Ten individuals from Rice University have been named to the second cohort of the Innovation Fellowship program. Photos via Rice.edu

A program with a mission to translate research into innovative startups has named its 2023 cohort of fellows.

Rice University's Innovation Fellows program, which is run by the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Office of Innovation, has announced the 10 innovators that will be joining the program this year. The program, open to Rice faculty and doctoral and postdoctoral students, provides support — funding, mentorship, and more — to move innovation out of labs and into commercialization.

“The Rice Innovation Fellows program is a critical part of our efforts to support innovation and entrepreneurship,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches says in a news release. “These exceptional individuals represent some of the most innovative and promising research being conducted at Rice, and we’re thrilled to support them as they work to bring their ideas to the world.”

According to the release, the 10 members of the 2023 cohort are:

  • Martha Fowler, a doctoral student from the bioengineering lab of Omid Veiseh
  • Carson Cole, a doctoral student from the chemistry lab of Jeff Hartgerink
  • Fatima Ahsan, a doctoral student from the electrical and computer engineering lab of Behnaam Aazhang
  • Siraj Sidhik, a doctoral student from the materials science and nanoengineering lab of Aditya Mohite
  • Roman Zhuravel, a postdoctoral student from the physics and astronomy lab of Guido Pagano
  • Samira Aghlara-Fotovat, a doctoral student from the bioengineering lab of Veiseh
  • Clarke Wilkirson, a doctoral student from the mechanical engineering lab of Peter Lillehoj
  • Yuren Feng, a doctoral student from the civil and environmental engineering lab of Qilin Li
  • Yang Xia, a doctoral student from the chemical and molecular engineering lab of Haotian Wang
  • Thao Vy Nguyen, a doctoral student from the chemical engineering lab of Sibani Lisa Biswal

Each of Rice's Innovation Fellows will receive up to $20,000 in funding, as well as access to the university's network for mentorship and training.

“We're incredibly excited to welcome this exceptional group of researchers into the Innovation Fellows program,” says Yael Hochberg, head of the Rice Entrepreneurship Initiative and faculty director for Lilie, in the release. “We look forward to working with them as they bring their groundbreaking research to market and make a real impact on the world.”

Last year's inaugural cohort in raised more than $1 million in venture capital funding and over $3 million in additional nondilutive funding, as well as earning more than $500,000 in revenue.

Some of the 2022 cohort's accomplishments included Helix Earth Technologies winning the inaugural TEX-E Prize and Sygne Solutions securing second place and $200,000 at the 2023 Rice Business Plan Competition.

Paul Cherukuri, Rice’s vice president for innovation, who recently joined the Houston Innovators Podcast, explains how this is one avenue Rice has for getting innovation off campus and into industry.

“With commercialization of research at the forefront of what Rice University wants to do,” says Cherukuri, "the Innovation Fellows program is the first in a constellation of programs and resources developed by the Office of Innovation to help impactful new ventures overcome the hard tech ‘valley of death’ and transition from the campus to the community, so we can help create the next generation of game-changing company for Houston, Texas and the world,."

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Energy giant announces deal retail company to bring EV tech to Houston malls

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Two Houston-area malls will be getting bp's electric vehicle charging technology thanks to a new global collaboration.

The global energy company will be bringing its global EV charging business, bp pulse, to 75 shopping facilities across the country thanks to a partnership with Simon Malls. Two malls in town — The Galleria and Katy Mills Mall — soon see bp's EV charging Gigahubs. The company will install and operate the chargers at the two area sites.

The deal aims to deliver over 900 ultra-fast charging bays that will support most make and model of EVs with the first locations opening to the public in early 2026. Other Texas locations include Grapevine Mills in Grapevine, and Austin’s Barton Creek Square.

“We’re pleased to complete this deal with Simon and expand our ultra-fast charging network footprint in the U.S.,” Richard Bartlett, CEO of bp pulse, says in a news release. “The Simon portfolio aligns with bp pulse’s strategy to deploy ultra-fast charging across the West Coast, East Coast, Sun Belt and Great Lakes, and we are thrilled to team up with Simon so that EV drivers have a range of retail offerings at their impressive destinations.”

Last month, bp pulse opened a EV charging station at its North American headquarters in Houston. The company plans to continue deployment of additional charging points at high-demand spots like major metropolitan areas, bp-owned properties, and airports, according to bp.

