Issue No. 24—Spring 2019
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A Message From Dean Gorman

Dear Rice Parents and Families:

The last few weeks of each academic year are always marked by a growing sense of completion — and excitement! Campus is filled with conversations about final class projects, summer jobs, internships and graduation. We see our creativity, hard work and achievement on full display.

Our students spent the year engaged in a variety of creative endeavors, and the products of this hard work can be seen in the papers they write, the designs they construct, the machines they build — and the food they prepare. If this last example surprises you, then I encourage you to ask your student about CHEM 178: The Chemistry of Cooking, taught by Dr. Lesa Tran. Students learn from lectures and hands-on kitchen experiments about the chemical properties and reactions of food, and associated cooking tools and techniques, nutrition and sensory perception. I had the great pleasure of attending their final class project, held in the Martel College kitchen. Organized similarly to the cooking competitions you might watch on TV (including a last-minute twist ingredient they had add to their dish), student teams prepared and served appetizer-sized dishes to a panel of judges — myself included! As we sampled each dish, the student team gave a brief presentation on the chemical principles illustrated in each item on the plate (e.g., what happens, chemically, when you poach an egg). As an educator and a foodie, I loved every minute of it. While some of the students in the class were chemistry majors, many were not, and what struck me as I listened to their presentations was how excited and proud they were to present their culinary creations. Each student acquired a deep understanding of the science of cooking, and as someone who enjoys cooking and baking, I was envious. They are far ahead of where I was at that age, and I have no doubt that the knowledge learned in this class will pay tasty dividends for years to come. And in case you were wondering, the winning dish was “Miso Two Ways: Salmon miso ravioli with brown butter, garnished with blanched asparagus, fried lotus root, with sweet balsamic reduction and quick-pickled tomato salsa; and an Early Grey entremet with miso caramel on a hazelnut dacquoise, honeycomb brittle and berries.” I ate every bite.

It is also important to note that as much as we end the year by celebrating the accomplishments of our students, we also celebrate those who excel at teaching and mentoring. The University Teaching and Mentoring Awards ceremony is a joyous occasion that honors Rice faculty, graduate student instructors and undergraduates who teach student-taught courses. Held in McMurtry Auditorium, the room was packed — every seat was taken, with many standing along the back wall. My favorite part was watching the many students who attended the event. As the winners of each award were announced, a corresponding group of students would jump to their feet, shouting out the name of the winner and clapping as loud as they could. It was lovely how everyone in the room took time out of their day to stop, reflect and recognize the impact that teaching and mentoring has on the lives of our students (including the impact of Dr. Lesa Tran, instructor for the Chemistry of Cooking class; she won the Brown Award for Super Teaching, and several of her students were there, cheering her on).

I deeply enjoyed our undergraduate convocation and commencement ceremonies, and it gave me such pleasure to welcome those of you who had graduating seniors to campus. It is, indeed, a jubilant time of year, when we get to celebrate the closing of their time at Rice and toast to the road ahead.

Wishing you all a lovely summer,

Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates