As it broadens its reach, the Darrin Fresh Water Institute has transitioned from a research center based within the School of Science to an Institute wide center. The change supports the DFWI as it increasingly serves as a platform for multidisciplinary research and education, hosting faculty members, researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students from schools and departments across Rensselaer.
As part of the transition, Jonathan S. Dordick, vice president for research and the Howard P. Isermann ’42 professor of chemical and biological engineering, has announced that Rick Relyea, the David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Chair and professor of biological sciences, has been appointed director of the newly expanded Institute wide center, and Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, a professor of biological sciences, has been appointed as associate director. The appointments were effective July 1.
Research at the DFWI fulfill the vision of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for higher education which recognizes that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. Rensselaer serves as a crossroads for collaboration—working with partners across disciplines, sectors, and geographic regions—to address complex global challenges, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.
“Since its foundation, the DFWI has grown from a field station on Lake George to a major research platform, and this transition acknowledges that growth and enables that broader impact,” Dordick said.
That growth would not have been possible without Nierzwicki-Bauer’s leadership of the DFWI in her capacity as director since 1993, Dordick said.
“This transition builds on the strong foundation Sandra provided through her tireless dedication to DFWI, her support for researchers, educators, and myriad undergraduate and graduate students, and her expertise of Lake George ecology,” Dordick said.
Dordick said the DFWI “has held a remarkable place in Rensselaer history, including long-term studies on the effects of acid rain on fresh water habitats and the chemistry and biota of Adirondack lakes, ponds, and streams.”
In 2014, the DFWI published the results of a landmark 30-year study of Lake George, as part of ongoing research documenting changes in the lake’s chemistry and ecology. That research serves as the foundation for the Jefferson Project at Lake George, an unprecedented effort to integrate monitoring, modeling, and experimentation to understand the impact of human activities on large lakes, and an example of how the DFWI has broadened its reach.
“I think we’re going to see more people—faculty and students from across the Institute, as well as researchers from other organizations—participating in research that draws upon the DFWI,” Dordick said. “The DFWI hosts a dynamic range of sponsored research in our Institute wide signature thrust in Energy, Environment, and Smart Systems, and we can expect to see rapid growth in this thrust area.”
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