President's Report 2003-2003

President's Report 2003-2003: New Jersey's Catalyst for Prosperity

A Message from the President


Robert A. AltenkirchIt is my pleasure and privilege to offer my first report on the stewardship of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

I have had the good fortune to arrive at NJIT at what must be the most exciting and challenging period in the history of higher education in New Jersey. The proposals put forward this year for reconfiguring higher education in our state have opened the door to immense opportunities to advance our position in research and economic development. Whatever the outcome of the public discussion now underway, the high level of awareness of New Jersey's public research universities can only benefit us. The state's leaders in government and business, as well as its media, have gone on record to say that the research universities are the key to our state's future prosperity, and to pledge their support to augment excellence at our institutions.

NJIT benefits most from this public attention because the goals articulated by our state's leaders are the very areas in which NJIT excels. Our university has a long history of adapting its educational programs to the needs of industry, so that our graduates can succeed in the workforce. Our research programs emphasize the technologies with the greatest promise for commercialization and the applications that increase profitability and productivity. And intrinsic to the NJIT character are the flexibility and the entrepreneurial spirit that make the university so successful in partnering with industry and nurturing new businesses.

A case in point is biomedicine. Experts agree that the integration of medicine and biology with engineering, computing and mathematics will bring about dramatic advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Governor James E. McGreevey's Task Force on Health Science, Education, and Training saw a great potential in biomedical applications for Newark's higher education facilities, with NJIT's technological expertise, the Newark-based resources of University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, and the Rutgers School of Nursing. In June, an additional resource was added, when the internationally renowned Public Health Research Institute moved into new quarters in University Heights Science Park, opening the way for collaborative projects in epidemiology, biostatistics, biomathematics, computational science and environmental science.

NJIT has also identified biomedicine as a critical growth area, and this year saw significant strides. William Hunter, a noted cardiovascular researcher from Johns Hopkins University, joined us as the first chairman of biomedical engineering. Dr. Hunter has already attracted major funding from the National Science Foundation to develop a summer institute for students from outside of the field of biomedical engineering that will provide an intensive introduction to the emerging field of BioMEMS, in which microscopic machines perform diagnostics or delivery medication. Biomedical faculty also received funding from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology to establish the New Jersey Vision Technology Center. The university successfully launched a new degree program in pharmaceutical engineering, and already has enrolled 25 candidates for degrees. In addition, faculty researchers received grant funding to support studies in areas that include stem cell applications, diabetes testing, genomics, neural networks, collagen, and a variety of biological and medical topics, in most cases in partnership with medical faculty and industry. Indeed, NJIT is already headed in this key direction that our state leaders have identified.

One of the reasons I chose to come to NJIT was because I could see that this is a university on the rise. The university recently completed a favorable accreditation site visit by the Middles States Organization of Schools and Colleges. We gained Tier 2 status in the U.S. News and World Report survey, placing us in the top half of the leading national doctoral universities. With nearly $60 million in research funding, we've also broken into "Top 200 American Research Universities" in total research expenditure, federal research expenditure and doctorates awarded, according to an annual study by The Center at the University of Florida. The study also shows NJIT with the nation's fastest growing research program and fastest growing endowment. We've been among the top 10 "most wired" campuses in the nation for five consecutive years. We recently completed the largest and most successful capital campaign in the university's history.

I've set six goals designed to keep NJIT's momentum going. First, I want us to refine and focus our strategic plan with measurable goals and resource allocation. We can start with the plan developed for the Middle States visit, and adapt it to emerging opportunities

Second, I want to make sure that the educational programs are sound, that they continue to serve a diverse student population as they do now so well, and are coupled with our research programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Oftentimes the argument is made that teaching and research are at odds -- that to do both well is unattainable. To the contrary, what better teacher and mentor than the faculty member fully engaged in uncovering knowledge so that cutting-edge technology is discussed in the classroom and learning laboratories?

Next, we'll grow the research program in a focused way, emphasizing large-scale, interdisciplinary efforts, building on strength, or the opportunity to grow strength, taking into account local, state and regional needs that will develop partnerships with an impact on the economy. Research capacity is important; the larger the effort, the greater the chance of commercializing results, and of becoming a player in industrial partnerships and impacting the economy.

At the same time, we will seek to grow the endowment to levels comparable to peers; develop a greater sense of community among alumni and friends of the university; and expand the commercialization of intellectual property and enhance relationships with Science Park incubator tenants.

The Middle States team described NJIT as an institution that "verges on being a major institution of research, a leader in the education of students from non-traditional backgrounds, and an engine of economic development for its region and state."  We will remove the qualifier from that statement.

Robert A. Altenkirch
New Jersey Institute of Technology