Apr 12, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2011-2012 
Rensselaer Catalog 2011-2012 [Archived Catalog]

Rensselaer in Brief

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the nation’s oldest technological university. The university offers degrees from five schools: Engineering; Science; Architecture; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; and the Lally School of Management and Technology; as well as an interdisciplinary degree in Information Technology and Web Science.

Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. The Institute’s long-standing reputation drew students from 49 states and 66 foreign countries in the fall of 2010.

Rensselaer offers more than 145 programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Students are encouraged to work in interdisciplinary programs that allow them to combine scholarly work from several departments or schools. The university provides rigorous, engaging, interactive learning environments and campus-wide opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and creativity at its campuses in Troy, N.Y., and in Hartford, Conn., as well as at its Southeastern Connecticut regional site and at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology in New York City.

During the course of almost two centuries, Rensselaer has built a reputation for providing an undergraduate education of undisputed intellectual rigor based on educational innovation in the laboratory, classroom, and studio. In more recent years, driven by talented, dedicated, and forward-thinking faculty, Rensselaer has expanded dramatically its research enterprise by leveraging existing strengths and focusing on five signature research areas: biotechnology and the life sciences; computational science and engineering; experimental media and the arts; energy and the environment; and nanotechnology and advanced materials.

The Institute also has been a leader in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.


The Rensselaer Plan



The Rensselaer Plan, conceived and led by President Shirley Ann Jackson, is the blueprint for institutional transformation into a “fully realized technological university with global reach and global impact.” The goal of offering a world-class educational experience to students includes building a robust research enterprise and creating an environment and community that nurture, support, and enable students to excel in all aspects of their lives.

Rensselaer continues to make significant strides in its transformation as a leader among technological research universities. We continue to recruit a talented and diverse student body, attracting record applicant pools. Investments in residence life include new living and learning communities, residence hall refurbishing, a new residence hall, and a major addition to athletic facilities. Since 2001 aggressive recruiting of leading faculty members has continued, including investments in constellation and new faculty positions. Research platforms developed under The Rensselaer Plan include the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, and the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.





Rensselaer students have a well-deserved reputation as leaders and problem solvers. They truly fulfill the Institute’s vision and promise — to solve problems, to make a difference, and to change the world.

For the 2010–2011 academic year, Rensselaer enrolled 5,348 full-time undergraduates and 1,091 full-time graduate students in residence on the Troy campus, as well as 450 in Hartford.

Self-identified underrepresented minorities account for 9 percent of the undergraduate student body. Twenty-eight percent are women. It is an exceptionally bright and ambitious group: 65 percent of the members of the class of 2014 were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

Students operate the Rensselaer Union and control its annual budget. They belong to 23 NCAA intercollegiate teams (two, men’s and women’s hockey, compete at the Division I level, while all others compete in Division III), scores of intramural teams, and 185 clubs. About 21 percent of men are members of fraternities and 16 percent of women belong to sororities. Students publish a weekly newspaper and operate a 10,000-watt radio station.

Approximately 25 percent of Rensselaer graduates go on to graduate school within a year of graduating. The average starting salary for Rensselaer bachelor’s degree recipients in 2010 was $57,598, and $71,265 for master’s degree recipients, higher than the national averages.

Rensselaer has been counted among the top 50 universities in the nation for nine consecutive years, according to U.S. News & World Report.



Academic Approach and Educational Innovations



Rensselaer is anchored by two vibrant roots:

  •  One root, written into the school’s founding documents, is “…the application of science to the common purposes of life.” This kept the focus on engineering solutions to national and international needs and challenges. Rensselaer graduates constructed the canals, roads, bridges, skyscrapers, and basic infrastructure of America, which helped to form the basis for 20th-century society.
  •  The second root, also built into the school’s origin, is the employment of unique educational strategies. In the earliest days, after initial instruction, students taught what they knew to each other — since teaching reinforces learning. Likewise, students performed scientific experiments — rather than watch faculty conduct them, as had been the common practice.

