One of the key commitments teachers take on is inspiring students to discover, through experience, new ways to perceive the world. This opening up of minds in ways that welcome new insights was dramatized in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Merlyn turns a young Arthur into a goose. Flying with the other geese, Arthur comes to realize there are no boundaries to be fought over.
The real work is to transcend boundaries, rules, and intellectual constructs when they get in the way of understanding and imagination. This does not mean rejecting hard-earned knowledge, but being open to other possibilities. Often, recognizing these comes from others with different knowledge and experiences.
An essential ingredient in welcoming what others have to offer is trust, and one of the most effective ways to develop trust and build a habit of openness is collaboration. This is encouraged informally through co-residence and extracurricular activities, and it is supported directly through projects that bring diverse students and faculty together and provide hands-on, experiential learning.
Beyond formal academics, we achieve this for our students through Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students, or CLASS. CLASS is based on both residential- and time-based clustering. With CLASS, we nurture Rensselaer students in tight-knit, residential groups. This enables them to have unique growth experiences with their classmates as they progress through their education.
Because Rensselaer always has prioritized change that matters, the objectives of the collaborations our students take on are ambitious. These challenges, often including global challenges, are interconnected and complex, so they lead students to team up and share on deep levels. This fully integrates new knowledge and perspectives, while also providing templates for working across different disciplines and cultures.
The Rensselaer Orchestra, an ensemble of undergraduate and graduate students, made its historic debut at Carnegie Hall in October. Under the direction of Nicholas DeMaison, the ensemble performed Missy Mazzoli’s “River Rouge Transfiguration” and Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82. This performance celebrated the launch of Rensselaer’s new Bachelor of Science in Music.
“The Rensselaer Orchestra performance is a concrete example of how we are implementing our vision for Rensselaer as The New Polytechnic,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “This vision is inherent in everything we do—it establishes Rensselaer as a vital crossroads for student, faculty, and alumni and alumnae collaborations across disciplines, sectors, geographies, and generations.”
“Our students were tremendously excited to have the opportunity to perform in such a world-class, iconic venue,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “And, many of those performing are future engineers, scientists, architects, and entrepreneurs. They are drawn to the orchestra because music is an essential part of who they are. Our students gracefully cross the divide between the arts and sciences.”
“Being concertmaster for this performance was extremely special,” said Chey Barlao, Rensselaer Orchestra concertmaster. “For a biochemistry and biophysics pre-med student to have ‘Performed at Carnegie Hall’ on her resume is quite uncommon. I remember that for as long as I had played with my plastic doctor kit, I had also loved all things music.”
“The concert experience itself was unreal, and we felt so lucky for the opportunity to perform on one of the greatest and most famous stages in the world,” said Isabelle Peck, an applied physics major and viola player. “We were all star-struck, from the moment we walked in the stage door at 1 p.m., to the final bow at 9 p.m., to the weeks after the performance. To be performing on the same stage where so many greats have been was incredible.”
At the 2017 President’s Holiday Concert, the Rensselaer Orchestra, under the direction of Nicholas DeMaison, presented a semi-staged version of Peer Gynt, the 1867 play written by Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen with music composed by Edvard Grieg. The program included best-loved selections from the score Grieg composed to accompany Ibsen’s famous play, which tells the story of the downfall and subsequent redemption of a Norwegian peasant anti-hero.
The production drew on the style of semi-staged orchestral-dramatic performances developed by New York production group Giants Are Small, according to DeMaison, senior lecturer of music in the Department of the Arts.
“We crafted our own 80-minute version of the piece using selections from Grieg’s entire incidental music to Ibsen’s play, and select scenes from the play that appropriately cut down the narrative while maintaining dramatic continuity,” he said.
The adaptation was created by DeMaison, music director, Assistant Professor of Arts Rebecca Rouse, director, and artist Jefferson Kielwagen, theatrical design.
