An annual ranking recognized Rice University again — but the Houston school ranked a tad lower this year. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice University has earned yet another accolade worth hooting about.

Niche, an education review and ranking website, has named Rice the ninth best college in the U.S., down from No. 6 last year. The Houston university receives an A+ in nine of the 12 ranking categories, including academics, diversity, and value. It gets an A for the party scene, a B+ for athletics, and a B for safety.

“We’re proud that Niche once again rates Rice not only one of the nation’s top universities, but also one of the nation’s best college values,” university President Reginald DesRoches said in 2022. “This is especially gratifying because Niche reflects the opinions of students and parents who know firsthand what outstanding education opportunities Rice continues to offer.”

Rice regularly ranks highly on lists of the best colleges and universities in the country, including those published by Niche, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report.

“Rice is an awesome place. I went to Rice because I wanted professors who actually wanted to see their students succeed, and I can confidently say that’s what I found at Rice,” a student wrote in a Niche review. “The classes are thorough but the tests are very reasonable and focus on the material we learned in class.”

Topping Niche’s national list is Yale University, followed by Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Princeton University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth College.

Rice comes in at No. 12 on Niche’s list of the “best value colleges” in the U.S. and ranks first among the best colleges in Texas. Here are the top 10 Texas schools, including the eighth-ranked University of Houston:

1. Rice University
2. University of Texas at Austin
3. Texas A&M University (College Station)
4. Trinity University (San Antonio)
5. Southern Methodist University (University Park)
6. Texas Christian University (Fort Worth)
7. Texas Tech University (Lubbock)
8. University of Houston
9. University of Texas Permian Basin (Odessa)
10. Baylor University (Waco)

Other Houston-area schools in the Texas ranking are:

  • University of Houston – Clear Lake (No. 13)
  • University of St. Thomas (No. 26)
  • University of Houston – Downtown (No. 39)
  • Prairie View A&M University (No. 43)

“Choosing where to go to college is easily one of the most significant — and expensive — decisions of a person’s life. Niche’s mission is to ensure that every college-bound student has access to easy, transparent and free resources … to help them find their best fit,” Luke Skurman, founder and CEO of Niche, says in a news release.

Check out these conferences, pitch events, networking, and more happening in Houston in the month of April. Photo via Getty Images

10+ can't-miss Houston business and innovation events for April

where to be

After a very busy March, Houston innovators might need to prepare for another month of networking opportunities. Here's a rundown of what all to throw on your calendar for April.

This article will be updated as more business and tech events are announced.

April 5-6 — Energy CEO Summit

Industry leaders and members of the Houston business community will discuss the evolution of the energy sector, Houston's pivotal role, and the critical events driving the change.

Center for Houston's Future CEO Brett Perlman will moderate a panel on Electrical Grid Trends at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 6.

The event is Tuesday and Wednesday, April 5-6, online or at Asia Society Texas Center (1370 Southmore Blvd.). Click here to register.

April 6 — 2022 PVAMU Industry Innovation Collaboration Day

This event is designed to provide an interactive platform for academicians, researchers, students, industries, and government agencies an opportunity to meet and share recent innovations, developments, and technology trends. Collaboration between the university and various industries needs to be nourished to enhance innovation development for the benefit of society.

The event is Wednesday, April 6, from 8:30 am to 5 pm at Prairie View A&M University-MSC Ballroom (155 L.W Minor St.). Click here to register.

April 6 — Enventure "Inspire" Seminar Series - With Dr. Santosh A. Helekar, MD, PhD

The "Inspire" Seminar Series was developed by Enventure to help students learn about the reality of working in the biotech and biomedical fields. The series consists of a number of events starring guest speakers coming from different areas in the biotech and biomedical industries.

This particular event will star Dr. Santosh A. Helekar, M.D., Ph.D. Participants attending this event will learn about the story of Dr. Helekar and his experiences from transitioning from grad school & academia into an inventor & his experiences and current role. In addition, there will be a final Q&A where the audience will be able to ask direct questions to Dr. Helekar.

The online event is Wednesday, April 6, from 6 to 7:30 pm. Click here to register.

April 7 — Low-Carbon Hydrogen Accelerator Kickoff

Together with Greentown Labs and the Urban Future Lab, EPRI and Shell recognize the need to accelerate the development and commercialization of low-carbon technologies required to enable economy-wide decarbonization. As leaders in the utilities and energy industries, respectively, with domain expertise, R&D facilities, and access to global customers, EPRI and Shell are uniquely positioned to lead this transformation in partnership with startups innovating at the cutting edge of low-carbon hydrogen.

The hybrid event is Thursday, April 7, from 5:30 to 8 pm at Greentown Labs (4200 San Jacinto St.) and streaming online. Click here to register.

