[Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science, recently sat down with News Channel 13 reporter Benita Zhan for a report on the safety of personal care products. The topic has been in the news as Congress considers legislation that would authorize Food and Drug Administration oversight of cosmetics, against a backdrop of recent accounts of cosmetic and hair care products with adverse effects. Breneman is a chemist. He earned his doctorate from the University of California at Santa Barbara in chemistry, with an emphasis on physical organic and computational chemistry. His research is in the field of computational chemistry and predictive cheminformatics, with emphasis on computational drug discovery methodology and materials informatics methods. This guest post summarizes the key points Breneman made in his interview, and some of the advice he has for consumers.]

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(The challenge: Create a mechanism that makes it possible for instructors to track students and for student to earn credit for their attendance or participation in activities like theatrical events, concerts, exhibitions, or lectures, regardless of whether they are on or off campus. The answer: “Venue,” an attendance validation app and web platform being developed by the Rensselaer Center for Open Source (RCOS). In this post, Severin Ibarluzea, an RCOS mentor, core Venue developer, and senior in computer systems engineering, discusses the process of building Venue.)

First a word from our sponsor, the Rensselaer School of Science, which is supporting the development of Venue. Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science, came up with the idea, and here’s what he said about his original vision, and how he hopes the Institute will use the platform.

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In this Approach blog post, the news team spoke with Rensselaer Lally School of Management Associate Professor Qiang Wu’13 about the value of experiential learning, development, and community in research and the classroom.

Q: What drew you to becoming an empirical researcher? How has this driven the discovery process in your research and teaching in finance and accounting?

I completed my Ph.D. program at Rensselaer and while doing so, I realized how to understand, examine, and analyze transformations in different fields that affect our lives. I chose to be an empirical researcher as the discovery process is guided by more than just theory alone; rather, it builds a foundation for new insights and awareness through verifiable observation or experience. This process allows me to stretch a given notion about why something may occur, and give it a real-life platform for it to be studied.

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(Sherese Morgan, an enthusiastic undergraduate from Yonkers, NY with interests in the field of environmental science, contributed this guest post on her summer research with the Jefferson Project at Lake George. In her junior year, Sherese started working in the laboratory of Rensselaer professor and Jefferson Project director Rick Relyea. Recently, she was awarded a School of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Program grant. As a recipient of the grant, she will be conducting an independent project to study how humans influence and disturb freshwater ecosystems.)

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(In this post, Robert Linhardt, the Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering at Rensselaer, answers questions about a Perspective he co-authored in the June edition of Nature Biotechnology with a team including Janet Woodcock, the Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation (CEDAR), and Roger Williams, the former head of the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP). The Perspective— titled ”The US regulatory and pharmacopeia response to the global heparin contamination crisis” —discusses how the FDA, the USP, and international stakeholders have responded to a 2007 crisis in which contaminated heparin – a critical anticoagulant obtained from pig intestines – killed several patients in the United States and caused hundreds of adverse reactions worldwide.)

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(The RPI ChemE Car team (pictured above) and Ian Gaudette, a Chemical Engineering student and the interim president of the team, wrote this post about a challenge (and their on-the-fly solution) they ran into at their first showing in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Northeast Regional Conference competition. The competition “engages college students in designing and constructing a car powered by a chemical energy source, that will safely carry a specified load over a given distance and stop,” according to AIChE. The post originally appeared in the RPI ChemE Car team newsletter and has been slightly adapted for the Approach.)

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A 3D printed hierarchical fiber-reinforced soft composite part, using technology developed at Rensselaer. Image credit: Johnson Samuel

(This guest posts is part of a series about research related to the Rensselaer IDEA — the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications — a campus-wide institute dedicated to helping researchers navigate the increasingly data-driven landscape of scientific enquiry. In this post, Bryan Chu, who will earn his doctorate in mechanical engineering in May, explains efforts to create modern reference resources for the emerging field of additive manufacturing.)

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(This is the first in a series of guest posts about research related to the Rensselaer IDEA — the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications — a campus-wide institute dedicated to helping researchers navigate the increasingly data-driven landscape of scientific enquiry. In this post, Lindsay Poirier, a doctoral candidate and research assistant in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, explains her work building a data infrastructure for research in the humanities.)

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(In this guest post, one of a series on monitoring and experimentation in the Jefferson Project at Lake George, Matt Schuler, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of project director Rick Relyea, explains how researchers survey macro-invertebrates in Lake George, their importance in the food web, and how this effort fits into the overall strategy of the project. Schuler took the above image of macro-invertebrates as seen under a microscope.)

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(In this guest post, one of a series on monitoring and experimentation in the Jefferson Project at Lake George, Bill Hintz, a post-doctoral researcher in the laboratory of project director Rick Relyea, explains how researchers survey the fish of Lake George, and how that effort fits into the overall strategy of the project.)

A thorough understanding of the Lake George ecosystem necessarily includes the study of its fish. Fish strongly influence the abundance and distribution of the organisms they eat, such as other fish species, macro-invertebrates, zooplankton, and aquatic plants. In that way, fish directly or indirectly affect most elements of the Lake George ecosystem. Further, fish are also good indicators of the impacts pollution and invasive species have on aquatic ecosystems, which are critical sources of the water we drink, and our food and recreation.

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