inthenews

  • May 28, 2017
    Albany Times Union

    One room seeks all the answers at RPI

    AI, CAIS, CCI, CISL, cognitive, cognitive computing, Computational Science and Engineering, Hui Su, IBM, immersive, watson, CCNI, Computer Science, CCI, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations

  • May 26, 2017
    Smithsonian Magazine

    The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt

    Biotechnology and Life Sciences, Computational Science and Engineering, ecosystem monitoring, Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems, environmental monitoring, Harry Kolar, IBM, IoT, Jefferson Project, Jefferson Project, Lake George, relyer, rick relyea, road salt, the fund for lake george, Biology, CBIS, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • May 1, 2017
    The Atlantic

    The Internet of Things Needs a Code of Ethics

    In October, when malware called Mirai took over poorly secured webcams and DVRs, and used them to disrupt internet access across the United States, I wondered who was responsible. Not who actually coded the malware, or who unleashed it on an essential piece of the internet’s infrastructure—instead, I wanted to know if anybody could be held legally responsible. Could the unsecure devices’ manufacturers be liable for the damage their products?

    bermaf, CCI, Computational Science and Engineering, internet ethic, internet security, RDA, CCNI, IDEA, Computer Science, CCI, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • March 20, 2017
    Inside Higher Ed

    Opinion: Saving Our Heritage

    On March 3, 2017, the Syrian army recaptured Palmyra, the ancient city, archaeological treasure and UNESCO World Heritage Site that had endured destruction and looting at the hands of ISIS. The Syrian government declared the victory “highly significant” for the morale of the army and the Syrian nation. Protecting a country’s history, as the military knew, is as precious as preserving human life. When you destroy heritage, you rob the memories and diminish the heart of a whole people. On that same day, as it happened, the National Endowment for the Humanities was presenting a program in Washington on the importance of historic conservation and preservation against the threats of war, malice, weather or time. Professor Debra Hess Norris, an art historian, curator and conservator at the University of Delaware and director of the Winterthur Museum’s program in art conservation education, spoke about the remarkable work she and her colleagues and students have undertaken to restore and preserve the world’s artifacts. Norris’s specialty is the recovery and conservation of documents on paper, whether the Dead Sea scrolls, the Declaration of Independence, damaged photos from early arctic expeditions or family photographs recovered from the Texas floods, Hurricane Katrina or a devastating house fire in rural Ohio where a grandmother and three young boys lost their lives. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and other federal and private philanthropic agencies, Norris has not only saved our heritage but has also trained half of the nation’s photographic preservationists to ensure that heritage endures for future generations. What is a country without its heritage? That question has been given new urgency now that the White House has released its budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018. This budget sets the total funding of the National Endowment for the Humanities at zero dollars, effectively proposing elimination of the agency. Is that the value we place on our cultural inheritance and its future? Zero? That is the question we must ask ourselves as a nation. As the Syrian government knows, and as that family in rural Ohio knows, heritage matters. The cultural legacy of a nation is its memory, its heart and its distinct identity. You fight for it; you preserve it; you value it; you invest in it. Every major nation on earth publicly supports its cultural heritage. Without that, how do we maintain our identity as a people? Without our past, how do we know our values or sustain our future? The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965 states, “Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens.” Although its budget is small by federal budget standards and relative to most other nations, NEH has delivered on this and consistently fought above its weight. In 2016, NEH received around $148 million, roughly one-hundredth of 1 percent of the federal discretionary budget ($1.2 trillion for fiscal year 2016). Yet its impact on the American quality of life, sense of history and cultural heritage has been priceless. For 50 years, NEH has been national steward of America’s cultural heritage. The NEH has supported the transcription and reprinting of American authors from Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Willa Cather and Ernest Hemingway. The agency has supported the documentation and histories of a broad spectrum of Americans -- from the editing of the personal papers of seven founding fathers to histories of Midwestern farm families, steel workers in Colorado and coal miners in West Virginia. NEH supports work in museums and libraries in big cities and in small towns. NEH grants have supported President Lincoln’s cottage in the nation’s capital and the Louis Armstrong House in Flushing, N.Y. NEH funded the single largest, most comprehensive digital archive of Sept. 11, and the Digging Into Data program is expanding the tools, resources and impact of humanities and social science researchers in the Information Age. The Dialogues on the Experiences of War program develops important resources about the experience of war to help both veterans and the general public to understand the experience of military service. All across America, NEH provides support that is not available elsewhere, through state, private or other funding sources. It takes time to create a collective history. It is far easier to lose one -- through fires, floods, terrorism or politics. Saving a cultural heritage and a heart of the people was the importance of the Syrian army’s recapture of ancient Palmyra. History, identity, heritage and memory -- the heart of a whole people -- are at stake as we contemplate the continuation of the NEH.

    Arts, bermaf, digital data, humanities, Media, Arts, Science, and Technology, NEH, Syria, Trump, Computer Science, Provost, Research, Science

  • March 16, 2017
    Thomson Reuters Foundation News

    Experimental blood test could speed autism diagnosis-U.S. study

    NEW YORK, March 16 (Reuters) - Developers of an experimental blood test for autism say it can detect the condition in more than 96 percent of cases and do so across a broad spectrum of patients, potentially allowing for earlier diagnosis, according to a study released on Thursday. The findings, published in PLoS Computational Biology, are the latest effort to develop a blood test for autism spectrum disorder, which is estimated to affect about 1 in 68 babies. The cause remains a mystery although it has been shown that childhood vaccines are not responsible. The hope for such tests, if proven accurate, is that they could reassure parents with autism fears and possibly aid in the development of treatments, coauthor to the study, Dr. Juergen Hahn of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told Reuters Health. They could also speed the age at diagnosis. Autism encompasses a wide spectrum of disorders, ranging from profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to relatively mild symptoms, as in Asperger's Syndrome. Doctors typically diagnose children by observing behaviors associated with the disorder, such as repetitive behaviors or social avoidance. Most children are not diagnosed until around age 4, although some skilled clinicians can pick it up earlier. Hahn and colleagues measured levels of 24 proteins that have been linked to autism and found five that, in the right combination, seemed most predictive of the condition, which affects about 1.5 percent of children and can vary widely in severity and how it manifests. Dr. Max Wiznitzer of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, who was not involved in the research, called the finding "interesting, but not earth-shattering," saying that it needs to be tested by many more at-risk children. "We don't know if this is a marker specific to autism or whether it's a marker for any chronic illness of any kind," he told Reuters Health. "They have quite a way to go before they can show if it has any meaning." The researchers derived the combination by testing 83 children age 3 to 10 who had been diagnosed with autism through conventional means. While the combination was present in 97.6 percent, it was absent in 96.1 percent of 76 normal children. Wiznitzer noted that the research offers no evidence that the chemical combination being blamed for autism "will be there for infants and toddlers." (Reporting by Gene Emery; Editing by Caroline Humer and Alistair Bell)

