Welcome to the Rice University Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) at the George R. Brown School of Engineering. I am very honored to serve as chair of the department, and am looking forward to working with BIOE faculty, staff, students, and alumni to further advance Rice Bioengineering as a top BIOE/Biomedical Engineering department in the world.
We are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with colleagues at Rice and the Texas Medical Center, Rice bioengineers have been very active in combatting COVID-19. Our bioengineers have been leading the Rice COVID-19 Working Group; providing personal protective equipment to the medical center; performing research on COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment, and prevention; and providing community outreach. In addition, BIOE organized a very successful 10-week webinar series, Frontiers in Bioengineering Research, to inform our graduate students and the research community about cutting-edge research in bioengineering, including that related to COVID-19.
Our faculty, staff, and students coped extraordinarily well in making the sudden shift from in-person to remote teaching and learning during the spring semester and in overcoming the challenges in maintaining critical research activities over the last few months. As plans for returning to campus in the fall evolve to ensure the highest levels of safety for our faculty, staff, and students, we are committed to crafting appropriate departmental procedures and plans, including those for dual-mode teaching for courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and to helping our international students who cannot come to the US in the fall. We will make every effort to ensure excellence in our teaching and research, despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, as academic leaders in the field, we affirm that Black Lives Matter and are taking concrete steps to address racial bias in our community and in STEM. The department established a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee in 2019 to seek opportunities for greater racial equity, inclusion, and diversity in our department. Specifically, we will engage in more active recruitment and offer stronger support for under-represented minority (URM) faculty, staff, and students; provide funds to support travel and professional development for URM graduate students; and host local high school URM students and STEM teachers conducting research in the BIOE labs.
This year we were excited to welcome five new faculty members. Among them are two Assistant Professors and CPRIT Scholars in Cancer Research, George Lu and Kevin McHugh; Assistant Professor and neuroengineer Jerzy Szablowski; the new Director of the Global Medical Innovation (GMI) program and Teaching Associate Professor Matthew Wettergreen; and Lecturer David Li. These new faculty members bring unique expertise to BIOE and significantly enhance our capabilities in research and education. As BIOE continues to grow, we plan to further expand our synthetic biology and computational bioengineering groups and to establish immunoengineering as a new area in the department.
As we approach the 25th anniversary of our department, I very much look forward to working with you to achieve an even higher level of excellence through creativity, innovation, and collaboration, and to generate a larger impact to improve human health and society. I invite you to reach out and stay connected with our department news and updates via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Gang Bao, PhD
Foyt Family Professor of Bioengineering
Professor of Chemistry
Chair, Department of Bioengineering
CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research