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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

President's Report 2017

President's Report 2017

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A letter from President Shirley Ann Jackson

Rensselaer has led the positive tranformation of technology, society, and culture for nearly 200 years.

portrait of President Shirley Ann Jackson

From massive civil engineering projects like the Transcontinental Railroad, to space exploration, to today’s epic changes emerging from biotechnology, computer simulation, and other 21st-century disciplines, the Institute has contributed ideas, direction, and innovation to meet humanity’s challenges and opportunities.

Part of the reason for our success is a deep appreciation of the essence of complexity. Because nature and society is not broken up into isolated boxes, change may be more than an increase in scale. The interconnectivity of our world means we face the possibility of transformational change.

When oxygen, hydrogen, and a spark come together, water—something new and unlike these components —comes into existence. When a critical amount of uranium 235 comes together, mass becomes energy. Small changes in one area can produce qualitative changes.

At Rensselaer, we appreciate the importance of criticality in change. In fact, our understanding of the deep connections between science and technology and how bringing the two together could reveal nature’s secrets and deliver more value was recognized explicitly when “polytechnic” became part of our identity.

Broader views and intellectual integrity make it difficult to dismiss anomalies, those hints that something new might be emerging or revealing itself. How we respond to these faint signals can be crucial. Do we simply adapt accepted rules or do we look more deeply?

When astronomical observations became more refined, scientists adjusted their calculations so they could hold onto a geocentric view. But, by putting the sun at the center of our system, not only was the work of predicting movements of heavenly bodies simplified, but also new insights surfaced. The concept of helio- centricity could be communicated clearly to others, engaging more diverse communities of thinkers. Such an incisive view widens discussions and exposes new options. This illustrates how we need to face global challenges both by focusing on core objectives and by bringing others along to share the progress.

Distilling insights into simple but profound expressions is both invaluable from a practical perspective and beautiful. One of the joys of physics and mathematics is the power of simple expressions, such as E=mc2, to capture our imaginations and reframe our experiences and make it impossible to see them exclusively in traditional ways. Often, the intersection of utility and wonder are most visible at the intersections of different disciplines. Fresh insights occur though surprising collaborations, and this is central to the perspectives offered by The New Polytechnic at Rensselaer.

Recognizing the impact of criticality and finding incisive ways to describe evidence and experiences gives us two powerful approaches to responding to change. The third indispensable piece is creativity. Within this domain, how ideas and questions are framed matters. The right context ensures that a balance, with nature, society, economics, and our built world, is included in our plans.

The creative answer to emergent challenges and opportunities must involve thoughtful collaboration and coordination. Just as subtle, unpredicted changes connect and combine to set major, even global, effects into motion, responses, if not examined and analyzed from diverse perspectives, may have unintended consequences. Prudent reactions to powerful new technologies, or challenges to our credit systems, or threats to the viability of keystone species depend on innovation and thoughtful discourse between experts and communities that represent both our best thinking and our understanding and empathy for those who will bear the brunt of far-reaching plans and decisions.

Criticality, incisiveness, and creativity provide useful frameworks for us as we recognize, explore, interpret, understand, analyze, and develop solutions for emerging challenges and opportunities in this century. This kind of approach aligns well with the cross-disciplinary, rigorous, collaborative, and engaged perspective of Rensselaer, with the aim of contributing knowledge, expertise, and wisdom to the common purposes of life.

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Year in Review

The interconnectivity of our world means we face the possibility of transformational change.

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2016

July

Seismology geophysicist Steve Roecker travels to Chile to remove instruments that have been tracking two tectonic plates that caused a magnitude 8.3 earthquake in 2015. Data collected will determine how much energy the earthquake released, where it was released, and how much may yet remain to be released.

2016

July

Lillian Spina-Caza and Schoharie Area Long Term Inc. begin work to develop the “Geo to Go” interactive website and augmented reality arts, cultural, and heritage trails project.

2016

August

In a collaboration between Rensselaer and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a team of researchers hopes to find a link between diet, obesity-linked Type 2 diabetes, and intervertebral disc degeneration.