    autism, big data, Biotechnology and Life Sciences, Computational Science and Engineering, diagnosis, hahnj, Juergen Hahn, CBIS, Biomedical Engineering, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, SOE

  • March 1, 2017
    Lake George Mirror

    Road Salt Alternatives May Harm Environment, Researchers Report

    Alternatives to road salt are markete as environmentally-friendly substitutes because they allow highway crews to maintain ice-free roads while applying less salt. But the alternatives and additives may not be without environmental consequences, according to Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project. “Additives and alternative salts are presumed to be less environmentally harmful because they use less sodium chloride, but what about the potential impact of the additives and salt alternatives themselves?” asked Relyea, a professor of biological sciences and the David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He added, “We know almost nothing about the impact of these additives and alternatives on aquatic ecosystems.” New research by the Jefferson Project published in the Journal of Applied Ecology this month shows that organic additives found in road salt alternatives — such as those used in the commercial products GeoMelt and Magic Salt — act as a fertilizer to aquatic ecosystems, promoting the growth of algae and organisms that eat algae. Low levels of magnesium chloride — an alternative type of salt found in the commercial product Clear Lane – boost populations of amphipods, tiny crustaceans that feed on algae and serve as an important food source for fish. “Organic additives are like adding food to the lake. They are broken down into nutrients and organisms eat them,” said Matthew Schuler, a postdoctoral research associate  and  first  author  of  the paper. “The additives in GeoMelt and Magic Salt act as a fertilizer for aquatic systems.” Low concentrations of magnesium chloride found in Clear Lane, Magic Salt, and in the straight magnesium chloride treatments more than tripled the abundance of amphipod populations. “Our research shows that these chemicals can cause changes to the food web, but we can’t tell you whether that is desirable or not,” Relyea said. “More algae means more  zooplankton  and  more  fish, and the angler might like that. But more algae also means turbid water, and a homeowner may not like that. It’s a subjective public question.” As part of the Jefferson Project — the collaboration between Rensselaer, IBM Research, and The FUND for Lake George — Relyea’s lab has undertaken a series of experiments into the effects of various road salts on diverse aspects of aquatic food webs, with some surprising results.

    Biotechnology and Life Sciences, Clear Lane, environmental monitoring, environmental remediation, Eric Siy, GeoMelt, Harry Kolar, Jefferson Project, Magic Salt, relyer, rick relyea, road salt, Biology, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • March 1, 2017
    Lake George Mirror

    The Jefferson Papers - Current Research from the Jefferson Project

    The Jefferson Project at Lake George is conducting ongoing research into how human activities may be affecting the lake. Among its studies: impacts of road salt on wetlands. Here, we summarize recent research published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.   We asked the scientists: What did you want to know?   We want to understand the effects of road salt alone and in combination with the common insecticide carbaryl (commercial name: Sevin®) on wetland communities. Low concentrations of any contaminant are unlikely to kill organisms, however these levels can severely affect organisms by changing their behavior, growth, and development. Combining different contaminants together can lead to further changes and stress organisms to the point where death is a concern.   We asked how they conducted their research.   We conduct wetland experiments in “mesocosms,” large outdoor tanks of water set up to mimic wetlands with the addition of leaf litter, bacteria, fungi, algae, snails, small clams, tadpoles, and scuds.We added road salt (sodiumchloride) in four concentrations, either alone or in combination with three concentrations of the insecticide. The concentrations of salt ranged from those found in drinking water (30 and 80 milligrams chloride per liter) and stormwater runoff ponds (230 and 780 milligrams chloride per liter). The concentrations of the insecticide ranged from 0 to 50 micrograms per liter, which is a range found in nature. Researchers took measurements as the food web responded over eight weeks.   Here’s what was learned   By itself, salt had numerous effects on the community. The abundance of some zooplankton (microscopic crustaceans that eat algae) decreased at higher salt concentrations, but not enough to cause an algae bloom. Clams – which eat algae – also decreased at the highest salt concentration. But snails, which excrete a lot of nutrients that might cause algal blooms, increased in number with more salt. Without the clams and zooplankton to filter out the algae, these changes could destabilize the system over long time periods.The insecticide decimated the populations of some larger zooplankton species, causing algal blooms. It also killed off many of the snails and amphipods in the wetlands, which allowed their tadpole competitors to grow more quickly. The combination of salt and the insecticide produced few additional effects. Among all of the organisms tested in our experiment, only one species showed any sign of compounded stress when the two contaminants were combined at our highest concentrations of both contaminants.   The Jefferson Project is a collaboration between Rensselaer, IBM Research, and The FUND for Lake George founded to develop a new model for technologically enabled environmental monitoring and prediction to understand and protect the Lake George ecosystem and freshwater ecosystems around the world.

    Biotechnology and Life Sciences, environmental remediation, Eric Siy, Harry Kolar, Jefferson Project, Lake George, relyer, rick relyea, salt, Biology, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • January 19, 2017
    On Point

    Alexa, What's The Future Of AI?

