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Rensselaer Announces Celebration Weekend Event Lineup

November 18, 2009

Rensselaer Announces Celebration Weekend Event Lineup

Concerts, celebrations, and presentations open to members of the campus community

An address by President Shirley Ann Jackson, presentations by world-leading academic researchers, and performances by the legendary Aretha Franklin and violin virtuoso Joshua Bell are among the highlights of the upcoming “Celebration Weekend: A Tribute to the Transformation of Rensselaer.”

The two-day program, to be held Dec. 4-5 on the Troy campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will  chronicle the first decade of the successful implementation of The Rensselaer Plan, the 10th anniversary of the tenure of President Jackson, and the successful completion of the $1.4 billion Renaissance at Rensselaer: The Campaign for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Members of the university community are invited to enjoy an array of events celebrating the transformation of Rensselaer. The Aretha Franklin and Joshua Bell concerts will require tickets, while some other activities will require online registration. There are also many presentations that do not require advance registration. Information on tickets and registration for events is included below, and also is available online. Registration for all events except athletic contests will be handled through the celebration Web site, at

All members of the Rensselaer university community are invited to breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the East Campus Athletic Village (ECAV) arena. Breakfast will be followed at 9 a.m. by the lead event of the celebration weekend, also at ECAV: a presentation by President Jackson titled “Renaissance at Rensselaer: A 10-Year Retrospective.”  Advance registration is required.

Tickets for both the Dec. 4 Aretha Franklin and Dec. 5 Joshua Bell concerts in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) concert hall will become available online, on a first-come, first-served basis,  at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, at A Rensselaer RCS userid will be required to reserve tickets, and individuals will be able to reserve a maximum of two tickets per concert.

Tickets for both concerts will be available for pickup at the EMPAC box office on Dec. 4 from 2 to 7 p.m. Also, on Dec. 5, individuals who have not already done so may pick up Joshua Bell tickets from 2 to 7 p.m. Individuals will be required to show their Rensselaer IDs when picking up tickets.

Any Aretha Franklin tickets unclaimed by 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, will be released on a first-come, first-served basis to campus community members standing by. Unclaimed Joshua Bell tickets will be released to standby at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Individuals will be required to show Rensselaer identification. 

The celebration will begin on Friday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m. with special presentations and campus tours focusing on the physical transformation of the Troy campus, as well as the evolution of the Rensselaer student experience. Presentations and tours include:

  • The Student Experience – Rensselaer Education Across Cultural Horizons (REACH) and Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students (CLASS)
    Led by Eddie Ade Knowles, Vice President for Student Life and Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
    Location: Howard N. Blitman P.E. ’50 Residence Commons
  • Campus Tour | “The Physical Transformation of Rensselaer”
    Led by Barbara Nelson, Project Manager, Campus Planning and Facilities Design; and Bruce Kunkel, Director, Campus Planning and Facilities Design
    Tour departs from the Howard N. Blitman P.E. ’50 Residence Commons

At 7 p.m., the Rensselaer men’s hockey team will face Cornell University in the annual “Whiteout” game in the Houston Field House. Tickets are available for purchase by calling (518) 276-6262 or online via Ticketmaster at

The legendary Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, will take the Concert Hall stage at EMPAC at 8 p.m. For nearly 40 years, Aretha Franklin has been an icon of contemporary pop music, known around the world as the “Queen of Soul.” With her extraordinary range and incendiary gospel-inspired phrasing, Franklin exploded onto the music scene in the late 1960s, becoming the country’s leading female vocalist and one of the first female performers to inject the rhythms and intensity of black gospel music into mainstream pop. Her greatest achievement, perhaps, has been the ability to break down boundaries, to appeal to this country’s vast range of musical tastes. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine named Franklin #1 on its list of the “Greatest Singers of All Time.”

The campus community is invited to a buffet breakfast at 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, in the ECAV gymnasium. A multimedia exhibit titled “A Transformed Campus,” which investigates the physical evolution of the Troy campus over the past decade, will also be on display. To register to attend the breakfast, please RSVP at

At 9 a.m., President Jackson will speak on “The Renaissance at Rensselaer: A 10-Year Retrospective” in ECAV. The reflective presentation will focus on the first decade of the Jackson administration and The Rensselaer Plan, and the completion of the Renaissance at Rensselaer campaign, and set the stage for the future. The presentation will transition into a campaign donor recognition ceremony beginning at 10 a.m.

