By Mark G. McLaughlin
Technological breakthroughs sometimes come about through inspiration, but most of the big leaps in technology – and how to apply those leaps to the real world – require hard work in the classrooms, lecture halls and research laboratories of the leading centers of higher education. Those who hope to make and apply similar breakthroughs are working away as students, teachers and researchers at major institutes of technology such as CalTech, MIT, RPI, Georgia Tech and Purdue, which are noted as being among America’s top tech schools.
California Institute of Technology
Caltech (California Institute of Technology) is not only considered one of the best tech schools in the nation, but also one of the top 10 universities in the world. NASA’s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) is a division of Caltech – and not the other way around.The Insight Lander that just reached Mars is essentially a Caltech project for NASA. This private university is also famed for its outstanding work on climate change, its award-winning chemistry department and its groundbreaking work in nanotechnology, neurology and physics. These are just some of the many good reasons why, when the writers of the CBS hit “The Big Bang Theory” were trying to figure out where Sheldon Cooper and his friends should work, they selected Caltech.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The greater Boston area has more institutions of higher learning and more students per capita of any city in the country, and one of its oldest and most famous (and with good reason) is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Founded at the start of the Civil War, its mission was to accelerate the industrial revolution in America (and notably, in the Union). It has done that and far more in its 150-plus years, over which it produced 89 Nobel laureates. MIT, however, has never rested on its laurels, and this private university remains at the cutting edge of technological research both in the United States and in the world.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
The more than 100,000 living graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, like the alumni who came before them, have made major contributions in almost every field of technology. Once known primarily for its engineering graduates, RPI was among the first and foremost institutes of higher education to explore and embrace the study of nanotechnology, biotechnology and cyber security. Situated on the Hudson River in upstate New York in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady tri-city area, this private university is among the top 10 universities in the United States whose graduates earn the most money. It also has one of the most powerful computers of any university in the world – and one heck of a hockey team.
Georgia Institute of Technology
“I’m a wranglin’ wreck from Georgia Tech and a heck of an engineer” is more than just an old fight song, it aptly describes what kind of students this public university in the heart of Atlanta is famous for producing. Founded as a trade school to help rebuild the South after the ravages of the Civil War, Georgia Tech quickly evolved into one of the foremost scientific centers in the nation. Famed for its approach to produce graduates with practical rather than theoretical knowledge in technology and the sciences, Georgia Tech more recently has also acquired a reputation for preparing its students for the challenges of an evolving world. Just as it helped transform the South from an agrarian to an industrial society, so has it taken on a mission to help the world move from the industrial to the information age.
Now marking its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), Purdue was founded with the clear intention to produce engineers whose talents were best suited to the business world. The “Boiler Makers” of Purdue, as they are still known, however, make more than boilers. The graduates of this fine institution in the heart of the American Midwest have made their mark in almost every field of science and technology. Purdue’s Discovery Park research center is among the leading think-tanks working on exploring technological solutions to the current and upcoming challenges in energy and food production as well as how to meet the growing needs of a rapidly expanding global population – and the megacities in which of that population now lives or into which they will move.