Steering Committee

David Alexander, Director of the Rice Space Institute and Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Professor Alexander’s primary area of research is solar astrophysics.  As Director, he is responsible for the mission and direction required to develop and achieve the goals and objectives of the institute. Alexander is a member of the Rice Faculty Senate and author of “The Sun,” part of the Greenwood Press “Guide to the Universe” Series. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2004 and was appointed a Kavli Frontiers Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.  He is currently Chair of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory Users’ Committee. He is also former Chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society and former Chair of the Solar Heliospheric Interplanetary Environment (SHINE) program.  Professor Alexander has served on many national and professional committees including the NASA Advisory Council’s Heliophysics Subcommittee, the NASA Solar Heliospheric Management and Operations Working Group (SH-MOWG), ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter Payload Committee and the Science Advisory Board of the High Altitude Observatory Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory.  He currently serves on the advisory board of SpaceCom, Deep Space Industries, and the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture at the University of Houston and on the editorial boards of ROOM: The Space Journal and Space Science Reviews. Professor Alexander joined the faculty at Rice in 2003, coming from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California where he was a Staff Physicist working on the development of advanced space missions for solar physics.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, and his doctorate on Relativistic Cosmological Models from the University of Glasgow.

Scott Colman, Assistant Professor of Architecture. Professor Colman is an architectural historian, theorist, critic, and designer, committed to these activities as implicated pursuits. Specializing in modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism, Colman’s research is concerned with developing a conceptual framework for, and historical understanding of, the relationship between ideas and design. A graduate of the communication, media, and cultural studies program at the University of Technology, Sydney, Colman has received degrees in architecture from the Knowlton School of Architecture, Ohio State University, and the University of Sydney, where he was awarded the University Medal and completed his doctoral dissertation on mid-twentieth-century architecture’s engagement with planning, social science, and philosophy. He has worked as a project architect in Australia and the United States, has lectured at conferences and symposia globally, and has been an invited design critic at numerous institutions in the US and internationally. At Rice, Colman directs the M.Arch. Design Thesis program and teaches courses in architectural history and theory that emphasize the designer’s engagement with specific material, intellectual, and sociopolitical contexts.

April DeConick, Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and Department Chair of Religion. Professor DeConick's research and teaching is devoted to engaging the silenced voices of religious people and communities that were left behind or discarded when Christianity emerged in the first four centuries as a new religion.  She studies those who suffered oppression and intolerance, who were marginalized, forbidden and forgotten.  She explores everything from women's issue's in biblical and apocryphal texts to shamanic practices in Nag Hammadi literature.  To reach a broader public, she writes regularly on her blog, The Forbidden Gospels. Recently she published Holy Misogyny: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter (Bloomsbury 2013), in which she argues that  misogyny comes to us via the Bible and other sacred texts where it had been made "holy". DeConick's book, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says (Continuum, 2007), was the first to seriously challenge the interpretation and translation published by National Geographic (2006). She is currently writing a book, The Ancient New Age: How Gnostic Spirituality Revolutionized Religion (Columbia University Press), where she explores the emergence of Gnostic spirituality with its subversive view of a transcendent God, the divine human being and illusionary worlds.

Jeffrey Fleisher, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Speaker of the Faculty Senate. Professor Fleisher's current research focuses on the use of material culture and space in Swahili public and private life.  Beginning in 2009, he has been working with Stephanie Wynne-Jones (University of York) at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Songo Mnara, a monumental 15th- to 16th-century Swahili town on the southern Tanzanian coast.  This research, funded by the National Science Foundation and Arts and Humanities Research Council, focuses on domestic contexts in and outside houses, as well as the first-ever effort to understand public spaces within a Swahili urban context.  This includes investigating how open space was created and maintained, the types of productive and practical activities occurring within central open areas, as well as ritual activities associated with centrally-located tombs, mosques, and cemeteries.  Methodologically, this project includes scientific analyses new to east African archaeology, including geophysical surveys and geoarchaeological research, carried out in collaboration with colleagues in the United Kingdom.  This work contributes to a nascent literature on the way ‘empty’ spaces in urban milieu were locations where social power could be established and maintained, as well as the way that monuments (like Swahili tombs) and the spaces that surround them may have been active sites of memory-making, a part of the strategic use of the past for the present. Since 2009, Fleisher has directed the Rice University Archaeological Field School, which takes place every other year at Songo Mnara.

