Screech highlights grad student research


With the terse rapidity of seasoned auctioneers, 27 Rice engineering graduate students shared their research in 90-second bursts at the third annual Screech Competition, sponsored by the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL).


Jason Gaspar, a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering, won first place at this year's Screech competition with "Ending Aging."

Taking first place in the highly competitive event was Jason Gaspar of civil and environmental engineering (CEE), whose screech was titled “Ending Aging.” Gaspar was awarded the top prize of $500; he is advised by Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor of Engineering and chair of CEE.

“Graduate students are the impact of Rice University,” said Robert LiKamWa, a fifth-year graduate student in electrical and computer engineering (ECE) who served as master of ceremonies for the competition, held Oct. 30 in Duncan Hall’s McMurtry Auditorium. An audience of some 200 attended the Screech, which was judged by 12 Rice faculty members, staff and alumni, as well as industry representatives.

“McMurtry was full up and rocking,” said Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering. “Congratulations to RCEL for bringing ever more esprit de corps to engineering at Rice.”

Second place ($400) went to Souptik Barua, ECE, for “Saliency Guided Compression for Ultra-Low Birate video Coding.” Third place ($300) was a tie: Pelham Keahey, bioengineering, “Seeing Cancer Through the Eyes of a Microendoscope,” and Yu Liu, mechanical engineering, “Stability Monitoring of Drill-String.”

Other winners were:

  • Best in Computational and Applied Mathematics: Jonathan Baker, “Accurate Compressed Control Models Despite Growing System Energy.”
  • Best in Computer Science: Leo Elworth, “Faster Answers on Evolution.”
  • Best in ECE: M. Mahdi Assefzadeh, “Terahertz Cameras for Everyone.”
  • Best in Statistics: Ryan Warnick, “Bayesian Dynamic Functional Connectivity.”
  • Best in CEE: Jacob Torres, “Characterizing Relationships Between Hurricane Rainfall and Storm Surge: The Hydrologic Tango.”
  • Best in Bioengineering/Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE)/Materials Science and NanoEngineering/Mechanical Engineering: Shaghayegh Agah (ChBE), “Carbon Nanotube for the Next-Generation of DNA Sequencing.”
  • People’s Choice Award: Souptik Barua.
  • Best Department: CEE.

“Our mission was to put forth a podium for grad students to explore and express their passion,” LiKamWa said. “Mission accomplished. The Screechers shined, averaging a score of 7.54 out of 10.”

Kaz Karwowski, executive director of RCEL, praised LiKamWa and the other student organizers of the Screech: “RCEL’s graduate committee did a great job bringing together peers from each of the departments to showcase the great things happening at Rice.”

Watch the 2014 screeches at

—Patrick Kurp is a science writer in the George R. Brown School of Engineering.


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