April 7-9 — 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition

The 2022 Rice Business Plan Competition will be hosted in Houston at the Jones Graduate School of Business. This year, 42 teams have been invited to compete in the 22nd Annual Competition. The finals will be streamed online —watch on Saturday, April 9 on our YouTube. If you're a member, please visit our membership page to register to attend in-person.

The competition is held Thursday through Saturday, April 7-9, at Rice University (6100 Main St.) and streamed online. Click here to register.

April 12 — Energy & Energy 2.0 Council

As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston is the headquarters and the intellectual capital for virtually every segment of the energy industry including exploration, production, transmission, marketing, supply, and technology. This Council explores how Houston's largest industry continues to lead in this critical sector while also advancing innovation that supports the transition to a more efficient and sustainable, low-carbon future that also accommodates global demand growth.

The event is Tuesday, April 12, from 11:30 am to 1 pm at Partnership Tower (701 Avenida de las Americas, Suite 900). Click here to register.

April 12 — Softeq Venture Studio Demo Day (Q1 2022 Cohort)

The Softeq Venture Studio invested $125,000 in cash and services in each of the nine early-stage startups to help them refine their business model, build their technology, and prepare them to scale. In this capstone event, founders have seven minutes each to present their pitch deck, demo their product, outline their ask, and answer questions. And we need you there to evaluate them for investment (or at least support them).

The event is Tuesday, April 12, from 5 to 7:30 pm at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 13 — Serving & Selling: Building your Brand, brought to you by Insperity

Find out how to solidify your brand, deliver exceptional service, and take your productivity to the next level, with Pete Hinojosa, CBPA.

The event is Wednesday, April 13, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm at The Cannon (1334 Brittmore Dr.). Click here to register.

April 14 — DivInc Happy Hour: Meet the Sports Tech Cohort

Meet DivInc's Sports Tech cohort at a happy hour hosted at The Ion on April 14. The companies accepted into the new cohort are slated to be announced on April 11.

The event is Thursday, April 14, at 5:30 pm at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 19 — State of Technology

The second annual Greater Houston Partnership event features business leaders discussing Houston's growth as a national leader in tech innovation and the many qualities the region possesses that support a robust tech ecosystem. Through a panel discussion, the event will also explore how Houston is uniquely enabling digital transformation across industries including energy, life sciences and healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, and aerospace.

The event is Tuesday, April 19, at 10 am to 1:30 pm at Hilton Americas (1600 Lamar St.). Click here to register.

April 20 — Spring 2022 D2K Showcase

Explore Rice University's D2K students’ end-of-semester projects covering a wide range of topics including computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning applications, web scraping, time series analysis, signal processing and more. Celebrate the impact they are making through data science and interact with Rice students and learn more about their projects in the poster session. Attendees can vote for their favorite project/team to compete for cash prizes.

The event is Wednesday, April 20, from 5 to 7 pm at Duncan Hall at Rice University (6100 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 20 — The H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championships

Join Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and support Rice University student startups at the H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge Championships on Wednesday, April 20. Six student finalists will pitch their ventures for the chance to win a share of $75,000+ in equity-free funding. Attendance is open to Rice students, Rice alumni, friends of Rice, and the whole Houston entrepreneurial community. Seats are limited, so get your tickets while you still can.

The event is Wednesday, April 20, from 5:30 to 9 pm at The Anderson-Clarke Center’s Hudspeth Auditorium (6100 Main St.). Click here to register.

April 21 — Greentown Houston's First Anniversary

A year after opening the Houston's first-ever climatetech startup incubator, Greentown Houston is home to over 60 startup members and 20 corporate partners. Join the green tech hub for a celebration of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and innovation, which together with the engineering strength and talent of the region’s energy industry will power Houston’s climate leadership. The day of festivities will include celebratory remarks, lightning pitches from some of our outstanding startups, a member showcase, networking, and more.

The event is Thursday, April 21, from 1 to 7 pm, at Greentown Houston (4200 San Jacinto St.) or livestreaming online. Click here to register.

April 27 — Engage VC: Revolution

Revolution is a D.C.-based investment firm focused on investing in entrepreneurs building transformative companies outside of Silicon Valley. With $1.7 billion of capital commitments across portfolio companies including Houston-based Goodfair and relationships in 60+ startup communities, Revolution is dedicated to creating meaningful results for companies outside of the Bay Area. And they are coming to Houston. Join HX Venture Fund to hear Tige Savage, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Revolution Ventures, David Hall, Managing Partner at Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and Martin Simoncic, President B2B at PROS discuss Revolution's perspective on venture investing, current and future trends, and how Houston fits in among other topics.