John Hopkins, Assistant Professor of Art History and Classical Studies. Professor Hopkins holds a BS from Northwestern University and an MA and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin. Prof. Hopkins specializes in the art and architecture of the ancient Mediterranean with a particular focus on spatial experience, cultural and societal exchange across geographies and on the generation of Roman architecture and sculpture over the longue durée.  As a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome from 2007-2009 and the American Council of Learned Societies from 2009-2010, Prof. Hopkins wrote his dissertation, a reassessment of the roots of Roman architecture and landscape.  While a fellow at the Getty Research Institute from 2010-2011 he published articles on the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Rome’s first and most enduring colossal temple, and on the spatiality of the Roman Forum.  He is the author of the book, The Genesis of Roman Architecture, which was published by Yale University Press in 2015, and he has authors and co-authored numerous articles and book reviews published in major academic journals in Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the United States. Prof. Hopkins has been engaged in digital humanities and cultural heritage projects for over a decade.  Along with collaborators from Kings College in London, the UCLA Experiential Technology Center and Rice University, he has created more than a dozen 3D virtual reconstructions of lost Roman monuments.  In his role as Co-Director of the Collections Analysis Collaborative, he has also overseen the production of an online digital archive and database for the Menil Collection’s antiquities, an assemblage of over 600 objects.  In 2017 he will be co-director of the international, year-long Rice Seminar on Forgery and the Ancient World.

Ussama Makdisi, Arab-American Education Foundation Professor in Arabic Studies. In 2012-2013, Professor Makdisi was an invited Resident Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin).  In April 2009, the Carnegie Corporation named Makdisi a 2009 Carnegie Scholar as part of its effort to promote original scholarship regarding Muslim societies and communities, both in the United States and abroad. He is the author of Faith Misplaced: the Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001 (Public Affairs, 2010).  His previous books include Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell University Press, 2008), which was the winner of the 2008 Albert Hourani Book Award from the Middle East Studies Association, the 2009 John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association, and a co-winner of the 2009 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize given by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. Makdisi is also the author of The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (University of California Press, 2000) and co-editor of Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa (Indiana University Press, 2006). He has published widely on Ottoman and Arab history as well as on U.S.-Arab relations and U.S. missionary work in the Middle East. He is now working on a manuscript on the origins of sectarianism in the modern Middle East to be published by the University of California Press.

Alida Metcalf, Harris Masterson Jr. Professor of History, Department Chair of History. Professor Metcalf teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American history. Her undergraduate courses include Latin American Cultural Traditions, Brazil: Continuities and Changes, Latin American Perspectives, and Rio de Janeiro: A Social and Architectural History (with Farès el-Dahdah). At the graduate level, she regularly offers seminars in the history of the Luso-Atlantic World, Brazil, and Colonial Latin America. She is accepting Ph.D. students in Latin American History, especially those interested in Brazil. Metcalf directs the Dual Degree program between the history departments of Rice and UNICAMP, a program that she designed with Professor Silvia Hunold Lara of UNICAMP. Metcalf’s current research interests are two fold: historical cartography and Rio de Janeiro. She is finishing a book on go-betweens and cartographers in the sixteenth-century Atlantic world, and she is co-directing, with Farès el-Dahdah, imagineRio, a digital humanities project on the social and urban history of Rio de Janeiro.

Albert Pope, G. S. Wortham Professor of Architecture. Professor Pope has lectured, exhibited and written extensively on the logic of contemporary urban form and its decisive role in shaping social and environmental contexts.  He is the the winner of design awards from the national and local chapters of the American Institute of Architects and has received funding for design work from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Shell Center for Sustainability.  He is the author of Ladders (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) and a fellow at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research. He is the founding Director of Present Future, a design program and think tank at Rice University School of Architecture. He is currently engaged in carbon neutral urban  development producing large scale planning projects for Houston and Detroit.

Lisa Spiro, Executive Director of Digital Scholarship Services and Adjunct Lecturer in Humanities. Dr. Spiro oversees Fondren Library’s institutional repository, the Digital Media Commons, and the Kelley Center for Government Information, Data and Geospatial Services. She has published chapters in The Arclight Guidebook to Media History and the Digital Humanities, Digital Humanities Pedagogy, Debates in the Digital Humanities, Collaborative Approaches to the Digital in English Studies, and The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age, as well as CLIR reports on digital scholarship expertise (with Vivian Lewis, Xuemao Wang and Jon Cawthorne, through a Mellon-funded research project), the prospects for an all-digital library (with Geneva Henry) and archival management software. Lisa was the founding editor of the Digital Research Tools (DiRT) wiki, a PI for the IMLS-funded Travelers in the Middle East Archive, chair of the communications committee for the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, and a member of the Executive Council of the Association for Computers and the Humanities. Currently she chairs the steering committee for the Texas Digital Humanities Consortium and is a co-PI for the Mellon-sponsored Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities. She received a PhD in English from the University of Virginia.

Alison Weaver, Suzanne Deal Booth Executive Director, Moody Center for the Arts. Prior to her appointment as founding executive director, Weaver was the director of affiliates for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. At the Guggenheim, Weaver led its programs and operations in Berlin, Bilbao, Venice, and Las Vegas, while managing its departments of Exhibition Management, Registration, Art Services and Library/Archives in New York. Together with her curatorial colleagues, she implemented a wide range of exhibitions from historical loan shows to commissions by leading contemporary artists. Weaver has a Master of Arts degree from Williams College and an MPhil in art history from the City University of New York. She also holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a B.A. cum laude from Princeton University.