John Harrington chuckles as he recalls a time when, as a professor at a New York City college, he saw a group of engineering students build a video unit in an oscilloscope (a device used to measure electrical wave signals). Once the students succeeded, the biggest problem became apparent: what to play on the screen.
They ended up running Leave It to Beaver reruns, Harrington says. The point is, they had all the technical skills, but no context. This is where the humanities play an important role in education.
Harringtons mission as the new dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Rensselaer is to blend technological expertise with humanistic values, innovative artistic endeavors, and social scientific discoveries. The departments under his leadership are: Arts; Cognitive Science; Economics; Language, Literature, and Communication; and Science and Technology Studies.
If students have some kind of background in humanities, then they have some background in humans and culture, Harrington says. They have some background in the context in which business or engineering or science is practiced and that becomes more of a real-world view. This makes it much more likely that students will succeed in their careers and ultimately in their lives.
Connecting the human aspect of education with the technical is not a new endeavor for Harrington. Before coming to Rensselaer last fall, he served for 10 years as the dean of humanities and social sciences at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.
Harrington began his journey toward a profession in the humanities in college, when he walked into Columbia University as an engineering student and graduated with a B.A. in English. He went on to earn an M.A. in Anglo-Irish Studies at the University College in Dublin, and received his Ph.D. in literature from Rutgers University. As a scholar of Irish literature, Harrington has written several books. They include The English Traveller in Ireland (1990); The Irish Beckett (1991); and The Irish Play on the New York Stage (1997).
Harrington does not intend to make English majors out of engineering and science students. Still, he sees his goal as nothing less than instilling the values of humanities and social sciences into Rensselaers core academics of science and technology to foster scholarship, innovation, and creative discovery.
It is not enough to have well-defined technical skills. Employers, and the world at large, are looking for those who have flexible skills, such as communication and problem-solving abilities, Harrington says.
With this in mind, the role of humanities and social sciences, particularly in todays job market, has never been greater, Harrington adds. Technology in recent years has provided new and more focused areas of study in the humanities, especially in digital media. This is one area in humanities and social sciences at Rensselaer that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, and has opened the door to careers in everything from videogame design to international policy analysis, to more conventional manufacturing and industrial work.
Even in coal mining, communication is through digital media. So, thats a very big workplace for someone who is training in communications or electronic arts, whether its in Web design, or developing software for new applications, or consulting, Harrington says.
|Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer president, has been elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS is the worlds largest general scientific society and publisher of Science magazine. She will become AAAS president in February 2004.|
|Mark Wentland, professor of chemistry, has received a $1.59 million grant from the National Institutes of Healths National Institute on Drug Abuse. The five-year award will allow Wentland to continue his drug discovery research aimed at identifying new therapeutics that have the potential to treat cocaine abuse in humans.|
|Deepak Vashishth, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has received a grant for $1.4 million from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health. The grant supports research that examines bone quality and the differing shapes of microscopic cracks that develop in bones in the course of daily living. The research may increase a doctors ability to predict and even reduce fracture risks for older people.|
|Thomas Baruch 60 began his tenure in December as the newest member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees. Baruch is founder and general partner of CMEA Ventures, a top-tier venture capital firm specializing in life sciences and information technology investments. He will serve on the trustee boards Audit, Information Technology, and Research committees.|
|Xi-Cheng Zhang, the J. Erik Jonsson 22 Distinguished Professor of Science and director of Rensselaers Center for Terahertz Research, has been named a fellow of the American Physical Society for pioneering contributions to free-space terahertz optics. Hes particularly noted for the successful development of terahertz-wave generation, sensing, and imaging.|
|Aleksandar Ostrogorsky, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, has been named an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. AIAA associate fellows are individuals of distinction who have made valuable contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics and astronautics.|
|James Tien 66 has been named the Yamada Corporation Professor at Rensselaer (see From the Archives). Tien, chair and professor of decision sciences and engineering systems and professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, is the first to be selected for the named professorship established last year.|
|Georges Belfort, the Russell Sage Professor of Chemical Engineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for his advances in bioseparations using membrane filtration, affinity processes, and membrane bioreactors for biotechnology. Election to the NAE is one of the highest honors accorded to an engineer.|
|Robert Graves, professor of decision sciences and engineering systems, was honored with the 2002 Reed-Apple Award, presented by the Material Handling Education Foundation. The award is the most prestigious in material handling logistics.|
|Thierry Blanchet, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, has received the Burt L. Newkirk Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Blanchet is the 22nd recipient of the award, which is given to individuals who have made notable contributions to research and development in tribology.|
|Omkaram Om Nalamasu, an international expert in micro- and nanoelectronics, has been named director of Rensselaers Center for Integrated Electronics (CIE). The CIE is a major research center with $8.7 million of funded research annually. Programs include major activities in gigascale interconnect research, three-dimensional interconnect structures, wide-band gap semiconductors, terahertz devices and imaging systems, power electronic devices and systems, and biochips.|
|Shivkumar Kalyanaraman, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, was honored by the Intel Corporation for his contributions to the Intel IXA University Program. As part of the program, Intel donated 20 IXP1200 network processor development systems to Rensselaer.|
|Heidi Ellis, clinical associate professor at Rensselaer at Hartford, received the 2002 Woman in Motion Award from the Arthritis Foundation, Southern New England Chapter, during its 2002 Crystal BallSalute to Women in Motion. Connecticut Lieutenant Governor M. Jodi Rell presented the award to Ellis.|
|Mark Rea, director of Rensselaers Lighting Research Center, was the keynote speaker at the Fifth International Lighting Research Symposium in November. Reas address led the way for presentations by internationally known speakers, authors, lighting and medical researchers, and technical experts.|
|Arthur Bergles, Clark and Crossan Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, received the 2002 International SFT Award from the French Thermal Society for his contribution to both thermal sciences and international cooperation. The award, given at the International Heat Transfer Conference in Grenoble, France, was the only one for North America.|
|Achille Messac, associate professor of mechanical, aeronautical, and nuclear engineering, has been elected general chair of the 10th Symposium on Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization, a major international conference hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the International Society for Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization. Messac will bring the conference to Albany in September 2004, and plans for Rensselaer students and faculty to play a leading role. Messac also currently serves as the chair of the AIAA MDO Technical Committee.|
|Jeffrey Trinkle has been named chair of the computer science department. Before joining Rensselaer, Trinkle was a principal member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories from 1998 to 2003. He received bachelors degrees from Georgia Tech and Ursinus College, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Trinkle is interested in developing intelligent systems that can move around in and manipulate their environments. His research uses a combination of techniques from computer science, mathematics, and engineering.|
|Edith Luchins, professor emeritus of mathematics, died Nov. 18. She was 80.
Luchins served as professor of mathematical sciences at Rensselaer from 1962 to 2002. Luchins, who attained emeritus status in 1992, established the Max Hirsch Prize in mathematics in honor of her father. She spent countless hours advising pre- and post-doctoral students. Among her many honors were the Rensselaer Distinguished Teaching Award and the Darrin Counseling Award. She was appointed adjunct professor of cognitive sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1994. Luchins received a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1942, an M.S. from New York University in 1944, and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1957. Luchins research was based on mathematics and psychology in relation to information processing. She focused her work, in large part, on gender differences in cognitive processes and their implications for teaching and learning mathematics.
|Rensselaer Magazine: March 2003|
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