    AI, Amazon Alexa, artificial intelligence, Computational Science and Engineering, Hendler, James Hendler, IDEA, Computer Science, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Student Life, Science

  • January 9, 2017
    The Wall Street Journal

    Indian Point Closure Won’t Leave New York in the Dark

    Although the Indian Point Energy Center supplies enough energy to power up to two million homes in New York and Westchester County, experts say there are alternative sources coming on line to fill the gap when the nuclear plant closes and these alternative plans have been in development for some time. According to the New York Independent System Operator, the nonprofit which manages operation of the state’s bulk-electric system, total energy produced by Indian Point was 16,421.3 gigawatt hours for 2015, the most recent figures available. That equals about 11.5% of total in-state electric energy. Martin Byrne, the director of business development at the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said the output for Indian Point will likely be made up from numerous sources, including increased transmission capacity to bring in power from other regions like Hudson Valley and Central New York, and higher building efficiency programs.

    BYRNEM2, CFES, CFES (Center for Future Energy Systems), Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems, Indian Point, nuclear power, safety, Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, SOE

  • January 1, 2017
    Lake George Mirror

    Are Lake Species Becoming Salt-Tolerant?

    Among  its  many  other products and by-products, the Jefferson Project is teaching scientists more than has ever been known before about the effects of road salt on fresh water ecoystems. In December, for example, researchers announced they discovered  that  chemicals found in de-icing road salts can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations. Now another group of researchers working with Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project and the David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed  Chair  at  RPI,  have announced that they have learned that a common species of zooplankton — the smallest animals in the freshwater food web  —  can  evolve  genetic tolerance to moderate levels of road salt in as little as two and a half months. The research was published in  the  journal  Environmental Pollution. The  study  suggests  that freshwater  ecosystems  may possess some resilience in the face of a 50-fold increase in road deicing salt applications since the 1940s. “At the highest concentrations of salt, none of the zooplankton survived.But    under    moderate concentrations, much  higher than those found in Lake George, these zooplankton evolved higher tolerance,” said  Relyea.  “This  is  the first  study  to  demonstrate that zooplankton can evolve increased tolerance to road salt, and the results were quite unexpected.” In follow-up research, Relyea and his colleagues will test whether zooplankton with evolved tolerance to road salt can protect the food web against future road salt contamination.  The  team  is also  examining how  evolved tolerance affects other aspects of the zooplankton, such as their growth, reproduction, or their life span.

    ecosystem, Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems, environmental monitoring, Eric Siy, evolution, frogs, Harry Kolar, IBM Research, Jefferson Project, relyer, rick relyea, road salt, the fund for lake george, Biology, Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, SOE, Science

  • December 30, 2016
    Fox Business News

    The Future Called, it Wants its Cloud Back

    If you are old enough, you remember a time when having a phone required an actual phone line coming into your house or business. Names like Ma Bell and all the little Baby Bells ring a bell. “Hold the line” and “the wires have somehow gotten crossed” were not uncommon phrases. All obsolete today. And then some. Cell phones, the breakup of the Bells, and fiber optics changed much of that. The days of POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service)—analog signals over copper loops—have been over for years. But the Cloud is challenging traditional telephony even further— changing the way businesses, their employees and even consumers make and receive phone calls.   “Cloud telephony is a new name for something called Voice Over IP, except in a business context,” said James Hendler, director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (IDEA) and the Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. “It’s been used by consumers for 10 or 15 years,” he said, mostly by people who wanted to make long-distance calls on their computers to avoid phone bill charges. “Moving whole companies to the Cloud,” he said, “is much newer.”  

    cloud telephony, Computational Science and Engineering, Hendler, James Hendler, IDEA, Computer Science, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science, Tetherless World Constellation

