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Home > Press > BRC open house Nov. 13 will celebrate leading research, infinite possibilities

Courtesy Jeff Fitlow
Courtesy Jeff Fitlow

Abstract:
Tours during homecoming welcome campus community to BioScience Research Collaborative

BRC open house Nov. 13 will celebrate leading research, infinite possibilities

Houston, TX | Posted on November 11th, 2009

Rice community members, family and friends can see where leading research becomes infinite possibilities at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) open house from noon to 3 p.m. Nov. 13. BRC researchers will be offering tours of the new building, which houses cutting-edge research labs, classrooms and auditoriums. Light refreshments will be served on the front patio and T -shirts will be given to the first 300 visitors.

Conceived and built by Rice, the BRC is a place where scientists and educators from the university and other Texas Medical Center institutions can work together to perform leading research that benefits human medicine and health.

Though the first researchers moved in only four months ago, they are already seeing the benefits of their life in the BRC.

"I finally feel like I am part of the medical center!" said Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering. She and her team recently embarked on a new collaboration with a gynecologist from The Methodist Hospital to test a fiber optic microscope for cervical-cancer screening. Because the doctor's clinic is right across the street, Richards-Kortum is more easily able to check the progress of the trial.

This is really important -- before moving, it would have taken me 20 minutes to walk or drive one way, so I wasn't able to monitor problems or data quality with the same frequency," she said.

Rice researchers are also gleaning benefits from even the most casual interactions the BRC creates.

"On a daily basis we can have a cup of coffee or do lunch with the best clinicians in the world," said John McDevitt, the Brown-Wiess Professor in Bioengineering and Chemistry. "This is a huge advantage for developing state-of-the-art clinical collaborations."

McDevitt's recent developments and collaborations have won him and his team a $2 million National Institutes of Health Grand Opportunities grant to develop an inexpensive test for oral cancer that a dentist or oral surgeon could perform simply by passing a brush over a suspicious lesion. The new test would take less than 30 minutes, require no scalpels or off-site lab tests and could be ready for clinical tests within two years.

For Vicki Colvin, the Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, just being a part of the BRC has gotten her thinking about her work in a new way and actively pursuing collaborations.

"This is a beginning of a new adventure for my group and me," Colvin said. "We make materials. That's what we do. But being in the BRC makes us think hard about not just making the material, but how it can be used. We are aggressively looking for applications -- like we have a hammer and are looking for someone with a nail."

Colvin and her team are already showing signs of success in finding those nails. At a recent Gulf Coast Consortium workshop about early stage cancer screening, she learned of work at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The group was having a problem finding magnetic quantum dots to use in their new screening technology.

"Our group is one of the few in the world now that can make these magnetic quantum dots effectively," Colvin said. "Now we are starting up an exploratory project to improve cancer screening with the material we develop at the BRC."

####

About Rice University
Rice has from its inception been dedicated to three missions: educating and preparing outstanding students for diverse careers and lives; contributing to the advancement of knowledge across a wide range of fields; and being of service to our city, our state, our nation, and our world. The Call to Conversation posed the question whether our current mission statement fully encompassed our ambitions, particularly our commitment as a research university to creating new knowledge and our obligation to train future leaders across a range of endeavors. It states: “The mission of Rice University, shaped largely by its founder and the first president, is to provide an unsurpassed undergraduate education in science, engineering, the arts, humanities, and social sciences; to produce internationally distinguished scholarship and research and excellent graduate education in carefully focused areas; to ensure that such an education remains affordable; to maintain the distinctive character of a community of learning that is relatively small in scale; and to serve the continuing educational needs of the larger community.”

Based on many conversations and after reviewing the comments on this topic submitted by all segments of our community, it has become clear that although our mission statement describes our three core missions, it does not fully reflect the goals we should now have before us.

For more information, please click here

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B.J. Almond
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Associate Director/Science Editor

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