Jun 14, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 
Rensselaer Catalog 2008-2009 [Archived Catalog]

Educational Programs and Resources

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For more than 175 years, Rensselaer has offered a unique and innovative technological educational experience. As the Institute’s visionary leaders have long understood, ensuring the excellence of this experience requires learning opportunities that extend beyond traditional classroom or campus boundaries. Rensselaer’s students may choose from a broad range of distinctive advantages designed to fulfill their abundant desire for new challenges.

Especially appealing to Rensselaer’s highly motivated and intellectually talented students are opportunities to engage in leading-edge research. Rensselaer’s relatively small size enables faculty researchers to work closely with students, and they eagerly include both undergraduate and graduate students in their research work. Such opportunities are available to students in virtually every major offered through Rensselaer’s five schools-Engineering, Science, the Lally School of Management and Technology, Architecture, and Humanities and Social Sciences.

Additional special opportunities include a variety of domestic and overseas student exchange programs, internships, and real-world work experience through the Cooperative Education Program. Conversely, the Vollmer W. Fries and other lecture series bring leading industrialists, governmental officials, authors, and outside educator-scholars to the Troy campus.

Recognizing the benefits of such beyond-the-classroom educational opportunities, leading industries and graduate and professional schools throughout the nation actively seek Rensselaer graduates.

Undergraduate Programs


Vice Provost and Dean: Prabhat Hajela

Undergraduate programs leading to the Bachelor of Science degree are available in more than 30 fields listed on the inside of the front cover of this catalog. All B.S. programs are normally completed in four academic years. Dual majors are also an option that generally can be completed within four academic years. For information on general degree requirements, refer to the Academic Information section of this catalog. The individual school sections provide detailed information on the specific curricula that each offers.

The Schools of Architecture and Engineering also offer professionally accredited degrees. These are the five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree program and the four-year Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree program. See the School of Architecture and School of Engineering catalog sections for more detailed information.

Additional special options available to undergraduates are described on the next page.

Undergraduate Research Program

As a globally active research university committed to providing student research opportunities, Rensselaer offers undergraduates the opportunity to participate in research projects through the Undergraduate Research Program. This program offers students real-world, hands-on research experience. Students work directly with a faculty member on a bona fide research project for which they can earn either pay or course credit. There is a special summer program as well, in which the students can compete for funding that will allow them to spend a full summer working on a research project. Details on the program and titles of past projects are available at http://www.rpi.edu/dept/urp/ or in the Office of Undergraduate Education, Walker Lab, Room 4010.

Exchange and Study-Abroad Programs

Studying abroad can broaden students’ cultural horizons and offer a new and extended perspective on a technological education. Rensselaer, therefore, offers a wide variety of exchange and/or study-abroad programs to undergraduate students.

Most exchange programs are intended for students in their junior year. Students apply to participate in these programs during the second semester of their sophomore year. Serious consideration for these programs generally requires that students achieve and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Study-abroad programs with a number of established colleges and universities throughout Europe, as well as with a limited number of Asian and Australian institutions, are available. Participation in these programs is usually for one year. However, some one-semester arrangements are possible. Some programs give priority to specific majors, and some institutions require foreign language proficiency. Detailed information on study-abroad or exchange programs that individual Rensselaer schools administer can be found within the catalog section devoted to the associated school or on the study abroad section of the Office of Undergraduate Education’s website: http://www.rpi.edu/dept/ugrad/.

A comprehensive list of Rensselaer study-abroad and exchange programs and the associated contact person is provided below. Regardless of which undergraduate Rensselaer Program is being considered or if studying abroad is being considered through another university, the student should first contact Bob Conway in the Office of Undergraduate Education.

