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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Office of the Vice President for Research

Signature Research Thrusts

  • ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, AND SMART SYSTEMS

    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.

  • BIOTECHNOLOGY AND THE LIFE SCIENCES

    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.

  • MEDIA, ARTS, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

    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.

  • COMPUTATIONAL SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

    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.

  • NANOTECHNOLOGY AND ADVANCED MATERIALS

    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

  • ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss

    October 15, 2018 -

    Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

  • Review: A ‘Lost Highway’ Suite Refracts David Lynch

    October 15, 2018 -

    It’s a little off the New York City radar, but one of the country’s most invigorating hubs for performance and what’s fashionably called “time-based” visual art has been operating here for a decade now.

  • Brain Scans Can Detect Who Has Better Skills

    October 3, 2018 -

    To gain new insight into how highly specialized workers learn skills or react to stressful situations, researchers are leveraging advanced scanning technologies to look at what’s happening inside the brain.

  • FIFTH FORCE OF NATURE: THE HUNT FOR A HIDDEN REALM THAT COULD CHANGE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNIVERSE IS ABOUT TO BEGIN

    October 2, 2018 -

    A team of physicists based at a lab near Rome, Italy, are about to switch on an experiment that could fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe.

  • Pushing the Boundaries of Learning With AI

    October 1, 2018 -

    At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, students are immersing themselves in Chinese culture without setting foot outside their classroom.

  • Schenectady company using modern STEM to take diapers back in time

    September 10, 2018 -

    SCHENECTADY - A Schenectady company is hoping to use STEM to take new parents back in time. Their vision is to go back to an age of cloth diapers. They say they have a better product than Pampers and Huggies. It's just going to take a little more engineering to get more babies into Tidy Tots.

    The company is bold enough to say their cloth diapers are cleaner.

    It's a three-piece design -- a cover, a booster and the liner. All are held onto your beautiful and waste-producing infant by a series of 22 snaps. The only problem is manufacturing them.

    Glenn Saunders with the RPI Center for Automation Technology systems is working with Tidy Tots to semi-automate the process of installing those snaps. Hopefully, A $50,000 grant from not-for-profit FuzeHub pays for all of RPI's work.

  • Virtual learning: using AI, immersion to teach Chinese

    September 7, 2018 -

    To learn Chinese in this room, talk to the floating panda head. The Mandarin-speaking avatar zips around a 360-degree restaurant scene in an artificial intelligence-driven instruction program that looks like a giant video game. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students testing the technology move inside the 12-foot-high, wrap-around projection to order virtual bean curd from the panda waiter, chat with Beijing market sellers and practice tai chi by mirroring moves of a watchful mentor.

  • Students Get Immersive AI Boost to Learn Mandarin

    August 31, 2018 -

    Imagine the process of going into a restaurant and ordering food. Simultaneously, you could be glancing through the menu while also listening to and speaking with the waiter or your companions. When you're in a place where people are speaking a different language, the complexity of those activities increases multifold. A project taking place at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) hopes to understand how the use of an immersive environment and artificial intelligence can help students practice foreign language skills and increase their confidence when speaking. The researchers are using simulated experiences to test out their ideas.

  • Skaneateles Lake gets help in fighting toxic algae -- from a robot

    August 28, 2018 -

    A robotic buoy bristling with scientific instruments has joined the fight against toxic algae in Skaneateles Lake. Scientists from IBM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute installed the buoy, called a vertical profiler, on July 30. The algae quickly cooperated: A bloom that closed beaches and infiltrated water intake pipes started Aug. 4.

  • Treating America’s Opioid Addiction

    August 23, 2018 -

    “You have to think about the nineteeth century as a time when we thought that drug addiction, narcotic addiction, was a psychopathology. It was a disorder that was akin to other mental disorders," said Nancy Campbell, historian and head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer. 

  • Scientists are developing greener plastics – the bigger challenge is moving them from lab to market

    August 16, 2018 -

    Synthetic plastics have made many aspect of modern life cheaper, safer and more convenient. However, we have failed to figure out how to get rid of them after we use them.

  • RPI’s Liu Awarded $1.8M by DOE to Advance Concentrating Solar Power Research

    July 20, 2018 -

    Li (Emily) Liu, an associate professor of nuclear engineering and engineering physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to receive a $1.8 million award to study high-temperature molten-salt properties and corrosion mechanisms.

