October 22, 2012

New in Big City, CornellNYC Tech Campus Has Friend: Weill Cornell

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When building a $2 billion state-of-the-art tech campus, getting a little help from your friends never hurts.

The nearby Weill Cornell Medical College has begun to support CornellNYC Tech in the early stages of its research  and real estate development, according to administrators at both campuses.

“The Weill-Cornell campus is already actively engaged in the academic planning and faculty hiring for Cornell Tech, together with the Ithaca campus — thus strengthening ties between all three campuses,” said Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the tech campus.

WCMC administrators said they expect overlaps in research and academics between the colleges — and perhaps even a joint degree somewhere down the line.

While no joint degrees are currently available or being planned, Stephen Cohen, executive vice provost of WCMC, said academic collaboration in the future could increase through dual degrees.

“I would not be surprised if five years from today there are joint degrees being awarded,” Cohen said.

Dr. Rainu Kaushal, founding director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy at WCMC, noted that there will be an opportunity for tech campus students pursuing masters degrees to work on projects with WCMC faculty.

“I am really excited to be able to partner closely with the tech campus in particular as it surrounds the development of new technologies to push forward healthcare,” Kaushal said.

Additionally some professors will have appointments at both WCMC and the tech campus, according to Huttenlocher.

“Our first hire, Deborah Estrin, at Cornell tech also has a joint appointment at WCMC,” Huttenlocher said. “She is already working with faculty there launching projects related to her research activities in mobile health.”

Kaushal [— who, according to Cohen, has been tasked with working to foster faculty interactions between WCMC and the tech campus —] added that Estrin is involved with one of his research groups at Weill.

“We have already started submitting grants together,” Kaushal said.

Additionally, Weill faculty and staff can help by drawing on their experiences in New York City, according to Cathy Dove, vice president of the tech campus. Weill opened in 1898 in New York City.

“We are working closely with a number of [WCMC] staff, including their facilities and community relations team members, who have great experience with New York City building projects,” Dove said.

While collaboration between WCMC and the tech campus is just getting underway, administrators said they believe that the overlap between the two Cornell institutions will grow stronger over time.

“CornellNYC Tech is designed to be complementary to the Ithaca and Weill-Cornell campuses,” Huttenlocher said. “In particular, that means that faculty hiring and research at Cornell tech will look for opportunities to [engage] in information technologies related to health while partnering with WCMC’s expertise in … biotechnology-related fields.”

The tech campus curriculum will include programs that relate to the medical field, including nanotechnology, sensory systems and material science, according to Cohen.

“Medicine is going … in the direction of better materials science and more electronics, so this is absolutely perfect,” Cohen said.

Despite the potential overlap between the two campuses, Cohen said administrators are not concerned that WCMC and CornellNYC Tech will compete for people or funding, Cohen said. Their missions are related but different, and sponsors tend to take an interest in either the medical college or the budding technology industry, he said.

“[CornellNYC Tech] research sponsors are very different than [Weill-Cornell] research sponsors … The individuals that are interested in supporting health research are really different … than [the ones who] would gravitate towards computer science and engineering,” Cohen said. “We will be able to reinforce each other’s abilities [to secure] grants and corporate partnerships.”

Jacob Glick contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Rebekah Foster