During the performance, a narrator led the audience through the sometimes bizarre twists in Ibsen’s narrative, while six puppeteers, or “acting stage hands,” manipulated props and scenery, sometimes with live video projection, to bring to life the characters and situations in the play.
Joining the orchestra for the performance were the Rensselaer Concert Choir, members of the Instrumental Fellows ensemble, members of the student theater group the RPI Players, and soprano Kimberley Osburn. The production also featured the work of students in the Sculpture II class of Jefferson Kielwagen, who is a lecturer in the Department of the Arts.
CAROLINA MOTTER CATARINO, A GRADUATE STUDENT IN CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ENGINEERING, WAS AWARDED £10,000 FROM THE LUSH PRIZE, WHICH IS A COLLABORATION BETWEEN COSMETICS COMPANY LUSH AND RESEARCH ORGANIZATION ETHICAL CONSUMER. AS THE LARGEST PRIZE FUND FOR THE COMPLETE REPLACEMENT OF ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS, IT FUNDS PROJECTS WORKING TO END ANIMAL RESEARCH IN TOXICOLOGY. CATARINO’S RESEARCH, TITLED “ANIMAL-FREE APPROACHES FOR ENGINEERING PHYSIOLOGICALLY RELEVANT HUMANIZED SKIN MODELS USING 3D BIOPRINTING TECHNOLOGY,” FOCUSES ON TISSUE ENGINEERING.
Two aeronautical engineering students shared first place in the 2018 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Multidisciplinary Design Optimization student paper competition. Graduate students Jared Crean and Alp Dener tied for first place and were each awarded $1,500. Both students performed their research in the lab of Jason Hicken, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering. Hicken is director of the Optimal Design Lab, which seeks to improve the design process of complex engineering systems. Dener earned his doctorate at Rensselaer in December 2017 and is pursuing postdoctoral research at the Argonne National Laboratory. Crean continues his studies at Rensselaer.
Last fall, nearly 1,800 new students made their way to Rensselaer to start the next stage of their academic careers. The first-year students hail from 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. As a reflection of the global reach of Rensselaer, almost 300 students come from countries around the world.
Rensselaer received a record number of applications—20,403—for the Class of 2022. The numbers represent a record number of applications from females (6,538), and a record number of applications from international students (3,493). The high-achieving group includes 95 valedictorians or salutatorians of their high school graduating class, and 161 students with a score of 800 on the SAT critical reading or math exams. The SAT class average was 1409 based on the 1600 scale.
The Class of 2022 includes students who have been nominated for the Rensselaer Medal, a scholarship awarded to the top math and science students at high schools across the country. This year, 233 Medal winners have joined Rensselaer. The Medal was first presented in 1916 with two purposes: to recognize the superlative academic achievement of young men and women, and to motivate students toward careers in science, engineering, and technology.
“We are delighted to welcome the Class of 2022 to campus,” said Jonathan Wexler, vice president for enrollment management. “The Class of 2022 is the largest incoming freshman class in the nearly 200-year history of Rensselaer. Not only is it the largest incoming class, it is also the strongest academically, and has the most women and underrepresented minorities ever enrolling in a freshman class at Rensselaer. The Class of 2022 appears to be set to accomplish great things both on and off campus.”
Students taking part in a study abroad semester in Latin America last fall were named winners in a juried design competition in Argentina, earning first prize and three honorable mentions. In addition to taking first prize, the winning design team—which includes architecture student Ria Kelsick—will now proceed with the design and development of their proposal. The competition, organized by the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (UNC) and the Municipality of Cordoba City, sought designs for an environmental interpretation center for the San Martin Natural Urban Preserve (rendering above). “We take great pride in offering our students a variety of cultural immersion opportunities, so they can appreciate and draw upon the profound value of our multicultural planet,” said Evan Douglis, dean of the School of Architecture. “Our Latin American program, in particular, represents an extraordinary opportunity for the students to see up close a unique and important architectural legacy that is quite different from their own.”
