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.

Space Physics and Astronomy Faculty affiliates and their research connections

Frank Toffoletto Laboratory for Space and Astrophysical Plasmas
Frank Toffoletto Space Plasma Physics
Patricia Reiff Space Weather Prediction, TX06, TX08
Stephen Bradshaw Solar Atmosphere Modeling and Solar Activity
Chris Johns Krull Extrasolar Planets
Matthew Baring High Energy Astrophysics
Patrick Hartigan Star formation, Stellar Jets and Shockwaves, and Laser Experimental Data
Andrea Isella Planet Formation
Megan Reiter Ecology in Star and Planet Formation
Anthony Chan Theoretical Space Plasma Physics
Douglas Natelson Electronic, Magnetic, and Optical Properties of Nanoscale Structures, TX08, TX12
Ming Yi Quantum Materials, TX12
Jason Hafner Plasmonic Materials and Raman Scattering, TX08, TX12
Edison Liang High Energy Astrophysics
Thomas Killian Atomic Physics and Plasma Physics

Earth, Environment and Planetary Sciences

Space exploration-connected research themes encompass characterizing, sampling, and mapping planetary surface environments to pinpoint the location of materials and energy sources accessible from the surface, atmospheric physics and chemistry, environmental fluid dynamics, and weather forecasting.

Earth, Environment and Planetary Sciences faculty affiliates NASA TX Connections
Cin-Ty Lee TX07
Kristen Siebach TX07, TX08
Rajdeep Dasgupta TX07
Pedram Hassanzadeh TX11, TX16
Adrian Lenardic TX07
Laurence Yeung TX08


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.

Chemistry faculty affiliates NASA TX Connections
Jim Tour TX03, TX06, TX08, TX12
Matteo Pasquali TX06, TX12, TX14
Christy Landes TX11, TX12
Lisa Biswal TX03, TX08, TX12


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.

BioSciences faculty affiliates NASA TX Connections
Kathleen Beckingham TX06
Yousif Shamoo TX06
Matthew Wettergreen TX13
Amy Dunham TX11


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, Nanotechnology, and Mechanical Engineering

Research themes include advanced manufacturing; biomaterials; nanomaterial composites; energy conversion and storage; ultra-lightweight, ultrahigh strength multifunctional materials; nonlinear dynamics; mechanical characterization; and tribology. Each of the identified research themes can play a significant role in advancing space exploration. The Smalley-Curl Institute assists its members in forging new, cross-cutting, and interdisciplinary research areas, and in seeking new means of supporting their work.

Advanced Materials, Nanotechnology, and Mechanical Engineering Faculty affiliates and NASA TX connections
Naomi Halas TX05, TX08, TX12
Pulickel Ajayan TX03, TX08, TX12
Jun Lou TX03, TX12
Michael Wong TX01, TX06, TX12
Pedro Alvarez TX06, TX12
Stephan Link TX03, TX06, TX12
Alberto Pimpinelli TX12
Gururaj Naik TX03, TX08, TX12
Matthew Brake TX12, TX13


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. The Synthetic Biology Institute was created to be a catalyst for research and to help translate research into technologies that benefit society.

Bioengineering Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Rebecca Richards-Kortum TX06, TX08
Tomasz Tkaczyk TX08, TX12
Jane Grande-Allen TX06, TX12
Paul Cherukuri TX06, TX08, TX12


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.

Sensors Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Leonardo Dueñas-Osorio TX02, TX08, TX11, TX16
Ashutosh Sabharwal TX02, TX05, TX08, TX10


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.

Robotics Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Fathi Ghorbel TX04, TX10, TX12, TX17
Marcia O’Malley TX04, TX06, TX07, TX13
Lydia Kavraki TX04, TX06, TX10, TX11, TX17

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.

Aeronautics and Aerospace Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Patrick Rodi TX01, TX09, TX14, TX15

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.

Data Sciences Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Anastasios Kyrillidis TX02, TX04, TX10, TX11, TX17
Richard Baraniuk TX06, TX11
Chris Tunnell TX08, TX11
Genevera Allen TX06, TX11
Katherine B. Ensor TX06, TX11
Erzsébet Merényi TX07, TX11

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. The Ken Kennedy Institute (KKI) is committed to solving problems that impact the world in relevant and innovative ways through artificial intelligence, data, and computing.

Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Devika Subramanian TX06, TX10, TX11
Moshe Vardi TX02, TX10, TX11
Angela Wilkins (KKI) TX03, TX04, TX06, TX07, TX08, TX10, TX11, TX12

Other Data and Computer Science Areas

This includes research areas in Networked Systems and Modeling. Research efforts in networked systems focus on designing secure, efficient, and reliable network systems as well as optimizing the interaction between data-processing tasks and the underlying network. Application of modeling across the space exploration mission is vast with research areas such as planetary surface modeling and tracking/imaging of Mars Rovers. The Spatial Studies Lab combines diverse sets of data in order to create novel web experiences and insights through unique data visualization.

Other Data and Computer Science Areas affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Ang Chen (Networked Systems) TX10, TX11
Farès El-Dahdah (Modeling) TX09, TX11

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.

Human Systems Interactions Faculty affiliates and NASA TX Connections
Akane Sano TX06, TX11
Margaret Beier TX06
Michael Byrne TX06
Patricia DeLucia TX06
Eduardo Salas TX06, TX13
Phil Kortum TX06

Space and Science Policy

The Baker Institute's Space Policy Program and Baylor College of Medicine host the annual International Space Medicine Summit (ISMS). ISMS brings together the world’s leading physicians, space biomedical scientists, engineers, astronauts, cosmonauts and educators from the spacefaring nations for high-level discussions to identify not only necessary space medicine research goals but also ways to further enhance international cooperation and collaborative research.

Space and Science Policy Faculty Affiliates

Office of Research

The Rice University Office of Research provides a comprehensive list of Research Institutes and Centers. The various institutes cover a wide range of academic subject matters, many of which are interdisciplinary. The opportunities provided through these institutes are known for their enhancement of the Rice undergraduate and graduate experience, outreach to the public and students, and improvement of research infrastructure.