  • December 13, 2016
    Lake George Mirror

    New Boat Helping RPI Survey Lake George's Fish Population

    “The food web is a key to water quality,” says RPI professor Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project.  And at the top of that web is the  fish  population,  which  shapes the size and the distribution of the organisms that sustain it.  On  Lake  George,  the  fish population has been the subject of Dr. Bill Hintz’s scrutiny since 2015.While portions of Lake George’s fishery have been studied in the past, “this is the first robust study,” said Hintz, who was recruited by RPI and the Jefferson Project to study the  Lake  George  fish  population while working on endangered fish species on the Mississippi. “The goal is to assess the health of the fishery, the end point being a better understanding of how pollution, invasive species and the  changing  climate  influence freshwater ecosystems,” Hintz said last week at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, where he was testing new equipment. To assess the status of Lake George’s  fish  species,  first  they must be caught, and Hintz and his students have used a variety of tools – nets, mostly - to gather samples over the past two years. “It’s a catch, measure and release system,”  said  Hintz.  “After  the fish  are  captured,  they’re  weighed and measured and then returned to the lake. We keep about 5% of the sample to analyze the contents of their diets.”RPI now has a new tool for sample-gathering  in  its  kit  –  a $70,000 boat for electro-shocking. “Don’t say electrocuting; we’re not  electrocuting  fish,”  said  Rick Relyea, reprimanding a reporter for speaking imprecisely. Electro-shocking,  Relyea  and Hintz emphasized, merely stuns the fish and for a brief period of time only, long enough for the samples to be scooped up and placed in a well before being weighed. “It’s  a  much  more  efficient way of catching fish, one that also enables us to get into places where we couldn’t with nets, where we’re obstructed by logs and rocks,” said Relyea.  According to Hintz, electro-shocking is a common method of conducting  fish  surveys,  used  by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and by natural resource agencies in most other states. Hintz worked with the manufacturer to build a boat to his specifications  so  that  it  would  be suited to the Jefferson Project and its requirements, said Relyea. The boat will be deployed next spring, at the start of the fourth year of the Jefferson Project.Launched in 2013 by RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George, the  project  is  “making  significant progress” in acquiring actionable intelligence about such things as the spread of invasives through the lake, the sources of salt and the quantity of nutrients, among other things, said Relyea. It was recently awarded $917,000  grant  from  the  National Science Foundation that will allow it to complete a network of smart sensor platforms. “The smart sensor network will operate collectively as a single integrated instrument, the most powerful and comprehensive of its kind, to monitor indicators of physical, chemical, and biological activity on Lake George,” said Relyea.  Last week, researchers working with the Jefferson Project, attempting to understand the impacts of road salt on the health of aquatic ecosystems, announced they have discovered something alarming: chemicals found in de-icing road salts can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations. Relyea said it was not clear yet if other creatures were experiencing similar “sub-lethal” effects of those chemicals. As of now, however, Lake George’s fish population is relatively healthy, said Bill Hintz. So far, so good,” he said. And at the top of that web is the  fish  population,  which  shapes the size and the distribution of the organisms that sustain it.  On  Lake  George,  the  fish population has been the subject of Dr. Bill Hintz’s scrutiny since 2015.While portions of Lake George’s fishery have been studied in the past, “this is the first robust study,” said Hintz, who was recruited by RPI and the Jefferson Project to study the  Lake  George  fish  population while working on endangered fish species on the Mississippi. “The goal is to assess the health of the fishery, the end point being a better understanding of how pollution, invasive species and the  changing  climate  influence freshwater ecosystems,” Hintz said last week at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, where he was testing new equipment. To assess the status of Lake George’s  fish  species,  first  they must be caught, and Hintz and his students have used a variety of tools – nets, mostly - to gather samples over the past two years. “It’s a catch, measure and release system,”  said  Hintz.  “After  the fish  are  captured,  they’re  weighed and measured and then returned to the lake. We keep about 5% of the sample to analyze the contents of their diets.”RPI now has a new tool for sample-gathering  in  its  kit  –  a $70,000 boat for electro-shocking. “Don’t say electrocuting; we’re not  electrocuting  fish,”  said  Rick Relyea, reprimanding a reporter for speaking imprecisely. Electro-shocking,  Relyea  and Hintz emphasized, merely stuns the fish and for a brief period of time only, long enough for the samples to be scooped up and placed in a well before being weighed. “It’s  a  much  more  efficient way of catching fish, one that also enables us to get into places where we couldn’t with nets, where we’re obstructed by logs and rocks,” said Relyea.  According to Hintz, electro-shocking is a common method of conducting  fish  surveys,  used  by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and by natural resource agencies in most other states. Hintz worked with the manufacturer to build a boat to his specifications  so  that  it  would  be suited to the Jefferson Project and its requirements, said Relyea. The boat will be deployed next spring, at the start of the fourth year of the Jefferson Project.Launched in 2013 by RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George, the  project  is  “making  significant progress” in acquiring actionable intelligence about such things as the spread of invasives through the lake, the sources of salt and the quantity of nutrients, among other things, said Relyea. It was recently awarded $917,000  grant  from  the  National Science Foundation that will allow it to complete a network of smart sensor platforms. “The smart sensor network will operate collectively as a single integrated instrument, the most powerful and comprehensive of its kind, to monitor indicators of physical, chemical, and biological activity on Lake George,” said Relyea.  Last week, researchers working with the Jefferson Project, attempting to understand the impacts of road salt on the health of aquatic ecosystems, announced they have discovered something alarming: chemicals found in de-icing road salts can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations. Relyea said it was not clear yet if other creatures were experiencing similar “sub-lethal” effects of those chemicals. As of now, however, Lake George’s fish population is relatively healthy, said Bill Hintz. So far, so good,” he said. “The food web is a key to water quality,” says RPI professor Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project. And at the top of that web is the fish population, which shapes the size and the distribution of the organisms that sustain it. On Lake George, the fish population has been the subject of Dr. Bill Hintz’s scrutiny since 2015. While portions of Lake George’s fishery have been studied in the past, “this is the first robust study,” said Hintz, who was recruited by RPI and the Jefferson Project to study the Lake George fish population while working on endangered fish species on the Mississippi. “The goal is to assess the health of the fishery, the end point being a better understanding of how pollution, invasive species and the changing climate influence freshwater ecosystems,” Hintz said last week at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, where he was testing new equipment. To assess the status of Lake George’s fish species, first they must be caught, and Hintz and his students have used a variety of tools – nets, mostly - to gather samples over the past two years. “It’s a catch, measure and release system,” said Hintz. “After the fish are captured, they’re weighed and measured and then returned to the lake. We keep about 