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Academic Symposia

Biotechnology, which Jackson says “represents an untapped opportunity for Rensselaer,” was the topic of the first of three academic symposia that attracted some of the top voices in the national research community to campus for the inauguration celebration.   

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala delivered the keynote address, “Science Literacy and Other 21st Century Challenges.”

“We need—and we still don’t have—a scientifically literate society capable of understanding the complicated and complex world in which we now live,” Shalala told the audience in the Darrin Communications Center. “Scientific literacy is a milestone on the road to good citizenship.”

At the second symposium, “Connecting to Federal Research and Development Programs: Opportunities and Issues for Rensselaer,” National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell heralded “a new sociology of science” in which interdisciplinary collaboration has become more common. “We must find kinship in diverse fields. Increasingly, researchers are engaging researchers from other areas. They’re like strangers finishing each other’s thoughts. Dogmatism will be eclipsed,” Colwell said.

Colwell enumerated the NSF’s “greatest hits”—magnetic resonance imaging, documentation of ozone depletion over Antarctica, development of the first Web browser—but warned that politicians often view research funds as a convenient target when cutting the budget.

The Gala (l-r, top to bottom) Hillary Clinton with Jackson, husband Morris Washington, and son Alan Washington; Jackson greeted many attendees; the elegant setting at the Tech Park; Greg Hughes '67 greets Washington; Valerie Callendar and Beatrice Jackson, the president's mother; guests mingle, the president's sisters, Gloria Joseph and Barbara Avery; Federal Express CEO Fred Smith; Judge Arthur Gajarsa '62; Kathleen Weatherwax and Mary Low; State Assemblyman Paul Tonko greets Jackson; Shelly and "Bud Baeslack '78 with faculty member Joe Chow and his wife, Doris.

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