Archive for the ‘Rice’ 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 Rice on January 30, 2009 by David

What an exhilarating week. Volunteering at Reliant Park, PChem test, Volunteering at HHH, write proposal, turn in Goldwater application, and Biochemistry test. I’ve noticed I am the happiest when I am busy. And I guess you can say I was really happy this week! I really don’t know what to do with myself when I am not occupied. But that’s beside the point. What I really wanted to write about today are my career goals. Over the last few weeks, I have been rather pensive, reevaluating my career ambitions, justifying my actions, questioning my motives. Over the course of this week, I feel so much more reassured. Through small details in daily taks and big thoughts in moments alone, this week has reaffirmed my medical ambitions. I just felt really happy doing the things I had to do this week, and I am rejuvinated in my dream to become David Ouyang, MD.

First, volunteering, I am touched by how doctors truly make a difference in people’s lives. Working with the homeless, I am amazed by how important cardiovascular health is and how our lifestyles truly need to change. Being in America, we are blessed with plenty – food is relatively cheap and easily obtainable. People aren’t malnourished, they are mis-nourished. The problem with cheap food, fastfood food, and easily obtained food is that they are cheap calories, saturated fats, and cholestrol. The paradox is that even in the homeless population, there is a high occurance of obesity, much more so than in other countries that I have been to. I attribute this directly to differences in lifestyle, society, and diet in the general public. Access to cheap food, high in saturated fats and cholestrol, is so much easier and more prevalent than access to home cooking, vegetables, and the variety of other nutritional mechanisms that require stability.

Even when dealing with belligerent clients, a polite but firm demeanor is all that is needed to get things done. I think ironic thing is I enjoy with belligerent poeple the most – in part because I can sympathize with them. The homeless is neglected. Not only in the sense of lacking material possessions or lacking proper nutrition, but to be homeless is to be constantly disrespected. People either view them with fear and rejudice, or utterly ignore them.That, I think, is the most painful. Yet they are people too. They are amazing people, with their own experiences, loves, and hates. They are God’s children. They are hard-working, polite people with simple tastes. Regardless the reason, they should be respected. This total lack of respect, utter rejection by society as a whole, on anyone would be traumatizing. If the shoe was on the other foot,  I would be more than belligerant. I would be livid if I was treated with the contempt and rejection they deal with every single day. They are so happy to just talk with me, to be treated with respect, to care for them. They tell me stories about the importance of education, as they watched me read my biochemistry book.  They talk about thier frustrations, the lack of options. After all, what can you do when you are in that kind of situation? Social mobility comes from education, and education comes only from a basis of stability. To be homeless is to be constantly frustrated, and if they need to vent, then they should. I’m just glad I am there to listen.

I’ll write more about my other experiences this week when I get back from research.


Rice increases no-loan threshold to $80,000

In Rice on December 19, 2008 by David

Haha. I don’t know if I had any impact, but would like to think that I helped change Rice. Last year, I wrote an op-ed in the thresher (online copy here). I wrote about changes in financial aid policy at Harvard and other american universities, and what I felt Rice should do to attract more talented students.  I offered two suggestions, one of which was to increase the no-loan threshold to beyond the threshold for Dartmouth and other comparable universities, and I am pleased to say that this is finally done! :). I don’t know if my article had any role in this, after all, this is a fairly no-brainer course of action, but at the very least, I helped publicize the issue to the general Rice community.

I am glad that I am taking steps to improve Rice, my community, and the world around me.  Now, if they do my other suggestion, I would be totally happy.


This article really made me laugh.

In Jokes,Misc.,Rice on October 18, 2008 by David

Rice Students Create Cancer-Fighting Beer,
Become National Heroes

Rice Students Create Cancer-Fighting Beer, Become National Heroes

There’s beer with lime, blueberry flavored beer and even vitamin-packed beer. It was only a matter of time before there was cancer-fighting beer. And of course, college students are responsible for this amazing creation.

A group of Rice University students are genetically engineering a beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that’s been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals. The team of students will enter the “BioBeer” in the upcoming International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. Unfortunately, the actual product is still a ways off, seeing as the students are still working on creating the strain of yeast. But, with the contest less than a month away, they better get going on that super-powered brewski.

For anyone who might hear of the project and wonder why?, I say why not. But there’s more to it than that:

So why would someone want to make beer with resveratrol in the first place? It’s a naturally occurring compound that some studies have found to have anti-inflammatory, anticancer and cardiovascular benefits for mice and other animals. While it’s still unclear if humans enjoy the same benefits, resveratrol is already sold as a health supplement, and some believe it could play a role in the “French paradox,” the seemingly contradictory observation that the French suffer from relatively low rates of heart disease despite having a diet that’s rich in saturated fats.

A healthy beer? Think of the possibilities… forced beer pong matches, doctor recommended beer bongs and even a daily reminder from your parents about whether you did you keg stand for the day.

After all that, cancer will have no choice but to run the other way. Your liver will be shot to hell, but still, you’ll be cancer-free.



