Money moves

Kinder Institute expands its urban data initiatives following $2.25M of fresh funds from the Houston Endowment

The funds will go toward the Kinder Institute's civic data initiatives. Photo via news.rice.edu

The Houston Endowment has renewed its support of Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research with a $2.25 million three-year grant to expand its services relating to urban data collection and use.

"We are immensely grateful to Houston Endowment for its continued support of Rice and the Kinder Institute," Rice President David Leebron says in a release. "This renewed funding will allow the institute to continue its critical data-driven work to better understand the challenges that Houston and other cities are facing and create lasting solutions. Contributing to our home city and others in this way is central to Rice's mission and its strategic plan, and we are extremely appreciative of this generous support."

In addition to supporting the Kinder Institute's data tools, the funding will contribute to the Houston Urban Data Project 2.0. The institute is involved in the project as is the Houston Community Data Connections, or HCDC. According to the release, the UDP will work to align and enhance urban and community data initiatives, develop training and research support for a larger user base, and raise awareness of the institute's research through outreach.

The HCDC, which was established in September of 2017, is already equipped to analyze 143 areas in Harris County with over 9,000 users, almost 16,000 site sessions, and over 45,000 page views, per the release. The program has seen 120 research and data requests since launch. Meanwhile, the UDP has 200 datasets in Houston and has 400 users who have accessed the site 6,000 times since it launched in the Spring of 2018

"The UDP and HCDC have laid the foundation for a shift in how data is used and decisions are made in the public, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, and this funding will allow the Kinder Institute to build on this work," says Bill Fulton, director of the institute, in the release. "This project will help drive effective, data-driven decision-making for the region and will make the Kinder Institute the data hub for the entire region and a model for other cities around the world."

The purpose of the program will be two initiatives: Building Better Cities, which will focus on government efficiency and urban systems, and Building Better Lives, geared at quality of life and urban disparity among Houston residents.

"At Houston Endowment, our vision is a vibrant region where all have the opportunity to thrive," says Ann B. Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment, in the release. "We believe that making good data available to the public leads to better-informed decision-making on the part of our public officials and allows residents to more effectively advocate for their communities' needs. This is why the UDP and HCDC are so important for the future of our region."

The Kinder Institute, founded in 2010, is a research and advocate organization for urban development in Houston, and the Houston Endowment, established by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937, has assets of $1.8 billion and contributes around $70 million annually.

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Building Houston

 
 

Five research teams are studying space radiation's effect on human tissue. Photo via NASA/Josh Valcarcel

A Houston-based organization has named five research projects to advance the understanding of space radiation using human tissue. Two of the five projects are based in Houston.

The Translational Research Institute for Space Health, or TRISH, is based at Baylor College of Medicine and funds health research and tech for astronauts during space missions. The astronauts who are headed to the moon or further will be exposed to high Galactic Cosmic Radiation levels, and TRISH wants to learn more about the effects of GCR.

"With this solicitation, TRISH was looking for novel human-based approaches to understand better Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) hazards, in addition to safe and effective countermeasures," says Kristin Fabre, TRISH's chief scientist, in a news release. "More than that, we sought interdisciplinary teams of scientists to carry these ideas forward. These five projects embody TRISH's approach to cutting-edge science."

The five projects are:

  • Michael Weil, PhD, of Colorado State University, Colorado — Effects of chronic high LET radiation on the human heart
  • Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD of Columbia University, New York — Human multi-tissue platform to study effects of space radiation and countermeasures
  • Sharon Gerecht, PhD of Johns Hopkins University, Maryland — Using human stem-cell derived vascular, neural and cardiac 3D tissues to determine countermeasures for radiation
  • Sarah Blutt, PhD of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas — Use of Microbial Based Countermeasures to Mitigate Radiation Induced Intestinal Damage
  • Mirjana Maletic-Savatic, PhD of Baylor College of Medicine, Texas — Counteracting space radiation by targeting neurogenesis in a human brain organoid model

The researchers are tasked with simulating radiation exposure to human tissues in order to study new ways to protect astronauts from the radiation once in deep space. According to the release, the tissue and organ models will be derived from blood donated by the astronaut in order to provide him or her with customized protection that will reduce the risk to their health.

TRISH is funded by a partnership between NASA and Baylor College of Medicine, which also includes consortium partners Caltech and MIT. The organization is also a partner to NASA's Human Research Program.

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