Who's who

3 Houston innovators to know this week

From leading OTC or the TMC to the future of recycling — here's who's having a busy week in innovation. Courtesy photos

May in Houston is starting off right with the Offshore Technology conference making its home in NRG Park all this week. There's thousands of business men and women in town for the events — if you're among them, check out these can't miss innovation-related events at OTC. OTC aside, big things are happening in the Texas Medical Center as well as in electronics manufacturing. Here's which Houston innovators to keep an eye on this week.

Wafik Beydoun, chairman of the board of OTC

Wafik Beydoun has served on the board of OTC for almost a decade. Courtesy of Beydoun

It's the 50th year for the Houston-based Offshore Technology Conference — which starts today — to take over the town, and it's Wafik Beydoun's last event as chairman of the board. He's been involved with the organization for almost a decade and he's seen the technology evolve in the industry and at OTC.

"The rising tide of the digital revolution is lifting us all — not only OTC or the industry — and it's lifting us at an exponential rate," Beydoun tells InnovationMap. "Digital is moving now exponentially, whether we want it to or not, we're benefitting from it." Read the full Q&A with Beydoun here.

Kelly Hess, CEO of CompuCycle

Kelly Hess leads CompuCycle, a Houston-based company focused on electronics recycling. Courtesy of CompuCycle

The game is forever changed for Kelly Hess. CompuCycle is her electronics recycling company she leads as CEO with her husband, Clive, who is executive vice president of the company. The company just got a major addition to its team: a electronics shredder that can process 40,000 pounds daily of parts from machines that can't be refurbished. The new shredder is the only of its kind in Houston and is perfectly timed for the company, following a 2018 Chinese law.

"China is no longer accepting scrap, which is where a lot of materials would go after it was dismantled," Kelly says. "That's why we've created this solution to be able to responsibly handle it here in the U.S." Read more about CompuCycle and where recycling is headed.

Bill McKeon, CEO of the Texas Medical Center

TMC has revealed renderings and new details about the new TMC3 campus. Photo via tmc.edu

Bill McKeon might be one of the busiest businessmen in town. He's leading the largest medical center in the world, while simultaneously building it even bigger. The Texas Medical Center — along with the other institutional partners — released new renderings and details about the TMC3 campus.

"Texas Medical Center is eager to move forward with a bold, imaginative and dynamic new design vision for the TMC3 Master Plan," says TMC CEO and president, Bill McKeon, in a press release. "With the combined talents of Elkus Manfredi Architects, Transwestern, and Vaughn Construction on-board, I couldn't be more confident that this dream team will flawlessly execute the totality of the project's vision and fulfill its mission to bring together leading researchers and top-tiered expertise from the private sector to create the number one biotechnology and bioscience innovation center in the entire world." Click here to check out the renderings and read the full story.Click here to check out the renderings and read the full story.

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A Rice University scientist will be working on the team for NASA's latest Mars rover. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

A Rice University Martian geologist has been chosen by NASA as one of the 13 scientists who will be working on a new Mars rover.

Perseverance, the rover that launched in July and is expected to land on Mars in February. It will be scouting for samples to bring back to study for ancient microbial life, and Kirsten Siebach — an assistant professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences — will be among the researchers to work on the project. Her proposal was one of 119 submitted to NASA for funding, according to a Rice press release.

"Everybody selected to be on the team is expected to put some time into general operations as well as accomplishing their own research," she says in the release. "My co-investigators here at Rice and I will do research to understand the origin of the rocks Perseverance observes, and I will also participate in operating the rover."

It's Kirsten Siebach's second Mars rover mission to work on. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Perseverance is headed for Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide area that once hosted a lake and river delta where, according to scientists, microbial life may have existed over 3 billion years ago. Siebach is particularly excited hopefully find fossils existing in atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolved in water — which usually exists as limestone on Earth.

"There are huge packages of limestone all over Earth, but for some reason it's extremely rare on Mars," she says. "This particular landing site includes one of the few orbital detections of carbonate and it appears to have a couple of different units including carbonates within this lake deposit. The carbonates will be a highlight of we're looking for, but we're interested in basically all types of minerals."

Siebach is familiar with rovers — she was a member of the team for NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2012. For this new rover, Siebach knows what to expect.

"Because there is only one rover, the whole team at NASA has to agree about what to look at, or analyze, or where to drive on any given day," Siebach says in the release. "None of the rovers' actions are unilateral decisions. But it is a privilege to be part of the discussion and to get to argue for observations of rocks that will be important to our understanding of Mars for decades."

Siebach and her team — which includes Rice data scientist Yueyang Jiang and mineralogist Gelu Costin — are planning to tap into computational and machine-learning methods to map out minerals and discover evidence for former life on Mars. They will also be using a Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL, to analyze the materials.

The return mission isn't expected to return until the early 2030s, so it's a long game for the scientists. However, the samples have the potential to revolutionize what we know about life on Mars with more context than before.

"Occasionally, something hits Mars hard enough to knock a meteorite out, and it lands on Earth," she says in the release. "We have a few of those. But we've never been able to select where a sample came from and to understand its geologic context. So these samples will be revolutionary."

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