Engineers Develop Innovative Solutions to Challenges of an Information-Rich Society

October 24, 2011

Despite the limited laboratory space available in Manhattan’s dense urban environment, Columbia’s basic and applied scientists and engineers have long been at the forefront of innovations central to modern life. Pioneering 20th century discoveries on campus include the technology behind FM radio, lasers, X-ray photography and atomic fission. And despite popular misconception that cutting-edge information technology research happens only in Silicon Valley, Columbians have also helped develop MPEG-2 that enables DVDs and high definition TV, as well as technical innovations found in the iPod Touch, the Roku media streamer, and even the sophisticated software that powers Hollywood’s latest animated movies.

Columbia’s deep reservoir of research has also given rise to an entrepreneurial culture led by one of the most successful technology transfer offices in the world. Indeed, Columbia Technology Ventures has been responsible for one of the top rates among American universities for translating research dollars into new jobs and startup companies.

Now Columbia is one of several universities that are responding to Mayor Bloomberg’s call for proposals to develop a new applied science campus in New York City. (The Engineering School is already a host or founding partner in such city initiatives as a new green building technology center and NYC Media Lab.) Unlike universities from outside New York seeking to build stand-alone research centers on city-owned land on Roosevelt Island, Columbia’s plan will leverage the major commitment it has already made to long-term academic and economic growth in Upper Manhattan which includes theMind Brain Behavior Initiative.

The University’s proposal for an expanded Engineering School presence in Manhattanville focuses on the growing need for the synthesis and analysis of the massive amounts of data generated in five critical areas of an information-driven economy: New Media, Smart Cities, Health Analytics, Cyber-Security and Finance. “Experience shows that engineering and applied science thrives as part of a multidisciplinary university community that includes everything from cutting-edge research in the basic sciences and humanities to the entrepreneurship of a business school,” says President Lee C. Bollinger. “That kind of dynamic intellectual mix that defines not just Columbia, but the genius of New York itself.” While past issues of The Record have featured the Engineering School’s expertise in such areas as sustainable technology and biomedical engineering, this edition focuses on some of the entrepreneurial ways it is already developing the next generation of people and ideas for a data-rich society.