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The four core areas in biotechnology chosen were: Functional Tissue Engineering; Integrative Systems Biology; Biocomputation and Bioinformatics; and Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering.

Rensselaer then launched an aggressive campaign to attract “constellations” of outstanding faculty to pursue these new research thrusts.

In September, E. Fred Schubert, a pioneering semiconductor researcher and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Boston University, was appointed Senior Constellation Professor of the Future Chips Constellation at Rensselaer.

Also that month, Rensselaer received $22.5 million to create a Center for Bioengineering and Medicine within the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies currently under construction. Funding for the center will come from the New York State Senate’s Gen*NY*sis biotechnology economic development program.

“Why Not Change the World?” advertising campaign

Advertising an Image: Why Not Change the World?
In the spring of 2000 Rensselaer launched the second phase of its award-winning “Why Not Change the World?” advertising campaign. A new series of ads featuring the Institute’s accomplishments in research and pedagogy ran in The Washington Post on alternating Sundays and Mondays, and in the East Coast and Northern California editions of The Wall Street Journal in the Marketplace section on Mondays.

The new ads built on the Institute’s first-ever national advertising campaign, launched in 1999 in national magazines and on cable news networks in selected key markets.

Feedback on the campaign was very positive; alumni were pleased to see Rensselaer’s achievements in research and pedagogy promoted to a national audience, and the “Why Not Change the World?” theme has been widely embraced.
By the end of the current academic year, 66 new people will have joined the faculty in two years — half of them in entirely new positions. These new faculty members bring with them interests, experiences, perspectives, and expertise that are new to the Institute; other members of the faculty are realigning their work to more closely align with new initiatives.

This year several new research endeavors have been launched by Rensselaer faculty. These include the Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory, which opened in the Gurley Building under the leadership of Wayne Gray, a prominent researcher in the fields of human-computer interaction, cognitive task analysis, computational models of embodied cognition, and human error.

Another new initiative, the Center for Ethics and Complex Systems, was formed this year by faculty in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences under the direction of Kim Fortun. The center seeks to understand and address the ethical implications of new technologies.

Graduate Education
Because research is the engine that drives most graduate programs and provides their intellectual grounding, dramatic growth in research requires an equally dramatic expansion in inquiry-based graduate programs leading to research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

A number of new policies and initiatives have been implemented to support graduate education at Rensselaer.

In a move to undergird excellence in research and advanced studies, the Institute revamped financial support and pricing of graduate education for the 2002-2003 academic year, moving from a per-credit-hour approach to a flat academic year tuition set at the same rate as for undergraduates.

All graduate students supported by Institute assistantships will receive full tuition support and a minimum stipend for a specified period, and they in turn must register as full-time students.

Funds to support graduate students will come from sponsored research grants and from fellowships and other Institute funds.

This initiative is bringing the pricing and support for graduate education at Rensselaer into line with that of other top private research universities.

The graduate policy changes will strengthen Rensselaer’s research programs, attract high-quality graduate students, and position the faculty to be even more successful in the intense competition for research funding.

Other initiatives designed to support the success of graduate students include annual reviews to provide all graduate students timely feedback on their progress toward the degree and to clarify their advisers’ expectations.

In addition, expanded graduate student orientation includes a formal introduction to research at Rensselaer. A Professional Development Conference offers assistance with teaching, technical writing, ethical decision-making, and setting and achieving goals, and new faculty orientation now includes information on mentoring graduate students, faculty obligation to students, and requirements for candidacy, committees, and degrees.

Support for the Research Enterprise
The Rensselaer Plan is as practical as it is visionary, calling for restructuring when a new organization will better support research success, for raising the visibility of the Institute and individual researchers in the media, and for creating leading-edge facilities to make possible world-class work.

Accordingly, responsibility for the administrative oversight of Rensselaer’s Information Technology program was transferred to the School of Science in 2001 to strengthen both the academic and research programs related to IT. The reorganization is allowing the development of a broad-based research agenda that will encompass all five of Rensselaer’s academic schools and serving to promote the interdisciplinary nature of the IT program.

Similarly, departments within the School of Engineering were restructured in 2001.

To assist faculty in obtaining more funding for their research, the Office of Research organized a series of grant-related workshops this fall. And in the 2001-2002 academic year, grants for 16 research projects on campus were provided through the Exploratory Research Seed Program, created by the research office to stimulate exploratory research on innovative and interdisciplinary topics. A primary goal of this program is to fund new interdisciplinary research projects in areas of strategic interests and build new opportunities in disciplines that have a high probability of leading to major sponsored research.

And most dramatic of all, ground was broken for the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, which will rank among the world’s most advanced research facilities. Work in the building will focus on the application of engineering and the physical and information sciences to the life sciences.

People, Programs, Platforms

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Rensselaer Magazine: December 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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