan Powers,
Texas-grown sorghum. professor of civil and environmental engineering at Clarkson
University; Joel Burken, professor of civil, architectural and
environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science
and Technology; and Rosa Dominguez-Faus, a graduate
student at Rice. Amy Myers Jaffe, the Wallace S. Wilson
Fellow in Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute,
also contributed to the report.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 13


“Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the U.S. Federal
Reserve) was very angry when Warren Buffett called
derivatives ‘economic weapons of mass destruction.’
Greenspan thought that options were terrific. I think
that’s been proved to be wrong,” said Thompson.

Greenspan was mistaken, he said, in organizing the


$3.5 billion bailout of the failed Long-Term Capital

It’s all in the data Management in 1998, a hedge fund that had both Robert
Merton, a Harvard professor, and Myron Scholes of
Stanford listed as advisers. The similar collapse of Enron
a few years later “was too large for even Chairman
Greenspan to make disappear,” Thompson and his
There’s no sweet vindication in the nation’s current economic straits colleagues wrote in “Nobels for Nonsense.”
for James Thompson, who could be justified in saying, “I told you so.”
But there are lessons to be learned, especially for those who intend to The flaws of Black-Scholes-Merton, they wrote in another
invest in a bear market. article, “gave encouragement to accounting firms to do
bizarre things,” and government pressure on lending
Thompson has been a chief critic of the efficient market hypothesis institutions to increase home ownership by selling
(EMH) for decades, and he blames money managers’ religious subprime mortgages “to persons who had no reasonable
adherence to the theory—which he said is taught as gospel at business hope of sustaining them” exacerbated the problem.
schools—for many of the nation’s troubles.
None of the efficiency theories stands up to analysis
EMH is the concept that stock markets assimilate new information of the long-term historical data, said Thompson, who
quickly enough that the current trading price of a security tends to be an teaches that very kind of analysis to Rice students who
accurate reflection of its real value. Such a self-correcting mechanism will not necessarily become financial wizards but instead
should make it difficult for investors to beat the market, but Thompson plan careers in physics, engineering, chemistry and other
and other nonbelievers said EMH ignores the kind of deep research, professions.
including computational, that can help investors make real gains. It
also allows the kind of folly that, as Thompson wrote several years ago, “A lot of people who get their degrees in theoretical
“frequently required government interventions of great complexity.” physics are smart enough to think they’re never going to
make a living that way,” said Thompson, noting students
“This business we’re in right now was eminently avoidable,” said last
Thompson, who doesn’t hesitate to let his curmudgeonly side out when spring routinely made up to 15 percent gains in their
talking about the economy. His work in statistics over nearly 40 years experimental portfolios.
at Rice has addressed subjec ts ranging from corporate process control
to cancer and AIDS research. Thompson said the financial pressures of “We’re trying to teach something different from the
running two wars has made the current crisis particularly acute. classical finance course taught in business schools. We’re
trying to let the data speak to us and to form our models
“I really think that’s what got us. In the fullness of time, the price of from the data, as opposed to saying, ‘This is our model,
housing—which is cyclical—would have gone back up. The values and the data had better conform to it,’” he said.
would have largely been recaptured,” he said. “But the $3 trillion
cost of the war is an enormous hit. It’s like a surcharge on the federal “This is essentially a portfolio design course, and it just
government of 15 percent a year.” takes long positions. That is to say, it just buys and sells
stocks. It doesn’t short stocks or any of those nice, round,
Thompson and several colleagues loosed a particularly vitriolic attack in jolly games that people like to do.”
2006 with the publication of a paper titled “Nobels for Nonsense” in the
Journal of Keynesian Economics, which laid blame for the derivatives Thompson said vindication will come when his kind of
collapse on the Black-Scholes-Merton option-pricing model—“the course is taught in finance departments and business
granddaddy of all the derivative formulas”—that won a Nobel Prize for schools. “It’s nice to know what the truth is, but it’s even
its authors in 1997. better if you’re able to share it.”

14 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Wireless at WARP speed
Nothing kills innovation like reinventing the wheel. Until several Making WARP a reality wasn’t easy. Students and staffers from
years ago, electronics researchers testing new high-speed the research groups of Sabharwal and CMC faculty members
wireless technologies had to build every test system from scratch. Ed Knightly, Lin Zhong, Joseph Cavallaro and Behnaam Aazhang
designed the WARP hardware and built the back-end systems,
“It was incredibly frustrating,” said Ashutosh Sabharwal, director tools and software that allow various components of WARP to
of Rice University’s Center for Multimedia Communication (CMC). work together.
CMC set out to change that in 2006 by creating a turnkey, open-
source platform. CMC was able get a version of WARP ready to release to the
research community within a year of its initial NSF funding. After
In two years, the platform—dubbed WARP—has attracted the early success, Sabharwal spent months seeking a company to
attention of Nokia, MIT, Toyota, NASA and Ericsson, and already it manufacture WARP boards.
has been used to test everything from low-cost wireless Internet
in rural India to “unwired” spacecraft. “Our philosophy from the beginning had been to drive the cost
lower and lower, to sell the boards for as little as possible in
Sabharwal, the lead investigator on the federally funded WARP order to get them out there,” Sabharwal said. “Everyone we
project, said he and his CMC colleagues were among the lucky contacted seemed to want just the opposite, to mark them up
few in academia who could afford the high cost of entry into as much as possible and sell to the few people that could afford
wireless research in 2006. high prices.”

“Collectively, it was a big waste of time and effort, and there were With CMC researchers touting their work at conferences and
a lot of people who simply couldn’t afford to play,” Sabharwal said. workshops, colleagues around the world expressed interest in
“Some of our previous research hinted at the possibilities of an the boards. Sabharwal said CMC began producing a few, even
open-access platform, so we had a clear goal when we made our as it was seeking a production deal with an established company.
proposal to the National Science Foundation.” The lab wound up selling equipment to some 40 university and
corporate research groups before one of the WARP architects,
WARP stands for “wireless open-access research platform,” and Patrick Murphy, founded Houston-based Mango Communications
it resembles the guts of a desktop computer. What makes WARP in mid-2008 to take over production of the boards.
boards so effective is their flexibility. When researchers need
to test several kinds of radio transmitters, wireless routers and Sabharwal said CMC has NSF funding through 2010 to further
network access points, they need only to write a program that develop WARP, and will put the final touches on a new set of
permits the WARP board to become each device. tools that will allow researchers to control the boards remotely
from any location. That will permit them to fulfill one of CMC’s
Motorola is using the system to test a new architecture for longstanding goals—installing the flexible boards into existing
wireless Internet in rural India, and NASA is using WARP to test networks like the CMC-built high-speed network that
look for ways to save weight, cost and complexity in the wiring nonprofit Technology for All operates for more than 4,000 users
systems in spacecraft. in Houston’s East End neighborhood of Pecan Park.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 15


VIGRE reshapes the future of math research
Rice first received a $2.3 million grant in 2002 to fund five years
of the VIGRE program. And last year, the program’s success
“Participating really helped me see was recognized by NSF officials who renewed the grant for $5
million over five more years.
firsthand what mathematics research
was and what I could do with it.” At the heart of the VIGRE strategy is organizing students
into small, interdisciplinary teams or seminar sections called
PFUGs—pronounced like the word “fugue,” and derived
—Samuel Feng
from that musical term, meaning an idea that is introduced
by one voice and developed by others. The approach engages
undergraduates in mathematical research, increasing the
Helping to change the perception of mathematicians as chalk- breadth of research activities available to graduate students,
smeared academics striving in splendid isolation, the National while providing post-docs with mentors and eager mentees.
Science Foundation (NSF) has set out to improve how the U.S. Students have the opportunity to practice their research
develops math researchers. presentations with their faculty advisors and professional
communication coaches before presenting their work to their
And Rice is at the forefront of the effort, which is known as peers. The talks are recorded, with students receiving feedback
VIGRE, or Vertical Integration of Research and Education. Under to improve their performances.
its auspices, the university’s mathematicians and statisticians
have been working hard to change from the long-standing Six post-doctoral students, 18 graduate students and as many
sink-or-swim approach found in mathematical fields to one that as 30 undergraduates currently participate in VIGRE at Rice, and
involves collaboration, mentoring and teamwork. some credit the program with helping them to decide upon a
mathematics future.
The effort is working, said Steve Cox, a computational and
applied mathematics (CAAM) professor and a principal “Participating really helped me see firsthand what mathematics
investigator in the program. Faculty members in the departments research was and what I could do with it,” said Samuel Feng, a
of CAAM, Math and Statistics now regularly integrate their 2007 Rice graduate now studying toward a graduate degree in
research and curricula for undergraduate students, graduate computational and applied math at Princeton University. “I also
students and post-doctoral researchers. They have jointly built great, lasting relationships along the way.”
organized new courses, seminars and laboratories into every
level of study, and students who might have dropped out of the Rice engineering sophomore Tyler Young agrees with Feng’s
various disciplines before have become excited and involved in assessment. “I gained a ton of valuable experience in working
interdisciplinary research. with professors, graduate students and other undergraduates
this past summer,” he said. “It taught me how to approach
“In a relatively short time, we have seen a major change in the complicated real-life problems. I was fortunate enough to work
way Rice faculty, graduate students, undergrads and post-docs with a great team on my project which really helped me develop
collaborate,” Cox said. “It seems teaching mathematicians to my teamwork and communication skills.”
play well with others really does help everyone advance. It’s
what we should have been doing all along.” The success of VIGRE at Rice has led to its principles being
expanded to other areas of the engineering curriculum,
said Sallie Ann Keller, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of
Engineering and professor of statistics. “The VIGRE program
allows research and education to be seamlessly integrated into
the educational experience, from undergraduate to postgraduate
levels. We want to make it a model for others to follow.”

16 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


RICE ENGINEERING 2009 17
Shopping for an iPod or Louis Vuitton handbag in Abu Dhabi?
Not a problem. But finding a 6-foot piece of 3-inch diameter
clear PVC pipe for demonstrating a pipe inspection robot?
That’s a daunting task if you’re an engineering student visiting
from another part of the world.

And it’s just one of the challenges students faced in the


iDesign project, a multi-institutional, inter-disciplinary capstone
design course. Engineering students in Houston, Paris, Abu
Dhabi and Tokyo spent the past academic year in long-distance
collaboration, working on problems posed by Schlumberger Oil
Services Inc., then met in Abu Dhabi to assemble and test the fathi GHORBEL
prototypes they had created.

iDesign was spearheaded by Fathi Ghorbel, professor of The design projects in the course addressed tough
mechanical engineering at Rice University. “My objective challenges the oil exploration giant Schlumberger faces in
in all of this, in addition to developing the new technology, the field. “The emphasis was on innovation, creativity and
was to increase the learning benefits for the students,” he decision making,” Ghorbel said.
said. “The idea was for them to learn something in a global
research setting, both industrial and academic.” Rice seniors Two teams worked on pipe inspection robots capable of
in Ghorbel’s design course worked with students from École determining the integrity of functioning pipes. The robots
Centrale, École Nationale Supérieur d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM), were to be self-propelled and computer controlled so
École Supérieure d’Électricité (Supelec), Tokyo Institute of that they could navigate forwards and backwards inside
Technology, and United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). a 30-foot long pipe that varied between 3 and 9 inches in
Engineers from Schlumberger centers in Sugar Land, Texas, diameter. A third team was to build a hole-finder robot that,
Paris, France, and Abu Dhabi, UAE advised the students, along when faced with a pipe that split into two branches, could
with faculty members from their respective institutions. identify and navigate a desired path. A fourth robot was to
travel down a borehole, free a cable that was stuck to the
hole’s surface by mud cake and take actions to prevent
further sticking.

Rice capstone design goes global Two teams were asked to design disposable logging
sensors, miniature tools for measuring and recording
pressure, time, temperature and velocity at the bottom of
a well and delivering the information back to the surface
for analysis. The devices were to be light enough to float
to the surface after an exploration trip and low cost. The
associated electronics were to be fast enough to meet
depth resolution constraints.

In the iDesign course, students learned formal design


methodologies, project management and effective
teamwork. The teams overcame the challenges of working
in four different time zones, negotiating cultural differences,
communicating across language barriers, dealing with
incompatible school calendars and delivering functional
prototypes under tight time constraints.