5% of the sample to analyze the contents of their diets.” RPI now has a new tool for sample-gathering in its kit – a $70,000 boat for electro-shocking. “Don’t say electrocuting; we’re not electrocuting fish,” said Rick Relyea, reprimanding a reporter for speaking imprecisely. Electro-shocking, Relyea and Hintz emphasized, merely stuns the fish and for a brief period of time only, long enough for the samples to be scooped up and placed in a well Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais has launched a campaign to raise $75,000 to improve Shepard Park. The Charles R. Wood Foundation has already awarded a $25,000 grant to the project. Moreover, the foundation’s trustees have promised to grant an additional $25,000 to the Village if, that is, Mayor Blais can raise $25,000 from local residents, business owners and visitors. Mayor Blais announced his plans for the park – and the campaign to raise $25,000 – at this year’s tree lighting ceremony, held November 26. “The generosity of the Charles R. Wood Foundation, with its initial grant and with this challenge grant, will allow us to continue to provide free, first-class entertainment to Mayor Bob Blais, Austin Glickman and Amanda May Metzger held a press conference to announce a Law Enforcement Officers weekend in May. Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover and Councilwoman Sue Wilson accept a check for $25,000 from Buck Bryan for the Veterans’ Memorial fund. RPI’s new boat is rigged with two booms which act at anodes, extending from the bow with “droppers” that are lowered into the water. With support from the Charles R. Wood Foundation, Lake George Village plans to rehab Shepard Park. By Anthony F. Hall By Anthony F. Hall before being weighed. “It’s a much more efficient way of catching fish, one that also enables us to get into places where we couldn’t with nets, where we’re obstructed by logs and rocks,” said Relyea. According to Hintz, electro- shocking is a common method of conducting fish surveys, used by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and by natural resource agencies in most other states. Hintz worked with the manufacturer to build a boat to his specifications so that it would be suited to the Jefferson Project and its requirements, said Relyea. The boat will be deployed next spring, at the start of the fourth year of the Jefferson Project. Launched in 2013 by RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George, the project is “making significant progress” in acquiring actionable intelligence about such things as the spread of invasives through the lake, the sources of salt and the quantity of nutrients, among other things, said Relyea. It was recently awarded a $917,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that will allow it to complete a network of smart sensor platforms. “The smart sensor network will operate collectively as a single integrated instrument, the most powerful and comprehensive of its kind, to monitor indicators of physical, chemical, and biological activity on Lake George,” said Relyea. Last week, researchers working with the Jefferson Project, attempting to understand the impacts of road salt on the health of aquatic ecosystems, announced they have discovered something alarming: chemicals found in de- icing road salts can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations. Relyea said it was not clear yet if other creatures were experiencing similar “sub-lethal” effects of those chemicals. As of now, however, Lake George’s fish population is relatively healthy, said Bill Hintz. “So far, so good,” he said “The food web is a key to water quality,” says RPI professor Rick Relyea, the director of the Jefferson Project. And at the top of that web is the fish population, which shapes the size and the distribution of the organisms that sustain it. On Lake George, the fish population has been the subject of Dr. Bill Hintz’s scrutiny since 2015. While portions of Lake George’s fishery have been studied in the past, “this is the first robust study,” said Hintz, who was recruited by RPI and the Jefferson Project to study the Lake George fish population while working on endangered fish species on the Mississippi. “The goal is to assess the health of the fishery, the end point being a better understanding of how pollution, invasive species and the changing climate influence freshwater ecosystems,” Hintz said last week at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Bolton Landing, where he was testing new equipment. To assess the status of Lake George’s fish species, first they must be caught, and Hintz and his students have used a variety of tools – nets, mostly - to gather samples over the past two years. “It’s a catch, measure and release system,” said Hintz. “After the fish are captured, they’re weighed and measured and then returned to the lake. We keep about 5% of the sample to analyze the contents of their diets.” RPI now has a new tool for sample-gathering in its kit – a $70,000 boat for electro-shocking. “Don’t say electrocuting; we’re not electrocuting fish,” said Rick Relyea, reprimanding a reporter for speaking imprecisely. Electro-shocking, Relyea and Hintz emphasized, merely stuns the fish and for a brief period of time only, long enough for the samples to be scooped up and placed in a well Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais has launched a campaign to raise $75,000 to improve Shepard Park. The Charles R. Wood Foundation has already awarded a $25,000 grant to the project. Moreover, the foundation’s trustees have promised to grant an additional $25,000 to the Village if, that is, Mayor Blais can raise $25,000 from local residents, business owners and visitors. Mayor Blais announced his plans for the park – and the campaign to raise $25,000 – at this year’s tree lighting ceremony, held November 26. “The generosity of the Charles R. Wood Foundation, with its initial grant and with this challenge grant, will allow us to continue to provide free, first-class entertainment to Mayor Bob Blais, Austin Glickman and Amanda May Metzger held a press conference to announce a Law Enforcement Officers weekend in May. Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover and Councilwoman Sue Wilson accept a check for $25,000 from Buck Bryan for the Veterans’ Memorial fund. RPI’s new boat is rigged with two booms which act at anodes, extending from the bow with “droppers” that are lowered into the water. With support from the Charles R. Wood Foundation, Lake George Village plans to rehab Shepard Park. By Anthony F. Hall By Anthony F. Hall before being weighed. “It’s a much more efficient way of catching fish, one that also enables us to get into places where we couldn’t with nets, where we’re obstructed by logs and rocks,” said Relyea. According to Hintz, electro- shocking is a common method of conducting fish surveys, used by New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and by natural resource agencies in most other states. Hintz worked with the manufacturer to build a boat to his specifications so that it would be suited to the Jefferson Project and its requirements, said Relyea. The boat will be deployed next spring, at the start of the fourth year of the Jefferson Project. Launched in 2013 by RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George, the project is “making significant progress” in acquiring actionable intelligence about such things as the spread of invasives through the lake, the sources of salt and the quantity of nutrients, among other things, said Relyea. It was recently awarded a $917,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that will allow it to complete a network of smart sensor platforms. “The smart sensor network will operate collectively as a single integrated instrument, the most powerful and comprehensive of its kind, to monitor indicators of physical, chemical, and biological activity on Lake George,” said Relyea. Last week, researchers working with the Jefferson Project, attempting to understand the impacts of road salt on the health of aquatic ecosystems, announced they have discovered something alarming: chemicals found in de- icing road salts can alter the sex ratios in nearby frog populations, a phenomenon that could reduce the size and viability of species populations. Relyea said it was not clear yet if other creatures were experiencing similar “sub-lethal” effects of those chemicals. As of now, however, Lake George’s fish population is relatively healthy, said Bill Hintz. “So far, so good,” he said

    Biotechnology and Life Sciences, FUND for Lake George, Harry Kolar, IBM Research, Jefferson Project, Jefferson Project, Jessica Rubin, relyer, rick relyea, Biology, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, SOE, Science

  • November 28, 2016
    National Geographic Water Currents

    Invasion of the Aliens: Body Snatching Worms, Cold Winters May Rout Lakes’ Enemies

    Public enemy number one, it might be called: Eurasian watermilfoil. It’s not on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, but maybe it should be, say scientists who study lakes. The invasive weed’s crime? It crowds out native underwater plants, fouls boat propellers and smothers swimming areas in freshwater lakes across the northern U.S. The invader’s name strikes fear in the hearts of boaters, marina owners, bathers and fishers in places like Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The 32-mile-long, mountain-ringed lake is known across the country as the Queen of American Lakes for its clean, clear waters. To date, Lake George’s waters have been classified by New York State as AA-Special: drinking water. As far back as the early 1920s when biologists first conducted research on the lake, “readings showed that the water was unusually transparent,” the scientists wrote in a 1922 report, Biological Survey of Lake George, N.Y. How long will this deep lake, a gift of the glaciers that covered the Northeast 10,000 years ago, remain unspoiled? “That may depend on whether we’re able to keep out invasive species like Eurasian watermilfoil and Asian clams,” says Walt Lender, director of the Lake George Association (LGA), a group that works to safeguard the lake. The Asian clam, native to the fresh waters of eastern and southern Asia, is Lake George’s public enemy number two. The clam threatens more than Lake George; like Eurasian watermilfoil, it has made its way into lakes far and wide. Answers are on the horizon, researchers say. Some may be hidden in the depths of Lake George. Others require far-reaching changes: a return to the cold winters of the past. Plant-with-a-spear: Eurasian watermilfoil Eurasian watermilfoil is native to freshwater ecosystems in Europe, Asia and North Africa. The plant, also called spiked watermilfoil for its “spear” that extends above the water’s surface, was discovered in Lake George in 1985. This year, divers working for the Lake George Park Commission (LGPC) – a state agency that has joined forces with the LGA and The FUND for Lake George, an organization dedicated to protecting the lake – hand-harvested some 100,000 pounds of Eurasian watermilfoil. “That’s more than the weight of three school buses,” says Dave Wick, executive director of the LGPC. “So far, hand-harvesting has been the most successful way of keeping watermilfoil at bay.” Marching in: Chinese mystery snails, spiny water fleas Eurasian watermilfoil and Asian clams haven’t invaded Lake George alone. Chinese mystery snails, spiny water fleas and curly-leaf pondweed have also arrived in force. “As bad as that sounds,” says Eric Siy, executive director of The FUND for Lake George, “Lake George is surrounded by waterways with dozens of invasive species.” Lake Champlain has 50; the St. Lawrence River, 84; the Hudson River, 122; and the Great Lakes, 184, according to a report by The FUND. “Take quagga mussels,” says Siy. “They’ve been called ‘zebra mussels on steroids.’ These mussels blanket the bottoms of the Great Lakes, and are largely untreatable. Now they’ve made their way into New York.”  But not Lake George – yet. Last summer, according to Siy, Lake George had a quagga “near miss.” The mussels were discovered on a trailered boat coming into the Adirondacks from Lake Erie. The boat’s owners were about to launch at Lake Placid – less than 90 miles from Lake George – when the unwelcome stowaways were routed out. Invaders on the shore It’s the quagga’s mollusk relative, the Asian clam, that could become the bane of Lake George. One Asian clam can produce up to 70,000 eggs each year. Because the clams are such prolific breeders, they compete with native species for space on lake bottoms and for food in the form of plankton, ultimately affecting fish and other organisms higher up the food chain. If beds of Asian clams are large enough, the nutrients they recycle may fuel unwanted algae blooms. On a warm summer afternoon, Dave Wick zoomed in on a park commission boat to pick me up at a dock near Lake George Village. We were off on a day of eradicating Asian clams and other invasive species. Wick and I headed for Warner Bay on the lake’s east side, where divers pulled up Eurasian watermilfoil and piled it into mesh bags. Wick pointed to waters with little to no milfoil – clear with fish darting in and out of healthy native aquatic plants. Where milfoil choked the bay, the waters had turned dark. “Warner Bay is in better shape than it was, though,” offered Wick on a hopeful note. “We’ve found large patches of milfoil and removed them, returning the bay to more of a natural state.” From Warner Bay, we crossed to the lake’s west side, stopping just north of Boon Bay at Cotton Point. There we lowered the boat’s ladder, climbed down a rung or two, then jumped into the water with sieves to sift sand for Asian clams. The clams, first found in the lake six years ago, thrive in shallow waters with sandy bottoms like those in Boon Bay. Wick brought up a sieve filled with the invasive clams. The LGPC and other organizations tried to eradicate the clams by covering them with plastic mats weighed down with sandbags and steel rebar. “That worked, but only so well,” Wick admitted. Naturally vanquished Could an aquatic worm with a taste for Asian clams do the trick? Researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) in Bolton Landing, N.Y., are studying the worm, named Chaetogaster limnaei. It’s the first species in Lake George known to prey on Asian clams. The work is funded by the LGA and the LGPC. Chaetogaster slithers its way into the mantle cavity of an adult clam, explains biologist Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, associate director of the DFWI. There it eats developing young clams before they can be released into the water. “The worms have been found in Asian clams in some places in the lake, but not in others,” she says. She compared Asian clams with and without worms at three Lake George locations to find out whether Chaetogaster could be used as a biological control. The worms are a step ahead. They’re already doing the job. In two of three study sites, adult clams weren’t infected by Chaetogaster. “We found abundant small, young clams at these two sites, so adults there were successfully reproducing,” says Nierzwicki-Bauer. At the third site, Chaetogaster had settled into the adults’ gills. “This spot had very few juvenile clams,” Nierzwicki-Bauer says. Chaetogaster had presumably devoured the young while they were still inside the adults. Bad news for the clams, Nierzwicki-Bauer says, is good news for the lake.

    asian clam, Biotechnology and Life Sciences, DFWI, invasive species, Jefferson Project, Lake George, nierzs, Biology, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Research, Science

  • November 28, 2016
    Albany Business Review

    Why Rensselaer's engineering dean wants to keep growing women's enrollment

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has more than 1,000 women enrolled in its undergraduate engineering programs for the first time in the school's history. These women represent about 30 percent of the student body in engineering at the nationally ranked technological research university in Troy, New York. Nationally, the average percentage of women enrolled in colleges' engineering programs is about 21 percent. Shekhar Garde, Rensselaer's dean of engineering, said he wants to increase that to 50 percent before 2030. He said RPI wants to change the view that STEM careers are often male-dominated.   "One-dimensional perspective is not going to be sufficient enough to solve these big problems, and this is where we need diversity of thought, diversity of ideas and diversity of approaches to solve these problems," Garde told the Business Review. "I think women bring that diversity to the table." As a whole, 69 percent of undergraduate students at the university are male and 31 percent are female, according to 2015 data. Garde, who became dean in 2014, said having more women in engineering can help advance the field of engineering and solve societal problems. "As we recruit more women in engineering, my thesis is that the engineering discipline is going to evolve for the better in the designs that we do as engineers and in applications that we consider as engineers," he said. "There's going to be tremendous improvements and positive changes that are going to happen in engineering." Rensselaer ranks third on the Albany Business Review's college and universities List with total enrollment this fall at 7,442. This year's freshman class, totaling more than 1,700, is 23 percent larger than last year's, the largest freshman class RPI has ever had.

