Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering, and professor of electrical engineering, has been named to her second term as chair of the Department of Bioengineering. Her appointment comes at a time of growth for the department, with several positions to be added over the next four years. The Department of Bioengineering contributes substantially to the university’s reputation as a leader in research and experiential learning.
For two decades, Richards-Kortum has focused on translational research that integrates advances in nanotechnology and molecular imaging with microfabrication technologies to develop optical imaging systems that are inexpensive, portable, and provide point-of-care diagnosis. This research is highly collaborative and has led to new technologies especially for improving early detection of cancers and other diseases in impoverished settings.
Richards-Kortum is the founder of Rice’s Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) program, established in 2006 with an undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).The journal, Science recognized BTB as a model program with its Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction in 2012.
“These are exciting times for our discipline and for our department, and I’m grateful for another opportunity to serve our students, faculty and staff,” Richards-Kortum said of her appointment. “Bioengineering plays a central role in so many multidisciplinary collaborations which are revolutionizing healthcare, and our faculty, students and alumni are at the heart of these efforts. We will continue our efforts to further basic, applied and translational research between Bioengineering, the Texas Medical Center, and other institutions. I’m especially excited about the role we will play in new programs in structural and synthetic biology and global health technologies.”
Richards-Kortum is currently working on several health-related projects, including an international effort to evaluate screening devices for oral and cervical cancer in conjunction with MD Anderson and the University of Botswana, and esophageal cancer in collaboration with Mount Sinai Medical Center and First University Hospital in Jilin, China; the development of molecular-specific, optically active, contrast agents that can be applied topically to aid in the early detection of cancer; and the development of integrated microfabricated microscopes for point-of-care diagnostics.
“We are so fortunate to have Rebecca Richards-Kortum serve as chair of the Department of Bioengineering,” said Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering at Rice. “In addition to the ground-breaking research she conducts, she believes in Rice’s mission to foster collaborative experiences among our students, her fellow faculty and other engineering industry professionals. Plus, Rebecca leads by example and is a highly decorated faculty member and widely recognized for her pioneering research.”
In 2008 Richards-Kortum was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She is a senior member of the Optical Society of America and an inaugural member of the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for the National Institutes of Health. She is an elected fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Biomedical Engineering Society. She was named an HHMI Professor in 2002 and 2006, and the Pritzker Distinguished Scientist and Lecturer of the Biomedical Engineering Society 2010 annual meeting. Recently, BioHouston, Inc. gave Richards-Kortum the Celebrating Women in Science Award and she received the Women Leaders in Medicine Award from the American Medical Student Association in 2012.