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Rice UniversityCBEN
Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology

Graduate Programs

Our graduate educational development programs encompass an SLC, new course development, modifications of existing courses, development of a civic science workshop, entrepreneurship education program, media training, and networking/troubleshooting lunches.

Student Leadership Council

SCL at CAST Meeting

SLC hosts a booth with the
Smalley Institute and the UH faculty,
and runs workshops at CAST meeting
in Austin, Texas.

CBEN graduate students participate in the SLC and have active programs to facilitate CBEN’s research, outreach and education, public communication, and career advancement. The SLC organizes a twice-monthly series of lunch meetings for graduate students and postdocs, during which information about Center-wide events is disseminated and one or two students give a brief overview of their research via an informal chalk talk. These meetings aim to:

  • increase interactions among students working on different CBEN projects
  • provide an opportunity for open dialog about stumbling blocks encountered in the research lab
  • inform graduate students about upcoming CBEN events
  • provide opportunities to hone oral presentation skills.

The SLC has been an organization to facilitate the involvement of graduate students in CBEN’s educational outreach activities. This year three SLC members participated in the NOBCChE 2007 Southwest Regional Meeting, September 28-29, 2007. The goal of this trip was to recruit students to graduate school at Rice University and to inform this population of underrepresented chemists and chemical engineers about the opportunities that are available at CBEN. In addition, nine SLC members traveled to the CAST conference in Austin, Texas where there were more than 5000 STEM teachers in attendance. SLC members distributed educational materials and engaged teachers in hands-on demonstrations at a booth that was cosponsored by Rice (The Smalley Institute, CBEN) and the UH Center for Life Technologies. At CAST, the SLC also hosted 50 teachers in a workshop entitled “Applying Nanotechnology in the Classroom: Hands-on Tools and Tips.” During the workshop, graduate students conducted live demonstrations about quantum dots, hydrogels, microscopic techniques, activities about the nanometer scale, and fullerene derivatives and presented the participants with nanotechnology posters that illustrated CBEN research.

Graduate Curriculum

All CBEN-related graduate courses are listed below. These includes existing courses that were modified to include CBEN content and new courses that were created by CBEN.

  • CHEM 533 Nanostructure and Nanotechnology I. An introduction to the basic principles of nanoscience and nanotechnology. Size-dependent physical properties of nanoscopic solids are described using solid-state physics and molecular orbital theory as a foundation. Wet chemical techniques that produce nanoscale materials (e.g., carbon nanotubes, semiconductor and metallic nanocrystals, dendrimers) are introduced in the second half of the semester.
  • CENG 630 Chemical Engineering of Nanostructured Materials. This lecture class gives an overview of materials with structural features on the nanometer scale. General concepts of synthesis, characterization, and applications are discussed, as are advances stemming from CBEN research and/or found in the recent literature.
  • PHYS 533 Nanostructures and Nanotechnology I. This lecture class gives an overview of the physics of structures and devices at the nanometer scale. After a review of solid-state physics, topics include nanostructured materials, nanoelectronics, and nanomagnetism. Emphasis on relevance of nanophysics to current and future technologies.
  • PHYS 534 Nanostructure and Nanotechnology II. Physics of structures and devices at the nanometer scale. Topics include nanomechanics, bionanotechnology, advanced sensors and photonics. Continuation of PHYS 533.
  • PHYS 537 Methods of Experimental Physics I. (Partial CBEN content) This two-semester course familiarizes students with basic experimental techniques that are common to all academic and industrial research laboratories. Topics include lab safety, mechanical design, computerbased data acquisition and experimental control, laboratory electronics, vacuum technology, optics, thermal measurement and control, cryogenics, and charged particle optics.
  • BIOE 531 Biomaterials Engineering. A module has been added to this course that focuses on nanostructured materials.
  • BIOE 572 Fundamentals of Systems Physiology. A new semester project has been added in which students advise a mock venture capital firm about potential investments in novel bioengineering technology. Nanoengineered optical contrast agents are used as the sample technology in class.
  • BIOE 589 Computational Molecular Bioengineering. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.
  • BIOE 620 Tissue Engineering: A module has been added to this course focusing on nanostructured materials.
  • BIOE 625 Pharmaceutical Engineering: A module has been added to discuss and model the use of nanoparticles for drug delivery.
  • CENG 603 Rheology. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.
  • ELEC 603 Nano-Optics. This is a seminar-based course for seniors and graduate students where a variety of currently hot areas in subwavelength optics are studied. The main topics include: near-field optics, microscopy and sensing, single-molecule spectroscopy, nanoparticles and their optical properties, and photonic crystals and arrays.
  • ENVI 534 Transport Phenomena and Environmental Modeling. Examples illustrating transport of nanoparticles in the environment have been introduced.
  • ENVI 550 Applied Water Chemistry. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class
  • ENVI 635 Advanced Topics in Water. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.
  • MSCI 614 Principles of Nanoscale Mechanics. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.
  • MGMT 750/CHEM750/MSCI 750 Entrepreneurial Management for S&E. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.
  • MGMT 751/CHEM 751/MSCI 751 Venture Creation for S&E. Results of CBEN research included as appropriate examples of concepts discussed in class.

Entrepreneurship Education/Facilitation

Rice Alliance

An important element of our strategic plan is the realization that in the future many of the most important industrial collaborations for our center members will involve small startup companies. Not only are they becoming a major employer of technical PhDs, but these businesses are also becoming the route by which high-risk technologies are developed. These trends are due in some part to the bull market of the mid- to late 1990's; however, a principle that has withstood the test of time is that breakthrough technology is best developed by small groups of highly skilled, risk-taking individuals. These companies, which often involve the inventors as owners and partners, have very different concerns than larger corporations and require much more active involvement of inventors. Our entrepreneurship education programs are designed to prepare our students for these job opportunities and to forge strong relationships between the center and those corporations founded by our own members.

The entrepreneurial model for business development demands that inventors have access to the resources and talent of the business community. This requires that academics interact with business professionals, ideally in a forum to present their inventions. CBEN in collaboration with the Jones Graduate School of Management provides such opportunities.  The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship is the centerpiece of the University's bold initiative that joins the resources of the Wiess School of Natural SciencesBrown School of Engineering, and Jones Graduate School of Management together with other academic units and the Office of Technology Transfer. The mission of the Rice Alliance is to promote collaboration among university researchers and technology entrepreneurs, the outcome of which is the formation of new technology firms that bring to the marketplace innovative and useful products and services.

  • Entrepreneurship Education Workshops To start new companies, or to interact with existing startups, academic inventors must also have a rudimentary knowledge of business practices and language. We held a 2-day workshop in Entrepreneurship Education for Researchers for professors, postdocs, and graduate students. This course on the commercialization of research discoveries in S&E was staffed by professors in Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Management and industry participants (e.g., local entrepreneurs and investors) involved in the Rice Alliance or as industrial affiliates. The Center sponsored the attendance of its own members and promising junior nanoscience researchers at other academic institutions. Topics covered in this course include intellectual property (IP), evaluation of business plans, negotiation skills, corporate governance in new ventures, common mistakes of entrepreneurs, and university incubators. The first of these workshops was held in conjunction with our first annual conference, in the fall of 2002 and repeated each year from 2003 to 2007. Each year, including the most recent course in July 2007, the course has drawn its maximum enrollment of 65 attendees. In the past several years, the following institutions were represented in the participant list: Rice University, UT MDACC, UTHSC, UT Medical Branch–Galveston, Baylor College of Medicine, UT–Austin, Texas A&M, and the UH. The workshop has been successful in teaching researchers and faculty about the basic steps required to commercialize their technology. Several startup companies have been launched from participants at the workshop.