    Chemical and Biological Engineering, Computational Science and Engineering, gardes, Women in Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Research, SOE

  • November 24, 2016
    Albany Times Union

    Study: Road salt skews future frog, amphibian generations

    Salted frog may sound like a gourmet restaurant dish, but it actually could mean real trouble for coming generations of the amphibians. New research done by Rensselaer Polytechnic Instituteand Yale University has found that road salt finding its way to pools where frogs breed tilts the balance of offspring, resulting in more males and fewer females that emerge as tadpoles.   "How the salt is doing this, frankly, we don't yet know," said Rick Relyea, a RPI biologist and co-author of the study that was published this month in a Canadian aquatic science journal. "How many females you have in a population determines how many offspring you have. We are not in a position to make any conclusions about potential population decline, but what we do not need is more males." Normally, the ratio of male to female tadpoles is roughly equal, said Relyea, who runs the RPI Aquatic Laboratoryin North Greenbush, where he conducted the frog study over the last year using massive 500-liter water tanks. Some tanks contained leaves from oak and maple trees, which are common around the forest pools where frogs and other amphibians lay their eggs. Other tanks contained road salt, which is routinely applied to highways in the winter. Some salt can get washed into drainage systems and potentially reach other bodies of water. For example, Lake George salt levels have been rising steadily. During the last three decades, the lake's salt levels have tripled, making it now about 30 times saltier than an undeveloped Adirondack lake. The problem is happening throughout the Adirondacks wherever there are roads, according to Dan Kelting, executive director of the Adirondack Watershed Instituteat Paul Smith's College. He spoke at a regional summit last year aimed at addressing the growing threat of road salt. In the salted water tanks at the RPI lab, there were 60 male tadpoles for every 40 females — a shift of 10 percent. The effect is called masculinizing. Also, female tadpoles exposed to salt were smaller than normal. "The continual masculinization of frog populations for many generations in habitats contaminated with high concentrations of road salt ... could potentially affect the abundance of frogs in these habitats," said Relyea, who is also director of RPI's Darrin Fresh Water Institute. "The research raises the possibility that many other aquatic species could be affected by road salts in sub-lethal ways, not only in terms of altered sex ratios, but potentially in many other traits." His experiments were conducted as part of the Jefferson Project at Lake George, a research collaboration among RPI, IBM and The Fund for Lake George, a not-for-profit advocacy group. The project is currently installing a series of water- and land-based sensors around the lake to study its water quality and ecosystem. Part of that ecosystem includes what are called vernal pools, which are temporary pools of water that routinely form by snow melt in the spring, and where frogs and other amphibians lay eggs. "The vast majority of our amphibians come from vernal pools, not lakes," said Relyea. There are likely hundreds of such pools surrounding the lake, where road salt is applied every winter. "When it comes to road salt, frogs are like canaries in a coal mine warning us of the need to dramatically cut back salt use," said Eric Siy, executive director of The Fund for Lake George. "An estimated 30,000 metric tons of road salt is applied annually in the Lake George basin — enough to fill 300 rail cars or a train 3 miles long every year." Across the U.S. each winter, more than 22 million metric tons of salt is applied on roadways, according to estimates by RPI. Siy's group just held its second annual "salt summit" at the lake, where local officials and conservationists learn about potential methods to reduce use of road salt during the winter. Previous studies have found effects on amphibian gender ratios caused by exposure to pharmaceuticals and pesticides, but the road salt study is the first of its kind. "The health and abundance of females is obviously critical for the sustainability of any population because they're the ones that make the babies. So if you have a population that is becoming male-biased, the population might be at risk," said Max Lambert, lead author of the research study and a doctoral student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Other researchers included Aaron Stoler, a postdoctoral researcher at RPI, and Yale researchers David Skelly and Meredith Smylie. Lambert said previous research suggests that such outcomes could be caused by a phenomenon in which simple elements — such as sodium — can bind to a receptor in cells, mimicking the actions of testosterone or estrogen. This, in turn, can trigger masculinizing or feminizing functions. "So there is a very small testosterone-like effect with one salt molecule," he said. "But if you're dumping lots and lots of pounds of salt on the roads every winter that washes into these ponds, it can have a large effect."

    Aaron Stoler, Biotechnology and Life Sciences, ecology, Eric Siy, frogs, Harry Kolar, Jefferson Project, mesocosm, relyer, rick relyea, road salt, salt, Yale, Biology, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • November 15, 2016
    WAMC

    RPI's Hendler On What We Are Learning From Election Data

    The numbers from the election are still coming in, but one analysis indicates that despite what many of the pundits believe, the Trump victory was not driven as much by the white working class, but more by the fact that Democrats stayed home. Jim Hendler is the Director of the Institute of Data Exploration and Applications at RPI. He says while the numbers are still preliminary, it is clear that the Clinton campaign failed to get enough Democrats to the polls.

    CCI, Computational Science and Engineering, demographics, election, Hendler, IDEA, itws, James Hendler, presidential election, CCNI, IDEA, Computer Science, CCI, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science, IT and Web Science

  • November 13, 2016
    The Saratogian

    Hackers converge on RPI campus

    Computational Science and Engineering, Hackathon, Hacking, student hacking, Computer Science, Student Life, Science

  • November 11, 2016
    PhysOrg

    Research pair outlines new field of 'web science'

    A pair of web scientists has written a Technology Perspective piece for the journal Science outlining the newly developing field of "web science." In their article, James Hendler with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Wendy Hall, with the University of Southampton, also offer some arguments for the importance of social sciences regarding the internet as technology continues to change our world and the way people interact. The internet is not very old, the researchers note, and the applications and interconnected websites found on it are even newer—but it has grown to become an incredibly important part of daily life. This, they suggest, means that the time has come for recognition of a new branch of science—that of web science—a field that will include not just sociologists, but engineers, computer scientists and others from fields across the academic spectrum, because the web has come to touch nearly all those that are currently recognized. Web science, the pair notes, focuses on the way the web has been used in the past, the way it works now and the ways people will likely use it in the future—but it will also include issues associated with the internet and those that use it—including data mining, privacy issue and hacking, and perhaps the impact it is having on elections, political messaging and brand association. The internet, they remind us, is not just a collection of users; it is also an information warehouse holding types and amounts of data that have never before been stored in one place in human history. For this reason, they note, it is imperative that scientists from around the world become involved in web science—to help predict internet evolution; to provide a means for nurturing and guiding its growth so that it will remain useful; and to highlight pertinent issues, such as whether it should be free to everyone as a worldwide utility. The authors also note that as new additions to the internet arise, such as devices that are part of the "Internet of Things," crowd sourcing, or collective intelligence gathering, it only makes sense for serious study looking into the impact that such technologies may have on individuals, societies, nations or the world at large. This, they claim, would allow humanity to "chart out a research agenda" to ensure that the internet remains a positive part of our collective existence.  Explore further: The future of the Internet is at risk say global web experts More information: Science of the World Wide Web, Science  11 Nov 2016: Vol. 354, Issue 6313, pp. 703-704, DOI: 10.1126/science.aai9150 Summary  Ten years ago, Wikipedia was still in its infancy (and totally dismissed by the establishment), Facebook was still restricted to university users, Twitter was in beta testing, and improving search capabilities was the topic that dominated Web conference research agendas. There were virtually no smartphones, online surveillance of activity and data storage was largely unknown beyond security services, and no one knew that being a data scientist was one day going to be "the sexiest job in the world".  

