Rice establishes 3-year partnership with Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Collaboration helps fund dual agreement to increase research and education

Rice and India Institute of Technology Kanpur representatives

Rice University and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) have taken an important next step in their strategic research and education partnership with today’s announcement of the first recipients of the Rice-IITK Strategic Collaboration Award program.

In 2019, the two institutions developed the Rice-IITK Collaborative Center, which focuses on high-impact collaborative research in the areas of sustainable energy, water, materials, alternative fuels and other areas of common research interest.


As part of an effort to expand upon this initial success and to foster deeper research collaboration, in November 2022 the two universities developed the Rice-IITK Strategic Collaboration Award program, which supports joint research initiatives in the fields of energy and environment, health care, biomedical sciences, biomedical engineering, data science, computer science and engineering, among other areas.

“We wanted to deepen and broaden our commitment to encouraging joint research and innovation across multiple disciplines,” said Caroline Levander, vice president for global at Rice. “This partnership helps to identify areas of shared research strength between the faculties of the two universities and to pinpoint ways in which we might support the research aspirations of faculty and also help grow our partnership.”

IITK is an important strategic partner for Rice, as the university grows its global presence and seeks to act internationally on a larger scale in order to increase its impact.

IITK was established in 1959 and has a sprawling campus spread over 1,055 acres. The large pool of academic and research resources span 19 departments, 22 centers and three interdisciplinary programs in engineering, science, design, humanities and management disciplines with 540 full-time faculty members and approximately 9,000 students. In addition to formal undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the institute has been active in research and development in areas of value to both industry and government.

Levander noted that the rigorous and thoughtful award review selection process was conducted by an international advisory committee of more than a dozen people from both institutions.

Each proposal required at least two principal investigators: one from Rice and one from IITK. Each successful proposal could receive up to $20,000 (USD) or 15 lakhs (INR) from their respective university for a combined total of approximately $38,000 (USD).

Each institution’s contributions will be used exclusively to fund its own researcher and expenses and will not be commingled. The award of any funds from either institution will be subject to the internal processes and procedures of each organization.

The list of award recipients and their research is as follows:

1. Rajdeep Dasgupta, the W. Maurice Ewing Professor of Earth Systems Science, and Debajyoti Paul, professor of earth sciences.

  • The project aims to combine experimental and geochemical approaches to understand the processes of rare-earth elements (REE) and tungsten concentrations in carbonatites. The team will conduct laboratory experiments to determine pathways of REE concentrations in carbonatite and associated phases.

2. Eric Chi, associate professor, and Dootika Vats, assistant professor.

  • This proposal combines artificial intelligence and machine learning models for exploring solution spaces more comprehensively and efficiently to learn models as well as quantify model uncertainty due to learning from noisy data. Uncertainty quantification is critical to applying artificial intelligence in fields such as finance, engineering, climate science and health care, where accurate predictions and reliable decision-making under uncertainty are essential.

3. Pulickel Ajayan, Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Engineering, and Krishanu Biswas, professor of materials science and engineering.

  • This project proposes to modulate the surface electronic structure and chemical properties of nanoengineered high-entropy alloys (HEAs). The synergistic tuning of structural and chemical properties of the HEAs will lead to a class of easily scalable, inexpensive catalysts that will be efficient and durable to produce hydrogen from multiple resources for industrial adaptation.

4. Meng Li, Noah Harding Assistant Professor, and Arnab Hazra, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics.

  • This project proposes a novel Bayesian spatiotemporal model to dissect sea surface temperature changes in the Red Sea, a vital indicator of climate change. The model introduces a nuanced approach to capture the rate of change, recognizing the complexities that arise when tracking dynamic spatiotemporal patterns.

5. Satish Nagarajaiah, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Suparno Mukhopadhyay, assistant professor of civil engineering and structural health.

  • This project focuses on vibration-based monitoring of wind turbine blades, necessary for the safe and uninterrupted operations of wind turbines. The proposed research involves identification of dynamic models, including a high-fidelity FE model, of a blade using benchmark test data. The project will result in a robust and reliable health assessment technique for wind turbine blades and will pave the way for further research and applications such as noncontact and operational monitoring.

6. Ashutosh Sabharwal, Ernest Dell Butcher Professor of Engineering, and Amitangshu Pal, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

  • Rescue operations following a building collapse sometimes take several hours to days; rescue personnel often cannot find the victims’ bodies that are buried under the debris. Very often the responders need to cut the debris exhaustively to find whether victims are trapped inside. The ability to track the positions of these victims will provide useful information to the rescue personnel. This research will explore the use of radio frequency reflections from the human body that are captured by radars and analysis of their footprints to detect whether victims are trapped inside debris.

7. Daniel J. Preston, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Yogesh Joshi, chair and professor of chemical engineering.

  • The goal of this project is to systematically characterize a diverse array of food inks suitable for 3D food printing, along with a comprehensive study on the resultant food structure and mechanics, in order to achieve edible metamaterials with enhanced and tunable food properties in comparison to conventional methods.

8. Behnaam Aazhang, J.S. Abercrombie Professor; John Seymour, adjunct associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Arjun Ramakrishnan, assistant professor of biological sciences and bioengineering.

  • Given the diversity of functions and the lack of consensus regarding the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the team will leverage a novel recording tool and computational method to greatly improve the information available to researchers in the nonhuman primate ACC. The study will target ACC subregions and nearby prefrontal regions defined by an fMRI pilot study in humans.

The Rice-IITK Strategic Collaboration Awards are part of Rice Global’s overall mission to foster innovative international collaborations. Rice Global aims to amplify the impact of research, accelerate solutions to global challenges and extend the global reach and reputation of Rice University.

Learn more about Rice Global at global.rice.edu.