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The Rice community is eagerly anticipating a return to some kind of normal in the fall semester. Still, it’s clear that not everything will be the same as before the pandemic — but maybe for good reason. While the past year has been undeniably difficult, the Rice community can leave it with important takeaways. We asked administrators, faculty and student leaders what they have learned and what they envision for Rice when distancing, masking and virtual interactions are not the default procedures of the campus experience.
On April 13, a mild spring afternoon, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced they may begin emergency operations and called for energy conservation from Texans. Four hours later, ERCOT ended the appeal, but questions about Texas’s energy situation remain. Since extreme weather and an ensuing power crisis struck the state over two months ago, many media outlets, including the Thresher, have gone to Rice civil and environmental engineering professor Daniel Cohan for an expert explanation. The Thresher caught up with Cohan for a follow-up conversation.
If the mechanical engineering undergraduate population grows alongside the recently announced 20 percent student body expansion, the department will need more faculty, more teaching and grading support, greater classroom capacity and additional funds for equipment, according to the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Advisory Board. The Undergraduate Advisory Board discussed the state of the MECH department and its future at their town hall on April 14.
Last semester, when McMurtry College senior Joy Wang was researching the bubonic plague in medieval Spain, she started by looking for cross-century comparisons and insight into how people experienced and moved on from a pandemic. According to Wang, she found parallels between the attacks on the Jewish community during the Black Death and xenophobia and hate toward the Asian and Asian-American community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After doing a computational chemistry project remotely while campus access was limited last summer, Will Rice College junior Hallie Trial returned to campus lab work in August. At the Ball Lab, where she investigates the synthesis of boronic acids and water, Trial is masked, physically distanced from fellow researchers and, sometimes, reusing gloves — a practice not normally recommended, she said, but necessitated by pandemic shortages of personal protective equipment.
Although Rice campus emerged mostly unscathed from the Feb. 15 winter storm, some students living off campus are among the tens of thousands of Houston residents who dealt with the effects of home damage after the week of extreme weather.
It’s been about a year since COVID-19 turned our lives upside down. And national reckonings in different spheres have shaped the months following the beginning of quarantine. In these strange times, watching on-screen content has been a quintessential activity for many — not just students. The Rice Thresher asked professors from different disciplines to share the films or series that have been keeping them entertained, encouraged or engaged.
Applications for medical schools are rising locally and nationwide, and Rice students are part of the trend. Medical school applications from Rice undergraduates have increased in the past two years, according to Director of Academic Advising Aliya Bhimani.
Shannon Walker, Baker College ‘87, MS ’92, Ph.D. ‘93 is one of the four astronauts on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station. The Crew Dragon spacecraft launched on Sunday evening and arrived on Monday night at the ISS, where the crew will spend the next six months, according to NASA. This is Walker’s second space flight to the ISS.
The tower that used to house the Sid Richardson College community is quiet these days: hallways are bare and most floors are vacant. The only people living there are a handful of students from across the residential colleges, and they mostly keep to their rooms.
Rice professor José Onuchic has been appointed by Pope Francis as one of the 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences based in the Vatican. The scholars of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences advise the Catholic Church on scientific matters such as climate change and technology, according to Raymond Cook, chaplain and director of the Rice Catholic Student Center and Campus Ministry.
Editor’s note: This is an installment of Black Art at Rice, a Q&A series that aims to shed light on the inspirations, influences, wisdom and work of Black artists in the Rice community. Have someone in mind whose art should be in the spotlight? Nominate them here.
A new series of noon discussions hosted by President David Leebron for small groups of undergraduates began on Zoom last week. Dubbed “Lunch with Leebs” by presidential intern and program supervisor Michelle Fokam (Baker College ’20), the discussions are opportunities for students to learn about Leebron and discuss a predetermined topic of interest with him, according to Fokam.
Masked musicians, small groups and livestreaming equipment, all outdoors — the inaugural concert of the Hanszen Family Heart Chamber Music Festival showed us what performance looks like in a pandemic. The concert, held last Friday, Sept. 18 in Hanszen College’s quad, was the first in a series planned to recur on the third Friday of each month this semester, according to festival organizer and horn player Shawn Zheng.
To assist instructors with the classroom technology for online or hybrid courses, the Office of Information Technology has hired 160 students as technology teaching assistants. According to the OIT Associate Vice President Diane Butler, faculty have requested Tech TAs for approximately 270 courses.
Wielding power in their respective commons and in the Student Association Senate, college presidents are perhaps the most visible faces of the student leadership that is essential to the Rice experience. But just a few weeks after this year’s cohort began their terms, their communities dispersed as students were sent home to study online. Now, the presidents must lead their colleges amid conditions completely unknown to all who came before: distancing rules, a ban on mass gatherings, students who may never actually be on campus and other pandemic-related changes. They may not have signed up for these new challenges, but they are surely stepping up to face them.
A student’s petition for a crosswalk near the university’s entrance 23 on Rice Boulevard has gained more than 2,000 signatures — 2,052 at the time of print.
You probably didn’t expect your birthdays in college to be commemorated by a ring on a gong or an involuntary full-body soaking. It’s a far cry from the typical fare. At Rice, the birthday experience gets an upgrade, thanks to the traditions of the residential colleges.
What keeps a residential college running? College governments manage internal and external affairs; the adult residents make sure nothing goes awry. But when it comes to everyday operations, the answer is simple: the college coordinator.