  • Undergraduate International Exchange Program
    Robert Conway, (518) 276-6822, conwar@rpi.edu
  • International Management Exchange Program
    Beth Macey, (518) 276-2388, maceyb2@rpi.edu
  • Architecture Exchange Program
    Christine Dickson, (518) 276-6457, dicksc@rpi.edu
  • Global Engineering Education Exchange (Global EEE) Program
    Lester Gerhardt, (518) 276-6203, gerhal@rpi.edu
  • Swiss Exchange Program
    William A. Wallace, (518) 276-6854, wallaw@rpi.edu
  • French Exchange Program
    Lucien Gerber, (518) 276-8125, gerbel@rpi.edu
  • International Scholars Program (for graduate students only)
    Donald Pendagast, (860) 548-2447

PreHealth Programs

Rensselaer successfully prepares students to enter medical and other health professional schools. These students major in such fields as biology, chemistry, biomedical engineering and other engineering programs, mathematics, physics, or psychology. Students from any major may apply to any health professional schools as long as they meet basic prerequisites. With their adviser, these students develop a plan of study that allows them to fulfill professional school prerequisites while earning their B.S. degree. For further information, students should refer to the Prehealth web site: http://biology.rpi.edu/update.do?artcenterkey=86. Additionally, students can contact the Advising & Learning Assistance Center (ALAC) located in 2106 Sage, (518) 276-6269 to meet with members of the PreHealth Professions Committee.

Accelerated programs that permit students to complete undergraduate and professional studies within an abbreviated period of time are also available. For detailed information, see the School of Science section of this catalog.

Pre-Law Programs

The baccalaureate program in a number of fields will prepare Rensselaer students to enter law school. Rensselaer graduates who obtain law degrees are equipped to enter general practice or to serve in important legal positions in business, industry, or government. In cooperation with Albany Law School and Columbia University Law School, Rensselaer has also developed accelerated programs that permit students to earn law degrees within six years. After a three-year accelerated undergraduate program, the student enters law school. Upon completion of the fourth year, the student receives the B.S. degree. The J.D. is awarded at the end of the sixth year. See the Science and Technology Studies program within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences section and the Lally School of Management and Technology section of this catalog for further information.

Public Service Internship Program

The Public Service Internship (PSI) is an upper level course that matches student’s skills with community needs. Interning throughout Troy and the Capital region, students work for 80 hours at non-profit organizations and government agencies. The aim of the course is to help students learn how to participate as active citizens in their own communities. By putting technical skills to work in the real world, students gain tangible hands-on experience. Community organizations, in turn, get motivated and highly skilled workers to accomplish goals that might not otherwise be met. Together, both groups benefit through sustainable change. For more information please see http://www.sts.rpi.edu/index.php?pageid=308&siteid=20&cn=STSS-4800.

First-Year Courses

Rensselaer offers special courses or course sections in first-year subjects designed to accommodate the diverse backgrounds and preparations of entering first-year students. These include special course sections for advance placement students and for students who require extra help.

Reserve Officer Training Corps

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs are available on an elective basis for students desiring commissions as officers in the armed forces. ROTC programs are undertaken concurrently with baccalaureate degree studies.

Graduate Programs


Office of Graduate Education

Vice Provost and Dean: Lester A. Gerhardt

The Office of Graduate Education at Rensselaer provides current graduate students with the administrative, academic, and curricular information they need to progress through their courses and programs. This includes assisting in changes to student degree status and advising on thesis, registration, and graduation issues, and providing approvals and processing for withdrawals, academic dismissals, and leaves of absence. The office closely monitors the effectiveness of graduate education policies and recommends and institutes adjustments to improve program quality. Online information and forms can be located at the Office of Graduate Education homepage at http://www.rpi.edu/dept/grad/gradschool.html.

All doctoral programs and many master’s programs involve students in research activities that generally are supported by government, industry, or foundations. Faculty members serve as senior investigators for a wide range of challenging research projects and are assisted by postdoctoral investigators and graduate students. Research opportunities for graduate students are also an important part of many Rensselaer research centers. These centers include the Scientific Computation Research Center (SCOREC), the Center for Integrated Electronics (CIE), the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis, the New York State Center for Automation Technologies, the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, and the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship. Additional information about these centers can be found in the Research Resources and Centers and several other sections of this catalog.

In addition to graduate students working full-time at the Troy campus, more than 2,000 working professionals seek degrees on a part-time basis through Rensselaer at Hartford and distributed sites.