 Today’s Rensselaer students are well-equipped not only to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors but also to blaze new paths. They are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary studies and conduct research, even as undergraduates. And they have ample opportunities to develop as leaders, problem solvers, and doers—to do their part to fulfill the Institute’s promise and to change the world.

Rensselaer’s approach to education prepares students for leadership and for life. Students benefit from an innovative technological educational experience that extends beyond traditional classroom or campus boundaries. Comprehensive educational and research programs cut across academic disciplines, giving students the opportunity to learn and to grow into world leaders in their chosen fields.




Rensselaer’s more than 450 faculty members are a collaborative community working in an atmosphere of interdisciplinarity. Rensselaer’s faculty members work directly with students — doing basic research, solving problems, teaching, and interacting.

Our faculty includes National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and other eminent professionals.

Rensselaer faculty take pride in their dedication to teaching — demonstrating a commitment to excellence in teaching that always has been a hallmark of Rensselaer’s teacher-scholars. In coordination with the Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, the Rensselaer faculty devotes much thought and time to designing dynamic teaching methods, redesigning curricula, and transforming classrooms into interactive learning environments. Often Rensselaer’s faculty is organized into “constellations” or multidisciplinary teams that include senior faculty and early career faculty as well as graduate and undergraduate students.

Rensselaer has been counted among the 60 “most forward-thinking design schools” in the world, according to Business Week magazine’s 2007 survey of the best design schools around the globe.





Basic science research is fundamental to addressing society’s greatest challenges: sustainability, better health and quality of life, renewable energy, safer infrastructure. At Rensselaer, key areas of emphasis include basic research in fundamental areas of biomedicine, drug discovery and development, regenerative medicine, and functional materials and devices, all of which build upon the fundamental disciplines of biochemistry, cell and developmental biology, biophysics, structural biology, systems biology and computational biology. Rensselaer research programs also reach across the campus and beyond, linking together faculty and students, departments, schools, and interdisciplinary centers, and stimulating the integration of inquiry, new knowledge, and education.

The discovery of new scientific concepts and technologies, especially in emerging interdisciplinary fields, is the lifeblood of Rensselaer’s culture, and a core goal for faculty, staff, and students. Guided by The Rensselaer Plan, Rensselaer has created an extraordinary campus environment, leveraging unique research platforms such as the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations, and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. Rensselaer’s campus environment is extended by a broad set of research collaborations, alliances with the private sector, and partnerships with local, regional, national, and international institutions.

One of the hallmarks of a Rensselaer education is its commitment to intellectual partnerships between students, at all levels, and faculty. Opportunities are open to undergraduate students through the Undergraduate Research Program (in which students in all four class years can take part in formal research), in Rensselaer laboratories, through clubs, and as part of the curriculum. Graduate students are involved in myriad projects, from the development of life-saving treatments, to the design of sustainable built environments, to the exploration of the social and humanistic effects of technology.





For more than 185 years, Rensselaer has exhibited a unique strength in its ability to translate scientific discoveries into practical application, a process which is described as technological entrepreneurship. Historically and consistently, faculty, students, and alumni have developed technologies, created innovations, and formed business ventures to bring ideas into practice to create value.

Building on decades of successful efforts to nurture new businesses and bring ideas from classrooms and labs to the marketplace, Rensselaer recently launched a distributed incubation program to help young businesses grow and succeed.

The new program, called the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE), focuses on areas of Rensselaer’s signature research strengths and helps start-up businesses take root in Troy and the Capital Region.

The Emerging Ventures Ecosystem builds on more than 30 years of the Institute’s previous incubator program, the nation’s first such program wholly sponsored and operated by a university. The new program utilizes an innovative distributed incubation model, maintaining a central office in the Rice Building at 216 River St., Troy, and working with each company to find an ideal matchup of space to enterprise in Troy and the surrounding area.

