Eric Ameres and Gordon Clement (center of shot) working with the Campfire

When we need to consider information as a group, most of us turn to a computer projector and a mouse. The world may be round, but our only digital option for exploring it in a meeting is on a flat screen. Surpassing that limitation – by creating new computer interfaces that allow people to intuitively share and manipulate data – would vastly expand the power of computers in collaborative decision-making situations (think business, medicine, and design).

Developing those new interfaces is one of the goals at the newly established Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (CISL@EMPAC), a partnership between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and IBM Research. And one of the first tools in the lab is the Campfire.


In a Cognitive Space

by Mary Martialay on November 18, 2015

You’re in a meeting making a plan. Everyone is taking notes, but the conversation roams, going from one item, and one speaker, to another, and as the hour comes to a close, it’s hard to remember who said what and which assignments were doled out to whom. Some of the questions that came up went unanswered. Worse than that, despite all the smarts in the room, several complications were overlooked and nobody noticed.

It doesn’t have to be this way, say the researchers in the newly formed Cognitive and Immersive Systems Laboratory at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, aka CISL@EMPAC. A  collaboration between IBM Research and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) to pioneer new frontiers in immersive cognitive systems as an aid to group problem-solving and decision-making.


Sean Wilson '16, B.S. in Business Management

In this Approach blog post, the Rensselaer news team spoke with Rensselaer Lally School of Management student Sean Edward Wilson ’16 about his work in the classroom and the community.

Q: What drew you to majoring in business management at Rensselaer and how has this influenced your future career interests?

I transferred to Rensselaer from a college in New York City. My major is business management with a concentration in computer information systems. What drew me to management at Rensselaer was the world-renowned faculty and the location. Rensselaer also has a strong research background, which was lacking at my former school. Learning about research influenced my career goals as well. I am interested in working in a public or private sector organization (or business, etc.) regardless of size. My main interests are becoming a professor, researcher, and owner of a nonprofit organization.


For more than a year, the Jefferson Project at Lake George has been collecting electronic data from sensors mounted in stream beds, platforms moored on the water, and the depths of the lake bottom. A tour boat plying the southern basin of the lake may be an unexpected next step for sensor deployments, but it’s actually an ideal perch for scientific instrumentation, according to researchers Mike Kelly and Jeremy Farrell.


In this Approach blog, the Rensselaer news team spoke with alumnus Paul A. Bleicher, M.D., Ph.D., (B.S. ’76), who is the 2015 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year, and chief executive officer of OptumLabs, about entrepreneurship, resilience in leadership, and his time at Rensselaer.

Q: What drew you to biology at Rensselaer and how has science continued to influence your career?

When I visited Rensselaer as a high school senior, I knew that I wanted to be a physician and/or scientist.  Biology seemed to be a great science to prepare me for both. Rensselaer didn’t teach biology as a soft science.  Students majoring in biology were required to take a broader scientific curriculum consisting of three semesters of physics and math, a year of physical chemistry, and so forth. The critical thinking skills I developed at Rensselaer have enabled me to comfortably work at the confluence of science and industry. And science – from statistics to computer science to molecular biology – continues to be fundamental to everything I do working for a health care startup.


In a basement lab, Krysia Kornecki reaches into a refrigerator and pulls out a small plastic tub — about half a pint— filled with mud. The mud was skimmed from the bottom of Lake George and in the hands of researchers the information it contains — in the form of microscopic plants and animals, pollen, chemical isotopes, and metal contaminants — will be translated into a biogeochemical history of Lake George.

Kornecki is part of a team of researchers — at Rensselaer and three other institutions — that is using sediment to learn how conditions within the lake have changed over hundreds of years. The team is collaborating with the Jefferson Project at Lake George, and water chemistry information from the project’s sensor network is an integral part of the research. But let’s start with the mud.


Last month, on May 26, Rensselaer hosted a Twitter Q & A with 2015 Commencement honorand Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the 209th Commencement Ceremony held at Rensselaer on Saturday, May 30.

Dr. Gates is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, and cultural critic; he has authored 17 books and created 14 documentary films. His PBS documentary series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, earned an Emmy Award. He serves as editor-in-chief of, a daily online magazine. The Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Reader, a collection of his writings, was published in 2012. He was awarded a “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation, and became the first African-American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards.


Admiral Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, originally posted the blog titled “Continue to Reach for Equality and Inclusiveness in All Rights,” in Navy Live on March 18, 2015, to commemorate Women’s History Month. Admiral Howard will be addressing Rensselaer graduates at the Institute’s 209th Commencement and receiving an honorary degree at the ceremony.

On the eve of Commencement, Admiral Howard will be participating with the other honorary degree recipients, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Craig Mundie, and David M. Rubenstein, in the 2015 President’s Commencement Colloquy. Led by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson, the title of this year’s Colloquy is “Resilient Leadership for a Resilient World.”

The original post by Admiral Howard appears below:


Just in time for swimming season, The Approach wanted to share some information on the current, and changing, state of Lake George. Since 1980, researchers at the Rensselaer Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) have tracked a series of indicators — including temperature, nutrients, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen, and transparency — in the waters of Lake George. A landmark 72-page study details the results of the first 30 years of research, which also serve as a research foundation for the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and the FUND for Lake George.


(In this guest post, Christopher J. Low, a Rensselaer graduate and IBM consultant, explains how business analytics, like a GPS system, has aided him in navigating his career.)

Data has shaped a lot of my life experience so far, and now it’s also an important part of my career. In academics, numbers and information were critical to my Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering degree and my Master of Science in business analytics degree, both from Rensselaer.

In work, information analysis was key to my job at a marketing and communications firm in California. Now, as the project management analyst on an Apple and IBM partnership project in North America for a Fortune 25 client in the health-care industry, data is a huge part of my “solution” navigation system.