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Troy, N.Y. -  6/13/2011

Spring Proves Fruitful for LRC Graduate Students

BUCKY LED design by Basar ErdenerIn the spring of 2011, Lighting Research Center (LRC) graduate students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute racked up an impressive list of accolades ranging from campus entrepreneurship awards to winning first place in national design competitions.

“What we thought was particularly notable is that several of the design award submissions were bolstered by the students’ application of research principles, and that is a reflection of the Lighting Research Center’s education curriculum,” said LRC Associate Director and Professor Russ Leslie.”
The LRC has been offering the premier graduate degree in the field of lighting since 1990, including one- and two-year master’s and Ph.D. programs, which Leslie describes as models for multidisciplinary learning.

“In addition to physics, architecture, biology, and design, LRC students are immediately immersed in hands-on, cross-disciplinary research, unlike any other lighting education program,” said Leslie, who also attributes the LRC graduates’ 100 percent job placement rate to program design.  
Building on its strong foundation, the LRC recently expanded its advanced study options to include opportunities for those interested in technology commercialization and entrepreneurship, while the mission of the LRC's graduate education program remains the same, "to educate the future leaders in lighting."
Following is a list of recent LRC student awards and recognitions.
Sylvan R. Shemitz Memorial Scholarship
The Lighting Quotient, a leading architectural lighting manufacturer, announced that LRC graduate student Kate Sweater is the winner of the annual Sylvan Shemitz Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship, awarded in conjunction with the Illuminating Engineers Society (IES), grants $2,500 to one student who demonstrates creativity, vision and knowledge in the field of architectural lighting. To enter, students crafted complete lighting design plans based on specifications provided by The Lighting Quotient and IES, and wrote a 250-word statement of their lighting concept.
 “We are pleased to celebrate Sy’s lifelong legacy by focusing on today’s students who will lead the lighting industry of tomorrow,” said Allison Schieffelin, CEO of The Lighting Quotient. “We received a number of strong, thoughtful submissions this year and felt Ms. Sweater’s lighting plan best encapsulated the creativity and strategic solutions lighting can bring to any given facility.”   
Sweater was selected as the winner thanks to her mastery of the art and science of lighting design, her well thought out approach, and thorough documentation of installation schedules and manufacturer cut-sheets, according to The Lighting Quotient award announcement.
Robert Bruce Thompson Annual Light Fixture Design Competition
The Annual Student Light Fixture Design Competition is administered by the Robert Bruce Thompson Charitable Trust, established by R. B. Thompson’s estate when he passed away in 1999. A twenty-five year veteran of the lighting industry, R. B. Thompson believed passionately in the importance of design education and the value of intellectual property.  He endowed the trust so that it has the ability to give awards to students to encourage the study of light fixture design.
This spring, LRC graduate student Basar Erdener won the Thompson Prize, a first place cash award of $5,000, plus a trophy. Erdener designed the BUCKY-LED, a highly flexible, energy-efficient lighting system for office spaces that uses remote phosphor technology and distributes warm, glare-free, diffused light with a tetrahedron-shaped design. According to the judges, Erdener’s design was an innovative concept that they would consider specifying. They praised the design’s flexibility of use and ability to create different shapes, and commented on Erdener’s great technical detailing.
LRC graduate student Kate Sweater took second place and received $2,500, plus an additional Citation for Technical Achievement and $500. Sweater designed FLIGHT LIGHT, a direct/indirect linear pendant that delivers light where it is needed and allows flexibility of use in an office setting. According to the judges, Sweater’s design showed a complete solution and was engineered beautifully. They also commented that they liked how she incorporated sustainability and recyclability into her design.
More on both designs can be found at
IALD Thomas M. Lemons Scholarship Award
The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) announced that Katheryn Czub, Rensselaer architecture and LRC lighting student, is the recipient of the 2011 Thomas M. Lemons Scholarship Award presented at LIGHTFAIR International in May 2011 in Philadelphia. The award, presented by the Scholarship Committee of the IALD Education Trust, is presented yearly to a student committed to studying and practicing in the field of architectural lighting in the U. S. This scholarship, a monetary award, has been established through the generosity of Available Light, a Boston-based lighting design firm.  The selection process includes a review of grades, portfolio, and professional recommendations, according to the IALD website.
Nuckolls Fund Jonas Bellovin Scholar Achievement Award
The Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education is designed to support college-level lighting programs that enable students to learn, appreciate, and apply the basics of lighting and design. The Nuckolls Fund initiated the Jonas Bellovin Scholar Achievement Award to recognize a student who has demonstrated outstanding performance in an established lighting program. In May, the $5,000 Jonas Bellovin Scholar Achievement Award was presented to LRC graduate student Leora Radetsky during LIGHTFAIR International in Philadelphia.
Rensselaer Change the World Challenge
Each semester, Rensselaer students select a topic from a range of challenges with the potential to improve human life, and they offer an innovative and sustainable solution to that challenge. Examples of challenges include improving safety and security and addressing energy, water, or health issues.
In the spring 2011 semester, undergraduate and graduate students from all five Rensselaer schools submitted proposals to the contest. Sixteen students representing nine entries were named winners of the competition and will receive funding to pursue their ideas further.  Those winners included LRC graduate students Natalia Lesniak and Asiri Jayawardena for their Quality Life Through Quality Light entry. It is an off-grid lighting system for the rural poor that consists of photovoltaic-charged LED lights and a mobile/wireless network that provides a “pay as you need” financing strategy.
In early June, Lesniak and Jayawardena were selected as the “best of the best” from all of the winning entries from the fall 2010 and spring 2011 competitions, and they will receive an additional $5,000 grand prize to pursue their innovative product and business model approach to providing light for people who have no access to a conventional power grid.
Rensselaer Elevator Pitch Competition
Twelve teams competed in Rensselaer’s Office of E*ntrepreneurship Elevator Pitch Competition that recognizes and celebrates the creativity, discipline and skills to concisely and convincingly sell a new idea. The program included preparation workshops, coaching, networking opportunities and cash prizes for individual students and teams. LRC graduate student Basar Erdener won for Most Creative Pitch, and received $500 for his Taxi Roof Light Design that simply and efficiently conveys whether a taxi cab is available.  His design is adaptable to work with taxi cabs around the world.
AARC/King Student Medal
In May 2011, LRC graduate student Asiri Jayawardena received Rensselaer’s Architectural Research Centers Consortium’s AARC/King Student Medal for Excellence in Architectural and Environmental Design Research.  
Academic Excellence in Lighting
In May 2011, LRC graduate student Kate Sweater received the Rensselaer School of Architecture Faculty Graduate Recognition Award for Excellence in the Study of Architecture and General Academic Achievement by an LRC Student.

About the Lighting Research Center
The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the world's leading center for lighting research and education. Established in 1988 by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the LRC conducts research in light and human health, transportation lighting and safety, solid-state lighting, energy efficiency, and plant health. LRC lighting scientists with multidisciplinary expertise in research, technology, design, and human factors, collaborate with a global network of leading manufacturers and government agencies, developing innovative lighting solutions for projects that range from the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to U.S. Navy submarines to hospital neonatal intensive-care units. In 1990, the LRC became the first university research center to offer graduate degrees in lighting and today, offers a M.S. in lighting and a Ph.D. to educate future leaders in lighting. Learn more at

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America's first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 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.