2016

August

The largest class in the Institute's history, 1,700 students, begins classes.

2016

September

President Shirley Ann Jackson is one of several notable guests invited to speak at the grand opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

2016

September

Rensselaer is awarded a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to develop innovation conduction materials for next-generation renewable energy conversion and storage technology.

2016

September

A team of researchers is working to design intelligent rooms that provide facilitation services by identifying meeting participants, understanding their conversations, summarizing discussions, and helping the group efficiently get through an agenda, all without requiring the participants to wear microphones or other sensors.

2016

October

Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent, Jr. '59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering, leads a team of researchers in developing a nanoparticle that lures the influenza A virus to its doom.

2016

October

Researcher Blanca Barquera tackles the problem of how the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa thrives in many diverse environments.

2016

November

A team from Rensselaer is selected by Amazon to receive sponsorship for competing in the inaugural $2.5 million Amazon Alexa Prize competition, which focuses on the challenge of building a socialbot that can converse coherently and engagingly with users.

2016

November

The Lally School of Management is ranked among the top three business schools in New York state.

2016

November

The Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications develops the world's first high-speed visible-light transmission link with a fully integrated microchip receiver, which uses LED light instead of RF signals for high-speed wireless communications.

2016

December

The Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory, in conjunction with IBM Research, reaches a milestone in the development of environments allowing humans to interact naturally with machines.

2016

December

Rensselaer will be part of a new $200 million public-private partnership to advance U.S. leadership in biopharmaceuticals. A $70 million award from the U.S. Commerce Department will establish the new National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL).

2016

December

A recent grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue work on a novel data visualization platform that will harness and accelerate the analysis of vast amounts of data for the foundation's Healthy Birth, Growth, and Development Knowledge Integration Initiative, brings the total giving from the foundation to just over $1 million.

2017

January

Working with artists with disabilities, a team including researchers from Rensselaer begins creating more accessible tools and instruments that lower barriers to self-expression through the arts.

2017

January

Social Machines: The Coming Collision of Artificial Intelligence, Social Networking, and Humanity (Apress, 2016), a new book by Rensselaer Professor James Hendler and Alice Mulvehill, helps readers critically evaluate the burgeoning partnership between humans and AI.

2017

January

Rensselaer is named a founding member of the 14th Manufacturing USA institute—the Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Innovation Hub.

2017

February

Joe Chow, power grid control expert and professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, is elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his technical contributions to modeling, analysis, and control of large-scale power grids.

2017

February

Researchers examine the link between zinc deficiency, Hedgehog—a chain of molecular events critical in embryonic development—and prostate cancer.

2017

March

The Information Technology and Web Science program is ranked No. 1 among 35 undergraduate programs at national colleges and universities by College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources.

2017

March

Researchers develop an algorithm based on blood samples that can accurately predict whether a child is on the Autism spectrum of disorder, the first physiological test for autism.

2017

April

Emily Kosmaczewski, a graduate student in astronomy, is awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant for the 2017-2018 academic year.

2017

April

Researchers develop a new material that can be used to replace skull bone lost to injury, surgery, or birth defect.

2017

April

Freshman applications surge past 19,400, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year.

2017

May

A team of researchers develops an innovative approach to measuring cellular mechanical properties, which can be used for rapid cancer diagnosis and rapid drug screening, as well as the development of personalized medicine.

2017

May

Rensselaer graduates 1,841 students, with a total of 2,025 degrees.

2017

June

Researchers at Rensselaer show that four strains of E. coli bacteria working together can convert sugar into natural red anthocyanin pigment found in strawberries, opening the door to economical natural colors for industrial applications.

2017

June

Manoj Gottipati, postdoctoral research associate, is awarded a two-year $150,000 fellowship from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation for spinal cord injury research.

2017

June

GLASE—The Greenhouse Lighting and Systems Engineering Consortium, led by researchers from Rensselaer and Cornell—is launched to reduce the amountof electricity used in greenhouses by 70 percent.

