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Founding Faculty

The AMPT Center originated in the collaboration of three Rice Engineering faculty who understood that the problems they are working on, while historically viewed as distinct disciplines, involve intersecting challenges and powerful opportunities for research synergy.  

C. Fred Higgs III, FASME
AMPT Center Co-Director
John & Ann Doerr Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Director, Rice Center for Engineering Leadership

Dr. Higgs joined Rice in 2016 after thirteen years on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University, where he was the thrust leader of powder mechanics in CMU’s Next Manufacturing Center.  He is a member of the ASME Tribology Executive Committee and an Associate Editor for the STLE Tribology Transactionsjournal. His Particle Flow & Tribology Laboratory conducts coordinated high-performance computing and high-fidelity experimentation to predict the behavior of applications with particle media in sliding contacts.  A Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, he has received an NSF CAREER Young Investigator Award and the ASME Burt L. Newkirk Award, given to a tribology innovator under age 40.  Dr. Higgs has published over 100 archival papers in journals ranging from Nature Materials to the Journal of Tribology, while generating significant IP in concert.

Matthew Brake, FASME
AMPT Center Co-Director
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Brake joined the Rice faculty in 2016 from Sandia National Laboratories, where he worked for nine years after earning his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University.  He has been elected to numerous leadership positions, including chair of the ASME Research Committee on the Mechanics of Jointed Structures, vice-chair of the Nonlinear Dynamics Technical Division of SEM, and secretary of the ASME Technical Committee on Vibration and Sound.  He is a recipient of the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the NSF CAREER Award, the 2018 C.D. Mote Jr. Early Career Award, and was recently named a Fellow of ASME.  Dr. Brake’s research in the Tribomechadynamics Laboratory is focused on interfacial mechanics, tribology, coatings, damage mechanisms (wear, fatigue, etc.), and dynamics in order to both design and optimize machinery to be more efficient and longer lasting.

Zachary Cordero
Assistant Professor of Materials Science & NanoEngineering

Dr. Cordero earned his B.S. in Physics and his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  His thesis work on tungsten powder metallurgy was licensed by the MIT startup Veloxint which was recently acquired by Braidy Industries.  After completing his doctorate, Dr. Cordero spent one year as a post-doctoral fellow at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he developed improved process monitoring, quality control, and microstructure design tools for powder-bed metal additive manufacturing technologies.  Dr. Cordero launched the Additive Lab at Rice University in 2016.

Faculty and Research Staff

Leveraging Rice University’s unique capacity for boundary-spanning research, the newly-formed AMPT Center already encompasses four of the nine departments of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.  AMPT Center Members have the opportunity to work with this growing roster of researchers:

Prathamesh Desai 
Research Scientist in Mechanical Engineering




Nicholas Dunbar  
Postdoctoral Research Associate in Mechanical Engineering



B.J. Fregly
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
CPRIT Scholar in Cancer Research




Jordan Miller
Assistant Professor of Bioengineering




Daniel J. Preston
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering




Ned Thomas, NAE, AAAS    
Ernest Dell Butcher Professor of Engineering
Professor of Materials Science & NanoEngineering



James Tour, NAI, FAAAS
T. T. & W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Materials Science & NanoEngineering
Professor of Computer Science



Rafael Verduzco
Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering




Geoff Wehmeyer
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering





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