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At Rensselaer


Photo by Gary Gold
From a fourth-floor window in the Gurley Building in downtown Troy, a visitor can gaze eastward at The Approach, West Hall, the former Winslow Laboratory, and the rest of the Rensselaer campus.

It's an appropriate vista for a reclamation project that forges another link between the city and the school.

"So many historic buildings have been lost over the years. We're fortunate to get the Gurley Building. Gurley himself was a graduate," said Russell Leslie '80, associate director of Rensselaer's Lighting Research Center (LRC).

The School of Architecture's LRC, the world's foremost research and education center dedicated to lighting, has taken up residence in the 133-year-old Gurley Building. Renovation of the structure was completed this spring and a formal dedication took place in June.

The LRC outgrew its 17,000-square-foot quarters in Watervliet. The Gurley Building's 25,000 square feet, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Union Street, better accommodate the center's 40-member faculty and staff, 20 graduate students, and some 1,000 visitors a year.

The center spends more than $4 million on research and education in lighting. Its researchers are investigating a vast array of projects, from the effects of lighting on night-shift nurses and the best snowplow lighting for driver safety, to how changes in lighting affect brain waves. Other areas of research include the effect of light on people with such conditions as Alzheimer's disease, breast cancer, and seasonal affective disorder.

The Gurley Building was named a National Historic Landmark in 1983. Leslie, the architect who designed the building's transformation, sought to retain much of its 19th-century flavor while turning it into a state-of-the-art lighting research center. Inside, the brick walls, timber framing, round wooden columns, and most of its plank floors remain intact.



How fine is the line between the virtual and the real?

That's the question infused in a multimedia installation that targets violence in computer games. The installation, designed by Kathleen Ruiz, assistant professor of electronic arts, features an interactive video game and mural-size digital photos that reveal surprising behavior by game participants. The exhibit, titled "Bang, Bang (you're not dead?)," is on display at the Woodstock Artists Association in Woodstock, N.Y., through Oct. 16.

The installation depicts participants engrossed in virtual games of death and war, sometimes oblivious to the real world. At times, they are sweating and grimacing.

"The installation satirizes the seductive nature of traditional military-style games, exploring the thin line between fantasy and reality. It also inspires dialogue and offers new alternatives for interacting in virtual environments," Ruiz says. "We can use 3-D narratives that express more of the human condition—poetic, personal, satirical, comical, etc ... We can use the technology to express other things than simply killing each other."

Ruiz, an internationally known artist whose exhibits have been displayed around the world, explores consciousness, behavior and interaction, and restructured reality.

She created the exhibit in response to visits to gaming arcades and the questions that have been raised about links between particular types of shooting found in virtual games and the kinds of violence occurring in recent multiple killings.

Ruiz says her project should not be portrayed as an anti-gun or anti-game model.

"I am continuing my exploration of the interrelationships between reality and fantasy by staging the question, 'Does our recreation re-create us?' "

Rensselaer students who assisted in Ruiz's project are Richard Czyzewski '01, computer science major; Christina Frolish '01, EMAC major; and electronic arts graduate student James Baumgartner '01. To view the installation, visit



Rensselaer took the formula car international this year and came back a winner.

"This is the best position the team has ever had in the formula car competitions," said Euan Somerscales, faculty adviser for the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Team.

Although student teams have been competing in formula car contests since 1991, this is the first time Rensselaer—which came in third place—has competed internationally.

The competition was based on design, cost, presentation, maneuverability, and endurance. The team's ultimate strength was in the endurance and fuel economy event, which was a 10.44-mile time trial over a twisting and undulating course.

The students participated with 17 teams from around the world. The Rensselaer team's top performance in England has energized the students for upcoming competitions in 2001 in Pontiac, Mich., where the students hope to repeat their top-10 standing of 1998, when they placed 8th out of 100 teams.

The Rensselaer team, made up of about a dozen students, invested thousands of hours in fund raising, construction, testing, and driver practice over the past year to prepare for the overseas competition.



Daniel Walczyk (left) and Badri Roysam in front of the machine they designed for faster results in the initial testing of potential drugs and other products. Photo by Gary Gold

Once, the only way to find out if a potential new product could be linked to cancer and other diseases was to expose it to large numbers of rats or other laboratory animals to see if any of them developed genetic damage.

But a robotic system developed by researchers at Rensselaer is now available that rapidly scans cell cultures to detect if potential new products could be harmful.

The RPI SHE Machine, developed by Badri Roysam, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, and Daniel Walczyk, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is faster than animal testing (weeks instead of months), requires far fewer animals, and correlates strongly with animal tests.

