We will... grow from an institution centered on undergraduate education with selected research strengths to a full research university. Rensselaer research in the future will extend over a broad portfolio that puts the Institute in a leadership position both in established fields and in evolving areas of inquiry.
The success of The Rensselaer Plan indeed the future of Rensselaer relies on the success of the research enterprise. Initial results have been dazzling.
Enhancing and Growing Research
To create a research portfolio of substantially greater size, quality, prominence, and impact requires the recruitment of world-class faculty in key new areas, as well as the restructuring of current research centers and programs to empower faculty at all levels.
Rensselaer is committed to providing faculty with the programs, facilities, support, and visibility that are essential to research innovation and entrepreneurship. The Institute also assists faculty in garnering external research support while at the same time continuing to foster the innovative teaching that has long been a hallmark of a Rensselaer education.
To provide the dedicated high-level support and oversight needed to achieve these ambitious goals, President Shirley Ann Jackson made two important appointments early in her tenure.
First, Arthur Sanderson, a member of the electrical, computer, and systems engineering faculty since 1987, was appointed to a newly created position of vice president for research in April 2000 to bring focus and energy to the research endeavor.
Jackson also restored the position of provost to ensure the highest quality faculty and graduate programs. G. P. Bud Peterson, who was previously the College of Engineering Tenneco Professor, associate vice chancellor, and executive associate dean of engineering at Texas A&M University, assumed this position on July 1, 2000.
Since the enactment of the plan, research activity and funding have accelerated rapidly, and Rensselaers faculty has grown in both number and reputation. In fiscal year 2001, 466 research proposals were submitted an increase of 13 percent over the previous year and invention disclosures doubled. Research funding jumped from $45.3 million in December 2000 to $58 million in September 2002!
Core research strengths. The vital first step to increasing Rensselaers prominence in research was to identify areas where the Institute already had established distinction and that offered potential for future growth and broad impact. Three core strengths were identified as the building blocks for future expansion: microelectronics, advanced materials and nanotechnology, and modeling and simulation of complex systems. Rensselaer subsequently has experienced significant growth in all three areas.
For example, in March 2002, Rensselaer was awarded more than $9 million and designation as a Center for Advanced Interconnect Systems Technologies (CAIST) by the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) to support research in microelectronic interconnect technologies. The research in this center will produce critical new concepts and technology innovations required for the industry and will advance research that was conducted in Rensselaers former CAIST, which was supported by the SRC from 1996 to 2001.
Rensselaer also is receiving recognition as a leader in the field of nanotechnology. In September 2001, Rensselaer was one of only six universities in the U.S. selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a $10 million award to develop a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. The choice of Rensselaer followed intense competition. Twenty-four first-round finalists were selected from close to 100 applications. That number was pared down to 11 before the government chose the final six. Called the Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures, the new center will be located within the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center.
And, in the area of multiscale computation, members of Rensselaers Scientific Computation Research Center (SCOREC) have built an international reputation for their creation of adaptive finite element modeling and other techniques that make it possible to solve very complex, realistic engineering problems.
New research arenas. All research and technology indicators suggest that biotechnology and information technology are closely aligned with global and societal priorities, and that they are primary drivers of economic growth. They will dominate future science and technology endeavors. The Rensselaer Plan outlines a careful strategy to mine these important niches in IT and biotechnology.
The first step was to identify those niches in which Rensselaer would achieve research leadership. Three areas of IT were identified for building new research efforts that would have high visibility and wide impact : Future Chips; Pervasive Computing and Distributed Intelligent Systems; and Multiscale Computation.
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