  • Computer model predicts how fracturing metallic glass releases energy at the atomic level

    July 20, 2018 -

    Metallic glasses are an exciting research target, but the difficulties associated with predicting how much energy these materials release when they fracture is slowing down development of metallic glass-based products. Recently, researchers developed a way of simulating to the atomic level how metallic glasses behave as they fracture. This modeling technique could improve computer-aided materials design and help researchers determine the properties of metallic glasses.

  • The Milky Way galaxy may be much bigger than we thought

    May 25, 2018 -

    It's no secret that the Milky Way is big, but new research shows that it may be much bigger than we ever imagined.

    The research, described May 7 in the journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics," indicates that our spiral galaxy's vast rotating disk of stars spans at least 170,000 light-years, and possibly up to 200,000 light-years.

  • Smart Lake, Healthy Ecosystem: The Jefferson Project at Lake George

    April 6, 2018 -

    The Jefferson Project was begun by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY three years ago. The team has gradually transformed Lake George into what is arguably the world’s smartest lake, equipped with a tremendous range of sensors and equipment that collect more data points every week than researchers had been able to gather in the 30 years prior to the project’s beginning. Project leader Rick Relyea corresponded with EM about the endeavor.

  • How One University Wants to Teach Students to Use Data

    April 6, 2018 -

    Data is an increasingly pervasive force in American life, with the power to shape perception and policy. And so it makes a certain amount of sense that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently adopted a new "data dexterity" requirement for its students, starting in fall 2019.

  • RPI Adds New 'Data Dexterity' Requirement

    March 27, 2018 -

    TROY, N.Y. (AP) — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will be requiring all of its students to be able to use diverse datasets to solve complex problems.

    RPI says its "data dexterity" requirement will ensure that all students graduating for the school in Troy, New York are prepared for an increasingly data-driven world.

  • Improving a plastic-degrading enzyme for better PET recycling

    March 5, 2018 -

    Stabilizing a bacterial enzyme by strategically decorating it with sugars could help it to recycle one of the most widely used plastics and ultimately keep that plastic out of the landfill (Biochemistry 2018, DOI: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01189).

  • The Andromeda Galaxy Is Not Nearly as Big as We Thought

    February 21, 2018 -

    The closest galaxy to our own is the majestic Andromeda galaxy, a collection of a trillion stars located a “mere” 2 million light years away. New research suggests that, contrary to previous estimates, this galaxy isn’t much bigger than the Milky Way, and is practically our twin. This means our galaxy won’t be completely devoured when the two galaxies collide in five billion years.

  • Turning to beet juice and beer to address road salt danger

    February 2, 2018 -

    Experiments at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute aquatic lab in Troy, New York, have found that higher salt concentrations reduced growth rates in rainbow trout and decreased the abundance of zooplankton — tiny animals or larvae that are critical to the aquatic food chain and play a role in keeping lakes and streams clean.

    Other studies have shown that salinization of lakes and streams reduces the numbers of fish and amphibians, kills off plants, and alters the diversity of these freshwater ecosystems.

    “At high road salt concentrations, you can see reductions in growth, reduction in the diversity of species within a system and you can also see effects on reproduction of certain species,” said William Hintz, of Rensselaer Polytechnic.

  • Inner Workings: Smart-sensor network keeps close eye on lake ecosystem

    February 2, 2018 -

    New York’s Lake George may be the most high-tech lake in the world. By year’s end, a network of 41 sensor platforms will monitor the 32-mile long body of water. Its tributary stations and vertical profilers measure the chemical and physical properties of water at varying depths. Acoustic sensors measure the direction and speed of currents in three dimensions. What’s known as the Jefferson Project, named after US President Thomas Jefferson who once marveled at the lake during a visit, is run by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. Started three years ago, the project is already collecting more data points in one week than Rensselaer researchers collected at the lake over the past three decades, says project leader Rick Relyea.

  • NPR's The Academic Minute

    January 19, 2018 -

    From circadian rhythms to corporate financing reporting, Rensselaer research was featured all week on NPR's Academic Minute on WAMC.

  • A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

    January 12, 2018 -

    Good light also helps keep office workers alert and healthy, said Mariana Figueiro, the director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

    Too many offices are like floodlit caves, illuminated from above to cast light on the work surface of the desk, Dr. Figueiro said. We also need light from the side striking the back of the eye – preferably from a natural source like a window – to entrain our body’s internal circadian clock.

     

  • Can road salt and other pollutants disrupt our circadian rhythms?

