Program Research

Bioelectronics is a rapidly growing field where cells and synthetic materials are integrated to generate useful biotechnologies that have the potential to transform every aspect of society. This topic connects research strengths at Rice University ranging from materials science and synthetic biology to the study of team science.

Electrical & Computer Engineering
Faculty mentors in this research area lead a neuroscience and neuroengineering cluster that is focused on new devices for interrogating the central nervous system electrically and understanding signal processing. Faculty mentors work on signal processing, information processing, and their neuroengineering applications, with foci on real-time closed-loop stabilization of neuronal systems to mitigate health disorders. These faculty have been pioneers in the design and fabrication of optically responsive nanostructures, nanophotonics, and plasmonics. Data Science is also synergistic with bioelectronics, because new miniature devices will produce new types of big data.

Materials Science & Nanoengineering
Rice has grown its research in this topic since the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Curl and Smalley for the discovery of buckminsterfullerene. Faculty mentors in this research area work on a variety of research topics of relevance to this NRT including the development of emerging 2-D nanomaterials by members of the Atomic Materials Research Institute, the application and processing of graphene and carbon nanotubes, the design of new biomaterials for tissue engineering, the application of nanomaterials for water purification by members of the NSF Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Center, the creation of nanomaterials and nanocomposites for energy applications, the development of nanophotonic and plasmonics, and the study and development of quantum materials and devices.

Synthetic Biology
Faculty mentors in this research area share the goal of understanding the “Rules of Life” and using these rules to create biotechnologies and overcome challenges of sustainability, energy, and health. Within Synthetic Biology, research is focused on programming new cellular functions by developing foundational tools that allow the programming of cells to connect with materials. These tools include proteins for precision DNA editing, RNA and protein gene control, optogenetics, and multicellular genetic programing. Research is also focused on creating microbial fuel cells, engineering microbes that function as exoelectrogens and control e- flow in cells, and controlling electron transfer critical to biocatalysis.

Social Sciences
Within Psychology, there are faculty leveraging devices for cognitive and affective neuroscience, studying how human factors relate to human-device interactions, and working on neuropsychology. Within the Center for Health and Biosciences in the Baker Institute, Faculty are studying policy issues related to emerging biotechnologies. Rice is also adjacent to the Texas Medical Center, the largest in the world, and has developed a Medical Humanities Research Cluster, which brings together humanists, social scientists, and artists to consider histories, ethical questions, and narratives, and various forms of representation in health education and practice.