Rice University receives record $100M gift to accelerate advanced materials research

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We may still be in the middle of a pandemic, which has impacted so many Houston businesses and industries, but at Rice University, the focus is on the future.

The Welch Foundation has invested more than a billion dollars into basic chemical research statewide.

Over time, that research could provide new breakthroughs into the ways that life is lived.

On Wednesday, Rice University received the largest gift in its history: $100 million. This will create the Welch Institute for Advanced Materials at the university.

READ ALSO: Rice University to add 'outdoor learning' to its social distancing plans

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Institute complements the city's ability to compete for tech-related jobs and positions Houston as a forward-looking city.

The term "applied materials" may not generate excitement, but its impact can.
The idea is to create new materials through chemistry with incredible applications rather than mining them from the Earth.

An example would be a kind of steel that can withstand natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Material that could desalinate salt water on a huge scale to bring to people and agriculture in countries where drought and famine are.

Those are just some of the possibilities for the breakthroughs hoped to come from the institute.

Another could be the transformation of the technology we take for granted.

"The computers you have now are going to look like dinosaurs when these new computers come out, and your cell phones today, in the future, are going to look like an abacus, basically," said Dr. Yousif Shamoo, the vice provost for research at Rice University.

"With the creation of the Welch Institute, and all the great thought leaders, we believe we will change the world and improve the lives of its people exactly as Robert Welch imagined," said the chair and director of the Welch Foundation, Carin Barth.

"We don't even know what it will be yet," said Shamoo. "But it will be the future."

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