Early in May, the teams converged on Schlumberger’s


Middle East Learning Center in Abu Dhabi to assemble,
present and demonstrate their projects to a large
audience of engineers and educators from around the
world. Ratna Sarkar, associate dean for global initiatives
for Rice engineering attended the session. She said, “The
students got a taste of working with globally dispersed
team members on real-world problems . . . this is what
globalization means. Those who took this course got a head
start on how to solve problems and deliver results despite
geographical, cultural and language barriers.”

When asked about their experiences in the course, the


students agreed that it was a worthwhile effort from which
they grew as engineers. Keson Choy, Rice mechanical
engineering student said, “This has been a great experience,
and it really added another dimension to my undergraduate
education.” Ahmed Haram, electrical engineering major
from UAEU said, “This was an opportunity an engineer
should not miss. I would recommend to it others.”

24 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


NSFCAREER
award winners
Daniel Cohan, Oleg Igoshin and Luay Nahkleh, assistant
professors in the George R. Brown School of Engineering, have
been awarded National Science Foundation CAREER Awards.

The NSF CAREER program recognizes junior faculty members who


exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research
and excellence in education.

Cohan, in civil and environmental engineering, will receive $497,000


over five years for research investigating how the atmosphere
responds to changes in pollutant emissions. He hopes to find new
methods for quantifying emissions trends and evaluating how
ozone and particulate matter respond to those trends.

Cohan worked as an air-quality expert for the Georgia


Environmental Protection Division and was a Fulbright Scholar in
daniel COHAN Australia. He earned a doctorate in atmospheric sciences from the
Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004 and received a bachelor’s
degree in applied mathematics from Harvard in 1998.

Igoshin, in bioengineering, will receive $640,000 over five years


for research into bacteria and how they “self-organize” into
swarms or biofilms. He hopes to use the grant to expand biology
education and attract diverse students. “Answering complex
biological questions in the post-genomic era will also require a
new generation of life scientists with cross-disciplinary training in
combining experimental and computational methods,” he said.

Igoshin did postdoctoral work in biomedical engineering at the


University of California, Davis. He earned a doctorate from the
University of California, Berkeley, and holds a master’s degree
in chemical physics from the Feinberg Graduate School at the
Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Nakhleh, a computer scientist who works in computational


evolutionary biology, will focus on the evolution of networks with
oleg IGOSHI N his CAREER Award research. He will receive $500,000 over the
next five years.

Nakhleh will use the grant to develop tools for the evolutionary
analysis of such interactions as those between proteins or genes.
The project, he wrote, “will result in the development of new
courses focused on evolutionary analysis of biological networks.”

Nakhleh, who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin,


joined Rice in 2004 and also holds appointments at M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine. He received an
Early Career Principal Investigator award from the Department of
Energy in 2006.

luay N AHKLEH

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 25


krishna
PA L EM IEEE WALLACE MCDOWELL AWARD

Rice University computer scientist Krishna


Palem, who also heads the Institute for
Sustainable Nanoelectronics (ISNE) at
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in
Singapore, has won the prestigious 2008
W. Wallace McDowell Award for his
pioneering contributions to the growing field
of embedded computing.

The IEEE Computer Society’s highest technical


honor, the W. Wallace McDowell Award, has
a list of past winners that reads like a Who’s
Who of industry giants. They include Intel
Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore (1978);
microprocessor inventor Federico Faggin
(1994); World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-
Lee (1996); Lotus Notes creator and Microsoft
Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie (2000);
supercomputer pioneers Seymour Cray
(1968), Gene Amdahl (1976) and Ken Kennedy
(1995), and the architect of IBM’s mainframe
computer, Frederick Brooks (1970).

“Krishna Palem continues Rice’s tradition of “It is humbling to be in the company of this group of pioneers,”
excellence in the highest international levels said Palem, Rice’s Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of
of computing and information technology,” Computing. “As much as this award recognizes the impact of
said Provost Eugene Levy. “Dr. Palem’s research accomplished with generations of my students, it also
contributions, which are helping to vastly heralds the maturation of embedded computing founded on
expand the benefits of ubiquitous embedded scholarship, innovation and societal value.”
computing, follow in the footsteps of Rice’s
previous McDowell Award winner, Ken Palem joined Rice’s faculty in 2007, just months after Kennedy’s
Kennedy, who helped to vastly extend the death from cancer. In late 2007, Palem announced the formation
usability of computing languages. This award of ISNE with colleagues at NTU. A joint research initiative
acknowledges Rice’s continued international between Rice and NTU, ISNE aims to reduce the design,
leadership in information technology.” production costs and, above all, the energy consumption of
embedded microchips.
Embedded computers are special-purpose
microchips. Unlike the processors in desktop In February 2008, Palem’s “probabilistic” microchips—a new
computers, they are designed to carry out design that trades off computational precision for energy
dedicated tasks. Embedded processors savings—were named to MIT Technology Review’s annual list of
are inside thousands of consumer and top 10 technologies that are most likely to “alter industries, fields
industrial products, from modems and toys to of research and even the way we live.”
automobiles and jet fighters.
The chips, dubbed “probabilistic CMOS,” or PCMOS, piggyback
Palem won the W. Wallace McDowell on the “complementary metal-oxide semiconductor” (CMOS)
Award “for pioneering contributions to the technology that chipmakers already use. The first tests of PCMOS
algorithmic, compilation and architectural prototypes, which were published in February, found the chips
foundations of embedded computing.” used 30 times less electricity than today’s best technology.

26 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Naomi Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor in
Electrical and Computer Engineering and professor
of chemistry and bioengineering, has been elected a
member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. naomi
Halas is a pioneer in the field of photonics and
plasmonics whose lab deals in biomedicine, advanced
display technology, solar power and other applications
dependent on the nanoscale manipulation of light.
HALAS
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Recent breakthroughs have led to human trials of
a novel cancer treatment and have suggested the
possibility of an “invisibility cloak.”

Halas expects to attend the AAAS induction ceremony


in Cambridge, Mass., in October. Among this year’s
212 new fellows and 19 foreign honorary members are
Rice alumnus, John Doerr, James Earl Jones, Thomas
Pynchon and Emmylou Harris.

Halas earned her Ph.D. in physics from Bryn Mawr


College in 1987 and joined the Rice faculty in 1989
as an assistant professor of electrical and computer
engineering. She is the founder and director of the Rice
University Laboratory for Nanophotonics.

She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the


American Association for the Advancement of Science,
the International Society for Optical Engineering and
the Optical Society of America.

