Rensselaer: Why Not Change the World?

Uploaded by rpirensselaer on 18.05.2010

I think the changes at Rensselaer reflect its history.
We want our students to be able to look at, to define, to solve,
complex problems.
I got to hear Dr. Jackson talk about RPI.
One of the things she said that really stuck out in my mind was that it was small enough to be yourself here.
I told people
some of the things I was doing. They were amazed.
I think future for Rensselaer is
really limitless.
They said, "They let you do that?"
And I said, "Yes they do!"
one of the things that I like about RPI is the interdisciplinary research.
Low barriers actually make people interact well,
and make people think in different directions.
(ambient lab sounds)
We've done
many different things, things that I wouldn't have imagined.
The constellations are groupings of faculty who research in specific areas.
It's hiring the best in particular disciplines and looking for complimentary disciplines,
and then building critical mass.
I work with people who are political scientists,
chemists, and biologists.
We're fortunate to team up with some engineers who work in energy
areas to actually make a battery out of paper.
We have developed a new type of material
with very low reflective index, and so that type of material has not existed before.
It was a joint effort between different departments.
Most discoveries are on the border between disciplines.
(ambient lab noises)
It's really fun to do.
This do whole idea of innovation in the twenty-first century is not going to come from
just a bunch of smart people
working in isolation.
It's to bring together
people who're very smart, very motivated, very focused.
Trying to solve the big problems.
And create this cauldron
And they put things together that have never been put together before,
in unique and facile ways to unlock hidden value.
And out of it we don't know
what will come, but we know it will be important.
I often go through the alumni Hall of Fame where they have these pictures of very, very,
distinguished alumni.
And it is amazing to see what people have done.
You're going to see people coming out of Rensselaer creating
whole new fields that didn't exist before.
We are making the breakthroughs today that are going to shape what the world is tomorrow.
Rensselaer graduates have been changing in the world since 1824, and I think they'll be
doing it for another
two hundred years in the future.
Talk about something that's life changing
it's not about changing the world for changing the the world's sake.
This is about, you see something that's wrong or
needs to be fixed.
Global warming,
Energy problems. And so you step in and then you do it.
All that can be solved through chemistry
and I want to be some sort of part of that.
Students here certainly are different from any I've ever encountered.
Yeah I can change the world, sure. I've already changed it a little bit
Amos Eaton was the first Head of school
and he helped to found Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Interactive education,
deep inquiry, the ability to then present
what one has learned -
all of these things were part of
Amos Eaton's original idea.
And what I see us doing
is bringing about a renaissance at Rensselaer.
When Shirley Ann Jackson became President of Rensselaer
she already had in mind
some of the things that were the nascent,
parts of what would become the Rensselaer Plan.
The Rensselaer Plan
is our strategic blueprint for the twenty-first century.
We have spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars
in expanding, improving,
We have built a magnificent facility
to support biotechnology and the
life sciences -
the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Of course we have a focus on athletics.
We're building just an incredible facility up at the East Campus Athletic Village.
CCNI is the computational center for nanotechnology innovations.
Since we have, now, the twelfth most powerful super computer center
in the world.
So if you look at the computational capability, it is tremendous .
But it, in and of itself, doesn't mean anything.
Equally important is the talent and the skill and the capability of both the faculty and the students
who are able to take advantage of all that computational power.
I do computational physics. So this is really of some kind of infrastructure
that is very rare.
Rensselaer has proven to have a vision, and has articulated that vision.
We want our students
to have a greater degree of multicultural sophistication. We have people that come from different countries.
Just walk into campus, you can hear Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
We're becoming more global by asking our students to do studies abroad.
To understand what they do, and its linkage to larger global issues.
A lot of people interested in our background, or where we come, it's made me
put my own engineering program into perspective, and made me reflect about what are the good things
and what are the bad things, what I'm doing at home.
It prepares them for exactly the kind of activities they're going to be faced with in their career.
I thought that, you know, if you are engineer
then you want to be precise. But when you are a scientist, then you want to be imagining.
Rensselaer is one big creative bubble.
And the energy is there. Everywhere. It doesn't matter what department you are in.
It's doing, combined with
and understanding.
(ambient lecture sounds)
These people are fostering a creative energy, and you feel that when you're here. Everybody is excited.
The vision of the Experimental Performing Arts Center, EMPAC, came about in 2000
A world-class, classical and contemporary performing arts platform.
It's an incredibly exciting for Rensselaer to take.
But it is also, a research platform.
You can see EMPAC as a huge new instrument which was never built before.
We know a lot about how to play this instrument, but, maybe the tunes we play with this instrument
are going to change over time.
It provides us with possibilities, that are unforeseeable.
If someone were to invent a pair of glasses
here at Rensselaer that
can allow you to see that creative spark, it would be blinding.
Entrepreneurship is the primary source for most of the innovations that occurs.
Risk taking, seeing the value propositions.
Instead of just sitting and listening and thinking, "Oh yeah, I understand that."
You really get to try it out and make mistakes and learn from them.
Thinking about how one takes what one discovers
or innovates
and takes it out into the world.
I have a startup company, in the Rensselaer Business Incubator. It's called Ecovative Design.
It's a green start-up company, and we're
commercializing packaging materials. We're producing
a low-cost, biodegradable replacement for styrofoam.
It has direct application within the construction as well as the packaging industries.
When I first told my professor, in Inventor's Studio
He had a really fantastic reaction.
Whoever heard of that? Growing materials.
I'm looking more at the marketing and business aspect of design.
It gives you a better feeling of, this is real. This is really happening.
I make video games for a living.
Today we have more than 160 full-time employees.
And we also made a little game this past year called Guitar Hero.
Which has
done extremely well.
At Rensselaer I've found that
everything is more in my reach than I actually thought it was.
The direction that RPI has taken
is really very exciting.
I've seen more changes in the past four years at Rensselaer
and I saw in my prior university in 21 years.
We have wonderful opportunities here.
To drive expansion and development of industry.
It is a reality. We can change the world.
Bringing them to this special place, this unique place,
allows really amazing things to happen.
It is energizing in a way that I hadn't seen before.
And I love it.
And it's a beautiful place.