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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Remarks at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai Hotel

Category: International
September, 2018
Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai Hotel
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Good evening. I am delighted to see so many Rensselaer alumni and alumnae, parents, corporate and institutional partners, and friends joining us this evening who, together, reflect the expanding global reach and global impact of a transformative Rensselaer.

I would like to begin by thanking Rensselaer Trustee, Mr. Jackson Tai of the Class of 1972, for graciously sponsoring this evening’s event.

I thank Rensselaer Shanghai Chapter President, Mr. Roc Peng E of the Class of 2007 for helping to make this wonderful evening possible. You are splendid ambassadors for Rensselaer, and your leadership helps us stay connected with our growing number of alumni, alumnae, students, parents, and friends throughout China.

During my State of the Institute remarks this afternoon, I described The New Polytechnic as a great crossroads for collaborations across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations. Collaborations that are animated by the most advanced tools and technologies, and focused on addressing the greatest of global challenges and opportunities.

Our trip to China is very much about addressing these challenges by establishing new partnerships with institutions and corporations, as well as expanding existing partnerships.

During my meeting at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology this morning, we discussed potential research collaborations in such areas as artificial intelligence and data analytics, as well as opportunities for faculty and student exchanges.

At Tongji University, we discussed similar research collaborations and exchanges, expanding upon the existing relationship that our students in the School of Architecture have enjoyed with Tongji University for the past 18 years through our China Study Abroad Program—a nine-week residency.

We look forward to continuing our discussions with both universities over the coming months.

I also would like to elaborate on some of the transformative partnerships we enjoy with our industry partners, some of whom are with us tonight.

We have several significant partnerships with IBM, some of which I spoke about this afternoon, including The Jefferson Project and our Center for Health Empowerment by Analytics, Learning, and Semantics. So, allow me to elaborate on another partnership that I imagine will be of particular interest. At the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory, or CISL, which is located within the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, or EMPAC, we are linking cognitive computing with immersive environments at the scale of a smart boardroom or classroom that is able to differentiate the participants in a meeting; to understand speech, gestures, even power hierarchies; to anticipate participants’ need for information, and to deliver it in multiple modes.

The goal here is not modest: We intend to radically enhance group learning and decision-making. To achieve this, we are using hierarchies of coupled cognitive agents to control responses to human input, linked to the immersive, interactive spaces at EMPAC.

Other innovations in teaching and learning arise out of Rensselaer research in fields such as immersive technologies, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and multi-player games.

As part of the research at the CISL at EMPAC, we also are creating pedagogical innovation with the Mandarin Project, where we use all three elements to teach the Mandarin Chinese language and culture—making our students players in a semester-long game narrative, while allowing them to travel to Beijing in a human scale, immersive, interactive virtual setting.

Soon, they will be able to practice one of the most difficult aspects of the language—its tones—by interacting with artificially intelligent characters, driven by embedded cognitive agents. Hierarchies of cognitive agents also will control the game complexity, and the interactivity of the space.

The Mandarin Project is an immersive, mixed reality experience—part classroom, part virtual adventure. Because Rensselaer students are so engaged in the game and in the experience, we have found that they learn Chinese more quickly.

We also have an extensive and important, multi-faceted partnership with Corning Incorporated in our Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems (cMDIS), where multidisciplinary research collaborations that bring together, among others, materials scientists, physicists, chemists, and mechanical engineers are doing groundbreaking work in advanced materials of all kinds, including in glass research.

These collaborations include working with leading researchers within our Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, whose investigations into the high-temperature, high-pressure environment found deep in the Earth have important applications in glass research as well.

At the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory, hundreds of engineering seniors work in teams each year on multidisciplinary capstone design projects, which are proposed and sponsored by leading corporations.

In the case of Corning, projects have included development work for Fibrance, an innovative optical fiber created from a unique glass for maximum flexibility that allows one to bend, curve, and wrap it around almost anything, while maintaining bright and uniform light, and for Corning’s Gorilla Glass for Automotive applications, including multi-touch vehicle consoles.

We also are very proud that Liping Huang, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs in our School of Engineering, and Professor Yunfeng Shi, from our Department of Materials Science and Engineering—whose research focuses on nanomaterials, energy, and computational modeling—were both selected for the Gordon S. Fulcher Distinguished Researchers Sabbatical Program at Corning. In addition, with our Corning undergraduate scholars, Rensselaer and Corning are educating the next generation of leaders in science and technology.

Rensselaer has a longstanding relationship with SI Group which has supported our Center for Supply Chain and Analytics, which is dedicated to research and education in the fields of supply chain management and business analytics, including the governance and resilience of supply networks, performance optimization, global sourcing, and more.

SI Group regularly attends our career fairs and has recruited many of our best and brightest graduates into its ranks over the years. The company also has been a generous sponsor of scholarships at Rensselaer, supporting our inaugural scholarship gala in New York City.

We look forward to continuing our relationships with SI Group as it continues to play a leading role in the development and manufacture of performance additives and intermediates as part of SK Capital.

In my remarks this afternoon, I shared how, through a unique and innovative Rensselaer program called The Arch (which will fully launch in the summer of 2019), we are reorganizing the academic calendar to expand internship, co-op, volunteer, and other exploratory opportunities for our students across the country and around the world.

Under The Arch, all Rensselaer undergraduates will remain on campus for the summer after their sophomore year, engaged in junior-level classes, and then leave campus for a full semester (and beyond) in the fall or spring of the normal academic year, for an intellectual adventure uniquely suited to their own passions and interests, and still graduate within the same time span.

As alumni and alumnae, parents, partners, and friends of Rensselaer, I ask that you consider what opportunities might exist for our talented and dynamic students to work within your companies and organizations here in Shanghai, and throughout China, during their away semester. It is through our expanded relationships and partnerships that we, together, will help address the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities—ensuring that future generations will continue to affect positive change in the world.