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FOCUSON

Kathy High: Bridging the Arts and Sciences
Kathy High

Photo by Mark McCarty

Arts department chair Kathy High was drawn to Rensselaer by the opportunity to connect art with the world beyond it. For more than 20 years she has done just that, through documentaries, experimental videos, sculptures, and multimedia installations shown around the world. High’s work also has put the spotlight on social issues related to women’s health, medical ethics, and advances in science and technology.

“I love teaching art, but for me it’s more fulfilling to teach the discipline at a university where it’s not the only subject students are studying,” says High. “I wanted to teach at a university that had educational focuses stretching far beyond the arts, allowing me to extract pieces of the research, the scientific, the technical world and incorporate them into my art world. The strength of the engineering and science programs really attracted me to Rensselaer.”

Currently High is finalizing the department’s new Ph.D. program in electronic arts. “Everybody’s really ready for it,” she says. “We’d like to admit our first students by fall 2006.”

Also under way is the implementation of an international exchange program. High expects to establish a visual arts student and faculty exchange program with the Hong Kong Arts Center and the City University of Hong Kong, and an electronic music exchange program with the Central Conservatory of Music and Peking University in Beijing.

In the future, High would like to develop a “Living Art Center” at Rensselaer, which would collaborate with the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies on projects bridging the arts and sciences. She envisions the center as a public venue that integrates science and technology into the arts to increase awareness and understanding of biotechnology and other science and technology-based disciplines. Similar centers exist in other countries, but are relatively uncommon in the United States, according to High.

“I see the Living Art Center as a place where people — all people, not just scientists — can feel involved and participate in the advances made in biotechnology,” says High. “Science advances extremely quickly. Art gives people the opportunity to stop and look at both the risks and the rewards of these advances.”

The growing arts department is based in the renovated West Hall, part of the envisioned “arts corridor” along Eighth Street that will include the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) when it opens in 2008.

“I see EMPAC as an invaluable resource for our arts department and for our students,” High says. “I think the international connection that EMPAC will bring to Rensselaer is only going to enhance our students’ educational experience — it’s going to be a great resource for them.”

High is active in the arts scene beyond campus as founder and editor of FELIX: A Journal of Media Arts and Communication, a publication geared toward alternative film and video makers that she started in 1991. The newest volume of FELIX, a print publication and DVD titled Tools: Analogues and Intersections, will focus on the intersections between early video art and new media art practices. A curated festival of “old” and new media works will be held at Rensselaer in the spring of 2007, to celebrate its release.

High credits her fellow professors for the increased prominence of the program. “The faculty — each one of them — brings their unique strengths to our department and to our students,” she says. “They are the foundation of the arts program; I am simply building on top of that foundation.”

Related Link:
FELIX: A Journal of Media Arts and Communication

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MILESTONES

John Wen * John Wen has been appointed new director of the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS). Wen brings extensive experience in robotics to the newly renamed center, which matches Rensselaer research with targeted industrial applications ranging from manufacturing and microsystems assembly to the automation of medical systems. Wen earned a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in 1979, a master’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1981, and a doctorate from Rensselaer in 1985, all in electrical engineering. He joined the Rensselaer faculty in 1988, and was named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2001.
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Christopher Davey, lead environmental specialist, has received the 2005 Pillars of Rensselaer Award, the highest honor Rensselaer gives to a staff member. The Pillars Award is presented annually to a staff member who understands the Institute’s mission and history, has been a role model for other employees, has showed concern for students and their welfare, has added to the human dimension of the school, and who has played an active role in his or her home community.
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Natacha DePaola Natacha DePaola has been appointed chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering. A member of the Rensselaer faculty since 1994, DePaola received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 1996 and is a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society for Cell Biology, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Society for Engineering Education. Her research focuses on the fundamental aspects of fluid mechanics and mass transport involved in the modulation of mammalian cell function.
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Jan Stegemann Jan Stegemann, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was awarded the Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award at the Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting. As part of the award, Stegemann delivered a plenary lecture on current research in his group.
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Peter Collopy ’71 has been appointed director of environmental health and safety. He has more than 30 years of experience in health physics and environmental health and safety in both industry and academe, and is board certified as a health physicist and industrial hygienist. Collopy earned both master’s and bachelor’s degrees in environmental engineering from Rensselaer.
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Michael Shur, the Patricia W. and C. Sheldon Roberts ’48 Chaired Professor in Solid State Electronics at Rensselaer, has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Shur is one of 376 newly elected fellows recognized for their efforts to advance science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished, according to AAAS. Shur is director of Rensselaer’s Center for Broadband Data Transport Science and Technology.
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Michael Tentnowski has been appointed director of the Rensselaer Incubator, one of the first university-based incubators in the country. Tentnowski has had more than a decade of experience in small business and entrepreneurship development in the academic and business arena. Tentnowski received a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and an MBA from the University of Montana, Missoula.
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Gary Saulnier, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering, has received the 2005 Military Communications Conference Technical Achievement Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The award is given in recognition of sustained contributions to military communications.
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G.P. “Bud” Peterson G.P. “Bud” Peterson, provost, has been honored with an international award for his commitment to science education. The Frank J. Malina Astronautics Medal, presented yearly by the International Astronautics Federation, is given to an educator who has demonstrated excellence in promoting the study of astronautics and related space sciences. A fellow of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Peterson has written more than 125 refereed journal articles and holds nine patents.
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Angel Garcia Angel Garcia, senior constellation chaired professor in biocomputation and bioinformatics and professor of physics, will be presented the 2006 Edward A. Bouchet Award by the American Physical Society (APS) at the 2006 APS March Meeting. The award recognizes Garcia’s contributions to the understanding of the role of water in the dynamics and folding of proteins through computer simulations.
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Toh-Ming Lu, the Ray Palmer Baker Distinguished Professor of Physics, was presented the first-ever Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) Faculty Leadership Award at the TECHCON 2005 meeting in Portland, Ore. The award was created by the SRC Board of Directors and seeks to recognize individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in addressing the most important problems facing the semiconductor industry through excellence in the creation and management of large SRC-sponsored multi-university and multidisciplinary collaborative programs. Lu was recognized for his work as past director of Rensselaer’s Center for Advanced Interconnect Science and Technology.
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Stephen Derby Stephen Derby, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering and co-director of the Flexible Manufacturing Center, won the best paper award in the Material Handling Engineering Division at the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition Nov. 5-11. The paper, which was co-authored by Bernhard Bringmann ’02, a former master’s student at Rensselaer, discussed a novel method for stacking mixed case lot pallet loads on top of one another.
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Steven Roecker, professor of earth and environmental sciences, recently received a medal from the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation in recognition of his support in developing international science and technology collaborations. Roecker has served as an adviser to the funding agency on science in central Asia, primarily in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and served on a number of review panels (see "What Lies Beneath").
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Frank Spear, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, has been named the 2007 Dana Medal recipient by the Mineralogical Society of America. The medal is intended to recognize a mid-career individual’s continued outstanding scientific contributions through original research in the mineralogical sciences. Spear’s research is focused on developing new techniques to read the history of the Earth through metamorphic rocks, constructing pressure-temperature-time histories used to interpret tectonic evolution.
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