State Approves New Multidisciplinary Program at Rensselaer
Troy, N.Y. — A new multidisciplinary science degree program
at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been approved by the
New York State Department of Education.
The program, the first of its kind in New York state, will
offer M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in multidisciplinary
“These new degrees in multidisciplinary science are designed
to meet the needs of today’s graduates who require a more
diversified background to compete effectively in industrial or
governmental occupations that are multidisciplinary in nature,”
says Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson.
The degrees are designed for a new breed of student whose
interests overlap several disciplines, says Samuel Wait,
associate dean of science. “We can custom-make a program with
all the right courses and a dissertation that spans different
areas,” he says.
For instance, those who want a career in pharmaceutical
research could design a degree concentrated in biology,
computational sciences, and chemistry. Those who want to go
into the field of microchip manufacturing could create a degree
with courses in chemistry, materials engineering, electrical
engineering, and physics.
Nicolle Zellner, who earned her bachelor’s in astronomy,
physics and math at the University of Wisconsin and her
master’s at Rensselaer, is a pioneer of the new
Multidisciplinary Science Program.
Her Ph.D. work revolves around researching the impact of the
history of the earth-moon system and the implication of the
origin and sustainability of life on Earth.
“I’ve been waiting for two years to see if this program was
going to be approved,” Zellner says. “My research is in lunar
geochemistry and studies in the origins of life. I found the
multidisciplinary nature of the new program, with so many
different topics, applies to what I’m interested in. It takes
biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, and physics for kind of
research I’m involved with. The physics program didn’t allow me
to be that broad.”
Zellner’s dream is to be a researcher in NASA’s astrobiology
program, which focuses on finding out what conditions are
needed to allow life to exist outside our planet.
She says she has a better chance of fulfilling that dream by
having a broad background obtained through the
Multidisciplinary Science Program and she thinks that NASA will
find her education and research skills more attractive.
Contact: Jodi Ackerman
Phone: (518) 276-6531