The Association of Computing Machinery has inducted


Vivek Sarkar, the E.D. Butcher Professor of Computer
Science, a 2008 ACM Fellow.

Sarkar was recognized for contributions to parallel


computing. He is among 44 computer scientists
worldwide to receive the honor.

“These men and women are the inventors of


technologies that impact the way people live and work
throughout the world,” said ACM president Wendy Hall.

Sarkar is the creator of the Habanero project at Rice. It


addresses multicore software challenges by developing
new programming technologies—languages,
compilers, managed runtimes, concurrency libraries

vivek
and tools—that support portable parallel abstractions
for multicore hardware.

SARKAR
Before joining the Rice faculty in 2007, Sarkar was
Senior Manager of Programming Technologies at
IBM Research where he led research efforts in high
productivity programming models and tools as part of
ACM FELLOW DARPA HPCS program. His past projects at IBM include
the X10 programming language, the Jikes Research
Virtual Machine, the ASTI optimizer, and the PTRAN
automatic parallelization system. He holds a B.Tech.
degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur,
a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-
Madison and a doctorate from Stanford University.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 27


c. sidney
BURRUS
IEEE KILBY MEDAL

When some of us at Rice University reach for our cell phones, we know who
to thank. Research by C. Sidney Burrus, dean emeritus of the George R. Brown
School of Engineering and the Maxfield and Oshman Professor Emeritus of
Electrical and Computer Engineering, helped make them possible.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has recognized Burrus’
contributions by awarding him the 2009 Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal.
Named after the Texas Instruments engineer and Nobel Prize-winning inventor of
the integrated circuit, handheld calculator and thermal printer, the honor is among
the most prestigious given by the society, which celebrate its 125th anniversary
this year.

The honor surprised Burrus. “I got an e-mail from the Kilby committee, and I
thought, ‘Oh, they want me to write a letter of recommendation for somebody.’
Then I opened the mail, and I was shocked.”

Burrus’ work at Rice, which spans 40 years as professor, researcher and dean, is
notable not only for advances in the area of digital signal processing (DSP), but for
his stewardship of students while he and his wife, Mary Lee, served as masters
of Lovett College.

Burrus earned his doctorate at Stanford University after getting his undergraduate
degree in electrical engineering from Rice in 1957 and his master’s in 1960. He
joined the Rice faculty in 1965. Burrus has researched DSP for more than 30
years, specializing in design and implementation of filters and signal-processing
algorithms that led to advances in speech recognition, sonar and radar, sensor
arrays, digital audio and video, seismic data gathering and biomedical systems.

Burrus continues to teach one class per semester on signal processing and
writes for Connexions, Rice’s open-education initiative.

IEEE FE LLOWS
Two George R. Brown School of Engineering professors, Edward Knightly and Moshe Y. Vardi,
have been elected 2009 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) fellows.

Knightly, a professor in electrical Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Professor


and computer engineering, and of in Computational Engineering, professor of
computer science, was recognized for computer science and director of the Ken
his contributions to multihop wireless Kennedy Institute for Information Technology,
networks, the IEEE board said. was recognized for his contributions to the
development of logic as a unifying framework
Knightly’s research interests are in the for modeling computational systems.
areas of mobile and wireless networks and
high-performance and denial-of-service He chaired the Department of Computer
resilient protocol design. He leads the Science at Rice from January 1994 until June
Rice Networks Group, whose current 2002. Prior to joining Rice in 1993, he was at
projects include deployment, operation and the IBM Almaden Research Center, where edward KNI GHTLY
management of a large-scale urban mesh he managed the Mathematics and Related
network in a Houston under-resourced Computer Science Department. Vardi’s
community. The group is also developing research interests include database systems,
a clean-slate-design hardware platform for computational-complexity theory, multi-
high-performance multihop wireless. agent systems, and design specification and
verification.
Knightly received his Ph.D. from the
University of California at Berkeley in 1996 Vardi received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew
and was recognized with a National Science University of Jerusalem in 1981. He is the
Foundation CAREER Award in 1997. He has author or co-author of more than 300 technical
been a Sloan Fellow since 2001. papers, as well as two books, “Reasoning About
Knowledge” and “Finite Model Theory and Its
Applications.” He has been named co-winner of
the 2006 LICS Test-of-Time Award and the 2008
Association for Computer Machinery PODS
Mendelzon Test-of-Time Award.
moshe y. VARDI
28 RICE ENGINEERING 2009
farinaz
K OUS H A NFAR
ONR YOUNG INVESTIGATOR AWARD

Farinaz Koushanfar, assistant professor of electrical and computer


engineering and of computer science, has earned the highly
competitive Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award
(YIP) for 2009. The YIP attracts outstanding new faculty members
to naval research. It encourages their teaching and research careers
by providing support for three years, with additional funding for
equipment and collaborative research with a Navy lab. Koushanfar
won the award for her proposal “Coordinated Statistical Modeling
and Reconfiguration for Data Integrity in Cognitive Radio Networks.”

Koushanfar was one of only 15 to receive the award across all


engineering and science fields.

Koushanfar was invited to the National Academy of Engineering’s


2009 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium. The Academy
invites a select group of young leaders in engineering from industry,
academe and government labs to discuss pioneering research in
various engineering fields. The symposium was held in Irvine, Calif.,
in September.

Koushanfar’s previous awards include the National Science


Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, and in 2008
she was named to MIT Technology Review’s list of the world’s 35
Top Young Innovators. Koushanfar earned the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency Young Faculty Award in 2007. She is the
founder of ExCel, a networking organization for ECE women that
aims to provide community, mentoring and cultural enrichment for
students at Rice.

Rice professor Antonios Mikos won the prestigious Chemstations


Lectureship Award given by the American Society for Engineering
Education (ASEE). Sponsored by Chemstations Inc., a maker of

antonios
software for chemical process and molecular simulation, the annual
award goes to a distinguished engineering educator.

MI K OS
Mikos is the Louis Calder Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical
and Biomolecular Engineering, and director of the John W. Cox
Laboratory for Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on the
synthesis, processing and evaluation of new biomaterials for use
ASEE CHEMSTATIONS AWARD as scaffolds for tissue engineering, as carriers for controlled drug
delivery and as nonviral vectors for gene therapy. He earned his
doctorate at Purdue University and was a postdoctoral researcher at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School
before joining Rice as an assistant professor in 1992.