2017

June

Professor James Hendler, director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) and the Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences, is awarded the inaugural Association of Moving Image Archivists Spotlight Award.

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Global Impact

Rensselaer Launches $1 Billion Capital Campaign

On October 13, President Shirley Ann Jackson hosted alumni, guests, and campus members at the launch of a capital campaign designed to position Rensselaer for its third century of leadership in research and education. "Transformative: Campaign for Global Change" will seek to raise $1 billion for student scholarships, faculty support, and campus enhancements.

At the gala event in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center—complete with a performance by the Rensselaer Orchestra and celebratory fireworks—President Jackson announced that the Institute has already raised $400 million toward the goal through the support of alumni, corporations, and foundations.

"With the capital campaign we launch tonight, we are preparing Rensselaer to continue educating the most inventive young people on Earth, well into its third century," said President Jackson at the launch. "We are confident about our future, because today Rensselaer is thriving. Demand for a Rensselaer education has never been higher. Applications for admission to our freshman class numbered nearly 20,000 this year. Many of our programs are now top-ranked, including our Information Technology and Web Science program, the very best of its kind in the nation, and our undergraduate Physics and our Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences programs, both ranked in the top 10 nationwide."

The Transformative Campaign is co-chaired by Board of Trustees member Paul Severino '69 and his wife, Kathleen.

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transformative: campaign for global change has three main pillars

1: Improving Student Access, Enhancing the Student Experience

Campaign funding will help close the gap between student need and the financial aid Rensselaer is able to provide. The Campaign also will allow the Institute to build upon visionary academic and student life programs.

2: Empowering World-Class Teaching and World-Changing Research

Whether it is preparing Rensselaer students for the most forward-looking careers or pursuing the applied research that will solve the problems and create the opportunities of the 21st century, one factor is key: the faculty. Campaign investment in endowed faculty chairs will enhance the Institute’s ability to attract and retain the forward-thinking researchers the world needs and the dedicated professors students deserve.

3: Building the Third-Century Campus

Rensselaer is home to one of the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputers, as well as 746 labs, studios, and technology spaces used for research. Campaign investment will allow Rensselaer to build a new state-of-the-art Center for Science and complete the second phase of the East Campus Athletic Village, among other campus enhancements, that will increase research productivity, raise rankings and visibility, and improve the quality of students’ intellectual, athletic, and personal lives.

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Faculty Distinctions

Accolades and Honors

Joe Chow, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his technical contributions to modeling, analysis, and control of large-scale power grids.

Cynthia Collins, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Heng Ji, the Edward P. Hamilton Development Chair and associate professor of computer science, have been invited to join the World Economic Forum's Network of Global Future Councils. Collins has been selected for the Global Future Council on Biotechnologies, and Ji has been selected for the Global Future Council on the Future of Computing.

Suvranu De, the J. Erik Jonsson '22 Distinguished Professor of Engineering and head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, has been selected as a fellow of the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics. A prolific researcher, De is known internationally for his work on meshfree methods, multiscale modeling, and real-time computing as they are applied to the numerical solution of coupled partial differential equations.

Shirley Ann Jackson, president, was listed among the "Power 300: 2016 Most Influential Black Corporate Directors" by Savoy Magazine. In its listing, Savoy Magazine recognizes several highlights of her career, including her tenure as chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, by which she became the first woman and first African-American to hold that position.

Nikhil Koratkar, the John A. Clark and Edward T. Crossan Professor of Engineering and a nanomaterials expert, has been named a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The organization recognized Koratkar for his "exceptional achievement in the science and technology of one-dimensional (carbon nanotubes) and two-dimensional (graphene) nanomaterials, leading to important breakthroughs in nanotechnology, energy, and sustainability."

Linda McGown, the William Weightman Walker Professor of Chemistry, was selected for the Power List 2016 by The Analytical Scientist magazine. The list celebrates the top 50 most influential women in the analytical sciences.

Edmund Palermo and Chaitanya Ullal, assistant professors of materials science and engineering, have each won a Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The CAREER Award is given to faculty members near the beginning of their academic careers and is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards given by the NSF to junior faculty.

