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Civil and Environmental Engineering

Padgett wins Teaching + Research Excellence Award

Jamie E. Padgett, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) and Genevera I. Allen, assistant professor of statistics (STAT), are the winners of the third annual Teaching and Research Excellence Awards presented by the George R. Brown School of Engineering at Rice University.

Each will receive a $10,000 award, with half the sum going directly to the faculty member and half deposited in a fund of the winner’s choice for use in “enhancing teaching and research.” The (T+R)^2 Award is given to members of the engineering faculty who demonstrate “excellence in both teaching and research,” and to encourage faculty to aspire to “excellence in the classroom and the lab.”

In assessing a faculty member’s qualifications for the award, the engineering dean’s office considers research-based teaching methods, student evaluations and comments, peer input, research funding, the impact of journal publications and contributions to the field.

Padgett earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007, and joined the Rice faculty that year. Her research focuses on infrastructure reliability in the face of natural hazards and extreme events. Recent applications of her research focus on transportation and energy infrastructure, including bridges, oil storage tanks and nuclear storage casks.

“Jamie sees the big picture, how things fit together and are interdependent, both in her research (think smart cities) and in her teaching (think structural analysis). Her ability to think big and to integrate across topics makes her an asset for students who enjoy both rigorous thinking and creative approaches to novel solutions,” Thomas said.

Padgett was the founding chair of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) technical committee on Multiple Hazard Mitigation, and serves on several professional technical committees and councils within ASCE, the Structural Engineering Institute and the Transportation Research Board.

Jinal Mehta, who graduated with a B.S. in civil engineering from Rice in 2016, wrote of Padgett:

“Perhaps one of the most telling aspects of Dr. Padgett’s teaching style is that she succeeds in creating a highly collaborative, non-competitive atmosphere among her students that lasts for the rest of their undergraduate careers — a feat not easily accomplished in a high-performing university. Her assigned homework and projects were often best solved by working together, going to her office hours for assistance, and working together some more.”

In recommending Padgett for the award, Rob Griffin, professor and chair of CEE, wrote:

“Over the past two complete fiscal years, the research expenditures of Dr. Padgett exceed a total of $575,000 as a result of the 13 funded projects active, with Dr. Padgett as PI/co-PI during the two calendar years. She has co-authored 18 manuscripts, all published in reputable, high impact, peer-reviewed journals and predominantly first authored by her graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. As of January 2017, ten additional manuscripts were in review. She also co-authored eight papers in conference proceedings and gave five invited talks.”

Padgett serves on editorial boards for ASCE’s Journal of Bridge Engineering, Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, and ASCE’s Journal of Structural Engineering. She also serves in leadership roles in several large national or regional research efforts, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning at Colorado State University, the NSF National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure, Cyberinfrastructure “DesignSafe-CI” (University of Texas, Austin) and the Severe Storm Prediction Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice.

Padgett received the International Association of Life Cycle Civil Engineering Junior Award in 2016 for her contributions to life-cycle analysis of structural systems. She has been the recipient of several past awards and honors, such as the NSF CAREER Award, the ASCE Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities Best Paper Award, and the ASCE New Face of Civil Engineering. Her research has been supported by NSF, NIST, the Department of Energy, Houston Endowment and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, among others.

Allen, who holds the Dobelman Family Junior Chair of Statistics, and has a joint appointment in electrical and computer engineering, received her bachelor’s degree in STAT from Rice in 2006, and her Ph.D. in the same field from Stanford in 2010, the year she joined the Rice faculty. She has a joint appointment in pediatric neurology at Baylor College of Medicine’s Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Genevera is a perfect example of a faculty member who is simultaneously a great mentor/teacher and a great researcher/scholar. It just comes naturally to her. She enjoys understanding complex ideas and then figuring out how to explain them in understandable terms. This makes her classroom lectures and her research seminars, intellectual treats,” said Edwin L. “Ned” Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of the George R. Brown School of Engineering.

Allen’s research focuses on developing statistical methods to make sense of big data in applications such as high-throughput genomics and neuroimaging. Her work lies in the areas of modern multivariate analysis, graphical models, statistical machine learning, and data integration or data fusion.

In his letter endorsing Allen for the (T+R)^2 Award, John Nagorski, a fifth-year graduate student in statistics, said he has worked with her on “development of new statistical methodology to solve real-world problems encountered by biomedical researchers.” Of Allen’s role as adviser and mentor, he said:

“Her enthusiasm and ability for analyzing difficult statistical problems has greatly furthered my development as a researcher and has had a significant impact on those she has taught.”

In his letter of recommendation, David W. Scott, Noah Harding Professor of STAT at Rice, asked: “What is her niche in the data science field? It is the so-called ‘modern’ multivariate analysis, which greatly extends the applicability of ‘classical’ multivariate analysis to settings where the problem size, both in terms of the sample size n and the number of variables or features p, has exploded.” He continued:

“Our graduate students are all attracted to her research program. She has already directed two doctoral students and currently is supervising (at least) four more. Somehow she has found time to direct the senior research design projects (required of engineering students) of seven students, has served on the doctoral committees of another seven students within the engineering school, and has brought her first full-time post-doc from Johns Hopkins this year.”

In 2016, Allen received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award and the International Biometric Society’s Young Statistician Showcase award. Allen represented the American Statistical Association (ASA) at the Coalition for National Science Funding on Capitol Hill in 2013 and 2014. Also in 2014 she was named to the “Forbes ‘30 under 30’: Science and Healthcare” list.

Allen has received research grants from the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, NSF, and joint initiatives between NSF and the National Institutes of Health. She serves as associate editor for Biometrics and in leadership positions within the ASA, as secretary-treasurer of the Section on Statistical Computing, and program chair for the Section on Statistical Learning and Data Science.


In 2015, the first winners of the (T+R)^2 Award were Richard Baraniuk, the Victor E. Cameron Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Luay Nakhleh, professor and chair of computer science, and professor of biosciences. Last year, the honorees were Jane Grande-Allen, the Isabel C. Cameron Professor of Bioengineering, and Christopher M. Jermaine, professor of computer science.

Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications