Jul 12, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 [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; 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 47 states (and the District of Columbia) and 38 foreign countries in the fall of 2020.

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 campuswide opportunities for leadership, collaboration, and creativity at its campuses in Troy, New York, and in Hartford, Connecticut, 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; media, arts, science, and technology; energy, environment, and smart systems; 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 2024



In 2013 the Institute launched The Rensselaer Plan 2024 to guide the campus through its next phase of growth leading to the university’s bicentennial in 2024. Building on the original Rensselaer Plan, we are moving from transforming Rensselaer to Rensselaer being transformative—in our students’ lives, in our innovative pedagogy, and in the global impact of our research.

The original Rensselaer Plan, launched in 2000 and led by President Shirley Ann Jackson, has been the blueprint for institutional transformation. Under the plan, the Institute has made major investments in people, programs, platforms, and partnerships, and, together, the Institute has brought about a true Renaissance at Rensselaer.

Rensselaer continues 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 Center for Computational Innovations, and the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

These investments have transformed Rensselaer into a top-tier technological research university with global reach and global impact. That transformation serves as a solid foundation on which we will build even greater achievements in the future.

In advancing The Rensselaer Plan 2024, the Institute looks forward to addressing the global challenges that face the world of the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and, indeed, to change the world.




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 2020-2021 academic year, Rensselaer enrolled 6,265 undergraduates and 1,217 graduate students in residence on the Troy campus, as well as 107 working professionals.

Self-identified underrepresented minorities account for fifteen percent of the undergraduate student body and seven percent at the graduate level. Thirty-one percent of undergraduate students are women, and thirty-three percent of graduate students are women. It is an exceptionally bright and ambitious group: 64 percent of the members of the class of 2024 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 ice hockey, compete at the Division I level, while all others compete in Division III), scores of intramural teams, and 200 clubs. 

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 2020 was $70,853 and $79,274 for master’s degree recipients, higher than the national averages.

Rensselaer has been counted among the top 50 universities in the nation for 17 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.

As part of these efforts to adapt and enhance opportunities for unique educational experiences, Rensselaer has introduced a new  program, The Arch. Through the addition of a full summer semester and a junior “away” semester, this program will add flexibility to the undergraduate curriculum and exceptional experiences for student development and growth.

By restructuring the academic calendar, The Arch will offer expanded opportunities for experiential learning to complement curricular and co-curricular offerings at Rensselaer. The new calendar provides for rising juniors to attend a full summer semester between their sophomore and junior years, followed by an “away” semester taken during either the fall or spring of the junior year. This will allow students to take advantage of the numerous curriculum-related and real-world learning activities available off campus, including international travel, internships, co-ops, research opportunities, and engagement in community service projects.

The Arch program is in keeping with Rensselaer’s commitment to the development of The New Polytechnic graduate: a global, multicultural, and self-aware leader; a critical and creative thinker; an exceptional communicator; and an inventive and enterprising problem solver who is prepared to lead in addressing the challenges and opportunities of society.

For more detailed information on The Arch, see the Educational Programs and Resources section of this catalog.



Rensselaer’s nearly 500 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.

The Rensselaer 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. 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.





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 Center for Computational 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.

Notice Regarding Intellectual Property All members of the Rensselaer community, including, but not limited to, graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, staff, administration, visiting scholars and scientists, and guests, are bound by the Rensselaer intellectual property policy. Go to: http://rpitechnology.com/files/ip_policy.pdf. For additional information about intellectual property at Rensselaer, refer to http://www.eship.rpi.edu/intellectual_property.php.





Throughout its 197 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 program, called the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE), focuses on areas of Rensselaer’s signature research strengths and helps startup 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, 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. The Severino Center provides leadership and coordination for student entrepreneurship in numerous ways: The center 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.





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 900,000) 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.

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 Education for Working Professionals programs deliver the excellence of the Institute to students anytime, anywhere, using a digital classroom and a compelling project-based delivery model. Facilitated from its Hartford, Conn. campus, programs are designed to prepare working professionals for the emerging technological challenges of today — and tomorrow. Hartford offers graduate degrees and graduate certificates in areas such as data analytics, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, engineering sciences, machine learning/AI, and lean quality (see the Web site for the growing list of programs, ewp.rpi.edu).

Present in this location since 1955, Hartford has more than 20,000 alumni across the world leading firms in nearly every industry. Courses and programs are built by faculty with significant industry experience and solid academic credentials. Graduates are entrepreneurial and personify the institute’s slogan “Why not change the world?”





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 15 years, we have completed $750 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 Center for Computational Innovations houses one of 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 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 Center for Computational Innovations is propelling Rensselaer to the scientific, engineering, and artistic frontiers of the 21st century.

The East Campus Athletic Village supports Rensselaer 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.

Rensselaer provides accommodations for more than 3,700 students in a variety of living environments. The newest residence facility for undergraduates 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 sophomores, while bringing approximately 300 students downtown to engage in the vibrant community of Troy.

College Suites at City Station is a housing community in Troy built for Rensselaer seniors and graduate students, located within walking distance of campus.

The 1,250-acre Rensselaer Technology Park is home to 77 companies and 2,157 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.”

Rensselaer’s Education for Working Professionals programs are delivered nationally and internationally to employers and working professionals, from a campus in Hartford, CT.  The campus, founded in 1955, delivers programs digitally so that working professionals can fully engage no matter where they are located.  Education for Working Professionals programs include graduate level courses, certificates and degrees as well as non-credit programs specifically designed to meet employer needs.  


Student Resources



The university has embarked on several initiatives designed to elevate the undergraduate experience to a new level. The 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. 

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, Center for Career and Professional Development, 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.

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 nearly 100,000 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 and alumnae, and the Institute. A full range of services are offered, including career assistance, regional and campus events, affinity 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 Polytechnic Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 267-284-5000 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 is an accredited member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, an international accreditation. Eleven of the School of Engineering bachelor’s programs are individually accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), www.abet.org.

Rensselaer Hartford Campus

Rensselaer at Hartford is also accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, by the Office of Higher Education of the State of Connecticut, and by a number of professional and academic societies.

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