Scientia lecture to look at evolution of centers, institutes at Rice

Over the past 40 years, Rice has become home to a host of centers and institutes. In the next Scientia lecture, longtime Rice faculty member and former provost Neal Lane will share his observations of their origins and evolution.

Neal Lane


Lane’s talk, “The Rice Institutes — Present at the Creation,” will be at 4 p.m. March 13 in Duncan Hall’s McMurtry Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In the mid-1980s, several interdisciplinary centers and institutes were established at Rice, including the Center for Cultural Studies, the Center for the Study of Institutions and Values, the Computer and Information Technology Institute and the Institute for Biosciences and Bioengineering.

“The purpose of these new umbrella organizations was to support, even encourage, interdisciplinary research and scholarship; and the model was the Rice Quantum Institute (RQI), which has been in operation since the late 1970s,” said Lane, the Malcolm Gillis University Professor, professor of physics and senior fellow in science and technology at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. “In the decades that followed, these centers and institutes evolved in response to changes in faculty interests or other factors. Some disappeared. Others were born. In this talk, I will offer some observations on the origins of the early institutes and centers, suggest some ‘lessons learned’ from these experiments, and comment on where Rice finds itself today.”

The theme of this year’s Scientia lecture series is “Rice: A Century of Change.” The evolution of Rice from a small, regional institute to a major research university is rooted in the vision of its various presidents and trustees, the ingenuity and insight of its faculty and the generosity of its supporters. In this centennial series, Scientia is looking at the decisive events that shaped the university in its first century and exploring the emerging fields of research that will shape the future of Rice.

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About Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans is a senior editor in the Rice's Office of Public Affairs.