Today, the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem, Rensselaer Technology Park, and the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship are national models, and the Office of Entrepreneurship provides leadership and coordination for student entrepreneurship in numerous ways: the office works closely with the provost, deans, and faculty to introduce new entrepreneurship courses into the various schools and to enhance existing courses independent of discipline. The program provides cocurricular activities for students, including entrepreneurial speakers in all disciplines, entrepreneurial workshops, a mentoring program, the “Change The World Challenge” student competitions, the Class of ‘51 Entrepreneurship Fund, and an “elevator pitch” competition. In addition, students can earn a Certificate of Achievement in Entrepreneurship and a personal letter of recommendation from the Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship by getting actively involved in the Exemplar Program, a program designed for those students who have a special interest in entrepreneurship.





Rensselaer’s historic main campus sits on a bluff overlooking the city of Troy and the Hudson River. The area offers a relaxed lifestyle with many cultural and recreational opportunities, with easy access to several major metropolitan centers.

Troy is 10 miles northeast of Albany, New York’s capital, and 150 miles north of New York City. The area is centrally located, with easy access to Boston (3 hrs.), Montreal (4 hrs.), and Niagara Falls (5 hrs.). Troy and the Capital Region (population 910,408) are home to many colleges, including Albany Medical College, Russell Sage, Siena, Skidmore, Union, and the University at Albany (SUNY).

The area offers a variety of recreational and social opportunities. The Adirondacks, the Berkshires, and the Catskills, all within an hour of Troy, offer hundreds of areas for camping, hiking, and skiing. Many clubs sponsored by the Rensselaer Union take full advantage of these natural resources.

Arts organizations of every description are also found in the area. The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, considered by many experts to have the finest acoustics in America, is a short walk from campus, as is a downtown arts center. Nearby Saratoga Springs is the summer home to the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Albany’s Times Union Center hosts a wide array of top-name musical groups, sporting events, and other entertainment options.

Rensselaer’s Hartford campus features its own eight-story building on 15 landscaped acres in downtown Hartford, readily accessible from both Interstates 84 and 91. A regional site is in Groton, Connecticut.

The School of Architecture, in collaboration with architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, operates the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, an innovative collaborative in New York City that engages scientists, engineers, and architects from the professional and academic worlds toward a common goal of redefining how to build sustainable cities and environments. The joint effort allows Rensselaer students to be among the new generation of architects, thinkers, and planners developing sustainable and energy-efficient solutions to today’s environmental challenges in the global building sector.





Rensselaer’s 276-acre Troy campus and its off-site facilities support the exploration, discovery, learning, and enrichment of our students and faculty. In the past decade, we have completed $700 million in new construction, renovation of facilities, and technology upgrades for research, teaching, and student life.

The Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies is a 218,000-square-foot facility that contains laboratories for molecular biology, analytical biochemistry, microbiology, imaging, histology, tissue and cell culture, proteomics, and scientific computing and visualization.

The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) is among the most powerful supercomputers in the world. It advances semiconductor technology to the nanoscale, it enables key nanotechnology innovations, and it supports research in the fields of energy, biotechnology and the life sciences, new materials, arts, medicine, cognitive science, computer science, engineering design, and computational science and engineering.

The 220,000-square-foot Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) is a platform for the largely unexplored territory where art, science, and technology come together in ways that empower the creation of entirely new work that cannot be done anywhere else. Its linkage to the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and to the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations is propelling Rensselaer to the scientific, engineering, and artistic frontiers of the 21st century.

The new East Campus Athletic Village supports our students’ overall development and enhances the student experience. The complex includes a multipurpose stadium with seating for 5,200 spectators, a basketball arena with seating for 1,200, upgrades to the Houston Field House, and expanded and updated playing fields. A core component of The Rensselaer Plan, the facilities are designed to meet the needs of current students, more than 75 percent of whom participate in athletic activities on campus.

Indoor and outdoor athletic facilities include the Houston Field House, which is the home of the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s Engineers ice hockey teams. The Mueller Center, a 32,000-square-foot fitness center, houses more than 40 pieces of aerobic exercise equipment.