Jennifer Pazour, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, was the recipient of a 2016 Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowship. A program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Gulf Research Program was established in 2013 as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The program funds activities to enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. outer continental shelf regions. Pazour is one of 10 recipients of the early-career research
fellowships.

Ganpati Ramanath, the John Tod Horton '52 Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Zvi Rusak, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, have been named fellows of the American Physical Society. Each year, no more than one-half of 1 percent of the society membership is recognized by their peers for election to the status of fellow.

Michael Shur, the Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts Professor of Solid State Electronics, was named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Shur is a recognized leader for his pioneering contributions to deep ultraviolet light-emitting diode technology.

Gwo-Ching Wang, professor of physics, has been elected a fellow of the Materials Research Society for "seminal contributions to the fundamental understanding of surface and thin film ordering using electron diffraction and the invention of electron pole figure technique for growth front texture analysis." Wang's recent research focuses on developing new materials for solar cells.

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At A Glance

#1

Information Technology and Web Science programs —College Choice

#30

Best schools for undergraduate engineering —U.S. News & World Report

#3

Best master's of business analytics programs —TFE Times

7,633

enrolled students (Fall 2017) including:

6,314 resident undergraduates

1,213 resident graduate students

41 working professionals (includes Hartford)

65 non-matriculated students

512

total faculty members (Fall 2017) including:

462 full-time faculty (of which 342 are tenured or tenure track)

50 part-time faculty

#13

Best undergraduate programs in the nation for architecture—DesignIntelligence

#42

National research universities—U.S. News & World Report

$1B

annual economic impact of Rensselaer on the region

#10

Top undergraduate schools in the U.S. for game design and animation—Animation Career Review

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Rensselaer Honors

DAVID M. DARRIN '40 COUNSELING AWARD

Audrey Bennett, professor and graduate program director in the Department of Communication and Media;
Gustavo Crembil, associate professor in the School of Architecture;
Kim Fortun, former professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies;
Thomas Haley '84, lecturer in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering;
Toh-Ming Lu, Ray Palmer Baker Distinguished Professor in the School of Science;
Dorit Nevo, associate professor in the Lally School of Management;
Michael Oatman, associate professor in the School of Architecture;
Richard Plotka '87, lecturer in Information Technology and Web Science;
John M. Reilly '73, professor of practice in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and
Thomas Triscari '76, professor of practice in the Lally School of Management.

The income from an endowment established by the late David M. Darrin '40 is awarded annually to a member of the faculty who has made unusual contributions in the counseling of students. Nominations are by students and the recipient is chosen by Phalanx, the student honor society.

JAMES M. TIEN '66 EARLY CAREER AWARD FOR FACULTY

Anak Agung Julius, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering.

The award honors productivity in both teaching and research, with outstanding achievement in one of these areas.

JEROME FISCHBACH '38 FACULTY TRAVEL GRANT

Thierry Blanchet, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering.

The award recognizes contributions faculty members have made to the education and motivation of students.

WILLIAM H. WILEY 1866 DISTINGUISHED FACULTY AWARD

Michael Shur, Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts Professor of Solid State Electronics.

Established by Edward P. Hamilton, Class of 1907, in memory of William H. Wiley, Class of 1866, the award honors those who have won the respect of the faculty through excellence in teaching, productive research, and interest in the totality of the educational process.

CLASS OF 1951 OUTSTANDING TEACHING DEVELOPMENT GRANT

Yalun (Helen) Zhou, assistant professor of communication and media.

The fellowship was established by the Class of 1951 to commend faculty members for their outstanding accomplishments in education.

RENSSELAER ALUMNI ASSOCIATION TEACHING AWARD

Shayla Sawyer '06, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering.

The award was created to recognize current members of the Rensselaer faculty for their outstanding teaching techniques, contributions to the campus experience, and commitment to students.

TRUSTEES' OUTSTANDING TEACHER AWARD

Dorit Nevo, associate professor of management.

The award was established in 1994 to recognize outstanding accomplishments in classroom instruction.

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