From coast to coast, Rice alumni are engaged in fascinating research. We asked two alumni on opposite sides of the country to tell us about their investigations and what they find most exciting about research.
Thomas W. Malone ’74 on group intelligence, crowdsourcing and climate change
“Research excites me because it’s an opportunity to think hard about deep, interesting problems and at the same time have a chance of actually making the world better.”
— Thomas W. Malone ’74, the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
How can people and computers be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any person, group or computer has ever acted before? Answering that question is a key focus of our research in the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, which I lead.
In one of our projects, we are using the same statistical techniques used in IQ tests to measure the intelligence of groups, not individuals. We’ve identified factors that make some groups smarter than others, including not only the individual intelligence of the group members, but also their social intelligence, how equally they participate and how many women are in the group.
In another project, we’re crowdsourcing the problem of what to do about global climate change. Our online platform, called the Climate CoLab, now has a community of about 50,000 members, including some of the world’s leading experts on climate change and businesspeople, students, policy makers and many others from all over the world. Together, these people are developing and evaluating innovative proposals for what to do about many aspects of the problem, and some of their ideas are now being implemented.
Sook-Lei Liew ’06 on neuroplasticity, stroke recovery and virtual reality
“Research excites me because it’s our best hope for finding a solution for people whose lives have been changed by a stroke and for helping them change their lives for the better.”
— Sook-Lei Liew ’06, assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, and Department of Neurology at the Keck School of Medicine
Stroke remains one of the most devastating of all neurological conditions. Worldwide, it accounts for approximately 5.5 million annual deaths and 44 million years of disability. In the U.S. alone, over 795,000 people have a stroke every year, leading to loss of movement on one side of the body, difficulty speaking and difficulty engaging in meaningful activities independently.
I direct the Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Laboratory at the University of Southern California, where our research examines how the brain repairs itself after stroke. We aim to facilitate patient recovery using brain imaging, noninvasive brain stimulation, brain computer interfaces and virtual reality. While some people recover naturally on their own, up to two-thirds of stroke survivors do not, and these are the people who we aim to help with our research.
To understand how the brain recovers after stroke, we capture dynamic images of it using magnetic resonance imaging. We then can directly stimulate damaged parts of the brain and teach people to control their own brain activity using feedback about their brain patterns. Our ultimate goal is to help people who have had strokes lead happier, healthier lives.
Thousands of other alumni around the world are engaged in cutting-edge research. If you’re one of them, click here to share your story with your fellow alumni via the alumni website!