Sept. 11, 2001, will be remembered as a day that changed our country and our lives irrevocably. Members of the Rensselaer communityalumni, faculty, students, and staffhave been affected in myriad ways by the tragic events of that day. A special section, Voices From Rensselaer, in this issue features the stories and reflections of students, faculty, and alumni, as well as information about how the Institute has responded to the events and aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
I have been especially proud of the dignified and proactive way Rensselaer students have reacted to a world suddenly turned upside down. As you will read in this issue of Rensselaer, the Student Senate took action quickly to draft a resolution reaffirming our solidarity as one community that would not be torn apart by these events. Meanwhile, students waited in line up to nine hours on Sept. 11 to make a donation to the emergency Red Cross blood drive. Since then, students have attended remembrance services, held events to raise money for Sept. 11 funds, and created activities to raise the spirits of members of the Rensselaer community. By their actions, our students remind us every day that they are the enduring contribution Rensselaer makes to changing the world.
In past columns I have discussed the goals of the Rensselaer Plan and our progress to date. These recent tragic and troubling events, however, have cast the plan in a new light and lend a new urgency to our enterprises. Rensselaer stands ready to be part of the efforts to reshape our nation and our world in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent war on terrorism. Never has the goal of transforming Rensselaer into a top-tier technological university with global reach and global impact been more relevant and vital.
Science and technology offer a beacon of hope for the future of our security and our way of life in this uncertain time. Just as World War II produced advances in
science, technology, and medicine, so too will this current conflict push us to innovate quickly in these fields. Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote to J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1943 that whatever our foes have in store for us, American science will be equal to the challenge. In this regard, Rensselaer is working to be at the forefront in research that will help us meet the challenges of our post-Sept. 11 world.
Nanotechnology is an example of a rapidly growing field of inquiry that taps Rensselaers interdisciplinary research strengths. The recently announced $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create the NSF Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures puts Rensselaer in the forefront of this exciting, groundbreaking field (see article). The center, under the direction of Richard W. Siegel, the Robert W. Hunt Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, will address fundamental scientific issues underlying the design and synthesis of new materials and structures that have dramatically different and improved properties. This research could lead to advances in smart drug-delivery systems, bioengineered tissues, and novel nanoscale devices for electronic, magnetic, and photonic applications, among other uses.
Rensselaer is proud to be one of only six such centers nationwide to receive the NSF designation as a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. National recovery and national security will rest on partnerships of the kind that are evidenced in this undertakingcombining the resources of the federal government, state government, research universities, and industry. Certainly we have an urgent need to form such partnershipsand to encourage interdisciplinary researchas we face the reality of bioterrorism.
Taking the knowledge gained at the Institute into the world has been a hallmark of a Rensselaer education throughout its history. A Rensselaer education is, by definition, applicable to the common purposes of life. There is no higher purpose than to use science and technology for the common good right now. Those common purposesthe day-to-day business of lifeare today exponentially more complex than they were at the time of Rensselaers founding 177 years ago, especially in light of the dire challenges facing us today. Through research, technology development, innovation, and entrepreneurial enterprises at the Institute, Rensselaer and its alumni have defined and executed the technological agendas of the 19th and 20th centuries. We are well on our way to doing this in the 21st century, as evidenced by the work of the alumni founders of a company developing more effective drugs to combat HIV (see Fighting a Killer).
Computer sciences visionary Alan Kay said, The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Rensselaer is dedicated to this task in order to create a safer and more prosperous world for all.
I am pleased to report that along with this issue of the magazine you have received the 2000-2001 Salute to Involvement, which gives us the opportunity to thank you for all that you do in support of our endeavors.