Jun 14, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 [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.

Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. The Institute’s long-standing reputation drew students from 42 states and 19 foreign countries in the fall of 2008.

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.

For almost two centuries, Rensselaer has maintained its reputation for providing an undergraduate education of undisputed intellectual rigor based on educational innovation in the laboratory, classroom, and studio.

Driven by talented, dedicated, and forward-thinking faculty, Rensselaer has dramatically expanded the research enterprise by leveraging our existing strengths and focusing on five signature research areas: biotechnology; computation and information technology; experimental media and the arts; energy and the environment; and nanotechnology.

The Institute is especially well-known for its success 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 by President Shirley Ann Jackson, is the blueprint for institutional transformation into a “fully realized technological university.” The goal of offering a world-class educational experience to students includes building a robust research enterprise, creating an environment and community that nurtures, supports, and enables our students to excel in all aspects of their lives.

Rensselaer continues to make significant strides toward the goal of a fully realized university. We continue to recruit talented and diverse students; achieving a record applicant pool. Investments in resident life include new living and learning communities, residence hall rehab, a new residence hall, and an historic investment in athletic facilities. Since 2001 aggressive recruiting of world-class faculty continues, including investments in constellation and new faculty positions. New research platforms include the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Students, the Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), and the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.




Rensselaer students have a well-earned 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 2008–2009 academic year, Rensselaer enrolled 5,357 full-time undergraduates and 1,092 full-time graduate students in residence on the Troy, N.Y., campus, as well as approximately 1,200 in Hartford, Conn.

Self-identified underrepresented minorities account for 10 percent of the undergraduate student body. Twenty-eight percent are women. It is an exceptionally bright and ambitious group: 64 percent of the members of the class of 2012 were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and 92 percent are in the top 25 percent of their class.

Students operate the Rensselaer Union and control its annual budget. They belong to 23 NCAA intercollegiate teams, scores of intramural teams, and 175 clubs. About 39 percent of men are members of fraternities and 18 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 2008 was $58,160, 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. The Institute was ranked as one of the top 25 colleges in the publication’s “Great Schools, Great Prices” category.


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, was 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.





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, Rensselaer’s faculty devote much thought and time to designing dynamic teaching methods, redesigning curricula, and transforming classrooms into interactive learning environments.

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





Rensselaer’s research programs reach across the campus and beyond, linking together 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.

Rensselaer has developed relationships with hundreds of our academic colleagues, national funding institutions, diverse federal laboratories, and more than 200 industrial affiliates all over the country on specialized projects. Rensselaer research awards currently total $70 million.

One of the hallmarks of a Rensselaer education is the opportunity for intellectual partnerships between students and faculty. Particularly attractive are the opportunities open to undergraduate students. During the 2008–2009 school year, hundreds of students participated in the Undergraduate Research Program in which students in all four class years took part in formal research.

Graduate students are involved in myriad projects from the development of “smart” materials and manufacturing processes to exploring 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.

Today, the Incubator program, 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.





Rensselaer’s historic campus sits on a bluff overlooking the city of Troy, N.Y., 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 new 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 at Hartford is housed in its own eight-story building on 15 landscaped acres in downtown Hartford, Conn., readily accessible from both Interstates 84 and 91. A regional site is in southeastern Connecticut.

Rensselaer also operates another regional site in Malta, N.Y.





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 nine years, we have initiated or completed almost $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 top most powerful supercomputers in the world. It will advance semiconductor technology to the nanoscale, it will enable key nanotechnology innovations, and it will support research in the fields of energy, biotechnology and the life sciences, new materials, arts, medicine, cognitive science, computer science, engineering design, computational science and engineering, and more.

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

The new East Campus Athletic Village is a significant part of supporting our students’ overall development and enhancing the student experience. The complex includes a multi-purpose stadium with seating for 5,100 spectators, a basketball arena with seating for 1,200 spectators, 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.

Institute residence facilities house up to 3,300 single students and 93 student families in a variety of living environments. 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.

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.”

Rensselaer’s Incubator Program was founded in 1980, making it one of the oldest U.S. incubators and the first U.S. incubator wholly sponsored and operated by a university. The program has graduated over 200 startup companies and currently houses nearly 20 high-technology startup companies. Approximately two-thirds of participating companies have evolved from research at Rensselaer or have been started by Rensselaer alumni.

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 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), Career Development Center (CDC), cooperative education (co-op), exchange and study abroad programs, Archer Center for Student Leadership Development, Advising and Learning Assistance Center, Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, 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 grand challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, Rensselaer has created the Rensselaer Engineering Education Across Cultural Horizons program, or REACH. The program, one of the first of its kind in the nation, will integrate a semester-long international experience into Rensselaer’s undergraduate engineering curriculum.

The university is embarking on several new initiatives designed to elevate the undergraduate experience to a new level, beginning in the fall of 2009. 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 time-based clustering and residential clusters. 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 common deans, upperclass and graduate student assistants, and individual class-year deans. Within the commons experience, the Institute will develop student leadership opportunities, and will increase 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.

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 on-line student and administrative services. The Institute’s robust computing infrastructure supports new applications in diverse areas of research such as bioinformatics, multi-media, modeling, and simulation.





Rensselaer’s more than 90,000 living alumni 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 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.