The event is Wednesday, April 27, at 8:30 to 10 am at The Ion (4201 Main St.). Click here to register.


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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: Every week, I introduce you to a handful of Houston innovators to know recently making headlines with news of innovative technology, investment activity, and more. This week's batch includes a podcast with the founder of a new venture firm, a former astronaut and recent award recipient, and a health care innovator with fresh funding.

Zach Ellis, founder and managing partner of South Loop Ventures

Zach Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that South Loop Ventures plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston has a lot of the right ingredients for commercialization and scaling up companies, so when Zach Ellis moved to town to stand up a venture capital firm that made investments in diverse founders, he decided to go about it in an innovative way.

South Loop Ventures, which Ellis launched two years ago, invests in pre-seed and seed-stage startups across health care, climatetech, aerospace, sports, and fintech. While the first handful of investments, which have already been made, are into Houston-based companies, Ellis explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast that the firm plans to invest in promising companies from across the country and bring them into Houston's ecosystem to grow and scale.

"Any investor wants to feel like they are looking at the best possible investment opportunities in which to deploy capital," Ellis says on the show. "So that's reason No. 1 to cast your net as widely as possible.

"At the same time, you want to give any investment that you make greatest chances of success," he continues. "The biggest factor of success outside of the team and the capital you give them, is the customers that they can call upon. In bringing targeted companies to Houston or connecting them with Houston, you introduce the opportunity for them to achieve rapid scale and work with world-class partners very efficiently." Read more.


Toby R. Hamilton, founder and CEO of Hamilton Health Box

Dr. Toby Hamilton has secured $10 million to grow his company. Photo via tmc.edu

A Houston company that is working on a value-based model for primary care has fresh funding to support its mission.

Hamilton Health Box announced the completion of a $10 million series A funding round led by 1588 Ventures with participation from Memorial Hermann Health System, Impact Ventures by Johnson & Johnson Foundation, Texas Medical Center Venture Fund, and the Sullivan Brothers.

The company, founded in 2019 by Dr. Toby R. Hamilton, will use the funding to fuel its expansion into rural areas to help assist those living in Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs. Read more.

Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and center director at the NASA's Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa was recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and for being the first Hispanic woman in space. Photo via NASA

Two astronauts recently received Presidential Medals of Freedom from President Joe Biden for their leadership in space.

Ellen Ochoa, the former center director and astronaut at the NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, were honored at the White House on May 3.

Ochoa spent 30 years with NASA, which included being the 11th director of JSC, deputy center director of JSC, and director of Flight Crew Operations. She served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993, and became the first Hispanic woman in space. She flew four more times to space with STS-66, STS-96, STS-110, and more.

“I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” Ochoa says in a NASA news release. Read more.

Houston health care institutions receive $22M to attract top recruits

coming to Hou

Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine has received a total of $12 million in grants from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas to attract two prominent researchers.

The two grants, which are $6 million each, are earmarked for recruitment of Thomas Milner and Radek Skoda. The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced the grants May 14.

Milner, an expert in photomedicine for surgery and diagnostics, is a professor of surgery and biomedical engineering at the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine and the university’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

In 2013, Milner was named Inventor of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. At the time, he was a professor of biomedical engineering at UT. One of his major achievements is co-development of the MasSpec Pen, a handheld device that identifies cancerous tissue within 10 seconds during surgical procedures.

Skoda is a professor of molecular medicine in the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel and the University Hospital Basel, both in Switzerland. He specializes in developing treatments for myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are a group of blood diseases including leukemia.

Other recruitment grants provided by the institute to Houston-area organizations are:

  • $4 million for recruitment of Susan Bullman to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She was an assistant professor at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, where she studied the connection between microbes and cancer.
  • $4 million for recruitment of Oren Rom to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Rom is an assistant professor of pathology and translational pathobiology at Louisiana State University Shreveport.
  • Nearly $2 million for recruitment of Lauren Hagler to conduct RNA cancer biology at Texas A&M University. She is a postdoctoral scholar in biochemistry at Stanford University.

The institute also awarded grants to five companies in the Houston area:

  • $4.7 million to 7 Hills Pharma for development of immunotherapies to treat cancer and prevent infectious diseases.
  • $4.5 million to Indapta Therapeutics for the Phase 1 trial of a cell therapy for treatment of multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • $2.75 million to Bectas Therapeutics for development of antibodies and biomarkers to overcome a type of resistance T-cell checkpoint therapy.
  • $2.69 million to MS Pen Technologies for development of technology that differentiates between normal tissue and cancerous tissue during surgery.
  • $2.58 million to Crossbridge Bio for development of an antibody-drug combination to treat certain solid tumors.