Education for Working Professionals


Vice President and Dean, Rensselaer at Hartford: John A. Minasian

Education for Working Professionals (EWP) is one of Rensselaer’s four core enterprises and encompasses a range of programs designed specifically for current and future workforce leaders with a range of high-end, customized degree, certificate, and professional development programs. Program content flows from the heart of Rensselaer’s research strengths and unique academic programs. Rensselaer supports this vision by forging strategic partnerships with businesses, governments, universities, and innovative professionals who impact society and technology around the nation and the world.

Rensselaer is dedicated to providing an interactive learning environment for students who are seeking high-level knowledge while they hone their analytical capabilities and leadership skills and enhance their innovative thinking. Rensselaer graduates who are executives, senior professionals, managers, and individuals with high potential become architects of their futures. With dramatic increases in the rate of change, working professionals expect and demand an academic environment that fits the evolving needs of their fast-paced world, and Rensselaer responds to this need through the EWP enterprise.

Troy Campus

Rensselaer invites working professionals to the Troy campus to enroll in degree and certificate programs while remaining fully employed. Programs for working professionals are available from all five of Rensselaer’s schools and are delivered in evening and weekend formats. Specific programs available include: Applied Science (Bioinformatics, Computational Science, Polymer Science); Architectural Science (Architectural Acoustics and Lighting); Civil Engineering; Communication and Rhetoric; Computer and Systems Engineering; Ecological Economics, Values and Policy; Electric Power Engineering; Electrical Engineering, Engineering Science; Environmental Engineering; Human-Computer Interaction; Industrial and Management Engineering; Information Technology; Management; Mechanical Engineering; Nuclear Engineering; and Technical Communication.

Rensselaer Hartford Campus

Rensselaer Hartford campus provides a challenging educational environment and a dynamic learning experience for students who need to balance their professional, academic, and personal lives. More than 1200 students attend classes at Rensselaer’s Hartford campus and southeastern Connecticut regional site.

Rensselaer Hartford offers graduate programs in Management, Computer and Systems Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Science, Information Technology, and Mechanical Engineering. Specialized programs include Dual Master’s Degrees, the Weekend MBA, the Elite Master’s Program, and the International Scholars Programs as well as several graduate certificates in Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering. Courses are delivered by faculty with significant industry experience, solid academic credentials and scholarship, and exceptional teaching skills whose expertise is grounded in sound research and best practices on a global basis. Each course is designed to meet the needs of working professionals seeking to advance their careers and enhance their organizations’ successes. Rensselaer graduates are entrepreneurial and personify the Institute’s slogan, “Why not change the world?”

Regional Site in Southeastern Connecticut

Rensselaer operates a regional site in southeastern Connecticut. Many faculty from Rensselaer’s Hartford campus travel to the southeastern Connecticut site to teach courses. Students at Rensselaer’s Southeastern Connecticut site participate in a cohort-based learning program to complete their degrees.

Rensselaer Centers for Professional Development (RCPD)

Lifelong learning is essential to continued professional growth. The Rensselaer Centers for Professional Development support this pursuit by providing a series of training programs, ranging from one day to eight months. Each program is designed to incorporate the research conducted at Rensselaer and build upon the teaching strengths of the institution. Many programs also bring in corporate executives and industry experts to add additional value to the program.

Currently, RCPD is offering programs and conferences focused on the future of the American hospital, healthcare management, pressing issues in business today, and developing a corporate platform for breakthrough innovation. Additional programs and conferences are under development for emerging financial analysis technologies, energy and environmental concerns, and digital art and media.

Rensselaer is also part of the internationally acclaimed network of the Center for Creative Leadership offering some of the finest, most effective leadership and executive development courses available.

In addition to programs offered to the general public, the Centers also offer services to companies and organizations for dedicated training and development. This includes organizational needs assessment, development of custom content to meet those needs, and consistent delivery of this content across multiple times and locations.