In Rice on May 8, 2008 by David

This entire year at Rice, I haven’t taken a humanities class. I’m missing out. American Foreign Policy was too academic and Chinese was never at the right time. So focused on fulfilling major requirements, my classes are steeped in the hard sciences. It’s time to stop and smell the roses. The literary and artistic roses. I really wanted to take Sculpture next fall, to work with my hands and create something. When I was little, I loved arts and crafts. Unfortunately, again, it  conflicts with another class. 😦

So instead, I am going to take Photography next semester. 🙂 Maybe Sculpture next semester. If time permits.

M T W Th F
8 Stat 423 Stat 423
Stat 410 Stat 410
10 Bios 423 Bios 423 Bios 423
11 Bios 301 Econ 370 Bios 301 Econ 370 Bios 301
1 Bios 401 Arts 205 Bios 401 Arts 205 Bios 401
(Photography) (Photography)
Stat 410


Financial Aid Policy Key for Rice University’s Future

In Rice on March 21, 2008 by David


In an ideal world, college admissions would be based solely on merit, and the cost of education would have no bearing on the matriculation decision. Even with supportive parents, the burden of financial responsibility is heavy, and the cost of education is far from cheap. Recent changes in financial aid policies of top American universities have changed the college admissions environment and made the competition for the top students even more competitive.

In the final months of 2007, Harvard University created ripples in higher education by revamping its financial aid policy. By changing tuition to cost 10 percent of family income for students from families earning up to $180,000 per year (tuition would be $18,000 per year for those hypothetical students), Harvard greatly decreased the cost of education for students from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds. This policy shift was mimicked by Yale University, while Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Duke University and our own Rice University have chosen the less drastic measure of increasing the maximum income for providing full tuition, allowing families who make more to pay less.

According to both anecdotal stories and raw statistics, tuition has a great impact on students’ decisions about where to spend the next four years. By lowering tuition for middle and upper-middle class families, Harvard seeks to attract more talented students from these particular backgrounds. With 90 percent of family households earning less than $157,176 (2004 U.S. Census), this new financial policy makes Harvard decidedly more affordable for the majority of college-bound students. What can Rice do to compete with other universities in terms of financial aid? With vastly different endowments (Harvard’s endowment is $35 billion while Rice’s endowment is $4 billion), it would be financially untenable and marginally beneficial to become fiscal lemmings. Because of existing scholarship programs and a strong financial policy, Rice has the infrastructure and logistics in place to maintain and even increase the applicant pool size. The increased competition for the best and the brightest can be used to promote Rice’s international recognition and justifies the expansion of current scholarship and financial aid policies.

First, Rice should increase the no-loan threshold for financial aid. In December 2007, Rice increased the maximum income for providing full tuition to $60,000, and although this is a significant increase from the previous threshold of $30,000, this policy change seems to be a weak response to comparable universities. In this situation, Dartmouth, which raised its threshold to $75,000, has a disproportionate advantage for applicants from families who make more than $60,000. If Rice increased the threshold to match or even surpass schools like Dartmouth, the decision would be much easier for undecided applicants.

Second, we should expand Rice’s merit scholarship program. Rice currently offers merit-based awards integrated into the admissions process. These scholarships are a critical aspect in attracting talented students from comparable universities, and they allow admissions officers to more easily target competitive applicants without increasing administrative workload or extraneous applications.

In particular, we should double the grants given to Century Scholars. Doing this would make Rice a very competitive choice for students and promote the scientific strong points of our university and keep with the points of the Vision for the Second Century, one of which is to increase our involvement in scientific research. The caliber of Rice’s academic community not only depends on recruiting award-winning faculty and increasing research facilities and expenditure; it depends on a vibrant undergraduate student population.

In an age with increasingly competitive admissions, Rice must continue to promote and showcase its strategic advantages to attract future scholars. As other universities use financial aid to attract a wider applicant pool, Rice should follow suit as it looks to maintain its standing as an international university.

David Ouyang is a Baker College sophomore.



Spring 2008

In Rice on February 23, 2008 by David

Wow, this year and semester has been passing by really quickly. I’m really grateful for all the friends I’ve made and the activities I’m involved in. It’s really hard to imagine, that in 2 more years, I’ll be graduating. It’s still novel to me, to comprehend that I’m in college. It seems as just last week, I started high school, and everyone was so much older,taller, and bigger than me. It seems like just yesterday, I was worrying over college applications. I’m constantly reminded how precious and short life is – we need to embrace and enjoy every moment. I think I’m really happy here at Rice, except I feel like I was closer to people at TAMS.

To end on a more cheerful and cool note, look at what I made for Computational and Applied Math 210! This is the Mandelbrot fractal. Using Matlab to make images and some other software to animate all the images together, I’ve made a movie zooming into the fractal!Haha, I really like CAAM210. I really enjoyed Computer Science and programming competitions in high school precisely because they introduced the most interesting problems and though-provoking questions. I loved optimizing algorithms and thinking of strategies to frame problems into questions that can be answered by computation. I can’t imagine myself doing this as a career. I think there are too many monotonous tasks and commenting/boundary testing code is such a chore compared to the actual rush of programming. But I enjoy the sense of accomplishment coming from finishing a project or tackling a particularly challenging problem.


I want to do that in the physical world. As a doctor, to troubleshoot humans and solve their problems and discomforts. Using synthetic biology, to create the novel and amazing.