Data and Computing in Energy, Environment & Sustainability

  • Professor Beatrice Riviere has worked extensively of the development and analysis of numerical methods applied to problems in porous media and in fluid mechanics. Her current research deals with the development of high-order methods in time and in space for multiphase multicomponent flows (in rigid and deformable media); the modeling of pore scale flows for immiscible and miscible components; the numerical model of oxygen transport in a network of blood vessels; the analysis of neural networks for image segmentation and the design of iterative solvers.
  • Professor Jesse Chan’s research interests are in numerical methods for PDEs and scientific computing. More specifically, his recent work has focused on high order finite element and discontinuous Galerkin (DG) methods, provably stable methods for wave propagation and fluid dynamics, efficient high performance implementations on many-core and GPU architectures, and discontinuous Petrov-Galerkin (DPG) methods. His research works are central to scientific fields from environmental and aerospace engineering to solar physics.
  • Professor Maarten de Hoop’s research interests are in extracting subtle signal information from the ever-expanding data sets produced from advances in data acquisition by dense arrays and sensor technology. Maarten is interested in exploiting the foundations of the theory of seismic waves, their properties and multi-scale interaction with complex, highly heterogeneous media and nonlinear inverse theory, and in developing new paradigms for large-scale computing. There is a wide array of applications to his research, from upstream Oil and Gas reservoirs to exploration of Mars.
  • Professor Bezawit Getachew’s research focuses on understanding the performance of “smart materials” in the context of water treatment technologies and systems. Research in Dr. Getachew’s lab aims to (1) evaluate the performance of different kinds of smart materials in environmentally relevant conditions, (2) integrate them into water treatment technologies and assess their performance against state-of-the-art technologies, and 3) design new materials and composite structures to enable previously unavailable functionalities.
  • 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 the Director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, & Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED) and he is currently working on seven projects related to impacts and future mitigation from Hurricane Harvey.
  • Professor Lauren Stadler's research focuses on advancing water reuse and energy recovery from wastewater using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines microbial ecology, environmental chemistry, and sustainability assessment to study used water (wastewater) treatment systems, resource recovery, and their impact on the environment and human health. Her projects include wastewater-based epidemiology, environmental synthetic biology, and a few others. Currently, she is working with Professor Kathy Ensor and the health department in Houston to develop a tool that utilizes machine learning to track COVID-19 infection dynamics in water treatment plants. This allows the city to identify increases in infection in a community before hospital or testing data.
  • Professor Jonathan Ajo-Franklin focuses on solving challenging problems relevant to environmental and energy systems using the tools of applied geophysics. His team seek to advance seismic acquisition and monitoring approaches to help constrain the dynamics of subsurface fluid flow, fracture mechanics, stress perturbations, and phase changes. A central theme of his work is using seismology to solve generational problems at the interface between human activity and the subsurface, mainly CO2 mitigation and energy production in a carbon-constrained world, management of scarce water resources, and understanding the impact of climate change on subsurface systems including permafrost stability and the weathering cycle.
  • Professor Cin-Ty Lee is a geologist/petrologist/geochemist who investigates how our planet has evolved with time, from the deepest parts of the Earth's mantle to the continental crust and to the atmosphere. He combines field mapping and sampling with state of the art analytical tools (mass spectrometry, x-ray spectrometry, electron probe microanalysis) and simple analytical and numerical modeling. He has worked on continent formation and destruction, redox evolution of the Earth's interior, the origin of various ore deposits, the petrological structure of volcanic margins, and the origin of granites. He is now working on the geochemical interactions between the deep Earth and oceans/atmospheres in order to better understand what controls long term climate evolution.
  • Professor Alan Levander’s research interests include crustal and upper mantle seismology, evolution and structure of orogenic belts and plate boundaries, seismic imaging and forward modeling, as well as energy and the environment. In a recent work, he made the first direct measurements of three subsurface boundaries from the crust to the core of Mars, using data from NASA’s InSight Lander – a milestone that can ultimately lead to better understanding of planetary formation.
  • Professor Fenglin Niu focuses on determining the seismic structure of Earth’s deep interior to understand its chemical composition and the nature of convection within the planet. His team have applied and developed many techniques to map the fine seismic structures at various depths. A variety of research projects including the inner core hemisphericity and anisotropy, fine seismic structure near the core-mantle boundary, seismic reflectors in the mid-mantle depths, lateral variation of the mantle transition zone structure, the crust-mantle transition and depth distribution of seismic anisotropy is ongoing in his group.
  • Professor Colin Zelt’s research interests include the development, assessment and application of seismic modeling and inversion techniques for studies of the near-surface (upper 100m), basins and crust. More specifically, this includes 2D and 3D traveltime inversion and tomography methods, including a newly developed frequency-dependent form of tomography that is applicable to controlled-source (picked) traveltime data. Recently, he has expanded his interests to the shallow subsurface (upper tens of meters) for environmental, engineering and risk assessment studies.
  • Professor Sylvia Dee leads the Climate, Water, and Energy Lab. She is a climate scientist specializing in atmospheric modeling, water isotope physics, and paleoclimate data-model comparison. Her research focuses include (1) including climate predictions: combining climate information from the Past and Present to improve predictions of Future climate; and (2) climate data analysis: strategies for linking data from general circulation models, satellite retrievals of stable water isotope ratios, and high-resolution paleoclimate observations such as ice cores, tree rings, and corals.