Professional Engineering

Professional Engineering seminar topics and preparatory programs for the Professional Engineering Exams are provided in our Engineering course schedules and Web site. The exam review courses for Part I (EIT)/ II (PE) and Land Surveyor are held evenings for 10 to 12 weeks prior to the April and October state exams. The Rensselaer Hartford campus works closely with the State of Connecticut to provide testing schedule information as well as application requirements.

  • Fundamentals of Engineering (EIT) Review Course
  • Professional Engineering Review Courses (Mechanical, Electrical, and Civil)
  • Land Surveyor Review Course

Division of the Chief Information Officer


Vice President for Information Services Technology and Chief Information Officer: John E. Kolb

The Division of the Chief Information Officer (DotCIO) provides information strategies, services, and technology and collaborates with Rensselaer’s diverse campus constituents to find solutions for changing educational research, communication, and business needs. DotCIO responds to the rapid evolution of distributed computing and the need for combining computing and communications services and supports Rensselaer’s nationally recognized interactive learning initiatives.

Campus computing facilities offer students a variety of software including programming language compilers, desktop publishing packages, spreadsheets, and computer-aided design packages, as well as electronic mail and conferencing.

Of the Division of the Chief Information Officer’s seven departments, students interact most closely with Academic and Research Computing and Research Libraries. Therefore, these two departments are described below.

Academic and Research Computing

Acting Director: Mark Miller

Web site: http://www.rpi.edu/computing
Academic and Research Computing (ARC) provides educational computing services and assistance in support of Rensselaer’s learning and research activities. Computing is integrated into the curriculum and is an essential component of course work and communication.

ARC consists of five groups: Consulting and Research Computing, Help Desk Services, Educational Technology Services, the Campus Computer Store, and Rensselaer Computer Repair. Some of the department’s responsibilities include: administering the Mobile Computing Program, software licensing services, and the numerically intensive computing service providing consulting for researchers; maintaining the registrar-scheduled computer classrooms; and deploying software for all public computing sites. Professional staff members assist students, faculty members, and other computer users by providing specialized consulting, Rensselaer-specific documentation, and training through online short courses. At the Help Desk in the Voorhees Computing Center (VCC), consulting help is available from the ARC staff and services can be requested from any DotCIO department.

All undergraduates are required to have a laptop computer. Through the Mobile Computing Program (http://www.rpi.edu/laptops), we offer students a powerful laptop loaded with software at an excellent price, along with on-campus support for both hardware and software. There are network ports in public buildings across campus and in every residence hall room. The wireless network is expanding and includes large portions of core campus buildings and residence halls and is continually expanding.

Each student receives a Rensselaer Computing System (RCS) account that allows access to the campus network, the Internet, RPInfo (Rensselaer’s Web site), electronic mail, the Learning Management Systems (RPILMS) and library services.

Campus computing facilities offer students several platforms including PCs running Windows and Linux connected to the network in public labs and classrooms. Some of the larger public computing areas are located in the Voorhees Computing Center (VCC, open 24 hours a day), Troy Building, Folsom Library, and Russell Sage Laboratory. There are also many laptop classrooms across campus that have a network port and power at each seat.

From a single workstation, personal computer, or laptop, a student can connect to Division of the Chief Information Officer host computers on campus as well as to off-campus host computers, data services, and networks. A variety of software is available including numeric and symbolic computation programs (Maple and MATLAB), programming language compilers (C, C++, and Fortran), desktop publishing packages and spreadsheet software (Microsoft), computer-aided design packages (NX is now the more popular CAD package), graphics packages, and electronic mail programs. Specialized software for course work is also installed where utilized.

For high performance computing (long-running, numerically intensive jobs), a Batch Cluster and several UNIX workstations are available. In addition, a cluster of high-performance Linux workstations can run programs that employ parallel processing.

The Rensselaer Research Libraries
Acting Director: Bob Mayo

The Rensselaer Research Libraries, comprised of the Folsom Library and the Architecture Library (located in the Greene Building), provide the university community with information resources and services in support of both teaching and research missions. Researchers can access over 385,000 print book titles, 45,000 electronic and print journals, over 20,000 electronic books, and view several extensive image databases. Collaboration with the Cole Library (Rensselaer at Hartford) further enhances library support on both campuses.