The system performs automatic scoring of the SHE (Syrian Hamster Embryo) Cell Transformation Assay. In this procedure, cells of a hamster embryo are exposed to the substance and cultured in 250 petri dishes. Lab technicians scan these cell colonies looking for abnormalities.

A dozen petri dishes are attached to each of 21 trays in an elevator mechanism. An automatic feeder brings one tray at a time to a scanning mechanism, and a motion stage follows a computer-controlled pattern that places each dish under the scanner. A computer algorithm analyzes the images and uses objective standards to classify and label colonies as normal or abnormal.

The Rensselaer SHE Machine was developed with support from Procter & Gamble and Covance Corp. Covance, one of the world's largest and most comprehensive drug development services companies, is scheduled to use the first prototype by the end of summer.


Photo by Gary Gold

Construction of the Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory (MDL) in the former high bay area of the Jonsson Engineering Center is in full force and is expected to be completed in December.

The MDL will provide undergraduate students from multiple engineering disciplines, management, humanities, architecture, and science with a facility and the resources to work together on challenging "real-world" problems, according to Mark Steiner '78, clinical associate professor of mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, and mechanics, and MDL director.

The multidisciplinary nature of the lab will be enhanced by the method of learning, Steiner says. Instead of preparing a cut-and-dried syllabus, professors act as student team advisers. Students work together in self-directed teams and build upon knowledge gained from prior courses to solve real problems that are important to a project sponsor.

The flexible design of the space, which will accommodate up to 70 students, will allow for small and large group interaction. The facility also will provide space for students to fabricate, assemble, and test physical prototypes. While this is a more complicated way to teach, Steiner says, the experience more effectively prepares students for their careers.

"The combination of our 'MDL' capstone design course, which partners teams of students from departments across the Institute with industry partners to work on real-world, interdisciplinary projects, together with our new, state-of-the-art facility, will make the Rensselaer MDL experience unique among universities with similar programs," says Dean of Engineering Bud Baeslack '78. "The Swanson MDL facility is special in that it will provide an environment that is highly effective in preparing the student for the engineering workplace of the 21st century. We will soon have a multi-functional, comprehensive facility that will allow teams of students to work together to create innovative designs using state-of-the-art CAD systems, develop rapid prototype components, and assemble and test the final products."

During the 1999-2000 academic year, four sponsored projects were successfully piloted engaging more than 100 students from six engineering disciplines. Current MDL project sponsors include GE, GM, Barclays Capital, and Pitney Bowes. Each project is funded by a $40,000 grant.

The facility will be formally named the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory in memory of Trustee Robert Swanson's father, whose values and encouragement contributed so much to his son's education and career. Last year, Swanson '58, retired executive vice president and director of Mobil, and his wife, Cynthia J. Shelvin, offered a $750,000 challenge to the Institute to raise an additional 750,000 for the lab. Rensselaer met that challenge before the end of 1999 and the couple matched the amount dollar for dollar.



In the entrepreneurial food chain, "AQ"—one's ability to persevere in the face of adversity—may matter more than "IQ," says Gideon Markman, an assistant professor of management at the Lally School of Management and Technology. In other words, the ability to overcome what appears to be insurmountable business and technological difficulties is probably more important than the idea or the opportunity itself.

Markman tested the AQ of 200 patent holders, building on the work of Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient. What Markman found was that entrepreneurial inventors who used their patents to start companies had higher AQs than those who didn't use their patents for that purpose.

Markman says that measuring AQ could be a crystal ball for venture capitalists and corporate entrepreneurship. AQ measures can be used to screen and identify technical people who will successfully champion new business units.

"Prospective entrepreneurs are presenting investors with new, complex, and sometimes highly uncertain technologies," Markman says. "And while venture capitalists may assess the technology, industry, and market with some accuracy, they are rather uncertain on how to assess an entrepreneur's potential. Measuring a technical inventor's AQ may substantially improve backers' investment portfolios."

Faced with similar business opportunities and obstacles, technical entrepreneurs differed in the way they perceive and react to adversity. Markman found that high AQ was associated with higher personal earnings among patent holders, and that they experience higher levels of perceived control and accountability for the products they bring to market.

"These people do not consider themselves victims of adversity, but rather rise to any obstacle or challenge put in their way," Markman says. "To them, adversity is a speed bump, not a mountain. They don't just identify opportunities, they successfully nurture and harvest them."

Respondents were on average 47 years old, had almost 20 years of formal education, held more than 13 patents at the time of the survey, and had earned almost $120,000 annually. The average entrepreneur had started 1.5 firms with two co-founders and had raised more than $6 million to build his or her company.


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