Location of Electronic Media and Performing Arts Center. Photo by Gary Gold
The historic gift of $130 million that
we received in December from an anonymous donor has galvanized
campus. The extraordinary generosity and commitment of this
donor represent both a bold endorsement of the ambitious goals
of the Rensselaer Plan, and a material investment in our aspirations
to transform the Institute.
Now, while surely we are "well begun,"
we are far from "half done." The excitementand the challengestill
lies ahead. The journey from idea to realization is just beginning.
The magnanimous early financial support we have received will
jump-start our work. But we must still delineate the full
shape of our plans and obtain sufficient financing to achieve
As we advance rapidly on many key fronts,
I am pleased to share with you the activity under way on campus
on critical projects.
First, we have begun
to recruit for six "constellations" at the heart of our strategy
to greatly enlarge the research enterprise. (The faculty for
one of the seven constellationsbioinformatics and biocomputationalready
are in place.) These constellations will be comprised of "stars"distinguished
faculty who have earned outstanding reputations in the information
technology and biotechnology focal areas in which we are choosing
to invest. If you read the special issue of Nature last month,
the one that reported the unveiling of the maps of the human
genome, you may have seen the advertisement that formally
launched our nationwide search.
The search for these constellations is
a historic moment for Rensselaer because they represent the
means by which we create a national research presence in new
areas that are vital to societyand critical to a first-rank
research programbut are not now in the Institute's portfolio.
We chose these areas carefully, with the assistance of experts
who include a Nobel Laureate from Rockefeller University as
well as faculty researchers from Harvard, the University of
California at San Diego, Georgia Tech, and the New York State
Department of Health. The biotechnology search team is headed
by Georges Belfort, professor of chemical engineering at Rensselaer,
and the information technology search team by Joseph Flaherty,
Rensselaer's Amos Eaton Professor of Computer Science.
Senior faculty members who are experts
at the forefront of their disciplines form the nucleus of
each constellation. At the same time, we are recruiting two
junior faculty for each of the six areas. This approach will
meet the realities of the academic marketplace. For distinguished
faculty, the opportunity to work with and guide the next generation
of researchers is a necessary element of a senior position.
In addition, a substantive research effort demands the critical
mass provided by high-caliber graduate students whose collaboration
with faculty is a central component of a university research
program. By bringing in distinguished senior faculty and junior
faculty, we will be able to attract highly promising graduate
students, post-doctoral staff, and others.
AND INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES RESEARCH CENTER
Of course, the recruitment package to attract these world-class
researchers must include state-of-the-art research facilities
as well. To meet this need, we are building a $60 million
biotechnology and interdisciplinary studies center that will
represent a unique asset for campus.
Today, most of our faculty work in laboratory facilities distinct to their discipline, and our life sciences laboratory facilities are relatively small. The center will be about 200,000 square feet, roughly the size of the Jonsson Engineering Center, will face 15th Street, and be adjacent to the George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation.
FOCAL AREAS IN BIOTECHNOLGY
Functional Tissue Engineering
Integrative Systems Biology
Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering
Bioinformatics and Biocomputation
FOCAL AREAS IN INFORMATION
FIRST-YEAR HIGHEST PRIORITIES
Electronic Media and
Performing Arts Center
The facility will integrate programs and facilities from the life sciences, physical and information sciences, and engineering. It will offer the most advanced equipment and infrastructure to support research in emerging areas of science and to explore innovation in new fields of application.
Again, work is well under way. Burt Hill
Kosar Rittelmann of Butler, Pa., and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
of Pittsburgh have been chosen as the architects and engineers
for the biotech center. Together, these firms designed the
$21.9 million Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering
Institute, and Burt Hill designed the $50 million Genomics
Institute at Princeton University. The architectsincluding
alumni Dick Rittelmann '60, principal-in-charge; Peter Bohlin
'58, design architect; Jon Jackson '73, lead architect; and
team members Harry Gordon '73 and Michael Maiese '90are working
closely with our biotechnology planning committee, headed
by Arthur Sanderson, vice president for research, and Ted
Mirczak '66, interim vice president for administration. In
addition, site work for the facility is in progress.
AND PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
We are also moving ahead swiftly on plans to construct the Electronic Media and Performing Arts Center as a means to broaden campus discourse, enrich the cultural environment, showcase our signature offerings in the electronic arts (see article), and reach out to the greater communities of Troy and the Capital Region. It will be constructed in the vicinity of the Richard G. Folsom Library and the Materials Research Center.
In this endeavor, also, we are bringing
in expertise from beyond campus to assist the EMPAC committee,
chaired by John Tichy, chair of mechanical engineering, aeronautical
engineering, and mechanics. We have enlisted the services
of Roger Schluntz, dean of architecture at the University
of New Mexico, to assist with the formal design competition
and in the selection of a jury that will choose a design firm
Schluntz has served as the consultant for
a number of significant architecture and urban design competitions
throughout the United States. He has twice served as a panel
member for the National American Institute of Architects Honor
Awards Program, and was appointed a member of the Design Competitions
Task Force for the national AIA Committee on Design. He also
was an adviser to the Design Arts Program of the National
Endowment for the Arts in the early 1980s. On a parallel track,
a campus committee is touring similar facilities to create
a solid base of benchmark information. In late February, for
example, a contingent that included Troy Mayor and Rensselaer
Trustee Mark Pattison brought back ideas from a visit to the
Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle, Meany Hall of the University
of Washington, and the Experience Music Project, an interactive
music museum in Seattle.
Finally, we will
greet the members of the Class of 2005 when they enter next
September with a revamped and enriched student orientation
program that will begin with their arrival on campusand will
continue throughout the entire first year. The initial orientation
will give students the choice of a variety of tracks, including
a wilderness experience, historical and cultural activities,
or community service, all imbued with an overarching theme
of entrepreneurship. Our commitment to this program includes
the creation of a new dean of the First-Year Experience who
will design and direct this program, with a goal of creating
a connection between Rensselaer and its students that will
grow deeper during their years at the Institute and continue
throughout their lives.