Report card

Houston university named the best in the state and among the top schools in the country

U.S. News & World Report's 2020 Best Colleges ranking puts Rice University in first place for the state. Courtesy of Rice University

It's not breaking news, but it's always fun to hear: Rice University isn't just the best college in Texas, it stands above most in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's latest ranking.

On September 9, the publication released its annual 2020 Best Colleges report, comparing nearly 1,400 schools around the country.

Rice University is once again tops in Texas and No. 17 in the nation, tying with Cornell University and slipping one spot on the national ranking from 2018. The University of Texas at Austin ranks No. 2 in Texas, behind Rice for the second year in a row, and No. 48 in the nation.

U.S. News broke down ranking metrics like a classic syllabus. Each school was graded across six categories, weighing outcomes (graduation and retention rates, social mobility, etc.) the heaviest at 35 percent. Faculty resources and expert opinion of schools each accounted for 20 percent of scores, followed by financial resources and student excellence at 10 percent each and alumni giving at 5 percent.

The publication also brought some new rankings to the table this year, including Top Performers on Social Mobility, which analyzes schools based on which ones best serve underrepresented students, looking at Pell Grants and enrollment and graduation rates of students from low-income backgrounds. Rice ranks No. 204 on that list.

Rice placed highly on some of U.S. News' new rankings for programs students should look out for, including learning communities (No. 13), senior capstone (No. 20), and undergraduate research/creative projects (No. 34).

Nationwide, the Ivies continue their dominance atop the list. Princeton University is the best university in America, followed by Harvard University (No. 2) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University, which tied for third.

In Texas, Southern Methodist University (No. 64), Texas A&M University (No. 70), and Baylor University (No. 79), round out the top five schools in Texas.

Locally, the University of Houston ranks 185th nationally. In the Regional Universities West ranking, the University of St. Thomas comes in 19th, the University of Houston—Clear Lake takes the 43rd spot, and Houston Baptist University lands at No. 61.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

What's the latest in tech research in Houston? Here are three revolutionary research projects happening right under our noses. Getty Images

Tons of research happens daily at various Houston institutions — from life-saving medical developments to high tech innovations that will affect the greater business community.

In this Houston research roundup, three research projects from three Houston organizations are set to revolutionize their respective industries.

University of Houston researcher explores potential disruption in blockchain

blockchain

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A huge technology question mark within business has been blockchain — how it'll affect the sharing of information and industry as a whole. But, one University of Houston professor and his Texas A&M University colleagues are looking into that potential disruption in a recent paper.

"It's an emerging technology. It's evolving," says Weidong "Larry" Shi, associate professor of computer science at UH, in a UH news release.

Funded by the Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute, the research has developed into the paper, which was published in the International Journal of Production Research.

A key focus of the research is how blockchain will affect cargo entering the United States, and identifies six pain points within adapting blockchain for cargo management: traceability, dispute resolution, cargo integrity and security, supply chain digitalization, compliance, and trust and stakeholder management, according to the release.

"The wide adoption of blockchain technology in the global SC (supply chain) market is still in its infancy," the article reads. "Industry experts project that on average, it may take about six years for the widespread adoption of blockchain."

Blockchain has the potential to prevent fraud within the global supply chain, among other things.

"The data can't be changed. Everyone (along the supply chain) has a copy. You can add information, but you can't change it," Shi says in the release.

The U.S. Army taps Rice University for network research

Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice University and the U.S. Army have joined forces for a five-year, $30 million research agreement to modernize the Army — specifically for developing next-generation wireless networks and radio frequency (RF) electronics.

"[The Army Research Laboratory] and Rice will match the right people and capabilities to meet specific challenges, and the cooperative agreement is structured to allow the Army to partner widely across our campus," says Yousif Shamoo, Rice's vice president of research and lead on the ARL partnership, in a recent news release. "One exciting aspect of this partnership is the broader societal benefits. The technologies we're starting with are needed for Army modernization and they could also benefit millions of Americans in communities that still lack high-speed internet."

Without going into too much detail, the two entities are working to advance the Army's existing infrastructure to create networks that can sense attacks and protect themselves by adaption or stealth. The technology has the potential to affect the Army as well as civilians, says Heidi Maupin, the lead ARL contact for the Rice partnership.

"We want to deliver the capability of quickly deploying secure, robust Army communications networks wherever and whenever they're needed," Maupin says in the release. "The technology needed for that will benefit the world by transforming the economics of rural broadband, reducing response times to natural disasters, opening new opportunities for online education and more."

Research out of Baylor College of Medicine advancing information known about vision

Photo via bcm.edu

For humans, seeing is pretty simple — just open your eyes. But the process our eyes go through extremely complex, and scientists have had a hard time recreating the process — until now.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Tübingen in Germany have developed a novel computational approach that accelerates the brain's ability to identify optimal stimuli. The complete study by the scientists was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"We want to understand how vision works," says senior author Dr. Andreas Tolias, professor and Brown Foundation Endowed Chair of Neuroscience at Baylor. "We approached this study by developing an artificial neural network that predicts the neural activity produced when an animal looks at images. If we can build such an avatar of the visual system, we can perform essentially unlimited experiments on it. Then we can go back and test in real brains with a method we named 'inception loops."

To track neurons and how they work, the researchers tracked brain activity scanning thousands of images.

"Experimenting with these networks revealed some aspects of vision we didn't expect," says Tolias, founder and director of the Center for Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence at Baylor, in a release. "For instance, we found that the optimal stimulus for some neurons in the early stages of processing in the neocortex were checkerboards, or sharp corners as opposed to simple edges which is what we would have expected according to the current dogma in the field."

The research is ongoing and will only continue to help dissect how the brain sees and interprets visual elements.