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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Mission :: Research

I am pleased to share with you the 2017 Rensselaer Research Report, which highlights the advances made throughout a growing and vibrant Rensselaer research enterprise driven by our faculty, students (both graduate and undergraduate), and research staff. Our overall research expenditures once again met our core target of $100 million and we have seen research awards climb over 10 percent in FY2016 and into the first third of FY2017. This bodes very well for increased research activity across campus over the next several years.

Our sponsored research expenditures fall largely under our five Signature Research Thrusts: Biotechnology and the Life Sciences; Computational Science and Engineering; Media, Arts, Science, and Technology; Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems; and Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. Emanating from these pillars of the Rensselaer research ecosystem are broad research platforms that have resulted from the nearly $1.25 billion investment by the university since 2001.

This year we launched our newest institute, the Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory (CISL) at EMPAC under the direction of Dr. Hui Su. CISL has begun to link cognitive computing with physically immersive environments that drive multi-individual decision-making in complex situations ranging from a cognitive boardroom to a cognitive classroom. The Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems (cMDIS) under the direction of Dr. Robert Hull has built an extensive faculty membership, currently numbering 90, and this augments an active student and postdoc program. “Research Nucleation Workshops” are defining new areas of research with critical mass at Rensselaer, including workshops being jointly sponsored by major companies. Such interaction with major corporate research institutions will enable preferential access to major equipment not available at Rensselaer. The cMDIS continues the longstanding excellence of nanotechnology at Rensselaer. As part of the inaugural class of NSF-funded Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers in 2001, Rensselaer has continually advanced both fundamental and applied research in directed assembly of nanoscale materials, which links basic principles of physical, biological, and computation sciences to generate new materials and devices that impact human health, energy efficiency, and manufacturing technologies. Within the cMDIS are three Institute-Wide Centers focused on the built environment (Center for Architecture Science and Ecology), advanced renewable energy (Center for Future Energy Systems), and robotics and advanced manufacturing (Center for Automation, Technology, and Systems).

We live in a data-driven, web-enabled, supercomputer-powered, globally interconnected world. This is a world that Rensselaer has helped to create. It is a world in which Rensselaer is uniquely positioned to help humanity use the remarkable technological tools at its disposal to answer the grand challenges surrounding energy, water, food, and national security, human health, climate change, and the allocation of scarce natural resources. Guiding us through these myriad challenges is the Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) under the direction of Dr. James Hendler. Research contracts have been established or expanded with a large number of companies, medical centers, and government agencies. Groundbreaking work on health-care data analytics resulted in a joint NIH grant on child health and development with our partners at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, as well as potential expansion of multi-hospital predictive data analytics. The Jefferson Project at Lake George, led by Dr. Rick Relyea, plays into the heart of IDEA, wherein the first wave of advanced sensors was deployed, enabling data acquisition of the lake’s food web, creating physical models, and conducting a wide range of laboratory and outdoor mesocosm experiments that will elucidate the underlying natural and anthropogenic causes of changes in water quality and ecosystem resilience.

The Rensselaer research enterprise is buoyed by an immense computational platform through the Center for Computational Innovations (CCI) led by Dr. Christopher Carothers. The CCI is powered by IBM BlueGene/Q supercomputers that now provide over 1.2 petaflops (and growing) of computational power that enables high-end modeling and simulation studies to be performed. This predictive and prescriptive analytics infrastructure is further advanced through access to the IBM Watson cognitive computing engine, both in house at CCI (Rensselaer was the first institution that housed a Watson computing system) and in the cloud.

Within the expansive Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) led by Dr. Deepak Vashishth, growth of large-scale translational research has occurred, leading to new tools and knowledge at the biomolecular, cellular, and organismal levels that will ultimately impact the design of new products and processes to benefit society. Indeed, the intersection of life sciences with the physical sciences, computational sciences, and engineering brings together a growing cadre of interdisciplinary biotechnology researchers, supported by the world-class CBIS infrastructure that has led to an increase in federal and industry research funding. From complex biological networks to nanoscale assemblies that mimic biological processes, scientists and engineers in CBIS have elucidated the molecular basis of biological mechanisms and disease, exploited biological systems for the discovery and development of new therapeutics, and developed new cellular niches critical to advance tissue regeneration.

I hope you enjoy the 2017 Rensselaer Research Report, highlighting a number of our exciting discoveries and accomplishments that are helping Rensselaer to change our world for the better.