Rice Engineering's strategic research focus areas leverage our strengths, location, agility, and strong interdisciplinary culture to solve local and global societal challenges.
Engineering & Medicine
For more than half a century, since researchers at Rice helped design the world’s first artificial heart, our engineers have worked in the vanguard of human health and medicine. Much of this work is centered at the BioScience Research Collaborative, the hub for medical research at Rice, which adjoins the Texas Medical Center, the largest in the world. Rice is making plans to be at the forefront of neuroengineering, which combines neuroscience and engineering to help understand, repair, and in some cases, re-engineer the human nervous system. The possibilities of this emerging discipline are extraordinary, with the potential to solve medical problems that once seemed impossible.
Molecular Nanotechnology & Materials
Materials science at Rice University has a history of discovery and innovation, going back to the discovery of buckyballs in 1985. That discovery earned the Nobel Prize in chemistry for Richard Smalley, Bob Curl and Harold Kroto in 1996, and spawned research in carbon nanotubes across the schools of engineering and natural sciences.
At Rice Engineering, nano-technology is by its nature interdisciplinary, with collaborations among mechanical engineering, bioengineering, chemistry, chemical and biomolecular engineering, electrical and computer engineering, civil and environmental engineering, and physics and astronomy. The result is world-changing research in carbon nanomaterials composites, photonics and nanoplasmonics, and energy conversion and storage.
Energy & the Environment
At the epicenter of the world’s oil and gas industry, Rice University engineers are designing and implementing solutions to the world’s growing energy needs. Research at Rice is rooted in unconventional collaborations across disciplines, departments and across the spectrum of science and humanities. Rice engineers are also doing pioneering work in advanced oil and gas exploration, energy storage, renewable energy, seismic data processing, and environmental fluid dynamics.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning at Rice University draws on computer science, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, and other disciplines. Much of the work at Rice is focused on the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Group, headed by world-renowned robotics researcher Lydia Kavraki.
Research focuses on automata reasoning, deep learning, machine learning, optimization and large-scale machine learning, network analytics, and graph signal processing, and quantum computing and algorithms. Machine-learning algorithms developed at Rice aid in such tasks as data visualization and exploration, dimensionality reduction, nonlinear regression, and pattern classification.
Cities of the Future
A growing portion of the world’s population is moving to cities. By 2050, according to the United Nations, 68 percent of the human race will live in urban areas, representing an additional 2.5 billion people. This migration will require larger, better infrastructure and management, with innovative solutions rooted in high-tech materials, sensor networks and better data to help architects, designers, and planners work smarter.
Rice engineers are at the forefront of solving these problems through disruptive technologies, including advanced robotics, automation, the Internet of Things, structural dynamic systems, earthquake engineering, smart structures and strain sensing using nano-materials.