Data Science in Architecture & Sustainable Infrastructure

The Ken Kennedy Institute brings together the Rice community to foster innovations in computing and data science. Check out the list below to learn about how Rice University faculty are applying data and computation to Architecture & Sustainable Infrastructure.


  • Professor Albert Pope is the founding Director of Present Future, a design program and think tank at Rice University School of Architecture. He is currently engaged in climate driven urban redevelopment producing large scale planning projects for Houston and Detroit.  
  • Professor Jesus Vassallo's recent project, titled "Tall Timber," focuses on mass timber construction systems for housing developments. Vassallo's research emphasizes the need for carbon reduction and awareness by focusing on mass timber construction as an alternative to steel or concrete systems.  
  • Professor Scott Colman is an architectural historian, theorist, critic, and designer, committed to these activities as implicated pursuits. Specializing in modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism, Colman’s research is focused on the changing interrelationship of creative, theoretical, and historical production.
  • Professor Amelyn Ng seeks to untype architectural formats, systems, pedagogies, and practices. In one project, she investigates how stay-at-home orders have disproportionately disrupted the domestic lives of Houston households, particularly low-income families with children, backed by a grant from Rice’s COVID-19 Research Fund, in line with the university’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade. Another project a collaborative effort of four researchers with backgrounds in geography, data science, sociology, and architecture, seeks to investigate the uneven relationship between rainwater, industrial hard surfaces, and residential stormwater drainage in environmentally vulnerable communities in Houston, Texas.
  • Professors John Akin, Matthew Brake, BJ Fregly, Fathi Ghorbel, Pedram Hassanzadeh, Marcia O’Malley, Pol Spanos, and Tayfun Tezduyar form research focus of Mechanics, Dynamics, & Controls, seeking to understand how media respond to external stimuli acting upon it, and how to control that response, with specializations in computational mechanics (and finite element theory), fracture, fatigue, and failure mechanics, biomechanics, structural mechanics, fluid mechanics, and materials characterization. 
  • Professors Fathi Ghorbel, Pedram Hassanzadeh, Fred Higgs, Laura Schaefer, Tayfun Tezduyar, and Geoff Wehmeyer promote the cause of Energy & the Environment by using theoretical analysis, numerical modeling, and physics-based artificial intelligence to enhance the electrical power generation efficiency, improve renewable energy including photovoltaic systems and wind turbines, and develop climate prediction models.  
  • Professors Pedram Hassanzadeh, Andrew Meade, and Pol Spanos conduct research on Aerospace Engineering, aiming to improve the understanding and modeling of physical phenomenon, improve the accuracy and efficiency of numerical and experimental analyses, and optimize the solutions to complex problems involving multiple interacting physical mechanisms.  
  • Professor Z Maria Oden is director of Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK), collaborating with Rice faculty members to develop and implement engineering design and innovation curriculum programs for undergraduate students. The OEDK houses ready access to all the tools, supplies and resources students need as they work in teams to invent, test, and carry ideas and devices to their intended point of application.  
  • Professor Reginald DesRoches is a member of The National Academy of Engineering. He leads the Natural Hazards Mitigation Group’s research, which focuses on seismic resistant design and retrofit and of lifeline systems; multi-scale assessment and applications of smart and auto-adaptive materials, namely shape memory alloys, in seismic design and retrofit of buildings and bridges; and system-level design of smart and resilient cities.  
  • Professor Jamie Padgett leads research on the application of probabilistic methods and Machine Learning for risk assessment of infrastructure, the subsequent quantification of resilience and sustainability, structural portfolios such as regional portfolios of bridges or oil storage tanks exposed to multiple hazards including earthquakes, hurricanes, or aging and deterioration.    
  • Professor Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio’s research focuses on computational and theoretical models for structure and infrastructure system reliability, resilience and risk assessment in the context of natural hazards, deterioration, and complex operation. Applications include the quantification of interdependencies across critical infrastructures systems, assessment of smart grid resilience, computational complexity analysis of algorithms, development of robust topologies for networked systems, design of lifeline systems using reliability-based optimization methods, evaluation of bridge system and bridge network reliability, and prediction of wind turbine long-term availability. 
  • Professor Phil Bedient teaches and performs research in surface water hydrology and flood prediction systems, and radar based flood alert, employing tools such as computer models (HEC-HMS, HEC-RAS, and VFLO) for advanced hydrologic analysis. He is currently working on seven projects related to impacts and future mitigation from Hurricane Harvey.
  • Professor Satish Nagarajaiah focuses on research in the broad area of structural dynamic systems, earthquake engineering, advanced seismic protection, smart structures, adaptive stiffness structures, sparse structural system identification, and strain sensing using nano-materials, with the goal of innovation and creative research. His work includes theoretical, analytical and experimental studies, focusing mainly on mathematical modeling and development of advanced algorithms for system identification, monitoring and control for seismic and vibration protection.
  • Professor Daniel Cohan specializes in the development and application of photochemical models to investigate atmospheric processes and inform air quality management, with special interest in how energy use impacts the atmosphere, and how air pollution, in turn, impacts human health. Current research includes simulating the formation of ozone and particulate matter; modeling the emissions of reactive nitrogen species from soils and the impact of agricultural practices; assessing the air quality, climate, and economic impacts of electric power generation and alternative fuel vehicles; and chronicling U.S. efforts to address climate change.
  • Professor Pol Spanos is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the National Academy of Engineering. His research efforts focus on the dynamics and vibrations of structural and mechanical systems under a variety of loads. Systems exhibiting nonlinear behavior and/or exposed to hazard/risk inducing conditions receive particular attention. His group is also interested in mechanical properties and fatigue/fracture issues of modern (nanocomposites, etc.) materials, and in signal processing algorithms for dynamic effects in biomedical applications. Professor Spanos develops primarily analytic and numerical methods that often require advanced scientific computation packages and supercomputers.