Global Challenge-Linked Research

Research at Rensselaer's School of Engineering

In 2024 Rensselaer will be celebrating 200th anniversary! Throughout our history, we have been guided by our founders’ vision – “applying science to the common purposes of life” – a vision that defines what engineers do: understand and harness science and mathematics to solve the grand challenges facing the world.

The School of Engineering at Rensselaer, where multidisciplinary collaboration is the norm, embodies the idea of the New Polytechnic.

Grand Challenges

We understand that solving the grand challenges of today requires multidisciplinary approaches that transcend disciplinary and geographical boundaries. Rensselaer's president, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, has captured the essence of this idea in the New Polytechnic – a university as a crossroads for collaborations across disciplines, sectors, and geographical regions, harnessing the power of modern tools and technologies to solve the grand challenges facing the world. The School of Engineering at Rensselaer, where multidisciplinary collaboration is the norm, embodies the idea of the New Polytechnic.

Humanity faces many challenges that include access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy, and water, human health and well being for all, and action to combat climate change and its effects. United NationsNational Academy of Engineering, and the White House, among others have compiled their lists of grand challenges. They call on us “to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path”, to “help create the industries and jobs of the future, to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, and to serve as a 'North Star' for collaboration between the public and private sectors”.

Cutting-edge Research

The faculty, students, and staff in the school of Engineering are helping solve these grand challenges by performing cutting-edge research in five focal areas.

  • Engineering for Life Sciences, RensselaerEngineering for Life Sciences. Our faculty are making major advances at the interface of engineering, biotechnology, and life sciences through research in bio-imaging, synthetic and computational biology, microbiome, stem cells/tissue engineering, neural engineering, bio-processing and bio-manufacturing, metabolic engineering, and predictive medicine.
  • Advanced Materials, RensselaerAdvanced Materials form the basis of new discoveries in life sciences, energy, and all facets of sustainable infrastructure. Faculty in the SoE are developing new polymers, glass/ceramics, two-dimensional materials, carbon and inorganic nanomaterials, biomaterials, and materials under extreme conditions for these applications.
  • Big Data, Computation, and Cognitive and Immersive Systems, RensselaerBig Data, Computation, and Cognitive and Immersive Systems support all field of science and engineering. The SoE faculty are leading this revolution by developing new algorithms in exascale-path computing, uncertainty quantification, biocomputing, multiscale modeling, materials and big data, data analytics and physical modeling.
  • Energy, Sustainability and Resilient Infrastructure, RensselaerEnergy, Sustainability and Resilient Infrastructure. The SoE is leading research in energy harvesting, conversion, and distribution, micro-grid and networks, energy efficient devices and systems, novel propulsion systems, materials for sustainability, and transportation.
  • Systems, Automation and Control, RensselaerSystems, Automation and Control. Our research in this area is focused on resilient infrastructure and transportation, systems biology, distributed communication, sensing and actuation, connected health, human-automation interaction, and advanced manufacturing.

The interdisciplinary nature of research in the SoE has led to creation and sustained growth of six SoE centers, and several institute-wide centers that are lead by the SoE faculty. Within these centers, faculty and researchers from different programs, departments, and schools work collaboratively to achieve their common goals.

Faculty Recognition

Rensselaer School of Engineering faculty are world-renowned for their transformative research and education, and have been recognized for their contributions by election to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and fellows of many prestigious professional societies, including IEEE, AIChE, ASME, AAAS, USACM, and AIMBE. Our junior faculty have won numerous prestigious awards, including NSF Presidential Young Investigator and early CAREER awards, other (DOE, DOD, NIH, AFOSR) young investigator awards, as well as prestigious awards from foundations like the PEW Charitable Trust, Goldhirsh foundation, and Alzheimer’s Association. The SoE and Rensselaer celebrate the latest accomplishments of our faculty at an annual awards celebration.

Graduate students and Research

No research gets done without the hard work of intelligent and curious graduate students! The SoE currently has 546 graduate students in all enrolled in 19 graduate degree programs. Our graduate students include winners of prestigious fellowships including, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, DoE SMART, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) fellowship, and GEM. Rensselaer also offers many internal competitive fellowships, such as the Rensselaer Graduate Fellowship, Presidential Fellowships for multidisciplinary research, and the Howard P. Isermann Fellowships in Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Undergraduate Research

Many SoE undergraduates participate in research experience. Research exposes our undergraduates to complex open-ended problems, state-of-the art, facilities, and the opportunity to interact with world-class faculty. Through research our students meet and network with bright people from all over the world, expanding their academic and cultural horizons. They learn to think critically, analyze data, and communicate their ideas to audiences. Each year we celebrate exceptional undergraduate research at a symposium. The Arch initiative as well as the new externally funded REU programs promise to expand these research opportunities even further. The Biomedical Engineering Department at Rensselaer is leading a prestigious undergraduate research program in the area of Bioengineering and Bio-manufacturing. See more at:

Funding: Research in the School of Engineering is funded by the federal government agencies (NSF, NIH, DOE, DARPA, DoD, NASA, AFOSR, ONR, and other), NY State and local agencies, industry partners, and many private foundations.