This message originally appeared in the 2021 issue of Rice Engineering Magazine.
This past June, we thought the COVID-19 situation was improving and we would soon return to normal at Rice, only for the Delta variant of the virus to upend our plans.
Despite the horrors of COVID, working from home for close to a year and a half gave families an opportunity to spend more time together, time to reflect and discover things about themselves. I feel I spent much more time with my wife and kids (though I’m not sure how excited about that they have been!).
Teaching remotely due to COVID also reminded me once again why I chose to become a professor in the first place. I truly missed interacting with the students in person. Furthermore, while teaching on Zoom I finally discovered something that undergrads in my classes have been saying for years: I do look mad sometimes (often?) when I’m presenting. Perhaps I’ll use time in between semesters to work on looking less mad. I suspect you all have discovered something new about yourselves and I definitely hope the past year and a half got you closer to your families and loved ones.
Today, growth and change at Rice Engineering feel like they’re part of the landscape — in some cases, literally. On campus it’s almost impossible not to feel the effect of the construction of the new 266,000-square-foot Engineering and Science Building. Temporary fences, road closures and noise are now part of the engineering quad many of us know so well. But like much of the growth happening at Rice, it’s a short-term sacrifice that will yield tremendous long-term benefits.
When the project is complete in 2023, the new facility will be a hub for our engineers to develop technologies to address needs in sustainable water, energy systems, telecommunications, the environment and more. It will include state-of-the-art lab space, classrooms, collaborative gathering spaces and flexible offices to encourage collaboration. You can learn more at futureofresearch.rice.edu.
While the new building is on the horizon, our researchers continue to make breakthroughs in a wide array of fields. In this issue we’ll provide an update on the Rice Neuroengineering Initiative that recently received an additional $8 million in federal funding for their wireless brain/machine interface. You’ll also read about the work of our faculty and research teams in quantum computing, big data and sport analytics, bioengineering and materials research.
But we can’t accomplish any of this without the help of our Rice Engineering community — especially our great alumni, so thank you for taking the time to catch up on what’s happening in Rice Engineering!
William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering