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Robert Palazzo
Robert Palazzo

Palazzo returns to Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts each summer to conduct research using cells from surf clams. Photo by Jason Grow.



Robert Palazzo grew up in Dearborn, Mich., in the shadow of the Ford Motor Company, once the largest industrial complex in the world. He assumed, like most of his peers, he would work in the factory or study some facet of engineering in college.

“I grew up in an atmosphere of technology and innovation and those were the opportunities. We were motivated by the auto industry,” says Palazzo, who was appointed acting director of the new Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies last spring.

Little did he know that technology and innovation would, instead, take him to the ocean shore at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts where he continues his research collaborations as a world-recognized cell biologist.

Palazzo received his bachelor’s degree in biology and doctorate in biological sciences from Wayne State University in 1979 and 1984, respectively.

Not certain what direction he wanted to pursue when he first entered college, Palazzo was accepted as an undergraduate at Wayne State initially as an undeclared major. There he peered into an electron microscope for the first time and entered the fascinating world of a living cell.

As a doctoral student in the early 1980s, Palazzo was in the midst of a technological revolution. New high-tech light microscopes hooked up to newly available computer-enhanced video allowed biologists to see highly organized subcellular structures in living cells in exquisite detail.

“I saw things myself just as they were being discovered,” he says. “At that point, I stopped thinking about career paths. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.”

In the mid-1980s, Palazzo conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Virginia and Woods Hole, where he turned his attention to the unfertilized eggs of surf clams as a model system to study centrosomes, little-known cellular structures that play a key role in the separation of chromosomes during cell replication. The research could eventually provide insight into how tumors are formed and ultimately lead to new therapeutic cancer drugs.

“Abnormal chromosome separation is one theory of how cancer cells arise,” Palazzo says.

Palazzo became professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas in 1992. He joined Rensselaer as professor and biology chair in August 2002.

As acting director of the biotechnology center, Palazzo takes on expanded responsibilities in executing the university’s overall priority in biotechnology research. He coordinates and develops the center’s research programs and core facilities during a critical phase of the center’s growth.

One major goal, he says, will be to build a new community of researchers — biologists, physicists, chemists, engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians — operating in tandem with a main emphasis on quantitative approaches to the study of life sciences.

Under his leadership as chair of the biology department, Rensselaer has recruited seven biology faculty members in the last two years. Palazzo also has been instrumental in significantly enhancing total research awards from the National Institutes of Health, the primary sponsor of research in the life sciences. The university has grown from $400,000 in total awards three years ago to more than $24 million today, with a projected amount approaching $30 million.

“Rensselaer’s significant investments in biotechnology are beginning to pay off,” Palazzo says. “With excellent new faculty and with a focus on interdisciplinary research, we are well-positioned to make major scientific contributions in the future.”

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Iftekhar Hasan * Iftekhar Hasan, professor of management, has been named acting dean for the Lally School of Management and Technology. Hasan has been a member of the Lally School faculty since 2002. His research focus is on international banking, the economics of stock exchanges, privatizations in emerging markets, and the Initial Public Offering (IPO) process. He has published numerous books and journal articles. Hasan is currently a scientific adviser to the Central Bank of Finland and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
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Michael Shur Michael Shur, the Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts ’48 Chaired Professor in Solid State Electronics, has been named a fellow of the Electrochemical Society. Shur is the director of Rensselaer’s Center for Broadband Data Transport Science and Technology. His research is primarily focused on semiconductor devices and integrated circuits. Shur is considered a pioneer in his work in the application of terahertz in the field of nanotechnology. He was part of a multinational team that created a nanotransistor that generates a terahertz signal. This may lead to a new generation of terahertz devices for use in biotechnology and microelectronics.
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Sharon Anderson-Gold, professor of science and technology studies (STS), has been named chair of the STS department. A Rensselaer faculty member for nearly 25 years, Anderson-Gold specializes in applied ethics and social and political philosophy. She has written two published books. Prior to becoming STS chair, Anderson-Gold served as acting and associate dean of H&SS, chair of the H&SS curriculum committee, and director of the First-Year Studies program, an interdisciplinary faculty-team-taught program for freshmen.
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Kathy High Kathy High, associate professor of video and new media, has been named chair of the Arts Department. Prior to joining Rensselaer’s faculty in 2002, High taught video production at several universities, including Princeton University and Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. For more than 20 years, High has specialized in documentary and experimental videos, which have been shown in festivals, galleries, and museums nationally and abroad. Much of her work has focused on medical ethics and women’s health issues.
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Walé Adeosun Walé Adeosun, chartered financial analyst, has been named treasurer and chief investment officer. In the newly created position, Adeosun will facilitate management of Rensselaer’s assets and liabilities, including managing endowment and pension plan investments and other financial capital assets. Prior to joining Rensselaer, he was managing director, public equities, for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where he was responsible for $1.5 billion in U.S. equities investments and the marketable alternatives program.
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Chan Chung, research professor of materials science and engineering, received the 2004 Society of Plastics Engineers’ International Engineering/Technology Award during the society’s 62nd Annual Technical Conference (ANTEC) in Chicago. Chung is a leading scientist and engineer in extrusion processing technology. He is widely recognized in the area of extrusion screw design, as well as polymer rheology and chemistry.
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David Stern, associate professor of economics, will serve on an advisory group to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America. The commission was formed to advise North American governments on assessing the environmental impacts of trade liberalization. CEC consists of government representatives from Canada, Mexico, and the United States, as well as research organizations and academia, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
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Sunderesh Heragu Sunderesh Heragu, professor of decision sciences and engineering systems, was honored with the Institute of Industrial Engineering (IIE) Fellow Award. IIE Fellow Awards recognize distinguished service and leadership qualities in their field, according to the society. Heragu’s research interests have included the design, analysis, and modeling of intelligent and traditional manufacturing systems.
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Sim Komisar Sim Komisar, clinical associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been selected by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute as a recipient of the 2004 Rudolph Hering Medal by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his paper titled “Integrated Modeling of Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Bioreactor for Deicing Waste Treatment II: Simulation and Experimental Studies,” Journal of Environmental Engineering, February 2003.
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Faye Duchin, professor of economics, was recently installed as president of the International Input-Output Association (IIOA) in Vienna, Austria. Created by Wassily Leontief, who received a Nobel Prize in 1973, input-output economics is an integrated conceptual and data framework for both retrospective analysis and analysis of scenarios about the future.
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Donald Siegel, economics chair, presented “Transformational Leadership and Corporate Social Responsibility,” in a keynote session on corporate social responsibility at the Reputation Institute Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He also was named to an Environmental Protection Agency advisory committee on environmental technology to improve existing programs and to develop the use of innovative environmental technologies to meet environmental goals.
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Neil Rolnick Neil Rolnick, professor of arts, premiered his composition “Ambos Mundos” for woodwind quintet and computer with the Quintet of the Americas at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City on April 21.
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Patricia Search, professor of language, literature, and communication, had an art exhibition at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, where she is a visiting Fulbright scholar. She was honored at a reception that was attended by the vice-chancellor of the University of Technology, and the consul general of the United States.
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Fern Finger, assistant professor of biology, received a Scientist Development grant from the Northeast Affiliate of the American Heart Association. The $198,000, three-year award recognizes Finger’s potential as a research scientist to advance the understanding of heart health. Finger’s work uses nematode worms as a model system for understanding the role of septin family proteins in organ development. Her experiments will explore how septins help form cell-cell junctions, which may be important for heart pumping and for maintaining heart structure during aging.
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