    January 12, 2018 -

    Every winter, local governments across the United States apply millions of tons of road salt to keep streets navigable during snow and ice storms. Runoff from melting snow carries road salt into streams and lakes, and causes many bodies of water to have extraordinarily high salinity.

    At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, my colleague Rick Relyea and his lab are working to quantify how increases in salinity affect ecosystems. Not surprisingly, they have found that high salinity has negative impacts on many species. They have also discovered that some species have the ability to cope with these increases in salinity.

  • The Remarkable Career of Shirley Ann Jackson

    December 21, 2017 - Shirley Ann Jackson worked to help bring about more diversity at MIT, where she was the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate. She then applied her mix of vision and pragmatism in the lab, in Washington, and at the helm of a major research university.
  • Despite a Small Staff, Tissue Engineering Lab Has a Broad Research Focus

    December 11, 2017 -

    Despite its size, Dr. Mariah Hahn’s lab at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is an important part of the broader tissue-engineering research community. The lab has two main goals: creating disease models to more effectively screen potential therapeutics before they are tested in small animals and designing better materials to help organs and tissues repair themselves following injury or scarring.

  • The Jefferson Papers - Changing forests, insecticides, and wetland ecosystems

    November 9, 2017 -

    The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting research into how human activities may affect the lake, which include attached wetlands and the surrounding watershed. Here, we summarize research on the combined effects of changing forests and a commonly applied insecticide on wetland ecosystems, which was published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.

  • The Jefferson Papers - Forests, Road Salt and Wetlands Ecosystem Research Published

    November 9, 2017 -

    The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting research into how human activities may affect the lake. Here, we summarize research on the effects of road salt and changing forest composition on wetland ecosystems, which was published recently in the journal Freshwater Science .

  • Picture of the Day: Can environmental toxins disrupt the biological clock?

    November 7, 2017 -

    Can environmental toxins disrupt circadian rhythms -- the biological clock whose disturbance is linked to chronic inflammation and a host of human disorders? Research showing a link between circadian disruption and plankton that have adapted to road salt pollution puts the question squarely on the table. The research builds on recent findings from the Jefferson Project at Lake George, showing that a common species of zooplankton, Daphnia pulex (shown here), can evolve tolerance to moderate levels of road salt in as little as two and a half months. That research produced five populations of Daphnia adapted to salt concentrations ranging from the current concentration of 15 milligrams-per-liter of chloride in Lake George to concentrations of 1,000 milligrams-per-liter, as found in highly contaminated lakes in North America.

  • WE’RE POURING MILLIONS OF TONS OF SALT ON ROADS EACH WINTER. HERE’S WHY THAT’S A PROBLEM.

    November 7, 2017 -

    Despite the ever-greater use, road salt’s effects on streams, lakes and groundwater have been largely ignored until recently. As recently as 2014, when biologist Rick Relyea began studying the effects of salt-laden runoff at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “the world of science didn’t pay very much attention to the impacts of road salt on water,” he says. “Now we’re paying much more attention.”

  • The scientific swerve: Changing your research focus

    October 10, 2017 -

    Many scientists alter their research focus, at least slightly, over their career, according to studies by Boleslaw Szymanski, a computer science professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Szymanski’s group followed the work of more than 14,000 scientists from 1976 to 2009, using data from American Physical Society journals. The results showed that most researchers tend to stay in their field, but that those who don’t progress along a related path. In describing their findings, Szymanski and colleagues use an analogy inspired by Isaac Newton’s reflection on his own research: They describe a scientific career as a walk along the beach, moving from one interesting shell (in this case a research topic) to another. 

    These findings support a similar analysis that Szymanski’s group performed on data from journals and from U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) grants in computer science. In this field, scientists tend to shift research focus roughly every 10 years. Some make once-in-a-career moves to substantially different areas. The field itself changes with technological advances, Szymanski says, so even researchers who stay in one area at least change methods over time. 

  • Alexa, What's The Future Of AI?

    July 6, 2017 -

    Once upon a time, we dreamed of artificial intelligence in outer space, in a sci-fi future, far from home. Now, we’re talking with computers in our kitchens.  Asking them anything. “Alexa, what’s the Inaugural Oath?” “How big is a blue whale?” “What’s the square root of seven trillion forty two?” Does this ambient, ask-it-anything-anytime AI give us superpowers? Make us great? Make us lazy? And what comes next? This hour On Point,  talking with Alexa, and humans, about the AI future. — Tom Ashbrook

  • The Internet of Things Needs a Code of Ethics

    July 6, 2017 -

    In October, when malware called Mirai took over poorly secured webcams and DVRs, and used them to disrupt internet access across the United States, I wondered who was responsible. Not who actually coded the malware, or who unleashed it on an essential piece of the internet’s infrastructure—instead, I wanted to know if anybody could be held legally responsible. Could the unsecure devices’ manufacturers be liable for the damage their products?

