Chair: Samuel C. Wait, Jr.
Traditionally, graduate degrees have focused on a single subject such as chemistry, physics, or mathematics. However, current and expected future trends in the working environment show that jobs will increasingly bridge more than one area of specialization. Biochemistry, for example, which is of major importance in today’s society, now spans two or three disciplines. Practitioners must have a thorough knowledge of several areas of chemistry and biology. The same is true of bioinformatics, a new multidisciplinary field that depends on expertise in biology and computational sciences. Information Technology is another example that combines expertise in computing and information systems with knowledge from other areas such as management, human-computer interacting, social sciences, and an application problem domain. See the IT web site (www.it.rpi.edu) for more details. These are just three in a growing number of fields that cross boundaries of specialization. Rensselaer’s M.S. and Ph.D. in Multidisciplinary Science meet the need of graduates who anticipate careers in such occupations.
Rensselaer strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary research programs that bridge disciplines within the School of Science and between the School of Science and the School of Engineering. The George M. Low Center for Industrial Innovation was specifically constructed to house research centers such as the Center for Integrated Electronics, the Center for Composite Materials and Structures, the Center for Automation Technologies, the Center for Multiphase Research, and the Scientific Computation Research Center.
Students within multidisciplinary graduate programs are under the tutelage of faculty from more than one discipline. Their highly knowledgeable faculty will determine which courses the student needs, develop appropriate examinations, and supervise research activities. The Dean of Science appoints the doctoral committee and supervises the student’s overall progress.
Students interested in pursuing such multidisciplinary graduate programs must follow Rensselaer’s standard graduate admission guidelines and must seek approval from faculty representing all disciplines related to their individual programs.
Prior to admission to the program, the student must demonstrate that there has been previous contact with a faculty member at Rensselaer concerning the proposed multidisciplinary research, that financial aid is available and, with the help of the faculty member who is to be the principal research adviser, the student should prepare a preliminary Plan of Study and a preliminary research proposal that clearly indicates why this research is suited for the multidisciplinary program instead of a department program.