From the Chair

Michael Wong
Michael S. Wong, Department Chair

Dear Students, Alumni and Friends,

Welcome! Campus feels normal for the first time in a very long time, and excitement is in the air.

The new Rice President (and our former Dean of Engineering), Reginald DesRoches, has fully started his work, and has assembled an outstanding academic leadership team. The new home for our ChBE Department is the Ralph S. O'Connor Building for Engineering and Science, which is set to soft-open in the spring next year. It replaces the former home for chemical engineering, the 70+ year-old Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory, where many of the revolutionary research findings and technological advancements were made and where many long nights were had by students.

Our ChBE faculty are doing exciting and groundbreaking theoretical, experimental, and data-driven research in the areas of materials & nanotechnology; biomolecular engineering; and energy & sustainability. Professors Thomas Senftle and Sherry Gao received CAREER Awards from NSF in the respective areas of machine learning and quantum chemistry for catalysis, and synthetic biology and protein engineering for gene regulation, for example. Our Department's research efforts contribute to the School of Engineering's vision of engineering a sustainable future with social responsibility, in the areas of energy and sustainability; health and well-being; resilient and adaptive communities; advanced materials, and future computing.

We welcome Dr. Ericson de Paula as the new Director of the Professional Masters in Chemical Engineering (MChE) program, and Dr. Caroline Ajo-Franklin as a new joint faculty member from the Biosciences Department. We are pleased to announce the newest members of our Department External Advisory Board: Alessandra Carreon, Paul Nealey, Elyse Bealer, and Göran Haag.

Our undergraduate and PhD programs are ranked in the top 25 programs in the US, according to U.S. News & World Report, and the top 10 programs among private universities.

At the 109th Commencement Ceremony this past May, 25 BS/BA, 5 MCHE/MS, and 12 PhD degree holders received their hard-earned degrees. With the first in-person event since 2019, many of our graduates from 2020 and 2021 were able to join in the commencement ceremonies. For the second year in a row, a PhD student (Chelsea Clark, 2021 and Jordan Shivers, 2022) was selected from our department to receive the Ralph Budd Ph.D. Thesis Award for best engineering thesis. Four ChBE students received NSF graduate fellowships!

These are just but a few highlights from the past year! Exciting times are ahead for ChBE and Rice.

Be Bold!

Michael S. Wong
Department Chair
November 2022