As the employer of the two buckyball discoverers, Richard Smalley and Robert Curl, Rice has traditionally been a strong force in nanotechnology. With Smalley’s passing in 2005, the Smalley Institute carries on his work. This institute has 151 faculty and staff members who represent 21 departments. More than 600 students study nanotechnology through its auspices.


Rice’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) focuses on nanotechnology in medicine and the environment. The Center has stated that part of its focus is to draw new talent into the field of nanotechnology.

As part of that focus, they work with teachers in the Houston School District to train them in what they call a “discovery-based teaching style.” They also work with students at Rice at both the undergraduate and graduate levels through their Center Science Academy. Finally, they have a partnership with the Jones Graduate School of Management to address the needs of small startup technology companies.

One great example of Rice’s affiliation with industry is the Lockheed Martin Advanced Nanotechnology Center of Excellence at Rice University. Rice describes this association as “a unique nanotechnology research program to explore new technologies for materials, electronics, energy, security and defense. Through LANCER, Lockheed Martin engineers will pair with Rice experts in carbon nanotechnology, photonics, plasmonics and other nanoscience disciplines to address a broad range of potential nanotechnology applications.”

Rice offers an MS in Nanoscale Physics. The university doesn’t offer a nanotechnology PhD degree per se. Rather, students choose a field of graduate studies, such as natural science or engineering, and then work with a professor who has expertise in nanotechnology.