Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


Rice-Baylor merger promises unparalleled opportunities

In Reviews,Rice on October 18, 2009 by David Tagged: , , ,

Copied from the Rice Thresher at:

On March 26, Rice students received an e-mail formally announcing discussions of a possible merger between the university and Baylor College of Medicine. As the Houston Chronicle noted, these were “serious discussions that could lead to a merger of the state’s top private university and one of the country’s best medical schools.” Roughly two weeks ago, President David Leebron and BCM’s Interim President William Butler issued a second e-mail detailing an extension of the initial memorandum of understanding to continue the possibility of a merger.

In the intervening six months, a report on academic possibilities was released by a joint committee of Rice and BCM faculty, concluding numerous points. From a research perspective, the proposed merger offers many advantages. The Academic Committee Report highlights the potential for collaborations between BCM’s pharmacology department and Rice’s chemistry department, a concentration of expertise in neuroscience at both institutions and a possibility of exploring fields previously outside the scope of each individual institution. With significant public interest in national health policy and large federal investments in health information technology, there are many possibilities at the interface of engineering and healthcare beyond the capabilities of individual faculty members.

In addition to research collaboration, the merger also offers the potential for educational advancement. In certain respects, graduate education at Rice lags behind its undergraduate education. Our affiliation with BCM could segway into improved graduate education: With leading graduate programs in the biomedical sciences as well as prominent faculty in ethics, medical humanities and international health, BCM’s integration with Rice would not simply expand our graduate opportunities – it would herald an exponential growth.

Last week’s Thresher questioned whether or not the merger was needed for collaboration (“Concerns voiced over BCM merger,” Oct. 2). Given the close relationship between Rice and Baylor, don’t current and prior collaborations describe the most involvement we’ll ever see?

Well, no. While we cannot predict the future, I do not believe the past can describe the full diversity of possibilities available in the future. Yes, there have been collaborations, but these projects have been the results of individual investigators seeking collaboration and advice as opposed to any institutional initiative.

What can Rice and BCM collectively do to encourage dialogue and collaboration? This is precisely the question the Academic Committee now seeks to answer, as its report presents the possibility for paid, cross-institution integration sabbaticals and innovation grants.

There are substantive questions that still need to be answered, and one of the most pressing issues is that of financial concerns. While there are certainly challenges to be addressed, they are not insurmountable. In the fiscal year 2008, Rice had an endowment worth $4.67 billion and spent $202 million of it – about 4 percent – to cover the operating costs. During that time, BCM had an endowment worth $1.09 billion and spent $59 million of it – about 5 percent – but according to statements available online, also had a $67 million deficit in fiscal year 2008. BCM has also had a budget deficit for the past five years.

Despite these vast numbers, these values are arguably nominal for institutions of such size and prestige. That year, BCM had operating costs of $1.14 billion and an operating revenue of $1.062 billion (a difference of only 6 percent). Even without Rice’s involvement, there would still be quite a few years before BCM becomes insolvent.

One of the greatest potential benefits for Rice is the opportunity for an outside source of revenue, and in turn, external sustainability. Rice is currently heavily dependent upon its endowment, with investments accounting for almost 45 percent of university revenue, and could be particularly vulnerable in times of economic distress. On the other hand, only 5 percent of BCM’s operating costs comes from its endowment, and even if its endowment were used to cover the budget shortfall, the operating costs would rise to only 12 percent.

In summary, Rice is neither Amherst College, a liberal arts institute lacking in graduate education, nor Washington University in St. Louis, where medical emphasis seems to overshadow undergraduate education. Rice is a truly unique institution: a small research university that is able to achieve distinction in so many disciplines. Rice will undoubtedly follow its own path and, in planning for its future, must play to its own strengths.

And one of our greatest strengths is our proximity to one of the largest medical centers in the world, and BCM.

David Ouyang is a Baker College senior.




In 1,Medical Musings,Reviews on October 17, 2007 by David

Today was one of the best afternoons I’ve had since coming to Rice. I couldn’t stop smiling walking back to my dorm. After a short nap, I walked to the Mitchell (Basic Science Research Building) in the Medical Center. I got rather lost looking for the building, so I got a ride from a police officer. At Mitchell, I talked to my Cell Biology teacher (she’s so cool!) – I am trying to apply to the Debakey Summer Surgery Program. It looks like a pretty amazing program. After that, I once again went to Ben Taub (volunteering at the Emergency Center). As always, volunteering there is amazingly eye-opening. Realistically, I don’t do anything substantial, only moving people, papers, and specimen, but I really like being there, able to get a better glimpse of doctors in action. Without going into much detail, I can only reaffirm that I think doctors are the most amazingly interesting and intelligent group of people I know.


Review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

In Reviews on August 7, 2007 by David


Ah, the last book in the series. I definitely enjoyed this series, and to finish this book was rather bittersweet. This is the first book I’ve read for pleasure in a long time. I have been either too busy or too consumed with o games to read more. The coolest thing is, I read this book in China. I saw the Deathly Hallows advertised outside a foreign language bookstore in Nanjing. Originally, I planned to read this book on the flight back, so not to be bored on the twenty-something hour flight. But I lacked the self-control! As a result of getting the book in China, I didn’t get it when it first came out and my relatives were confused why I was so excited. On the plus side, the book wasn’t ruined for me.

Spoiler Warning

Plot Synopsis
As Voldemort rises in power, Harry Potter must navigate the magical world in secrecy and with many precautions. After a few early encounters with danger and Death Eaters, Harry decides to leave the safety of the Order of the Phoenix and journey with Ron and Hermione to destroy the Horcuxes. The world of wizards become increasing dangerous for the protagonists as Death Eaters become instructors at Hogwarts, the Ministry is subverted, and saying Voldemort’s name becomes dangerous. Using the Gryffindor sword, Harry, Ron, and Hermione destroy the Hufflepuff cup, the Ravenclaw tiara, and the Slytherin locket as well as discover the secrets known as the Deathly Hallows. Throughout the book, Dumbledore and Snape’s pasts are elaborated and they are revealed to be truly dynamic and deep characters. In the final battle, Harry faces off with Voldemort, resulting in victory and a return to balance and prosperity.


I really enjoyed the back stories of Dumbledore and Snape. Changing from some of the flattest characters in the series to become dynamic and really fallible and human, I believe this book did great justice to these two characters. I thought Snape’s background was particularly moving. I was kind of disappointed Sirius didn’t play a more major role in this novel. I always thought that the fact that Sirius fell through the gate (where Harry heard whispers of dead people) instead of being explicitly killed was foreshadowing of something important in the last book. But what do I know, I only read the books.


Unlike the other 6 books of the Harry Potter series, this book contained limited reference to events at Hogwarts. Serving as little more than the location of the final battle, Hogwarts did not play a major role in the book. In the previous books, I really enjoyed the scenes of magic lessons and the sneaking around the school. Sadly there was none of this in this book. Also, the other books usually ended with a magical quest/obstacle course. I thought they were really cool. This book didn’t have it – unless you considered the frantic, secretive search for horcruxes that basically meant they run if they saw anyone.

All in all, this was a very good book and a satisfactory ending to the series. This isn’t my favorite book in the series, but it was a good book. I really liked Snape’s backstory and it really casts a different light on his actions.