  • Professor Julia Morgan’s research interests are focused on deformation processes near the surface of the Earth. In this regime, friction and fracture are the dominant deformation mechanisms, and the origin and evolution of shallow deformation structures are dominated by these processes. Additionally, the fractured nature, and the abundance of sediments and soils near the Earth's surface, means that the shallow crust can be approximated as a granular system (although sometimes cohesive), in which particles interact in relatively simple ways to create complex emergent structures. This allows us to apply the principles of soil and sediment mechanics to understand their behaviors.
  • Professor Mark Torres’s Torres Lab focuses on the biological, chemical, and geologic processes that act to distribute elements across our planet’s surface and interior. While these biogeochemical processes operate across the entire periodic table, the Torres lab is particularly interested in the set of elements and compounds that regulate Earth’s habitability. For example, the Torres Lab is deeply focused on the cycling of water, carbon, and oxygen across a range of surface environment.
  • Professor Laurence Yeung’s research focuses on Earth's atmospheric and biogeochemical cycles. Specifically, He uses use stable isotopes to understand processes ranging from stratospheric chemistry to carbon cycling in the oceans. His expertise also includes public engagement in science: I was a founding producer for PHD TV, an online-based science outreach venture led by Jorge Cham (creator of PHD Comics). Currently, he serves on the water quality steering committee for the Galveston Bay Foundation.
  • Professor Kirsten Siebach researches "source-to-sink" sedimentary processes on Mars and early Earth to interpret the history of water and surface environments early in our solar system. She is among 13 scientists recently selected by NASA to conduct research and, as part of their duties, operate NASA’s Perseverance rover. Siebach and her colleagues are receiving funding to create algorithms and machine learning methods that will help identify samples to be returned to Earth.
  • Professor Farès el-Dahdah is a member of Ken Kennedy Institute’s Faculty Advisory Committee and the director of the Humanities Research Center and the Spatial Studies Lab. His current research interests explore and critique how digital platforms uphold the mission of disseminating knowledge while developing online geospatial platforms that describe cities over time, as they existed and as they have come to be imagined. At Rice, el-Dahdah's activities extend across the university in his capacity as co-chair of the University Committee on Information Technology and a Baker Institute Faculty Scholar.
  • Professor James Tour champions the field of Synthetic Organic Chemistry, among several other fields. His recent works include the development of versatile laser-induced graphene, flash graphene from waste material, light-activated nanodrills that destroy cancer cells and “superbug” bacteria, silicon-oxide memory circuits that have flown on the International Space Station, the development of graphene quantum dots from coal, asphalt-based materials to capture carbon dioxide from gas wells, and the use of nanoparticles to quench damaging superoxides after an injury or stroke.
  • Professor Yimo Han’s laboratory utilizes electron microscopy and related techniques to investigate a wide range of material systems including low-dimensional nanomaterials, biomaterials/molecules, and interfaces. Her lab aims to understand the structure and properties of material systems at an atomic level. The ultimate goal is to provide novel materials/interface design for next-generation electronics, biosensing, clean energy harvesting, etc.
  • Professor Pulickel Ajayan leads research of advanced nanomaterials with specific application areas in alternative energy, multifunctional nanocomposites, and electronics/sensor technologies. Ongoing projects focus on the materials science and engineering of several technologies that will impact society in the future. Energy generation and storage, chemical sensors, nanoelectronics, flexible displays, high performance composites, membrane technologies, coatings, and biomedical technologies are some of the areas explored. With several collaborations at Rice and outside the group is involved in a multi-disciplinary team effort with the goal of developing functional nanomaterials for a rich variety of applications. The Ajayan Research Group is committed to changing the world through discoveries and development of new materials.
  • Professor Robert Vajtai’s work is focused on synthesis and applications of nanomaterials. For synthesis processing, he works on characterization of new, advanced material forms and structures, more specifically of nanometals and nanosized oxides, and different forms of nanocarbon - carbon nanotubes, graphene and macroscopic systems designed and built from these building blocks. He also works on application of nanomaterials for building energy storage devices, multifunctional parts of vehicles, sensors and thermal management systems.
  • Professor Ming Tang is interested in materials phenomena at mesoscale, which bridge between atomistic building blocks and macroscopic properties. The focus of his research is two-fold: 1) advance novel mesoscale modeling techniques such as the phase-field method to enable more faithful and efficient simulation of structural or functional materials over ever increasing length and time scales, and 2) combine simulation (relying heavily on parallel computation), theory and experiment to explain and predict the thermodynamic stability and kinetic evolution of mesoscale-level structures under different stimuli (thermal, electrochemical, radiational, etc.), and apply obtained insights to tailor microstructural features for improved performance.
  • Professor Hanyu Zhu and his Emerging Quantum and Ultrafast Activity Laboratory (EQUAL) engineer materials at the atomic level with light. He is interested in the interplay among the lattice structures, electrons and electromagnetic waves to create quantum behavior that typically only exist in extreme conditions with natural compounds. These artificial materials potentially serve in robust information technology and sensitive detectors beyond the classical limit.
  • Professor Haotian Wang is currently focused on developing novel materials and technologies for important energy and environmental applications including energy storage, catalysis, green synthesis and energy devices. One particular focus is on exploring highly efficient catalysts for very important catalytic reactions, including carbon dioxide reduction, H2O2 generation, N2 reduction, water splitting, fuel cell electrocatalysis, and so on. Coupling electrochemical redox reactions for high-energy rechargeable batteries is also explored. Those fundamental reactions play critical roles in practical applications including renewable energy conversion and storage, chemical or fuels production, water treatment, agriculture fertilization.