At 1 p.m., the campus community is also invited to attend topical special presentations that focus on the Institute’s signature strengths in biotechnology and the life sciences, computational science and engineering, energy and the environment, and media, arts, science, and technology. The sessions will feature discussions, presentations, posters, hands-on experiences, and performances with leading Rensselaer researchers and visiting artists. Tickets are not required for these events, but advance registration is encouraged.

Biotechnology and the Life Sciences | Panel presentation and poster session
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) Auditorium

Subsession I: “Biotechnology and Its Links to the Materials World”

  • Jonathan Dordick, CBIS Director and Howard Isermann Professor of Chemical  and Biological Engineering
    An overview of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies, including biotechnology and nanobiotechnology research at Rensselaer
  • Ravi Kane, P.K. Lashmet Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering 
  • Deanne Thompson, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
    Tissue engineering
  • Georges Belfort, Russell Sage Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Subsession II: “Biotechnology and Health Care”

  • Robert Linhardt, Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering
    The heparin crisis  
  • George Makhatadze, Senior Chaired Constellation Professor in Biocomputation and Bioinformatics
    Proteins and disease
  • Andrea Page-McCaw, Assistant Professor of Biology
    Genes and disease

Computational Science and Engineering | Panel discussion
Darrin Communication Center 324           

  • John Kolb ’79, Vice President for Information Services and Technology and Chief Information Officer
    An overview of research in application areas that require high performance computing. Included are applications in computational fluid dynamics, data intensive modeling, finite element modeling, molecular dynamics, architectural design, and education. Researchers will describe their work with the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI) as well as other global computational resources.
  • Shekhar Garde, Professor and Department Head, Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Saroj K. Nayak, Associate Professor of Physics
  • Mark S. Shepard, Samuel A. and Elisabeth C. Johnson , Jr. Professor of Engineering and Director of the Scientific Computation Research Center

Energy and the Environment | Panel presentation
Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) Bruggeman Conference Center


  • John Wen ’85, Professor and Director of the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS)
    An overview  of energy and the environment research at Rensselaer              

Sub-session I: “Alternative Forms of Energy”

  • Shawn Yu Lin, Constellation Professor of Future Chips, Program Moderator
    The “Darkest Material”
  • Robert Linhardt, Ann and John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59 Senior Constellation Professor of Biocatalysis and Metabolic Engineering
    The “paper battery”
  • K.V. Lakshmi, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
    Solar bioenergetics                      

Subsession II: “Energy in our World”

  • Anna Dyson, Associate Professor of Architecture, Director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE), Program Moderator
    Energy-efficient built environments
  • Michael Jensen, Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering
    Solar-powered vehicles
  • Mariana Figueiro, Assistant Professor at the Lighting Research Center (LRC)
    Lighting in relation to health

Media, Art, Science and Technology | Performance of Chunky Move: GLOW
Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Goodman Studio

Conceived as a “biotech fiction” by Australian choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and interactive software creator Frieder Weiss, Glow transforms a solo dancer into a mutant figure both sensual and grotesque. As she slides and thrashes across a white floor, her form generates a constantly shifting digital habitat of projected light. Her smallest gestures are captured by an overhead tracking system, while interactive video technology creates motion graphics that shift in real time in response to her movement. Also, there will be a post-performance discussion led by Weiss.

At 4 p.m., the Rensselaer men’s hockey team will face Colgate University in the Houston Field House. Tickets are available for purchase by calling (518) 276-6262 or online via Ticketmaster at

At 8 p.m., the Celebration Weekend will conclude with a concert by violinist Joshua Bell in the EMPAC Concert Hall. For more than two decades, Joshua Bell has enchanted audiences worldwide with his breathtaking virtuosity and tone of rare beauty.  He came to national attention at the age of 14 in a highly acclaimed orchestral debut with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra.  A Carnegie Hall debut, the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a recording contract further confirmed his presence in the music world.  

Today, Bell is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestra leader. His restless curiosity and multifaceted musical interests have taken him in exciting new directions that have earned him the rare title of “classical music superstar.” Named by Musical America as the 2010 Instrumentalist of the Year, Bell is an exclusive Sony Classical artist known for his breadth and daring choices of repertoire, who has created a richly varied catalogue of recordings.

Formal attire is encouraged. Following the concert will be dessert and dancing in EMPAC.

For more information on the Celebration Weekend, to reserve concert tickets, and to RSVP for a Friday or Saturday special session and the Dec. 5 breakfast, visit:

Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050


For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit