Faculty Spotlights: Year in Review


African and African American Studies Logo

Faculty spearhead new research and curricular initiatives in collaboration with the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS)
In partnership with the newly inaugurated center, lecturer Molly Morgan has initiated the creation of a new course, fieldwork opportunities and a conference to investigate the archaeology of enslaved people. In addition, Morgan and Professor Jeffrey Fleisher, in collaboration with faculty from CAAAS, were awarded a Faculty Initiative Fund grant that will fund interdisciplinary student research on the history of slavery in coursework, at the Center for Civic Leadership and at Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center.

Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer on OK with plaque

Cymene Howe reflects on glacier memorial ceremony
Professor Howe speaks about her experience in Iceland, the “land of fire and ice,” at the world’s first memorial to a glacier lost to climate change.


Mallesh Pai

Mallesh Pai awarded best paper from American Economic Association
Pai, an associate professor, won the 2020 award for the best paper in American Economic Journal: Microeconomics for his article “Discrimination via Symmetric Auctions.” The study discusses a major flaw in the strategy many U.S. states are using to ensure that procurement auctions aren’t biased in favor of bidders from certain groups.

COVID-19 microscopic view

Texas Policy Lab partners with Houston-area officials to respond to COVID-19
The Texas Policy Lab (TPL) is working with foundations and counties in the greater Houston area to establish a multi-disciplinary panel of scientific experts to complement the efforts of local health departments to combat COVID-19. TPL was also tasked by the Texas Workforce Commission to quantify the need for child care among essential workers. TPL’s resulting data visualization includes interactive features and overlays COVID-19 metrics to highlight areas heavily impacted both by the virus and by childcare shortages.


Hands reading braille

Social Sciences faculty win grant to study braille literacy
Rice faculty from the departments of Linguistics and Psychology received a $1.4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to fund a first-of-its-kind study focused on improving braille literacy.

Political Science

Ashley Leeds holding award

Ashley Leeds recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award
Professor Leeds, the Department Chair of Political Science, is the recipient of the American Political Science Association’s Conflict Processes Section’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The award recognizes research that improves the human condition by helping us learn to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. Leeds’ work focuses on the design and effects of military alliances, examining how countries design security commitments, the effect of those commitments on the emergence of military conflict and the conditions under which leaders fulfill or abandon alliances.

Collage of Politicians

Diana Z. O’Brien and Matthew Hayes analyze how politicians speak
O’Brien, an associate professor, and Hayes, an assistant professor, published an article in the Washington Post prior to the Democratic debates. They explained that mannerisms, emotional intensity and vocal communication can readily reflect political commitment.

Mask and COVID-19

Rice researchers investigate voter safety during COVID-19 pandemic
Professor Robert Stein has joined with Philip Kortum and Claudia Ziegler Acemyan from the Department of Psychological Sciences, Professor Daniel Wallach from the Department of Computer Science and Elizabeth Vann from the Center for Civic Leadership to help Harris County election officials prepare for the 2020 election. The team will survey voters and poll workers on how to make voting safe and accessible during pandemic conditions.

Jonathan Homola

Jonathan Homola publishes new study exploring how the Third Reich’s legacy is tied to present-day xenophobia and political intolerance
Homola, an assistant professor, collaborated with researchers from Washington University to investigate who—or what—is to blame for the xenophobia, political intolerance and radical political parties spreading through Germany and the rest of Europe. The study, recently published in American Political Science Review, suggests a correlation between proximity to former Nazi concentration camps and xenophobic attitudes.

Psychological Sciences

COVID Research Fund Logo

Rice researchers study the barriers that prevent compliance to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders
Professor Flavio Cunha from the Department of Economics, Professors Patricia DeLucia and Fred Oswald from the Department of Psychological Sciences and Ekim Cem Muyan and E. Susan Amirian from the Rice Texas Policy Lab are studying how Harris County residents are complying with stay-at-home orders, the barriers that prevent them from fully complying and what could be done to increase compliance.

Chris Fagundes

Chris Fagundes explains how stress increases susceptibility to COVID-19
Fagundes, an associate professor, studies the link between mental and immune health. In a recent interview, he explains how stress, loneliness and lack of sleep can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system, making people more susceptible to viruses like COVID-19. Fagundes also presented on the links between his research and the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent OpenRice session.


Graphic with an individual separated from a group

BRIDGE initiative promotes collaborative study of inequality and diversity
Led by Professor Jenifer Bratter, the Building Research on Inequality and Diversity to Grow Equity (BRIDGE) initiative will focus on building a community of scholars to study inequality in diverse communities such as Houston.

Sign reading "Wash Yourselves and Be Clean"

Elaine Ecklund urges collaboration between religious and scientific communities during COVID-19
As director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program (RPLP), Professor Ecklund has spent almost a decade employing the rigor of social science research to understand how religious and scientific communities can build common ground for the common good. Recently, she has been a vocal advocate for cooperation between religious and scientific communities in response to COVID-19. Along with Professor Ecklund’s public advocacy, RPLP is currently conducting an online analysis of how 70 religious communities in Houston are responding to COVID-19.

Cover of book "Prophetic City"

Stephen Klineberg’s new book “Prophetic City” documents 38 years of changes in Houston
Over the past four decades, Houston has undergone an extraordinary economic upheaval and demographic transformation, and sociologist Stephen Klineberg has watched it happen from the unique perspective of his work on the annual Kinder Houston Area Survey. Klineberg’s new book draws from decades of data and interviews to tell the story of Houston as experienced by its residents.

Sport Management

Image of the ranking announcement

Major ranked #1 in the country
Out of 299 programs nationwide, Niche has ranked Rice’s Sport Management major as #1 in the country. In addition, over the past five years, Sport Management has ranked either #1 or #2 in the School of Social Sciences for “student satisfaction with the major.” The faculty have an average of 23 years’ experience in college and professional sports before joining Rice.