Grants for undergraduate teaching at Rice boost creativity in the classroom

Heather Bisesti, lecturer for the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, is one of the recipients of the George R. Brown Teaching Grant. Her project will prioritize in-class, hands-on learning in digital design and visualization.
One of the George R. Brown Teaching grants will support in-class, hands-on projects in digital design and visualization in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen.
One of the George R. Brown Teaching Grants will support in-class, hands-on digital design and visualization projects in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice University students will have hands-on opportunities to learn data collection, molecular visualization, language skills, CPR, digital engineering design, interdisciplinary thinking and more thanks to the George R. Brown Teaching Grants.

The grants enhance undergraduate student learning through teaching innovation. The University Committee on Teaching awarded grants to 13 faculty members this spring, distributing $60,000 to support undergraduate teaching and learning. Twenty faculty members submitted proposals, a higher number than the historical average of 15 a year prior to an increase in funding, said Laura Kabiri, chair of the University Committee on Teaching.

“We were highly encouraged by the increased number of submissions this year,” Kabiri said. “We are thankful for the generous increase in the budget for this unique funding opportunity, particularly because of the impact on undergraduate education.”

The committee attributes the increase in submissions to a publicized increase in the program’s budget. This year, Rice doubled its annual investment in the George R. Brown Teaching Grants from $35,000 to $60,000. The committee maintains high and consistent standards for awarding the funds, Kabiri said, requiring a clearly presented and feasible plan to enhance an aspect of undergraduate education; a projected impact on a significant number of students; teaching innovation; and a justified and realistic budget.

The grant recipients and projects as described in their lightly edited proposal summaries are:

Sabia Abidi, assistant teaching professor, bioengineering
Metacognition skills in bioengineering
Metacognition skills have been shown to benefit learning. Metacognitive activities such as reflections and exam error classifications will be used in a sophomore-level bioengineering course to develop more effective learning habits. The impact, real and perceived, of such activities will be assessed.

Nadia Agha, lecturer, kinesiology
Exercise testing wet lab
Several courses in the kinesiology department aim to include data collection and research activities in their curriculum. Novel research in exercise physiology includes the use of clinical measurements. Students will collect clinical measurements in a new wet lab under development.

Raudel Avila, assistant professor, mechanical engineering
IMPROV-ing C^4 the undergraduate curriculum by “Yes, and…”
This project uses improvisational theater concepts and training for undergraduate engineers to enhance interdisciplinary thinking skills necessary for collaboration and competition. The creative practices introduce technical engineering concepts in unconventional settings, incentivizing innovation and broadening participation of the engineering workforce in addressing complex “unscripted” challenges.

Lisa Basgall, Rice EMS director and lecturer, kinesiology
CPR training feedback mannequins for Rice EMS
Rice Emergency Medical Services aims to enhance CPR and airway management training with new training mannequins and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) featuring advanced feedback technology for accurate compressions, replaceable airway filters and realistic anatomical simulation.

Heather Bisesti, lecturer, Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen
Prioritizing personal learning in digital design and visualization
This project prioritizes in-class, hands-on projects, enhancing students’ engagement and mastery of digital design tools. The approach is designed to foster personalized learning and enable students to produce higher-quality work by providing more one-on-one coaching during class time.

Michael Cone, assistant teaching professor, physics and astronomy
Rice Physics Outreach Program (RicePOP) as a course-based undergraduate research experience
This project will enhance the “Physics461: Rice POP” independent study course, allowing students more autonomy and agency to complete projects independently and on their own schedule. The course is intended to integrate researchlike projects into the undergraduate curriculum.

Mary Glavan, assistant teaching professor, Activate Engineering Communication Program
Appropriate and effective use of generative artificial intelligence: training peer educators
This project includes a two-part event beginning with a one-day workshop to train undergraduate peer educators in appropriate and effective uses of generative artificial intelligence (AI) for coding and communication, equipping them to teach fellow students. The second part is a panel discussion with industry experts on AI in professional environments. The panel will be open to the Rice community.

Jeffrey D. Hartgerink, professor, chemistry and bioengineering
Hands-on molecular visualization for organic chemistry
Visualization and interpretation of 3D objects — molecules — is critical at all levels of organic chemistry. Such skills can be most effectively taught if students can interact with molecules in as many ways as possible. The grant will pay for a 3D printer for hands-on visualization of organic molecules.

Larissa Simoes Novelino, assistant professor, civil and environmental engineering
Unfolding structural engineering thinking
This project improves the teaching of structural engineering and mechanics by incorporating hands-on learning tools such as 3D-printed models and origami patterns into the curriculum. It focuses on enhancing student engagement and understanding, fostering better comprehension and engineering intuition.

Scott Solomon, associate teaching professor, biosciences
Camping gear to make experiential learning in remote locations accessible to all students
This project will facilitate experiential learning in remote field locations and make such experiences accessible to all students by buying camping equipment for students in biosciences, anthropology and Earth, environmental and planetary sciences.

Hiromi Takayama, lecturer, Japanese
Japanese language small library
The Japanese language program has experienced significant growth, highlighting the importance of Japanese learners acquiring literacy skills. This project aims to provide Rice undergraduate Japanese learners with increased access to authentic Japanese resources such as books and audiobooks beyond what is available in the library.

Momona Yamagami, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering
Supporting the hardware needs of a new experiential learning lab course
This proposal supports the experiential learning of core engineering concepts in neuroengineering through a new, lab-based course, “Neural Interface Engineering Laboratory.” Specifically, the grant will help pay for the course’s hardware needs to demonstrate its feasibility and impact. The application of engineering concepts to translational and health applications may positively impact the recruitment and retention of minority engineering students.

Denizhan Yavas, assistant teaching professor, mechanical engineering
Enhancing MECH202 education: integrating full-field strain measurement for in-class demonstrations
By integrating advanced digital image correlation technology in a custom platform, students in core mechanical engineering courses will visualize material deformations under loading and will gain insight without costly software barriers. The experimental infrastructure is also translatable to junior-level courses in the program.