Office of the Vice President for Research
Signature Research Thrusts
In Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems, we explore renewable technologies, energy efficiency, and the understanding of global environmental change to preserve the bio-diversity of the planet.
In Biotechnology and the Life Sciences, we are creating new routes to drug discovery and development, and understanding the fundamental mechanisms of disease, from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to cancer.
Research in Media, Arts, Science, and Technology facilitates new approaches to networking, advanced visualization, sensor design, haptics, and multiscale modeling and simulation, which are supported by the core capabilities of EMPAC.
Enabled by the capabilities of the CCI, Rensselaer has developed important programs in Computational Science and Engineering focused on high performance computing, big data, and data analytics, which supports research and innovation across a broad front.
Our excellence in Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials builds from the fundamental understanding—experimental, theoretical, and computational - of the underlying atomic and molecular properties of a wide range of nanostructured materials. We now are developing robust, affordable, and sustainable methods for manufacturing new functional hybrid materials, and the hierarchical systems and products based upon them.
In the News
State funding pushes Lake George research project to finishFebruary 10, 2016 -
The state is kicking in a half-million dollars to complete the Jefferson Project, a multimillion dollar environmental research effort aimed at making Lake George the most measured and best understood body of water on the planet.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomoannounced that the project, launched in 2013 by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, IBM and the conservation group Fund for Lake George, will get funding through the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program.
"We are very grateful for state funding," said Rick Relyea, project director at RPI. "This pushes the project to the finish line."
Top 100 Science Stories of 2015 - #59 A Wider, Groovier Milky Way GalaxyJanuary 8, 2016 -
The starry disk that is our galaxy may extend at least 50 percent farther from its apparent edge than we thought. Instead of being flat, the Milky Way appears grooved like a vinyl record, upping its width to at least 150,000 light-years, researchers now say.
Jefferson Project Makes Waves With a 'Smart' LakeOctober 21, 2015 -
Over a few short years, the Internet of things has morphed from a fascinating concept into reality. It is rapidly redefining a wide array of industries and delivering greater insights into science and research.
At New York's Lake George, a 32-mile-long lake located in the Adirondack Mountains, more than 60 researchers are now turning to sensors and connected systems to better understand environmental threats—including road salt, agricultural contaminants, invasive species and the growth of algae—so that they can better protect the lake and its water.
Jefferson Project's Newest Research Vessel: The Minne Ha HaOctober 6, 2015 -
Every day, every hour or so, the Minne Ha Ha departs the Steel Pier, its chirping steam whistles, calliope licks and the bright foam of its paddle wheel infusing the air with a holiday sweetness. Who knew that it’s actually a research vessel?
Frogs mount speedy defence against pesticide threatAugust 18, 2015 -
This is the first-known example of a vertebrate species developing pesticide resistance through a process called phenotypic plasticity, in which the expression of some genes changes in response to environmental pressure. It does not involve changes to the genes themselves, which often take many generations to evolve.
The frogs' speedy response raises hope for amphibian species, of which one-third are threatened or extinct, says Rick Relyea, an ecologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and the team's leader.
Jefferson Project update offered at Fund for Lake George annual meetingAugust 17, 2015 -
This year at the Fund for Lake George annual meeting at the Sagamore resort, a crowd of roughly 170 caught glimpses of the computer modeling being done from a deep level of research that is helping shape a science-based treatment for the lake.
Albany researchers' laser test holds promise for earlier Alzheimer's diagnosisAugust 17, 2015 -
NY CAP Research Alliance funding to UAlbany and Albany Med scientists yeilds new method for earlier diagnosing Alzheimer's disease.
Engineering A New Chemical Communication System Into BacteriaAugust 10, 2015 -
Previously, synthetic biologists had only engineered synthetic quorum-sensing systems in gram-negative bacteria, such as Escherichia coli. But gram-positive bacteria are heavily used in the biotech industry to synthesize enzymes. So Cynthia H.
High-tech fishing project needs public’s help collecting informationJuly 31, 2015 -
From minnows to deep-water whoppers, researchers are conducting the first comprehensive fish survey in more than 30 years as part of a multi-million dollar effort to determine the lake’s health.
"We’re trying to find out who’s here, where they are, how many there are and if so, how and why they’re changing,” said Rick Relyea, Jefferson Project director.
Five questions for Rick RelyeaJuly 31, 2015 -
A variety of instruments have been deployed that collect all kinds of data that give scientists and researchers a “real-time” view of what’s happening in the lake as it happens. This allows them to monitor where potentially harmful impacts like road salt, nutrient runoff, contaminants and invasive species are coming from, and what the consequences might be if their presence increases.
IBM Pushes Deep Learning with a Watson UpgradeJuly 31, 2015 -
“A key challenge for modern AI is putting back together a field that has almost splintered among these methodologies,” says James Hendler, director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for Data Exploration and Applications in Troy, New York.