The competition, organized by the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (UNC) and the Municipality of Cordoba City, sought designs for an environmental interpretation center for the San Martin Natural Urban Preserve.
“Given this larger context, we were extremely excited to learn of the announcement that the Mayor of Cordoba has decided to build one of our students’ proposals as a permanent public installation,” he continued. “It not only calls attention to the creative ingenuity of our students, but reaffirms the larger mission of our program which defines architecture as a ‘social project’ with the larger purpose of giving something of lasting power to communities around the world.”
The Rensselaer students took part in a four-month study abroad semester led by Gustavo Crembil, associate professor of architecture. They worked in joint teams with students from the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba for the design competition, their first architecture studio exercise of the semester.
In addition to the first prize honor, Rensselaer students Katie Cheng, Felix Reyes, and Mia Rogers were members of teams that earned honorable mentions for their design proposals.
The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) celebrated the opening of its new media studio in September.
The redesigned 1,700-square-foot space includes an audio control room, video control room, audio-visual lab, isolation booth, and an audio and video production studio.
The facility will be used for sound and video recording classes as well as integrated media performances. For this reason, it was built with audio and video connectivity to existing facilities on campus, such as the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Lab.
“The HASS Media Studio will provide new opportunities for collaboration across Rensselaer,” said Mary Simoni, dean of HASS. “We are proud to continuously offer our students and faculty new ways to break the mold of traditional disciplines and discover connections among art, science, and technology.”
The studio serves as a vital part of Art_X, a campuswide initiative designed to show students the interconnection of art, science, and technology and that interdisciplinary collaboration is essential in solving the world’s greatest challenges. By providing a new experimental environment where artists, scientists, engineers, architects, and business experts can come together, the HASS Media Studio will help advance the Rensselaer signature research thrust in Media, Arts, Science, and Technology.
Last fall, students and faculty from the schools of Engineering and Architecture attended the New York Maker Faire, where their research exhibit—focused on turning empty water bottles into shelters for disaster relief—was awarded an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon.
The event, put on annually by Make: magazine, took place at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, and featured more than 600 projects with 90,000 makers attending from all over the world.
The exhibit was titled “The Friendship Bottle: What If a Bottle Had a Long and Important Life After You Drink The Contents?” It featured a short film that gave insight into the design process and the role that students and faculty played. It also gave the public hands-on experience to build with the bottles and showcased a pavilion made entirely of bottles that was designed by architecture students and Lydia Kallipoliti, assistant professor of architecture.
Also on display was a beam and column prototype composed entirely of water bottles that is currently being tested for its structural capacity by Mohammed Alnaggar, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering.
The Bottle Transitional Shelter testbed that is being used to test the environmental performance of the bottles as a building system was also on site at the event. It was developed by the Rensselaer Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, where Josh Draper, a lecturer in architecture, led the project.
The Arch is a unique approach to education that allows students to pursue professional and personal development opportunities that prepare them to meet the multifaceted challenges of the 21st century.
Under The Arch, all undergraduates remain on campus during the summer after their sophomore year, completing junior-level classes. During their summer on campus, they benefit from the exclusive attention of faculty and staff at a critical juncture in their educational careers. The Center for Career and Professional Development focuses on these rising juniors, readying them for a semester away with programs, panels, and networking opportunities, to aid them in choosing the experience that best expresses their talents, reflects their wishes, and expands their horizons.
“Under The Arch, our students develop professional skills and exposure to new cultures,” said President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Rensselaer graduates already are in high demand from the best employers and graduate schools. The Arch experience will only make them more outstanding.”
In the fall or spring of junior year, students leave campus for at least a full semester, to complete an intellectual or pre-professional experience. Their time away may involve a semester spent studying abroad, an internship in their chosen field, an intensive research project, a volunteer service post, or the launch of an entrepreneurial enterprise.
“This experience was above and beyond anything I could gain from a textbook and was an invaluable part of my engineering education,” said Matthew Beaudoin ’19, who spent his semester away working at SABIC.