When researchers need material not held by one of the Research Libraries, they can initiate online interlibrary loan requests or use the Connect NY service to borrow books directly, and receive rapid delivery, from a statewide consortia holding over 5,000,000 titles. They may also borrow books in person from more than 50 regional libraries.

Reference & Instructional Services’ librarians with subject expertise are available to assist students and researchers personally and also provide specialized classes and workshops on such topics as “Research in a Digital Library,” “Biotechnology Resources,” and “Patent Searching.”

RensSearch, the Rensselaer Research Libraries’ information gateway at http://library.rpi.edu, provides a variety of services including an online catalog, access to electronic resources, guides to services, and the latest library news. The Libraries’ Archives web pages provide a digitized history of the Institute.

Notwithstanding the emphasis on digital resources, the Rensselaer Research Libraries continue to be an important “place” on campus for intellectual and social nourishment. Transponders are installed throughout Folsom Library to provide wireless network access.

Patrons may socialize and have lunch in Folsom’s Library Café, peruse the latest best-selling fiction and non-fiction books in Folsom’s Class of ‘96 Reading Room, browse music CDs or film DVDs, or just relax in the Architecture Library’s bright and airy reading room. Small group meeting rooms can be reserved for collaborative work and group study. Seminar and conference rooms are available to Student Union recognized groups. The Friends of the Folsom Library sponsor monthly “Lunch & Learn” topics in a casual setting. Folsom’s 4th floor provides breathtaking views of New York’s Capital District and the Hudson Valley. A unique stainless steel water sculpture, designed by Charles Moore, rises from Folsom Library’s third floor up through the fourth floor, creating a soothing ambience for study.

Advising and Learning Assistance Center


Director: Michael Hanna

The Advising & Learning Assistance Center provides support and training for students, faculty, and staff to promote personal and academic growth through education, academic intervention, advising, and mentoring, in collaboration with other members and offices in the Rensselaer community. Functions such as academic counseling, drop-in peer tutoring, and supplemental instruction are coordinated by our staff. The Center trains and monitors undergraduate learning assistants and graduate teaching and learning assistants. Additional responsibilities include advising for and administration of the PreHealth Professions Committee and teaching of English as a Second Language. The Center provides essential support for the Early Warning System and for the Student Adviser Meeting activities.

Members of the professional staff are available to consult with students individually or in groups where they discuss such topics as academic performance, exam anxieties, stress management, time management, note taking, and general improvement of learning skills. The staff also works with students previously diagnosed with learning disabilities to improve their coping skills in a college environment. Drop-in tutoring is available to all registered undergraduate students at Rensselaer. It is a way for students to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in learning a specific course.

The Center provides information and makes referrals, interprets, administers, and makes exceptions to Institute policies and procedures; serves as a support service for students experiencing academic difficulty; and processes all academic standing issues regarding academic awards, dismissals, suspensions, and probation. Additionally, the Center is a resource for departments to help train faculty and professional staff in academic advising.

Through its Pre-Health Professions Committee, students are guided through the development of their application portfolio for medical, dental, and other graduate health professional schools. The Committee advises students and provides professional letters of recommendation as well as specific application advice.

The Center also takes part in a strong collaboration effort with other support services on campus - the Office of the First-Year Experience, the Dean of Students Office, the Counseling Center, the Career Development Center, and the Office of Graduate Education - to help assure that positive, helpful, and exciting connections are made early and throughout the student’s experience at Rensselaer.

The Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education


Director: Bradford C. Lister

Since its inception in 1990, the Anderson Center has served as an incubator for curriculum reform and a driving force for change and innovation in higher education. In brief, the Center’s mission has been to develop, research, and support new teaching methods and technologies with the aim of improving education, both on and off campus. The Center is dedicated to extending Rensselaer’s leadership position as one of the premiere learning environments in higher education. It supports faculty involvement in educational computing, develops new techniques and facilities for interactive learning, and conducts research on cognition, learning, and the assessment of learning outcomes. Current projects encompass research on student learning styles, interaction and peer-based learning in student teams, constructivist approaches to teaching complex systems, and the use of asynchronous learning networks for on-campus instruction.