Institute residence facilities house up to 3,300 single students and 93 student families in a variety of living environments. The newest residence facility is the Howard N. Blitman, P.E. ’50 Residence Commons situated at the bottom of the Rensselaer Approach, the century-old granite staircase that symbolizes the connection between the city of Troy and the Institute. Blitman offers expanded housing options for Rensselaer undergraduates — specifically sophomores, juniors, and seniors — while bringing approximately 300 students downtown to engage in the vibrant community of Troy.

The 1,250-acre Rensselaer Technology Park is home to more than 60 companies and 2,400 employees, representing a wide diversity of technologies including physics, electronics, biotechnology, and software. Park tenants collaborate with faculty and students on research projects, making the site a “living laboratory.”

The mission of the Rensselaer Hartford campus is to anticipate and respond to the needs of individuals and organizations through the implementation of high-quality educational programs for working professionals. In support of this mission, the Rensselaer Hartford campus offers conference, training, and event facilities accommodating up to 100 guests.


Student Resources



The university has embarked on several new initiatives designed to elevate the undergraduate experience to a new level. The new student life model is based on the concept of “Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students” (CLASS). The CLASS initiative is a comprehensive effort built around a time-based clustering and residential commons program. It builds upon our award-winning First-Year Experience with class deans, and extends learning across the spectrum of student residential life at Rensselaer. It is based on clusters of residence halls – or commons – with faculty deans within each of the commons, with live-in commons deans, upper class and graduate student assistants, and individual class-year deans. Within the commons experience, the program incorporates student leadership opportunities and increases interaction with faculty and adult mentors. CLASS also includes plans to build the infrastructure to develop an international student experience, and a student life arts program.

The Rensselaer experience is complemented by resources that extend beyond traditional classroom and campus boundaries. These resources include: research libraries, academic and research computing, mobile computing program, O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory (MDL), Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), cooperative education (co-op), exchange and study abroad programs, Archer Center for Student Leadership Development, Advising and Learning Assistance Center, and the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE).

To better prepare tomorrow’s leaders with the global perspective and multicultural sophistication that will be necessary to tackle the challenges facing the world in the 21st century, Rensselaer has created the Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons program, or REACH. The program, one of the first of its kind in the nation, integrates an international experience into Rensselaer’s undergraduate curriculum.

A leading-edge integrated information environment is integral to teaching, learning, and research. Rensselaer is a leader in the use of computing to support education and research. The Division of the Chief Information Officer provides quality information solutions, bringing world-class services and support to the Rensselaer campus. Programs include the laptop program (requiring all entering freshmen to have a laptop computer for use both in and out of the classroom), support for interactive learning (including WebCT courses), state-of-the-art electronic information-retrieval services by the libraries, and online student and administrative services. The Institute’s robust computing infrastructure supports new applications in diverse areas of research such as bioinformatics, multimedia, modeling, and simulation.


Alumni and Alumnae



Rensselaer’s more than 90,000 living alumni and alumnae are active and influential in all facets of society. They are engineers, physicians, attorneys, architects, writers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. By contributing to scholarships and sharing their expertise with Institute leadership, they significantly enhance campus life.

The Office of Alumni Relations, supported by the Rensselaer Alumni Association, seeks to create and sustain mutually beneficial relationships among current students, alumni/ae, and the Institute. A full range of services are offered, including career assistance, regional and campus events, affiliate group programs, print and Internet communications, and sports programs. Student programs include the Red and White service organization, regional “fairs,” alumni speakers, and mentoring programs.





Rensselaer is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and by a number of professional and academic societies. Undergraduate degree programs in chemistry are certified by the American Chemical Society; professional programs in architecture are accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board. The Lally School of Management and Technology is an accredited member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an international accreditation. All engineering bachelor’s degree programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Board for Engineering and Technology. The exception is engineering science, which is not intended as preparation for professional engineering practice.

Rensselaer at Hartford is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, by the Board of Governors for Higher Education of the State of Connecticut, and by a number of professional and academic societies. Rensselaer’s Hartford Department of the Lally School of Management and Technology is an accredited member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International.

Rensselaer admits qualified students without regard to age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national or ethnic origin, veteran status, marital status, or disability.