    Right now, in this early stage of connected devices’ slow invasion into our daily lives, there’s no clear answer to that question. That’s because there’s no real legal framework that would hold manufacturers responsible for critical failures that harm others. As is often the case, the technology has developed far faster than policies and regulations.

    But it’s not just the legal system that’s out of touch with the new, connected reality. The Internet of Things, as it’s called, is also lacking a critical ethical framework, argues Francine Berman, a computer-science professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a longtime expert on computer infrastructure. Together with Vint Cerf, an engineer considered one of the fathers of the internet, Berman wrote an article in the journal Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery about the need for an ethical system.

  • One room seeks all the answers at RPI

    June 1, 2017 -

    Imagine being in a room to ask questions of one of the world's most powerful computers. An artificial intelligence containing more information than the largest library, it can recognize you, hear you, see what you are pointing at, and even notice if you might be perplexed or inattentive. It knows all of your earlier work and might even anticipate your questions.

  • The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt

    May 30, 2017 -

    “It has a really widespread number of effects on the whole food web or ecosystem,” says Rick Relyea, a professor of biological sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Relyea has studied how road salt runoff impacts lakes as part of the Jefferson Project at Lake George in New York state. Recently, he found that road salt can reduce the size of rainbow trout hatchlings by about 30 percent, influencing their ability to elude predators and decreasing the number of eggs they lay. One experiment he worked on found that higher levels of salt could change the male-female sex ration of wood frogs.

  • Opinion: Saving Our Heritage

    March 28, 2017 -

    The Trump administration's new budget blueprint proposes the effective elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, write Francine Berman and Cathy N. Davidson. Is that the value we place on our cultural inheritance and its future?

  • Experimental blood test could speed autism diagnosis-U.S. study

    March 16, 2017 -

    Developers of an experimental blood test for autism say it can detect the condition in more than 96 percent of cases and do so across a broad spectrum of patients, potentially allowing for earlier diagnosis, according to a study released on Thursday.

  • Road Salt Alternatives May Harm Environment, Researchers Report

    March 13, 2017 -

    Alternatives to road salt are markete as environmentally-friendly substitutes because they allow highway crews to maintain ice-free roads while applying less salt. But the alternatives and additives may not be without environmental consequences, according to Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project.

  • The Jefferson Papers - Road Salt and Wetlands

    March 13, 2017 -

    The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting ongoing research into how human activities may be affecting the lake. Among its studies: impacts of road salt on wetlands. Here, we summarize recent research published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 

  • Are Lake Species Becoming Salt-Tolerant?

    February 2, 2017 -

    Among  its  many  other products and by-products, the Jefferson Project is teaching scientists more than has ever been known before about the effects of road salt on fresh water ecoystems.

  • Indian Point Closure Won’t Leave New York in the Dark

    January 23, 2017 -

    Martin Byrne, the director of business development at the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said the output for Indian Point will likely be made up from numerous sources, including increased transmission capacity to bring in power from other regions like Hudson Valley and Central New York, and higher building efficiency programs.

  • The Future Called, it Wants its Cloud Back

    January 5, 2017 -

    “Cloud telephony is a new name for something called Voice Over IP, except in a business context,” said James Hendler, director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) and the Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. “It’s been used by consumers for 10 or 15 years,” he said, mostly by people who wanted to make long-distance calls on their computers to avoid phone bill charges.

  • New Boat Helping RPI Survey Lake George's Fish Population

    December 13, 2016 -

    “The food web is a key to water quality,” says RPI professor Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project. And at the top of that web is the  fish  population,  which  shapes the size and the distribution of the organisms that sustain it.

  • Invasion of the Aliens: Body Snatching Worms, Cold Winters May Rout Lakes’ Enemies

    November 30, 2016 -

    Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) in Bolton Landing, N.Y., are studying a worm, named Chaetogaster limnaei, that has a taste for Asian clams. It’s the first species in Lake George known to prey on Asian clams. The work is funded by the LGA and the LGPC.