Projects across range of disciplines support Vision for the Second Century goals
Eight projects led by Rice University faculty members have been awarded grants by the Provost and President’s Office Faculty Initiative Fund, which supports proposals that address the goals of the university’s Vision for the Second Century through their quality, significance and potential impact.
The projects must also have potential to draw additional outside funding and enrich research opportunities for students.
The winning projects were chosen from more than 30 applicants and will share a pool of $300,000, said Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives Caroline Levander, who oversaw this year’s competition. She said the fund administered by President David Leebron and Provost George McLendon is intended to support and incubate research innovation across the university.
“The review committee was uniformly impressed with the quality of the projects and the applicants,” Levander said of this year’s proposals. “We were very impressed by the ambition of Rice faculty and the kind of radical experimentation and intellectual risk-taking they’re interested in undertaking.”
This year’s winners:
Janet Braam, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, plans to fight malaria with a new method to target the methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway in the parasite responsible for the disease. The parasite, plasmodium falciparum, and plants both have the MEP pathway, though it does not appear in humans. Braam believes plants are ideal organisms for identifying chemicals that will inhibit the pathway.
Edison Liang, the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor of Astrophysics, will use the Texas Petawatt Laser in Austin to create ultra-intense gamma-ray beams by hitting thick gold disks. Such beams have potential for fundamental discoveries in physics with applications in homeland security, directed energy, antimatter creation, astrophysics, material science and nuclear medicine.
Jun Lou, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, is leading an effort to establish a Rice-China International NanoMaterials Center for Sustainable Energy and Environment. Its goals would be to develop joint, externally funded research programs, hold workshops, establish a student and researcher exchange program, develop joint long-distance courses and create a virtual community on the Internet.
Partner institutions include Tsinghua University, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Science. Rice participants include Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry; Enrique Barrera, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science; Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering; and Boris Yakobson, the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry.
Alida Metcalf, the Harris Masterson Jr. Professor of History, and Farès el-Dahdah, associate professor of architecture and incoming director of Rice’s Humanities Research Center, are developing “Iconic Rio Online,” an illustrated, historical graphic information system for Rio de Janeiro’s social and urban evolution from its origins in 1502 through its upcoming Olympics in 2016. The result will be a digital media showcase of Rio maps, paintings, prints, photographs, film, architectural/urban projects and graphic ephemera suitable for research.
Casey O’Callaghan, associate professor of philosophy, is developing The Senses Project at Rice, to enhance Rice’s emerging strengths in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science of perception and to build upon local and international collaborations.
Kirsten Ostherr, associate professor of English, is launching the Medical Futures Laboratory, a space for reimagining medicine at the intersection of humanity and technology. The laboratory will focus on unique challenges that face a new generation of doctors as technology evolves. A series of undergraduate courses team-taught by Ostherr and physicians from UT and Baylor is planned for 2012-13, including Medicine and Media, and Medicine in the Age of Networked Intelligence. An international symposium will take place in Spring 2013.
Diane Wolfthal, the David and Caroline Minter Professor of Humanities and chair and professor of art history, is co-curator of “Princes and Paupers: The Art of Jacques Callot,” an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), scheduled for spring 2013. Wolfthal and co-curator Dena Woodall, curator of prints and drawings at MFAH, will teach a concurrent seminar at Rice and organize a public symposium on Callot.
Pablo Yepes, senior faculty fellow in physics and astronomy, and Marj Corcoran, professor of physics and astronomy, will introduce students to medical physics through a collaboration with the MD Anderson Cancer Center. The grant would support a summer internship program that allows Rice students to gain hands-on experience in the rapidly growing field of medical physics, particularly in proton therapy for cancer patients.