The following article is drawn from a Lighting Research Center press release announcing the institution's new educational initiative.

Courtesy Lighting Research Center

Numerous studies have found that humans don't eat enough healthy foods, including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. However, a study published in October 2018 titled "When Too Much Isn’t Enough: Does Current Food Production Meet Global Nutritional Needs?" found that if everyone around the globe began to eat a healthy, plant-based diet, there would simply not be enough fruits and vegetables to feed the world. In other words, what we should be eating, and what we're producing are not aligned under the current global agriculture system.

Research from the Illumination for Plant Health (IPH) Alliance at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has shown that “precision light dosing” can be used to combat the many pests and pathogens that reduce crop yields, and to increase plant health. At the same time, due to factors such as interest in local and sustainable food, along with maturing technologies which make it financially viable, crops are increasingly being grown indoors in controlled environments. Lighting professionals are being called upon to design and develop innovative lighting systems and applications for these indoor agricultural environments. This presents exciting new challenges for lighting professionals, who must gain additional knowledge and skills to navigate and fully participate in this emerging market.

To address this need, the LRC is developing a new course curriculum on lighting for plant growth and health with support from the Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education. The course development team at LRC includes professor Mark Rea, plant pathologist Jaimin Patel, research scientist Leora Radetsky, and director of education Dan Frering. Collaborators include Erik Runkle, a professor of horticulture at Michigan State University, and plant pathologists David Gadoury at Cornell University and Natalia Peres at the University of Florida, who are widely respected for their expertise in using UV to mitigate pathogens in fruit and vegetable crops.

The LRC has offered the M.S. Lighting degree for the past 29 years. In 2004, with assistance from the Nuckolls Fund for Lighting Education, the LRC began offering the Ph.D. in architectural sciences with a concentration in lighting. This additional degree option has broadened the scope of graduate education at the LRC, allowing students to pursue more in-depth, research-based study in lighting. The LRC is part of the School of Architecture at Rensselaer, but draws students from a diverse range of backgrounds including interior design, architecture, art, theater, engineering (architectural, mechanical, electrical), physics, biology, and others areas of science. This diversity is a great strength of the program, helping to ensure a rich environment for interdisciplinary study. The new course curriculum on lighting for plant growth and health will be modular and flexible to allow it to be adapted and taught at the undergraduate, graduate, or post-professional levels, and will become a permanent, regular LRC offering.