“This is a great honor for me and my laboratory, and I’m delighted to


have the opportunity to give a presentation about my scholarship,”
Mikos said.

Mikos, author of a standard textbook, “Biomaterials: The Intersection


of Biology and Materials Science,” noted that the nation’s first graduate
course in tissue engineering was offered at Rice.

The Chemstations award honors an educator who demonstrates


achievement through “the formulation of fundamental theory or
principles, improvements of lasting influence to chemical engineering
education … and the demonstration of success as a teacher.”

“I am most thankful to Kyriacos Zygourakis for nominating me for this


award,” Mikos said. Zygourakis is the A.J. Hartsook Chair and chairman
of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 29


S IAM FE LLOWS
Richard Tapia and William Symes are among the 182 inaugural members of the
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Fellows Program.

Tapia is University Professor, the Maxfield- Symes, Rice’s Noah Harding Professor of
Oshman Professor of Computational Computational and Applied Mathematics,
and Applied Mathematics and director of is an internationally renowned researcher
Rice’s Center for Excellence and Equity in who is best known for his work in the
richard TA PIA Education. He is only the sixth person and field of computational seismology.
the first mathematician in Rice’s history
to be named University Professor, the Symes, who joined Rice in 1983, is the
university’s highest academic rank. founding director of The Rice Inversion
Project (TRIP), an industrial research
Tapia, who joined Rice in 1970, is a former consortium sponsored by firms in the
member of the nation’s highest scientific oil and computer industries. Founded in
governing body, the National Science 1992, TRIP aims to develop mathematical
Board, and is the first Hispanic elected to models that petroleum geologists can
the prestigious National Academy use to quickly and accurately interpret
of Engineering. large seismic datasets.

SIAM fellowship is an honor reserved for the most distinguished members of the
12,000-member society, which was established in 1952. “The announcement of the
first class of SIAM Fellows is an important milestone for the applied mathematics and
computational science community,” said SIAM President Douglas Arnold.
william SYM ES

SLOAN RE SEA RC H FELLO W S

Eugene Ng and Wotao Yin, assistant professors in the George R. Brown School of Engineering,
have been awarded prestigious 2009 Sloan Research Fellowships.

They were among 118 faculty members the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation selected this year
from hundreds of nominees at more than 60 colleges and universities in the United States
and Canada. Recipients are working on research in physics, chemistry, computational and
evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics and neuroscience.

eugene N G Ng, who holds appointments in the Yin, in the department of computational and
departments of computer science and applied mathematics, studies numerical
electrical and computer engineering, was optimization and its applications in inverse
recognized for developing new network problems, such as compressed sensing, image
models, network architectures and holistic processing, computer vision and machine learning.
networked systems. He hopes the work
will lead to new global computer network Yin earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics
infrastructures. from Nanjing University in 2001. He received
a master’s degree in operations research from
Ng won a National Science Foundation Columbia University in 2003, and in 2006 was
CAREER Award in 2005. He received a awarded a second master’s degree and a
bachelor’s degree in computer engineering doctorate, both in operations research. While
from the University of Washington in 1996, studying at Columbia, he worked as a researcher
and a master’s degree and doctorate in in optimization for medical imaging and computer
computer science from Carnegie Mellon vision for Siemens Corporation. He won an NSF
University in 1998 and 2003, respectively. CAREER Award last year.

wotao Y IN
Ng and Yin join a distinguished list of Rice faculty members who have won Sloan Research
Fellowships, including Nobel laureates Robert Curl and the late Richard Smalley. Eugene
Zubarev, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Young Investigator and assistant professor of
chemistry, won a Sloan fellowship last year.

30 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


Marina Vannucci, professor of statistics, has been named a fellow in
the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), a prestigious international
professional and scholarly society devoted to the development,
dissemination and application of statistics and probability.

Vannucci was presented with the honor at the IMS Annual Meeting in
Washington D.C. in August, when some 5,000 statisticians, government
officials and educators from across the globe convened there.

The professor is being recognized by the institute for “fundamental


contributions to the theory and practice of Bayesian methods for variable
selection, and of wavelet-based modeling and for her mentorship of young
researchers,” IMS leaders said.

“This is a great honor for Marina and richly deserved,” said Sallie Ann
Keller, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering, who is also a
professor of statistics. “It recognizes her many accomplishments and her
devotion to developing future researchers in a highly important field.”

Vannucci is also a fellow in the American Statistical Association and a


member of the International Statistical Institute. She won the Mitchell
prize from the International Society for Bayesian Analysis in 2003. Her

marina research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, including a
CAREER Award in 2001.

VANNUCCI IMS FELLOW


Vannucci came to Rice two years ago from the Department of Statistics at
Texas A&M University where she was a full professor and co-directed the
Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Facility Core in the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences Center for Environmental and Rural Health.

A A A S FELLO W S

Jianpeng Ma and Rebecca Richards-Kortum were named 2008 fellows by the


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s
largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science.

Ma and Richards-Kortum were among 486 members honored this year for
their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.
jianpeng MA

Ma, a professor in bioengineering who As director of Rice 360°, Richards-


also holds a professorship at Baylor Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor
College of Medicine, was selected for his in the Department of Bioengineering,
work in intermediated-resolution structural is working to help developing nations
biology, particularly for developing achieve the health-related Millennium
methods to analyze the ways proteins flex Development Goals established by
and bend, allowing scientists to scrutinize the United Nations.
the active sites of proteins implicated in
cancer and other diseases. The association also recognized her
contributions to the diagnosis and
“It is a tremendous honor to me, and I treatment of cancer in women and for
hope it also brings honor to Rice,” her theoretical modeling using lasers.
Ma said.
“AAAS has led international efforts
In 2004, Ma won the Welch Foundation’s to advance science and advocate
prestigious Norman Hackerman Award for for effective science education and
Chemical Research, named for the former policy, and it is a great privilege to be rebecca RI CHARDS -K ORT UM
Rice president. recognized as a fellow,” she said.

The AAAS has been naming fellows since 1874. The new fellows join 17
other Rice faculty members who have been so honored.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 31


IOWA STATE RESEAR C H A N D
DIS C OVERY AWARD
Dean Sallie Ann Keller will be presented the John V. Atanasoff Research and Discovery Award from Iowa
State University in Ames in October. Keller holds a doctorate in statistics from Iowa State.

