Ralph S. O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science official opening marks ‘beginning of new era at Rice’

group posing outside of the O'Connor building

Rice University’s Ralph S. O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science was officially inaugurated Sept. 14 with a ceremony commemorating the late university trustee whose generosity helped make it a reality.

group posing in front of the O'Connor building

The event debuted with remarks delivered by Reginald DesRoches, university president; Amy Dittmar, provost; Thomas Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences; Robert Ladd, chair of the Rice Board of Trustees; and Luay Nakhleh, dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering.

ribbon cutting

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, the over 200 guests in attendance were invited to enjoy a reception and tours of the building, whose 250,000 square feet are designed to maximize research space and foster interaction, accommodating about 50 labs, two classrooms, a café and areas for meetings and events.


DesRoches, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and mechanical engineering, spoke of the broad impact that Ralph S. O’Connor had on the Rice campus and community.

Becky O'Connor and Reginald DesRoches

“It’s especially fitting that this building should bear the name of Ralph S. O’Connor, so that we permanently commemorate his generosity, goodwill and lasting legacy through a facility that represents our very highest aspirations and future impact,” DesRoches said.

Reginald DesRoches

“This building is much more than bricks and mortar, or, as civil engineers like to say, much more than concrete and steel. Students will be educated, mentored and inspired to change the world in this incredible space.”

DesRoches underscored that the new facility “realizes a unified vision of the engineering quad and sets the highest bar for innovation and collaboration” at Rice, in Houston and beyond.

Amy Dittmar

Dittmar, Howard R. Hughes provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and professor of finance and economics, said the O’Connor building constitutes the “biggest investment in research facilities at Rice since Biosciences Research Collaborative.”


“There has never been an effort at this scale to unite so much talent, strategy and collaborative energy to make an impact through research,” Dittmar said. “This facility enhances our efforts in four key areas that have the potential to impact humanity globally, represented in what we’re calling our research neighborhoods.”

The four research neighborhoods anchoring the efforts of Rice engineering and natural sciences faculty and students are advanced materials, quantum science and computing, urban research and innovation, and the energy transition.


“Taken together, these research neighborhoods represent what is possible when we leverage our strengths to boldly address challenges,” Dittmar said.

Thomas Killian

Killian, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and a professor of physics and astronomy, said the O’Connor building “will bring scientists and engineers together and accelerate the transition from fundamental discoveries to the innovation of new technologies.”

architectural void and onlookers

“Its state-of-the-art facilities and the communities we form here will help spur discovery of new materials to power the energy transition, enable environmentally-friendly technologies and lead to new ways to harness the quantum properties of atoms and light to revolutionize data processing and computation,” Killian said.

Luay Nakhleh

Nakhleh, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering and professor of computer science and of biosciences, said “the technologies that will be developed here will contribute solutions for some of today’s most pressing problems . . . and help advance the greater good.”


“Today marks the beginning of a new era at Rice,” Nakhleh said. “As we look to the future, the Ralph S. O’Connor Building for Engineering and Science will be home to the next generation of innovations.”


(Video by Brandon Martin/Rice University)

Image downloads:

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

(Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Related stories:

Ralph S. O’Connor building dedication ceremony to be held Sept.14:

View from a terrace:

Landmark new engineering and science building on campus to bear Ralph S. O’Connor’s name:


Wiess School of Natural Sciences: https://naturalsciences.rice.edu/

George R. Brown School of Engineering: https://engineering.rice.edu

About Rice:

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 4,552 undergraduates and 3,998 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.