The Anderson Center facilitates faculty involvement in the renewal of undergraduate education through a series of hands-on workshops on interactive learning and an annual Colloquium on Teaching and Learning. Center staff are available for consulting on all aspects of studio teaching and educational technology. Externally, the Center hosts visitors each year from all over the world who come to Rensselaer to learn about our teaching practices. In addition to the director, associate director, and administrative assistant, the Anderson Center employs Web developers, assessment specialists, video production personnel, and a cadre of undergraduate and graduate research assistants. Center staff have expertise in experimental design, statistical analysis, course redesign, protocol analysis, assessment of learning styles, instructional design, and Web-based multimedia development.

Institute Diversity


Vice-Provost for Institute Diversity: Kenneth Durgans

The Office of Institute Diversity serves as a campuswide advocate, liaison, consultant, and clearinghouse to enhance campus synergy among faculty, students, and staff. Part of its mission is to provide leadership and direction in creating a “seamless” diversity perspective that capitalizes on the creativity and richness of Rensselaer constituents. It is proactive in its efforts to align campus diversity initiatives with the vision and mission of the university, thereby fostering the growth of a community that embraces intellectual, geographic, ethnic, and gender diversity. Institute Diversity is located on the fourth floor of the Walker Laboratory.

Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education


The Center for Initiatives in Pre-college Education (CIPCE) seeks to leverage Rensselaer’s strengths in interactive pedagogies and technologies by developing technology and scientifically based activities which are implemented in after school workshops and summer experiences for pre-college teachers and students. With one of Rensselaer’s stated objective being to “seek a diverse body of students, especially groups underrepresented in science and technology”, CIPCE’s programs all have as their ultimate aim to fill the pre-college pipeline, while at the same time developing deep and lasting partnership with school districts. CIPCE believes that Rensselaer must include as part of its mission to prepare more young men and women for challenging careers as part of the future STEM workforce. However, it is not enough to wait for students to apply for admission before inviting them to campus. Rensselaer must reach into K-12 schools to identify, motivate, and educate those with a talent and drive to excel and lead, while paying special attention to the one-half to two-thirds of the population represented by women and minorities. Members of the Rensselaer community must mentor and encourage young people to engage in the study of mathematics and the sciences. Additionally, with the recognition that Rensselaer undergraduates are often our best recruiters, CIPCE’s programs use undergraduate students as facilitators. Its activities include:

  • Professional development activities for teachers including on-site classroom support; after school workshops; and summer institutes.
  • The use of online and other distance learning technologies to facilitate its professional development activities.
  • The development of instructional materials for classroom use.
  • The development and implementation of after school LEGO, VEX and other robotics and interactive technology experiences for K-12 students.
  • The development and implementation of summer Robotics Engineering Academies for K-12 students.
  • Cognitive research focused on how technology affects student learning.
  • A graduate M.S. in Natural Sciences program over three consecutive summers for secondary school mathematics and science teachers.

M.S. in Natural Science

The challenges presenting themselves today in the realm of mathematics and science education are vast and complex. Never in our time has education in these areas been more vital and important. Never has it been more difficult to teach. Students in these times present much greater demands, and also potential, than their predecessors.

Getting young people excited about mathematics and science is a task that has added to the challenge of teachers. And yet, if a teacher can learn to inspire observant inquiry by infusing the curriculum with the kind of immediacy and relevance that makes it compelling to students, the job itself will be much more fulfilling for the educator as well.

Excellent teaching of mathematics and science occurs when the teacher has a broad-based, in-depth view of content, knowledge of how to integrate it with other disciplines, and the ability to use modern instructional technologies to vitalize classroom activities.

Rensselaer’s program provides teachers with an opportunity to upgrade their qualifications and examine how their curricula can make the best use of advancing technologies. Our goal is to help secondary school science and mathematics teachers enhance their skills with new techniques, tools, and a rich body of scientific and mathematics content.