Our Research Future
A Letter from President DesRoches
Greetings Rice alumni, faculty, students, supporters and friends. It’s only been a few weeks since I stepped into my new role, and I am already overcome with gratitude for the support and encouragement I have received from so many of you.
I look forward to sharing my vision and thoughts with you in Rice Magazine and hearing from you, in turn. I am thrilled that the first topic I have to write about is research, a practice I learned to value as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. During my junior year of college there, a powerful earthquake struck Northern California. The shock of the 6.9 magnitude quake was centered in The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Santa Cruz County. I could see the smoke billowing across the bay from my location on campus. Days later, I learned that more than 60 people perished due to collapsed structures in Oakland and San Francisco in what came to be known as the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Because of this experience, I spent the next eight years pursuing a doctorate in structural engineering and the following nearly 20 years as a faculty member at Georgia Tech, conducting research on how to build bridges and buildings to better withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters.
I also realized the critical importance of this type of research after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, when more than 250,000 people lost their lives and millions were left injured and homeless. After the earthquake, I spent over a week in Haiti and continued working with local officials and nongovernmental organizations for several years to help map out a sustainable path to recovery for the country where I was born.
The search for knowledge, scholarship and creative solutions to both simple and complex problems is fundamental to what we do at Rice. This work creates the foundation for major advances while educating future leaders. It is also essential to the advancement of society.
As you will read in this issue and many others, Rice’s research enterprise is diverse in terms of the ideas pursued and inclusive in terms of campus reach. From the humanities to engineering to public policy, ideas are being explored by students, faculty and community partners.
The search for knowledge, scholarship and creative solutions to both simple and complex problems is fundamental to what we do at Rice. This work creates the foundation for major advances while educating future leaders. It is also essential to the advancement of society. Scholarly developments, scientific discovery and technological advances are important sources of economic growth in the United States and are critical to our national security and economic competitiveness.
Excellence in research has been one of the tenets of the university since its inception.
Only six years after Rice opened its doors in 1912, we awarded our first Ph.D. Today, Rice is one of the 65 members of the Association of American Universities, the organization of leading research institutions in North America.
Graduate and undergraduate students from around the world come to Rice to participate in research and scholarship with our faculty, many of whom are members of the national academies and have won highly prestigious research and scholarly awards and recognitions, including Nobel and Pulitzer prizes.
The wide-spectrum, highly collaborative research conducted at Rice consistently places our university at the forefront of change for the betterment of our world. My goal as president is to continue along this path and enable Rice to reach a new level of distinction nationally and internationally for impactful scholarship and insightful creative work at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.
To accomplish this, Rice’s faculty, postdocs and students must continue to conduct scholarship and research that addresses the most pressing societal challenges, including climate change, health and medicine, and disparities and inequities. Rice also will need to continue to enhance its infrastructure and administrative structure to move discoveries and new knowledge from the lab to the community.
In these ways, our scholarship and research will have real, profound effects on society for generations to come — upholding the Rice standard set more than a century ago.
— Reginald DesRoches