    Computational Science and Engineering, hendlj2, itws, James Hendler, web science, Computer Science, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Research, Science, IT and Web Science, Tetherless World Constellation

  • November 11, 2016
    Pharmaceutical Microbiology

    Insight into Pseudomonas aeruginosa survival mechanism

    The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa can thrive in environments as different as the moist, warm tissue in human lungs, and the dry, nutrient-deprived surface of an office wall. Such adaptability makes it problematic in healthcare. According to Blanca Barquera: "These organisms are able to live everywhere, under conditions with an enormous variety of food supply, salt levels, temperature, acid/base level, and oxygen level. And we have to ask -- how can they do this?"  She adds: “In order for the organisms to survive in so many different environments, the interior of the cell must remain a hospitable place for the biochemistry of life, regardless of what happens outside. And there are proteins in the membrane that are responsible for this." Transport proteins make up the active interface between the cell and the environment, and among the most important of these proteins are those which transport ions -- atoms or molecules with a net positive or negative electrical charge -- into and out of the cell, Barquera said. Ion transport proteins maintain favorable concentrations of ions inside the cell, and also are at the heart of energy production. Transport of positively charged hydrogen and sodium ions, called cations, create gradients that provide energy for diverse cellular processes, such as cell motility, import of nutrients, and extrusion of chemicals that are toxic to the cell. In the current project, "Control of Na+ and H+ transport in bacterial adaptation," researchers will seek to understand how transport proteins that move hydrogen and sodium cations through the cell membrane allow Pseudomonas to adjust its metabolism to different environmental conditions. Researchers will look at several transport proteins including NQR, which moves sodium from the interior to exterior of the cell; NUO, which moves protons from the interior to the exterior of the cell; and sodium/proton anti-porters, which exchange ions to maintain constant pH and ionic concentrations inside the cell.

    antibiotic resistance, barqub, Biotechnology and Life Sciences, blanca barquera, Biology, CBIS, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Science

  • November 11, 2016
    News Channel 10

    Terms and Consequences: How a click could cost you money

    (NEWS10) — It is almost impossible to interact with society without being online. You can bank online, shop online, and connect with old friends, but with this social progress, follows potential discrimination. Allowing companies to track and collect our online activity is how we are able to reach people across the globe, get alerts for job postings based on our degree, and see ads based on previous purchases. However, there can be negative implications. For starters, that data could make or break your odds of getting a loan. Millions of people discovered they unknowingly gave the company Niantic full access to their google accounts. They quickly back-pedaled, but critics shamed consumers for not reading the terms and conditions. “If you read the terms and conditions, it said very clearly it’s going to track everything about you and re-sell it,” said CEO of Greycastle Security, Reg Harnish. Every company with an online presence has one of these agreements. When you hit accept, your online activity is collected, wrapped up in a bow, and sold to the highest bidder. “If the product is free, it means you’re the product,” said Harnish. “Google doesn’t make stuff and they are worth more than GE, think about that for a second. Something’s got to be valuable. It’s our data.” So what happens when hundreds of companies have access to our personal information? For starters, privacy is never guaranteed. “When you go to a website, there’s all this stuff happening in the background where different advertisers are asking to be able to show you an ad,” said James Hendler, Director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for Data Exploration and Applications. They not only show you an ad, but adjust the price. “What most people don’t realize is that the price I pay is based on the company’s knowledge of me,” said Hendler. “So if they see I spend a lot of time in sporting goods stores, when I go to a website to buy something, they’ll actually charge me more than someone else.” When you visit a site, something called a cookie is stored in your browser. It is shared with all of these different companies, but it could affect your wallet. If you are shopping online from home, and the company sees you live far from the store, it may charge you more money hoping you will choose convenience over traveling, but it could also give you a break if the company sees you live close to a competitor. “For some folks, the convenience of targeted advertising is always going to trump the privacy for them,” said Kristine Gloria, PhD candidate of cognitive science at RPI. Gloria is a PhD candidate at RPI, who has been studying public policies and computer algorithm designs. She says your online profile could create very real road blocks to financial issues. “When you’re applying for mortgage loans or when you’re applying for insurance, because these companies are creating profiles about you, right,” Gloria said. “And what if the profile is wrong? Then there’s an inference made about you that you have no control over.” Take a patent recently acquired by Facebook. It could give loan services access to your list of friends, enabling lenders to check your friends’ credit histories before approving you for a loan. If the average credit rating among your social network is low, your application could be rejected. “There is a lot to be said about data that’s automatically collected about you and then being used to make a profile or an inference about you, so that is one aspect of privacy and data collection that will resonate to the question, ‘Does it matter?'” said Gloria. So what can we do about it? Unless you plan on living under a rock, it’s pretty hard to avoid it completely, but you can minimize this by disabling cookies every so often. In terms of using our data to assess credit risk, it can be useful for some people who don’t have enough information in their credit file to produce a credit score. Big data can draw from multiple sources of information and fill in the gaps, but the White House released a report earlier this year cautioning against re-encoding bias into algorithms. It is an ongoing conversation.

    Computational Science and Engineering, Computer Science, cookies, itws, mortgages, pricing, privacy, tetherless world, Computer Science, Provost, Research, Strategic Communications and External Relations, Research, IT and Web Science, Tetherless World Constellation