Since Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute awarded its first Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1969, we have remained in the forefront of computer technology. Initially, the discipline of computer science was in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, but in 1984 Computer Science became an independent department. Our Department has grown considerably over the years, both in the number of faculty members and in national reputation. Currently we have 21 faculty, about 85 graduate students, and about 450 undergraduate majors.
The Department is an excellent environment for graduate student training -- it offers:
As a result of this prominence, the Department is able to attract extremely talented graduate students. These students regularly present papers at conferences and have won prizes for their work while in graduate school. A number of Department students have founded successful computer companies, including Performance Systems International, MapInfo (now Pitney Bowes Business Insight), STEPTools, Etransmedia, and Vicarious Visions.
Admission to the graduate program is highly competitive. Admitted students generally have strong academic backgrounds in Computer Science and demonstrated research potential. We accept fewer than 15% of our applicants, and offer aid to fewer than 10% of applicants.
Most Computer Science Department graduate students receive financial support. About 65 of our graduate students are supported by teaching or research assistantships. These provide both tuition and a stipend. In 2010-2011, the stipend is $17,500 for the academic year. The remainder of our students are supported by sources including fellowships, their employers, or, in the case of students earning joint BS-MS degrees, undergraduate financial aid.
Typically, students will start as teaching assistants, and then will transition to research assistant positions after they have become more familiar with the work of their research groups, but occasionally a first semester student is awarded a research assistantship. A few truly outstanding first-year students are awarded fellowships.
When applicants are admitted without aid, it is usually because they already have funding from another source. However, if applicants who need aid are admitted without aid, they will have opportunities to apply for assistantships after enrolling.
Financial awards are made on the basis of ability rather than need. To receive full consideration for aid, students should submit all required materials by January 1 for the fall semester or August 15 for the spring semester.
Graduate Degree Programs
The M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science prepare students for solving applied problems of industry and government as well as conducting independent research. At the M.S. level, specializations are available in Computational Science and Engineering and in Robotics. At the Ph.D. level, specializations in both Computational Science and Engineering and Computational Molecular Biology are available.
Among the many research centers on campus are:
The Incubator Center has been cited by The New York Times as an "example being copied nationwide." Founded in 1980, the center offers newly formed high-technology companies office space at low rent, business service at low cost and opportunities for consultation with Rensselaer faculty. More than 100 companies have joined the Incubator Center; many of them have gone on to become highly profitable independent companies in the Northeast.
The Rensselaer Technology Park, a 1,250-acre tract located just south of Troy, is home to several major companies, including the Genomics Institute, NYSERNet, OneVision Solutions, and Pitney Bowes Business Insight (formerly MapInfo). It opened in 1983 with the aim of spurring industrial growth in the Capital District, and now houses more than 70 high-tech firms, both large and small.
The GE Global Research Center Headquarters is located in Niskayuna, 15 miles west of Troy. It is the primary research laboratory for GE and has a staff of more than 1,900 people representing all areas of science and technology.
Rensselaer's placement office provides services to graduate as well as undergraduate students. Most of the major technical corporations in the nation actively recruit at Rensselaer, and Computer Science students, both undergraduate and graduate, usually have a choice of several job offers from major firms.
Graduate Student Life
Although the graduate curriculum is challenging, students still have time for other activities. Hobbies enjoyed by students in the department include soccer, tennis, skiing, hiking, reading, writing, listening to music, playing musical instruments, and cooking. Students often get together to go out to eat, play board games, go bowling, or go to movies, concerts, or hockey games.
On the Rensselaer campus, there are many opportunities for recreation and entertainment, including movies, plays, concerts, sports events, athletic facilities, and more than 175 student organizations. Rensselaer.s Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) presents concerts, installations, exhibitions, and other artistic offerings. The Houston Field House is used for ice hockey games, rock concerts and other major entertainment programs.
Troy, Albany, and Schenectady offer numerous concerts, plays, museums, sports events, nightclubs, and restaurants serving food from many different cultures and countries, including India, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, Indonesia, Ireland, and Japan. The near perfect acoustics of the Troy Music Hall attract some of the world's outstanding musicians. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, summer residence of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra, is only a half-hour away. An hour away in the Berkshires are Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and the Williamstown Theater Festival. Three major metropolitan areas, New York City, Montreal, and Boston, are within a three hour drive.
The area is an ideal mix of urban and rural environments. There are nearly a million people living in the Capital District (Troy, Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, and their suburbs), but Troy is within a few minutes of rural countryside. The upstate New York area provides many opportunities for outdoor activities. There are a number of downhill ski areas within driving distance, and many students are also involved in cross country skiing, climbing and hiking in the nearby Adirondack Mountains, the Berkshires, and the Catskills. There are numerous rivers and lakes in the area for swimming, boating, fishing, and white water rafting.
There are numerous other colleges and universities in the area. Russell Sage College is also in Troy, and the State University of New York at Albany is across the river in Albany. Other colleges in the region include Skidmore, Union, Williams, Siena, St. Rose, Bennington, Albany Medical College, and Albany Law School.
Students can live on campus in graduate student housing or off campus. There are many inexpensive apartments within a short distance of the campus, and the low cost of living is one of the appeals of the area.