A Robot Passed the Self-Awareness Test and This Is How It Did ItJuly 20, 2015 -
When talking about robots and self-awareness, I think most people would just freak out, but there are some people who would be extremely excited and interested about these things. But I don’t think freaking out would be the case here, even though a robot just passed the first self-awareness test ever.
Lake George Jefferson Project provides model for waters elsewhereJuly 14, 2015 -
Cyber-infrastructure, above and beneath the waves, is giving researchers a high-tech look at factors impacting Lake George water quality. The Jefferson Project is a long-term collaboration between IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and The Fund for Lake George that has cost more than $10 million just to ramp up.
IBM Makes Lake George World's Smartest LakeJuly 14, 2015 -
When you think of the Internet of Things, you probably don't think of lakes. But IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Fund for Lake George are using IoT technology to make New York's Lake George a "smart lake."
On New York’s Lake George, researchers fire up a state-of-the-art observatoryJuly 13, 2015 -
Academic researchers and computer giant IBM are aiming to make Lake George, a 52-kilometer-long body of water in New York state, one of the smartest lakes in the world. Late last month, scientists formally began to capture data from the first of 40 sensing platforms that will give researchers a detailed glimpse into lake behaviors such as water circulation and temperature. The information will be fed into computer models that the researchers say could help managers protect Lake George from threats such as invasive species, excessive nutrients, road salt, and pollution.
The effort, known as the Jefferson Project, involves more than 60 scientists from theRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York; the FUND for Lake George, a regional conservation group; and IBM research labs in Brazil, Ireland, Texas, and New York. The researchers are using Lake George as a test bed for an array of sophisticated “smart” sensors that will monitor 25 different variables, including biological characteristics and water chemistry and quality. The sensors will not only report data back to laboratories, often in real time, but be able to respond to changes in the lake environment. “Our sensors can look at other sensors around [them] and say, ‘I’m seeing something a little unusual, are you seeing it too?’” says RPI’s Rick Relyea, director of the Jefferson Project. “If so, the sensor can make the decision to sample more frequently or sample in a particular depth of water more. They have a great deal of intelligence.”
The data the sensors collect will be fed to an IBM supercomputer that will help researchers develop five different computer models that will enable one of the Jefferson Project’s main goals: visualizing Lake George’s behavior. For example, using high-resolution weather forecasting technology developed by IBM, researchers will be able to see how runoff from big storms moves through the 600-square-kilometer Lake George watershed. Other models will allow researchers to examine the impact of the use of road salt on water quality, see how water circulates throughout the lake, and visualize lake food webs.
The Jefferson Project isn’t the only effort to harness new technologies to wire up and study lakes. The U.S. National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network is using similar approaches to study the impact of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on aquatic ecosystems. Internationally, the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), a grassroots network of ecologists, IT experts, and engineers, also uses new technologies to study how lakes respond to environmental change.
This Jefferson Project isn’t the first time IBM has experimented with instrumenting a body of water, says Harry Kolar, an IBM researcher and an adjunct professor of physics at Arizona State University, Tempe. The company has helped develop many of the technologies being used at Lake George by participating in other projects, including the River and Estuary Observatory Network, an observatory system tracking the Hudson River at Denning’s Point in Beacon, New York. In 2009, IBM also launched a joint project with Ireland’s Marine Institute to monitor water quality and marine life in Ireland’s Galway Bay.
What makes the Jefferson Project different, Kolar says, is not only the smart sensors and the high frequency with which they will collect data, but how the data will be used to help inform the models. And Paul Hanson, a limnologist at the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, says that although the Jefferson Project is similar to other lake-monitoring projects, “they’re doing it on steroids. More variables, more frequency, and with better integration [with] models.”
Overall, researchers plan to equip the lake with 40 sensor-carrying platforms, some on land and some in the water; they have deployed 14 thus far. The platforms come in four “flavors”: vertical profilers that send instruments into the lake’s depths to monitor things such as water temperature, chlorophyll, and dissolved organic matter; weather stations that measure humidity, barometric pressure, and wind velocity; tributary stations that study water entering the lake; and acoustic Doppler profilers, underwater sensors that measure lake currents.
Kevin Rose, a postdoctoral associate at UW Madison, who is active in GLEON, says IBM’s involvement makes the Jefferson Project stand out. “Private-public partnerships are going to be a hallmark of how more research is done in the future and this is a great model to see that in action,” he says.
The ultimate test of the Jefferson Project’s value, Hanson says, will be whether local and regional officials are able to use the information to better manage and protect the body of water known as “the Queen of American Lakes.”And project director Relyea says they are aiming high. “Ultimately,” he adds, “our goal is to make this project a blueprint for understanding lakes” that can be replicated elsewhere.
The project, which is expected to run for at least 3 years, is jointly funded by the three groups; leaders say it has a total budget “in the millions,” including direct spending and in-kind contributions. Researchers expect the Jefferson Project to have all of its systems fully integrated by the end of 2016.