The award honors an outstanding alumnus or alumna of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at
Iowa State who has furthered scientific knowledge in laboratory accomplishments or management. It
memorializes John V. Atanasoff, the Iowa State professor credited with inventing the automatic electronic
digital computer.

In research and leadership positions, Keller has championed interdisciplinary research to solve today’s
complex problems. She leads Rice’s largest school with eight departments, 14 research institutes and
centers, and 114 faculty members. The school has some 900 undergraduates and 600 grad students.

Keller is fellow of the American Statistical Association and an associate of the National Academy of
Sciences. She received the Founders Award from the American Statistical Association and Director’s Award
for Outstanding Program Management at the National Science Foundation. She serves on the Committee
on National Statistics, Southwest Research Institute External Advisory Board, American Association for
the Advancement of Science Nominations Committee, Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics Board
of Trustees, Santa Fe Institute Science Board, Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer
Science Advisory Board, International Council for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Scientific Panel,
Sandia National Laboratory Chair of Network Grand Challenge Advisory Board and the JASON Study Group.
She is a former American Statistical Association president and chairman of the board of directors.

She directed the graduate studies program at the Kansas State University Department of Statistics. She
was National Science Foundation Program Director for Statistics and Probability and taught mathematics
at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Iowa State. She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in
mathematics from the University of South Florida.

NATIONAL SCIENCE F O U N D AT I O N
GR ADUATE FELLOWSH I P REC I PI EN TS
George R. Brown School of Engineering students and recent
graduates have won federally funded fellowships for graduate study.

Selected to receive 2009 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awards are:

Eva Dyer, Rice graduate student, electrical and computer engineering


Kiri Kilpatrick, graduate student, chemical and biomolecular engineering
Emily Fortuna, ’09, computer science, to study at Stanford University
Robert Horch ’04, bioengineering, studying at Vanderbilt University
Neha Kamat ’08 bioengineering, studying at University of Pennsylvania
Gregory Malecha ’08, computer science, studying at Harvard University
Sara MacAlpine ’01, electrical and computer engineering, studying at University of Colorado
Troy Ruths,* Rice graduate student, computer science
Jenny Saik, Rice graduate student, bioengineering
Scott Steger ’08, electrical engineering, California Institute of Technology
Katherine Zodrow ’07, civil engineering, undecided

Each will receive a $30,000 stipend, a $10,000 cost-of-education allowance and a one-time
allowance of $1,000 for travel. Fellowships are funded for a maximum of three years over a
five-year period. The NSF graduate fellowship program is highly competitive and recipients are
considered among the best graduate students in the country.

*In addition to the NSF graduate fellowship, Ruths was awarded a Department of Energy Computational
Science Fellowship, which is among the most preeminent fellowships for computational science students.
The award includes a yearly stipend of $32,400, as well as $1,000 in an allowance for other expenses and
activities. The fellowship can be renewed annually for three additional years after the first year.

32 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


G O LD WATER SC H O LA RSH I P
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Founda-
tion has awarded scholarships to Rice University bioengineering students
Joseph Rosenthal and Thomas Segall-Shapiro and to David Ouyang, a
statistics major. All are in their senior years this fall.

joseph RO SEN TH AL The award covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board, up
to $7,500 per year. The trio is among 278 undergraduate sophomores and
juniors selected from across the U.S. for the honor, which is in memory of
the late U.S. senator from Arizona.

Rosenthal is a junior in Assistant Professor Junghae Suh’s Laboratory for


Nanotherapeutics Research. For two years, his research has focused on repro-
gramming the intrinsic properties of a small mammalian virus called the adeno-
associated virus. Rosenthal won the Best Poster in Engineering Award at the
annual Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium and the Brown Undergraduate
Research Internship Program Award.

Both Segall-Shapiro and Ouyang are also majoring in biochemistry and cell biol-
thomas SEG A LL- SH A PIR O ogy, and both work in Assistant Professor Joff Silberg’s biochemistry lab. The two
were members of the Rice International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM)
group, which was mentored by Silberg. The iGem Jamboree is held annually at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This year’s team project, a genetically
engineered biobeer that is programmed to produce resveratrol, captured a gold
medal and second place for best presentation. Segall-Shapiro has contributed to
three iGEM projects and this was the first for Ouyang.

In its 21 years, the Goldwater Foundation has awarded 5,801 scholarships


totaling about $56 million. Goldwater scholars are chosen from a field of
1,097 mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by the
faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.
david O U YA N G

melissa
D UA RTE
ROBERTO ROCCA EDUCATION FELLOWSHIP

Melissa Duarte, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering,


has received the Roberto Rocca Education Fellowship. The fellowship helps
fund studies for exceptional university graduates from Argentina, Brazil,
Colombia, Mexico, Romania and Venezuela, toward the Ph.D. degree in
electrical engineering, at a university of the student’s choosing outside his
or her home country.

Born in Cucuta, Colombia, Duarte received the B.S. degree in electrical


engineering from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia,
in 2005, and the M.S in electrical engineering from Rice University in 2007.
She is in the research group of Assistant Professor Ashutosh Sabharwal.
Her research focuses on the design and implementation of architectures for
next-generation wireless communications, feedback-based multiple input
multiple output antenna systems, and the development of a wireless open
access research platform for implementation and evaluation of algorithms
for wireless communications.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 33


The British government has selected Shuai “Steve” Xu for its competitive
2009 Marshall Scholarship program.

Each year, about 1,000 U.S. students apply for 40 available scholarships to
pursue studies at top academic and research institutions in the United Kingdom
and serve as ambassadors for relations between the two countries.

The Marshall Scholarship program supports two years of studies, with a


possible third-year extension, toward a masters or doctorate degree. Xu has
chosen attend Imperial College London for the first year where he will study
biomedical engineering, and the London School of Economics/London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for the second year, where he will focus on
health policy, planning and finance.

Xu’s interest into the micro-to-macro scale of translating research and


diagnostics has been woven throughout his undergraduate education. In 2005,
he was accepted into the Rice University/Baylor Medical Scholars Program, a
combined eight-year baccalaureate/M.D. program that encourages extensive
study of liberal arts and other disciplines in addition to modern medical science.

