Maria Oden

Professor in the Practice of Engineering Education, Department of Bioengineering and Director, Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, Rice University

Z. Maria Oden is a Professor in the Practice of Engineering in the Department of Bioengineering at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, and Director of the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) at Rice University. Oden also co-directs the Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health at Rice where undergraduate students design technologies to address healthcare challenges identified by clinical partners around the world. She has about 25 years of combined academic, research, clinical experience in biomedical engineering and engineering design. As director of the OEDK, a 20,000 sq. ft. engineering design studio that provides ready access to all the tools, supplies and resources students need to invent and bring engineering design projects to life , Oden collaborates with Rice faculty members to develop and execute engineering design programs for undergraduate students in all engineering disciplines at Rice. Oden’s innovative approach to creating an invention ecosystem at Rice links excellence in teaching, technology development and leadership of the OEDK.  Through collaborations fostered by Oden, students are presented with real-world problems brought to Rice by partners from, industry, local community partners, Texas Medical Center and university researchers.  Several technologies from the global health technology program are now commercially available. Oden, faculty colleagues and students in her classes were the inventors of a bCPAP system to help premature babies breathe, a syringe pump, an apnea detection and correction monitor, medication dosing clips, a blood pressure monitor for pregnant women, an incubator and dozens of other technologies.

As important as Oden’s efforts have been in creating the bricks and mortar facility at Rice, she has — even more importantly — driven the pedagogical efforts in incorporating engineering design and invention into the curriculum of the George R. Brown School of Engineering. Students now have the opportunity to start inventing in courses starting their freshman year and deepening as they move through their undergraduate education.  In addition to her professional and teaching responsibilities at Rice, Oden collaborates with colleagues around the nation to foster growth in undergraduate design and invention education, as well as global health technology design. For her efforts in educating students, Oden has twice, in 2012 and in 2016, been awarded the George R. Brown Prize for Superior Teaching from Rice University, which is voted on by alumni of the university. She has also been awarded the 2012 Fred Merryfield Design Award by American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for national excellence in teaching engineering design.  For her role in the invention of numerous global health technologies and taking life-saving health solutions to the developing world, Oden and colleague Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum received the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation in 2013.