Research Connections


Scientific research at Rice University is broad and far reaching. Rice research strives to understand the world around us and our place within it through fundamental enquiry and scientific discovery. Several areas are directly related to understanding the fundamental processes that define our space environment, drive the development of advanced technologies that enable space exploration and push the envelope of human engagement in space.

Space Physics and Astronomy

Research themes include Space Weather, plasma physics, computational physics, exoplanetary science, star formation, high energy astrophysics and the early Universe. The Laboratory for Space and Astrophysical Plasmas brings researchers to explore overlapping physical themes within computational, laboratory and observational plasma physics.

Laboratory for Space and Astrophysical Plasmas Frank Toffoletto
Space Plasma Physics Frank Toffoletto
Space Weather Prediction Patricia Reiff
Solar Atmosphere Modeling and Solar Activity Stephen Bradshaw
Extrasolar Planets Chris Johns Krull
High Energy Astrophysics Matthew Baring

Earth, Environment and Planetary Sciences

Research themes include Space Weather, plasma physics, computational physics, exoplanetary science, star formation, high energy astrophysics and the early Universe. The Laboratory for Space and Astrophysical Plasmas brings researchers to explore overlapping physical themes within computational, laboratory and observational plasma physics.

Cin-ty Lee Kristen Siebach
Rajdeep Dasgupta Pedram Hassanzadeh
Adrian Lenardic Laurence Yeung


Research themes encompass the composition, properties, structure, and reactivity of matter. Space-impacting research includes the development of advanced materials that form the basis of radiation shielding and communications technologies that support space travel; energy generation, storage, and transmission technologies that enable new batteries and supercapacitors; CO2 capture and sequestration and water purification technologies using nanomaterials.

Jim Tour Matteo Pasquali
Christy Landes Lisa Biswal


The overall research focus is to investigate the fundamental properties of living organisms and impacts on the future quality of life on earth. Space-impacting research includes biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology, microbiology, neurobiology, plant biology, synthetic biology, and systems biology.

Kathleen Beckingham Yousif Shamoo
Matthew Wettergreen


Engineering research at Rice is impactful and game changing. Rice engineering faculty, students and researchers aim to solve challenging problems of relevance and importance to society. Much of the research has a direct impact or influence in the exploration of space, creating technological advances that allow humans to live and work in hostile environments, robotic solutions to complex problems and autonomous smart systems for increased operational safety.

Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Research themes include advanced manufacturing; biomaterials; nanomaterial composites; energy conversion and storage; and ultra-lightweight, ultrahigh strength multifunctional materials. Each of the identified research themes can play a significant role in advancing space exploration.

Naomi Halas Pulickel Ajayan
Jun Lou Michael Wong
Pedro Alvarez Stephan Link


Research themes include advanced imaging systems, systems and synthetic biology, biomaterials and tissue engineering. The advanced biomedical imaging systems are being adapted for use in space and being modified for application to earth remote sensing.

Rebecca Richards-Kortum Tomasz Tkaczyk
Jane Grande-Allen


Sensor technology development involves research programs across the School of Engineering and encompasses a wide range of applications such as non-invasive biometric diagnostics, distributed arrays for monitoring system health, and algorithms for early fault detection. Many of these technologies have direct application to space exploration particularly for crew health, environmental and structural monitoring particularly as we transition to a long-duration deep space presence at the Moon and Mars.

Leinardo Duenas-Osorio Ashutosh Sabharwal


Research themes in robotics include advanced haptic interfaces, intelligent control systems, and automated motion planning. Applications include rehabilitation robots, remote inspection, and automated unmanned vehicles.

Fathi Ghorbel Marcie O’Malley
Lydia Kavraki

Aeronautics and Aerospace

Research themes include experimental and numerical aerodynamics, performance/safety assessment for static and dynamic problems, computational flow analysis and systems dynamics and control.

Andrew Meade Patrick Rodi

Data and Computer Sciences

Data Sciences

Data Science is an emerging discipline that integrates data acquisition (sensors and systems), data analytics (machine learning, statistics), and data storage to derive actionable information from diverse and potentially massive data sources. The data science initiative at Rice University is a campus wide strategy to grow the quantity and quality of data-driven knowledge and discovery with multi- and inter-disciplinary research. The Data-to-Knowledge Laboratory (D2K) provides direct access to student research teams that work to solve real world data problems.

Anastasios Kyrillidis Richard Baraniuk
Chris Tunnel Genevera Allen

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Research efforts in artificial intelligence and machine learning focus on developing new methodologies to enable data analysis in a wide range of disciplines, including bioinformatics, graphics and image analysis, and robotics and exploring a wide range of machine learning algorithms for application to data visualization and exploration, dimensionality reduction and pattern classification and recognition. In addition, there are important and emerging signal processing problems of relevance to space exploration.

Devika Subramanian Moshe Vardi
Maarten de Hoop

Human Systems Interactions

Human Factors research into human performance includes the understanding of how humans interact with the systems around them. This is of particular importance in space where survival is often dependent on these interactions. The Department of Psychological Sciences at Rice University focus on optimizing human well-being and overall system performance by considering the cognitive aspects of the interaction (e.g. design of displays, procedures and information). The disciplines of Human Factors and Human System Interaction are becoming increasingly important as the human presence in space expands from low Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars and becomes more reliant on automated and intelligent systems.

Akane Sano Margaret Beier
Michael Byrne Patricia DeLucia
Eduardo Salas

Space and Science Policy

George Abbey Neal Lane
Kirstin Matthews