Xu spent three years in Associate Professor Jane Grande-Allen’s research group


applying engineering analysis to the study of heart valve disease research, a

steve
major contributor to coronary artery disease, strokes, and heart failure.

XU
Other awards Xu has received while at Rice include USA Today’s All-USA
College Academic First Team (2008), Barry M. Goldwater Scholar (2007),
the Samuel T. Sikes Jr. Engineering Scholarship and the Dunlevie Writing
Fellowship in Comparative Literature (2007). MARSHALL SCHOLARSHIP

jennifer
H O LM
WHITAKER INTERNATIONAL FELLOWSHIP
Jennifer Holm has won a Whitaker International Fellowship to conduct research
in the laboratories of physician scientist Michael Raghunath at the National
University of Singapore (NUS).

Administered by the Institute of International Education, Whitaker International


Fellowships are designed to strengthen international ties through collaboration
while contributing to students’ graduate studies in biomedical engineering.

Holm’s research will focus on tissue engineering methods and culture


conditioning efforts that involve inducing pluripotent stem cells and differentiating
them into cardiomyocites. The research is a continuation of her experiences
at Rice in Associate Professor Jane Grande-Allen’s group and with Antonios
Mikos’ group over the past two years. Mikos is the Louis Calder Professor of
Bioengineering and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Raghunath, an associate professor of bioengineering at NUS’s school of


engineering and of biochemistry at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, is a
distinguished scientist in the field of matrix biology and skin biology.

International research is not a new track for Holm. Last year she participated in a
12-week summer internship working under Professor Abhay Pandit’s direction at
the National University of Ireland.

“I am excited to be a part of Dr. Raghunath’s group for one year,” Holm said. “The
experience will provide me with additional cross-training research experiences,
and exposure to clinical practices and industrial
R & D in Singapore.”
34 RICE ENGINEERING 2009
manjari
NA RAYAN
ANITA BORG SCHOLARSHIP

Graduate student Manjari Narayan has been awarded Google’s 2009 Anita Borg Scholarship for
the 2009-2010 academic year. The Anita Borg Scholarship is awarded to female undergraduates
entering their senior year or to graduate students in computer science, computer engineering, or
other technical fields who have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale or 4.5
on a 5.0 scale. Scholarship recipients receive a $10,000 award for the upcoming academic year.

Manjari graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, with a B.S. in electrical
engineering and a minor in computer science. A member of the Digital Signal Processing group,
her research is in the area of statistical image processing. She is currently working with Richard
Baraniuk on understanding the asymptotic optimality of nonlocal image processing algorithms.

alicia
A L L EN
FULBRIGHT SCHOLARSHIP

Alicia Allen has earned a Fulbright Scholarship and will travel to


Korea to teach English. Four other Rice students also won the
prestigious scholarship.

Allen said she’s been to Europe several times but never to


Asia, and she is excited about the opportunity. She said she is
especially looking forward to the intensive six-week instruction
in Korean she will receive before being assigned the school
where she will teach.

At Rice, Allen, a double major in bioengineering and French,


was steeped in research on tissue engineering in the labora-
tory of Jennifer West, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor and
chair of the Bioengineering Department.

Allen said, “We’ve been working on vascularization, particularly


the formation of blood vessels.” She said the research she’s
been involved in has been in two areas—working toward an
application for developing smaller-diameter grafts for heart-
bypass patients and creating complex 3-D tissues beyond skin
and cartilage.

The Fulbright Scholarship program is sponsored by the U.S.


State Department and allows seniors, recent graduates and
graduate students to study, teach and conduct research in a
foreign country. Scholars are chosen for their academic merit
and leadership potential.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 35


wanda
S I G UR

christof
SP I E L E R
REA names 2009 outstanding alumni

The Rice Engineering Alumni (REA) board has announced its 2009 outstanding
alumni. Wanda Sigur, vice president of engineering at Lockheed Martin, was named
Outstanding Engineering Alumna. Christof Spieler, director of technology and
innovation at Morris Architects, is the Outstanding Young Engineering Alumnus.

Sigur, who earned a bachelor’s degree in materials science in 1979, is based in Denver and
leads 7,000 engineers working on national security efforts and human space flight systems.
They help develop a range of remote sensing, navigation, meteorological and communications
satellites and instruments; space observatories and interplanetary spacecraft; laser radar; fleet
ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.

Earlier, Sigur managed the space shuttle external tank program for the defense contractor,
and was credited by NASA for helping return the shuttle to space after the Columbia accident.
She holds high-temperature composite patents and has won prestigious NASA and civic
awards. She received a Lockheed Martin Company Outstanding Leadership Award in 2006
and won a Black Engineer of the Year Career Achievement Award last year. She earned a
bachelor’s degree in materials science in 1979 at Rice.

Spieler works for the international firm, Morris Architects, in Houston. He earned bachelor’s
and master’s degrees in civil engineering at Rice in 1997 and 1999, respectively.

He leads efforts in building information modeling and sustainability for Morris and has become
known as an expert on transit and urban planning. He has worked on various Houston
projects like the University light rail line. He is editorial committee head and a frequent
contributor to Cite Magazine, published by the Rice Design Alliance. He also teaches in the
Rice School of Architecture. Earlier, Spieler worked for Matrix Structural Engineers, where
his projects were featured on the covers of three national engineering magazines. He was
recently named to Building Design and Construction Magazine’s “40 under 40” list.

36 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


photo courtesy of Tom Hawk

Doerr elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

John Doerr ’73, whose devotion to Rice has been generous


and long-standing, has been elected a member of the
prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Doerr earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical


engineering at Rice and is a venture capitalist with Kleiner
Perkins Caufield & Byers. His interests as an entrepreneur
and philanthropist include innovative green technology, urban
public education, fighting poverty and the advancement of
women as leaders. Doerr was an early champion of Google
and Amazon, among many other companies.

Doerr, the commencement speaker at Rice in 2007, and


his wife, Ann ’75, last year donated $15 million through
their Beneficus Foundation to establish the Rice Center for
Engineering Leadership. The center’s mission is to broaden
Rice engineering education by incorporating current and
emerging crises facing society and developing personal
leadership skills needed to solve pressing global problems.

