Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 12, August 31, 2012
Mark Century

Wednesday, October 3, will mark the grand opening of the Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering. The lab, located in the Jonsson Engineering Center, is made possible by Doug Mercer ’77, who was a fellow at Analog Devices Inc. from 1995 to 2009 and is now consulting with the company on university-related projects.Mercer combined his gift, a portion of which is endowed to assure continued future support of the laboratory, with an expendable gift, enabling the department to begin equipping the laboratory immediately. Analog Devices Inc. has also made a gift for the lab as the Founding Corporate Sponsor. The Mercer Lab is being designed specifically to restore the “lost art of tinkering” and, beyond that, to promote competitive innovation through student participation in electronics design competitions. The lab will provide an open shop environment for approximately 500 students each year to work on class design projects, using sophisticated hardware. The resulting competitions will provide a rich medium in which to grow the national and global engineering leaders of the future. Mercer is committed to the promotion of exploratory thinking, understanding that innovation greatly enhances integrative learning and intuition, while providing an exceptional vehicle for understanding the limits of theory versus practice. He is working closely with Kim Boyer, professor and department head, electrical, computer, and systems engineering, to renovate the lab space and determine the equipment requirements. The Mercer Lab is being designed specifically to restore the “lost art of tinkering” and, beyond that, to promote competitive innovation through student participation in electronics design competitions.“The active participation and generous support of our alumni and alumnae play an integral role in elevating Rensselaer, and we thank Mr. Mercer for his philanthropy,” said Boyer. “He has provided consistent support to the Department of Electrical, Computer, and 
Systems Engineering since 2004, and has been a loyal contributor to the Rensselaer Annual Fund for 
many years.”

James Hendler

Hendler Named Head of
Computer Science

Professor James Hendler has been named the new head of the Department of Computer Science. Hendler is currently a senior constellation professor in the Tetherless World Constellation and program director of the Information Technology and Web Science (ITWS) program. He has stepped down from his leadership of the ITWS program to assume the department head post.

“Dr. Hendler is a strong researcher, and a vital faculty leader, widely respected within Rensselaer and far beyond,” said School of Science Dean Laurie Leshin. “I am delighted to announce this appointment and am certain the department will attain even greater excellence under his leadership.”

Hendler joined the Institute in 2007 after two decades at the University of Maryland, where he served as director of the Joint Institute for Knowledge Discovery and co-director of the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory.

“I came to Rensselaer because it had a great computer science department with an amazing potential to become one of the new leaders in the field,” said Hendler.

“With some of the superstar hires of the past few years, the excitement in our department just continues to grow,” Hendler continued. “In some of the hottest areas in computing, such as the data-, network- and Web-science fields, Rensselaer is on a roll. I am privileged to be head of such a talented group of researchers.”

The Computer Science Department at Rensselaer is renowned nationally and internationally for its work in areas such as bioinformatics, computational science and engineering, computer vision, database systems, networking, parallel computing, pervasive computing, robotics, semantic web, software design, and theoretical computer science. The department confers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees, with enrollment currently at approximately 500 undergraduate and 100 graduate students.

Hendler’s own research seeks to expand the utility of the World Wide Web. He is widely recognized as one of the inventors of the semantic web, an extension of the World Wide Web that enables computers to interpret the meaning and context of words and numbers. This technology could be used to bring informative databases—from Internet business to basic biology research—to the Web in more searchable and usable ways, according to Hendler.

Hendler received a bachelor’s in computer science and artificial intelligence from Yale University, a master’s in cognitive psychology and human factors engineering from Southern Methodist University, and a master’s and doctorate in computer science and artificial intelligence from Brown University. He is a fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the British Computer Society, the IEEE, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2002, Hendler was awarded a U.S. Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Medal. He is the first computer scientist to serve on the board of reviewing editors for Science and in 2010 he was named one of the 20 most innovative professors in America by Playboy magazine. Hendler also serves as an “Internet Web Expert” for the U.S. government, providing guidance to the project.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Number 12, August 31, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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