Ken Kennedy Institute contributes to new research collaborations with Houston Methodist

Seed grants awarded for research in robotics, imaging, cardiovascular bioengineering, and psychological and behavioral health


Rice University and the Houston Methodist Academic Institute have launched a seed grant program to foster innovative research between their faculty, collaborating researchers and clinician scientists. Each institution will share equally in the funding of 20 multiyear projects in robotics, imaging, nursing, cardiovascular engineering and psychological and behavioral health.

The program is the third institutional collaboration Rice and Houston Methodist have announced since early 2021. The two launched the Center for Translational Neural Prosthetics and Interfaces on the Houston Methodist campus in April 2021 and the Center for Human Performance on the Rice campus in March.

“Our collaborations with Houston Methodist will impact human health and wellness, foster new research opportunities and advance our understanding of diseases," said Rice Provost Amy Dittmar.

Houston Methodist Chief Academic Officer Dr. Dirk Sostman said, “This Rice and Houston Methodist synergy will unlock the potential of data to innovate and enable faster and more effective delivery of high quality, safe, effective healthcare.”

The seed grant program is facilitated by Rice's Office of Educational and Research Initiatives for Collaborative Health (ENRICH) on behalf of the Ken Kennedy Institute and the Department of Bioengineering. ENRICH was established in 2016 to advise Rice’s provost on TMC collaborations, to help remove barriers to those collaborations and to engage Rice faculty in starting and strengthening collaborations.

Awards in the nursing category are expected later this year. Awards in other categories are:


● “Automated Performance Assessment of Robotic Surgery” by Houston Methodist’s Randy Steadman, Rodolfo Oviedo and Stephen Jones, and Rice’s Marcia O’Malley.

● “Robotic Assistance in Performance of Surgical Procedures” by Houston Methodist’s Osama Gaber and Stephanie Yi , and Rice’s Vaibhav Unhelkar.

● “Exploring Opportunities of Robot-Assisted Nursing during the Central Line Dressing Change Procedure” by Houston Methodist’s Shannon Hamlin, Nicole Fontenot and Hsin-Mei Chen, and Rice’s Lydia Kavraki and Vaibhav Unhelkar .

● “Toward Robotic Automated Vascular Access” by Houston Methodist’s Huie Lin and Rice’s Fathi Ghorbel.

● “Imaging, AI & Visualization for Surgical Robotics: Big Problems to Solve” by Houston Methodist’s Osama Gaber, Rodolfo Oviedo and Stuart Corr, and Rice’s Ashok Veeraraghavan.

● “Towards a Robot Assistant for Minimally Invasive Surgery: Manipulation of Surgical Tools under Interactive Surgeon Guidance” by Houston Methodist’s Gavin Britz and Rice’s Kaiyu Hang and Lydia Kavraki.


● “Use of AI analytics for ARDS trajectory prediction from digital chest X-rays” by Houston Methodist’s Asma Zainab, Atiya Dhala, Faisal Masud, Diego Martin and Christof Karmonik, and Rice’s Guha Balakrishnan and Ashok Veeraraghavan.

● “Machine-learning analysis of right ventricular shape for characterization of patients with functional tricuspid regurgitation” by Houston Methodist’s Andrada Guta and Dipan Shah, and Rice’s Meng Li.

● “Real-Time Monitoring of Lower Extremity Perfusion During Revascularization” by Houston Methodist’s Maham Rahimi and Rice’s Ashok Veeraraghavan and Ashu Sabharwal.

● “Reconstructing CT scans from sparse X-rays for attenuation correction on cardiac SPECT Myocardial Perfusion Imaging” by Houston Methodist’s Fares Alahdab and Mouaz Al-Mallah, and Rice’s Guha Balakrishnan.

● “Fluorescence Colonoscopy for Molecular Imaging of Colorectal Cancer in Mice” by Houston Methodist’s Zhonglin Liu and Diego Martin, and Rice’s Tomasz Tkaczyk.

Psychological and behavioral health

● “Characterizing Burnout in Nursing Populations using Wearables and Machine Learning-Based Analyses” by Houston Methodist’s Katelynn Bourassa and Alok Madan, and Rice’s Akane Sano and Ashu Sabharwal.

● “Impact of Past Traumatic Load on Physiological Markers During Pregnancy: A Machine Learning Approach” by Houston Methodist’s Jessica Rohr and Alok Madan, and Rice’s Ashu Sabharwal and Akane Sano.

Cardiovascular bioengineering

● “Enhancing the stability of RNA therapeutics via gas-phase encapsulation” by Houston Methodist’s Daniel Kissand Rice’s George Lu.

● “Exosomal Delivery of Therapeutic mRNA” by Houston Methodist’s John Cooke and Rice’s Gang Bao.

● “Identifying Novel Parameter in Echocardiography to Assess Right Ventricular Function Using Machine Learning” by Houston Methodist’s Ashrith Guha and Rice’s Meng Li.


Link to article.


The Rice Ken Kennedy Institute is located on the campus of Rice University inside Duncan Hall. Click the map below for directions.

Rice Map


Rice University
Ken Kennedy Institute
6100 Main Street, MS-39
Houston, Texas 77005


Phone: 713-348-5823

Subscribe to our Newsletter.