After leaving Rice, Doerr earned an MBA from Harvard, which


recently gave him its highest honor, an Alumni Achievement
Award. Doerr started his career at Intel as an engineer,
marketer and sales executive. His ability to recognize and help
entrepreneurs commercialize innovation into winning products
and services has placed him at No. 1 on Forbes Magazine’s
Midas list of the world’s top 100 tech dealmakers.

RICE ENGINEERING 2009 37


a man with many
MISSIONS
To say Matthew Wettergreen is a Renaissance
Man is an understatement.

The Rice bioengineering Ph.D. is pursuing an


unconventional career path that finds him equal
parts researcher, entrepreneur, music aficionado and
community activist. Add in an array of other activities,
including teaching for Rice, broadcasting a radio show
and mentoring local musicians and, well, you wouldn’t
have to be Leonardo Da Vinci to get the picture.

“I don’t ever slow down,” Wettergreen said in an


interview at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design
Kitchen, where he is leading a team of undergraduates
in an innovative project for the Museum of Fine Arts,
Houston. “I have to schedule time to relax.”

In the course of a given day Wettergreen’s myriad


interests sometimes collide, which is how he prefers
it. “As I see it, all the areas I’m interested in are “What we come up with could have an impact beyond
interconnected,” he said. “I just want to find ways to this museum and be used by many others, nationally or
change the world a little bit for the better.” internationally,” said Wettergreen, adding that this fall
he will teach a course around the undertaking for Rice
As an entrepreneur, for instance, he is a founder and humanities and engineering students. In the end, the
director of a “coworking” business known as the project could become a technology transfer business.
Caroline Collective. The business sits in what were
formerly medical offices on a tree-lined street just “The scope of what Matt is doing doesn’t surprise me,”
south of Houston’s thriving Midtown. It offers space said Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education
for independently employed people—so-called “digital at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), who
nomads” in fields such as writing, art and software mentored Wettergreen when he was a bioengineering
technology—to hang their hats. Through individual toil undergraduate there. Graff recalled how the student
and tribulations in a shared space, relationships blossom almost single-handedly organized an undergraduate
and people often collaborate. research symposium for science and humanities students
at UIC. The program is now held annually and is promoted
“We have workshops, training sessions and social as one of the university’s most important events.
events. A real sense of community develops,” said
Wettergreen of the collective’s café-like atmosphere. “Matt is way ahead of his time in seeing the need
“There’s a free flow of projects and ideas. It stimulates for bridging the divide between science and the
energy and creativity.” humanities,” Graff said.

Wettergreen, who lives above the collective, hopes Wettergreen’s zeal for the arts includes his lifelong
the business can eventually sustain itself, allowing him passion: music. Although he doesn’t play an instrument
time for other pursuits. One additional project is for himself, his love for music drives him to host a weekly
the museum, with Wettergreen leading a team of four radio show about the Houston art scene for KTRU
engineering students to take on a problem faced by all 91.7FM, Rice’s radio station. Wettergreen has also been
curators: how best to store thousands of sometimes a correspondent for Chicago Public Radio and has done
priceless art objects. similar work for National Public Radio.

The project is sponsored by the schools of engineering “Radio has given me a platform to reach out to the music
and the humanities, the Rice Alliance, and the community and local artists to try to help them develop
Center for Civic Engagement at the university. The marketing and business skills they need to succeed,” he
team worked all summer on developing a handful of said. “It’s something I truly enjoy.”
prototype storage devices—culled from 500 different
ideas—and presented them to museum officials. The
solution chosen could allow a move from current
storage methods—plywood crates and cardboard
boxes—to one that stores delicate items safely and
efficiently and provides easy access.

38 RICE ENGINEERING 2009


RICE ENGINEERING 2009 39
President-elect John Alsop EE ’78, ’83 presented
more than $80,000 in scholarships at the 2009 Rice
Annual picnic honors outstanding students Engineering Alumni student awards picnic in April.
In addition to scholarships recognizing outstanding
juniors and seniors, a number of endowed awards
were also presented. They were:

The Buckley-Sartwelle Scholarship in Engineering


Nikolay Kostov, mechanical engineering and materials science
Endowed by Jack Boyd Buckley ’48 and Helen Sartwelle Buckley ’44

The Bob Dickson Endowed Prize


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

The Alan J. Chapman Award


Keson Choy, mechanical engineering and materials science
Endowed by Melbern G. ’61 and Susanne M. Glasscock ’62

The Thomas Michael Panos Family Engineering Student Award


Kenneth Davis, mechanical engineering
Endowed by Michael Panos ’52 and his sister, Effie

The Franz R. and Frances Brotzen Fellowship


Anubha Goyal, mechanical engineering and materials science
Endowed by David Lee Davidson ’58, ’63, ’68 and his wife, Patricia

The Dick and Mary Ellen Wilson Award


Candase Arnold and Michael Burcham, civil and environmental
engineering
Endowed by Dick ’52, ’56 and Mary Ellen Wilson

The Harrianna Butler Siebenhausen Award in Engineering


Alison and Michael Contreras, civil and environmental engineering
Endowed by C.H. Siebenhausen ’50 in honor of his wife,
Harrianna Butler

The Ralph Budd Prize for Best Engineering Thesis


Juan Duque, chemical and biomolecular engineering
In memory of Ralph Budd

The Hershel M. Rich Invention Award


Siddharth Gupta, Ashutosh Sabharwal and Patrick Murphy,
electrical and computer engineering
Endowed by Hershel M. Rich ’45, ’47 and his wife, Hilda

The James S. Waters Creativity Award


Joseph Chang, bioengineering
Endowed by an anonymous donor in honor of James S. Waters ’17
Rice Engineering Magazine is a production of the
George R. Brown School of Engineering Office of
Communications at Rice University.

Dean
Sallie Ann Keller

Associate deans
Janice Bordeaux
Gary Marfin
Ratna Sarkar
Bart Sinclair

Editor
Ann Lugg

Designer
Donald Soward

Contributing designer
Lindsey Bowsher

Writer
Dwight Daniels

Contributing writers
Jade Boyd
Ken Fountain
Shawn Hutchins
Patrick Kurp
Ann Lugg
Mike Williams

Photography
Jeff Fitlow
Tom Hawk
Eric Hester
Tommy Lavergne
Donald Soward

Send comments or letters to the editor:


Rice Engineering Magazine
Rice University MS 364
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, Texas 77251
or email them to: engrnews@rice.edu