By Ian Thomsen
News at Northeastern
The Roux Institute at Northeastern University will open in the fall at a facility currently under construction in Portland, Maine. The new building, operated by WEX, one of 10 founding corporate partners of the institute, will offer 26,500 square feet of dedicated space with views of Portland Harbor.
Employees of WEX and other partners will be among the first students at the innovation hub, which is designed to drive sustained economic growth in Portland that will reverberate throughout Maine and Northeastern New England.
The institute’s new home is adjacent to Portland’s East End and Munjoy Hill neighborhoods. The Roux Institute will be within walking or commuting distance of its 10 corporate partners, providing those companies with ready access to educational and research programs that are suited to their specific needs.
“Our partnership with WEX shows that even in the midst of a global pandemic, Maine’s people and businesses are committed to maintaining the momentum we set forth together earlier this year,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “We are launching a new model of higher education in Maine. The research and teaching agendas will be developed based on the needs and expectations of our corporate partners. The blueprint for innovation that we created together remains unchanged, thanks in great measure to Maine’s agility and spirit of innovation.”
Melissa Smith, chief executive of WEX, a global leader in financial technology that serves millions of companies, became intrigued with the idea of leasing space to the Roux Institute as she attended the announcement of the institute in January. At that opening ceremony, the institute’s mission was articulated by Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, and David Roux, who, with his wife, Barbara, has invested $100 million in the university to educate generations of talent for the digital and life sciences sectors in Maine and beyond.
“We are so pleased to be working with the Roux Institute to partner with them to create a space in the new building operated by WEX in downtown Portland, Maine,” said Smith. “The Institute’s deep technology focus directly targets the needs of Maine’s workforce and will create a strong talent pipeline for WEX, Portland, and the state as a whole. We’re looking forward to having our employees attend the Institute, our continued partnership, and to having them next door.”
The institute will develop its own space and entrance in the building, separate from WEX, while a permanent location in Portland is being chosen and developed for 2024.
The Roux Institute intends to offer master’s degrees and certificate programs in computer science, data analytics, and advanced life sciences, including bioinformatics and biotechnology. The institute will also feature an experiential doctoral program that is built around internships, fellowships, and other special initiative programs focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“We’re going to make a massive investment in advanced education and research activities, focused at the most technically-advanced edge of the technology sphere—which is A.I. and machine learning,” David Roux said at the launch event of the Roux Institute at Northeastern University, in January. “If we get that right, we have all kinds of options. We are going to be going for the biggest prize, the brass ring, of technology.”
The institute is focused primarily on the needs of students, employees, and employers in Maine. Its curriculum and research programs are being developed in concert with the institute’s corporate partners, who have been discussing their talent needs with university leaders, as well as with faculty from the College of Engineering, College of Science, and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences.
The institute’s research programs are being developed in three areas:
- Life sciences and medicine. A priority for the Roux Institute will be to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze enormous data sets that will lead to new approaches in biology and human health.
- Engineering. An area of focus will be the discovery of materials with unique properties that can enable the design of new devices.
- Data visualization. As inspired by the university’s academic plan, Northeastern 2025, which takes on the relationship between humans and data, the institute will focus on the interface that enables people to analyze data without being experts in computer science or artificial intelligence.
(Reprinted with permission from the News at Northeastern.)