“As a committed long term infrastructure player with a global network of EV charging solutions, bp pulse intends to continue to seek and build transformative industry collaborations in real estate required to scale our network and match the demand of current and future EV drivers,” Sujay Sharma, CEO bp pulse Americas, adds.

Houston space tech company reaches major milestone for engine technology

fired up

A Houston company that's creating the next generation of space exploration technology is celebrating a new milestone of one of its technologies.

Intuitive Machines reports that its VR900 completed a full-duration hot-fire test, qualifying it for its IM-2 lunar mission. With the qualification, the company says its VR3500, an engine designed for larger cargo class landers, also advances in development.

The engine technology is designed, 3D-printed, and tested all at Intuitive Machines' Houston facility, which opened in the Houston Spaceport last year.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus says in a news release that the company's goal was to lead the way in scalable deep space engines as the industry heads toward lunar missions.

“This validated engine design meets current mission demand and paves the way for our VR3500 engine for cargo delivery such as lunar terrain vehicles, human spaceflight cargo resupply, and other infrastructure delivery," Altemus continues. "We believe we’re in a prime position to build on our successful development and apply that technology toward current contracts and future lunar requirements for infrastructure delivery.”

Earlier this year, Intuitive Machines was one of one of three companies selected for a $30 million NASA contract for the initial phase of developing a rover for U.S. astronauts to traverse the moon’s surface.

Another Houston company has seen success with its engine testing. In March, Venus Aerospace announced that it's successfully ran the first long-duration engine test of their Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine in partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Houston is the most stressed out city in Texas, report finds

deep breaths

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but a new report by WalletHub shows Houston residents are far more stressed out than any other city in Texas.

Houston ranked No. 18 out of 182 of the largest U.S. cities based on work, financial, family-related, and health and safety stress, according to WalletHub's "Most & Least Stressed Cities in America (2024)" report. 39 relevant metrics were considered in the report, including each city's job security, the share of households behind on bills within the last 12 months, divorce rates, crime rates, among others.

Houston was ranked the most stressed out city in Texas, but it's still far less stressed than many other U.S. cities. Cleveland, Ohio took first place as the most stressed city in America, followed by Detroit, Michigan (No. 2), Baltimore, Maryland (No. 3), Memphis, Tennessee (No. 4), and Gulfport, Mississippi (No. 5).

Out of the four main categories, Houstonians are struggling the most with work-related stress, ranking No. 13 nationally. The report found Houston has the No. 1 highest traffic congestion rate out of all cities in the report. But at least Houston drivers are solidly average, as maintained by a separate Forbes study comparing the worst drivers in America.

Houston workers can rejoice that they live in a city with a generally high level of guaranteed employment, as the city ranked No. 151 in the job security comparison. The city ranked No. 16 nationwide in the metric for the highest average weekly hours worked.

Houston fared best in the financial stress category, coming in at No. 72 nationally, showing that Houstonians aren't as worried about pinching pennies when it comes to maintaining a good quality of life. The city ranked No. 39 in the comparison of highest poverty rates.

Here's how WalletHub quantified Houston's stress levels:

  • No. 17 – Health and safety stress rank (overall)
  • No. 36 – Family stress rank (overall)
  • No. 63 – Unemployment rates
  • No. 81 – Percentage of adults in fair/poor health
  • No. 95 – Divorce rate
  • No. 96 – Percentage of adults with inadequate sleep

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe said in the report that living in particularly arduous cities can play a big role in how stressed a person is, especially when considering uncontrollable circumstances like family problems or work-related issues.

"Cities with high crime rates, weak economies, less effective public health and congested transportation systems naturally lead to elevated stress levels for residents," Happe said.

Happe advised that residents considering a move to a place like Houston should consider how the city's quality of life will impact their mental health, not just their financial wellbeing.

Other Texas cities that ranked among the top 100 most stressed cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 20 – San Antonio
  • No. 38 – Laredo
  • No. 41 – Dallas
  • No. 47 – Corpus Christi
  • No. 61 – El Paso
  • No. 68 – Fort Worth
  • No. 71 – Brownsville
  • No. 75 – Arlington
  • No. 78 – Grand Prairie
  • No. 88 – Garland
The full report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.