Here is a look back at highlights from the past year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
For the Rensselaer community, 2019 was a year of significant milestones and celebrations. In addition to being the final year of the 2010s, it marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, an accomplishment made possible by Rensselaer alumnus and former president George M. Low. It was the 40th year of Rensselaer scientists from the Darrin Fresh Water Institute gathering data and monitoring the conditions in Lake George. And it was the 20th anniversary of current president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson’s transformative leadership. Over the past two decades, the Institute has experienced significant progress — and 2019 was no different.
Institute faculty and students discovered and developed innovative solutions to global problems. With the support of a $9 million grant from NASA, the Rensselaer Astrobiology Research and Education (RARE) Center, which seeks to uncover the exact conditions that gave rise to life on Earth, was established. An app developed by Rensselaer students to identify factors that contribute to mortality received national recognition. A dark matter detector calibrated at Rensselaer successfully observed the radioactive decay of xenon-124, the rarest event ever recorded. For the first time, Rensselaer researchers printed living skin, complete with functioning blood vessels. It was announced that a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will support research into a new, scalable approach to capturing carbon dioxide before it leaves coal power plants and enters the atmosphere. One Rensselaer-led experiment was even conducted aboard the International Space Station.
The year brought many new academic opportunities for Rensselaer students. It saw the full implementation of the Arch, which breaks down the barriers of the academic calendar to enhance and accelerate student achievement. The RAVE, or Rensselaer Augmented and Virtual Environment, which offers a space for students to explore augmented and virtual reality technologies, completed its first full year of operation. The Rensselaer Digital Gaming Hub celebrated its first year as a New York State Center of Excellence. And the AI-enabled immersive environment developed by the Mandarin Project was used in a credit-bearing class for the first time.
Throughout 2019, Rensselaer celebrated the people that make this such a vibrant, thriving community. The newly designated Nancy Deloye Fitzroy ’49 and Roland V. Fitzroy Jr. Admissions Building was named in honor of a pioneering alumna. The Rensselaer baseball facility was named in honor of longtime coach Karl Steffen. And Charles Taylor, a groundbreaking alumnus and co-founder of HeartFlow Inc., received the prestigious Davies Medal.
More than 1,900 degrees were awarded during the 213th Commencement Ceremony, which featured remarks from three renowned honorands: the Honorable John P. Holdren, who served as President Obama’s Science Advisor; Dr. Helene D. Gayle, the president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust; and James J. Barba, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Albany Med. Just a few months later, the Class of 2023, the strongest academically of all incoming classes on record, was welcomed to the campus.
Guided by the boundary-defying model of The New Polytechnic, many more achievements and innovations were made at Rensselaer throughout the year. And as a new decade begins, the entire Rensselaer community — students, alumni, alumnae, faculty, administrators, and staff — will continue to ask: Why not change the world?