Dan HuttenlocherDan Huttenlocher today said Cornell Tech is going to shatter the traditional model of universities by actively encouraging engagement between the academic and private sector communities.

The dean of the New York City Cornell/Technion—Israel Institute of Technology partnership spoke at the NYC Health Business Leaders event held at the Alexandria Center. More than 125 people packed the room.

Huttenlocher, a veteran of Xerox’s legendary PARC research facility in Palo Alto, said colleges are “not involved with the outside world.”

He’s hiring facility members who have directly interacted with the world and who possess an “external vision.”

For instance, experience in “founding something outside the academic sphere” is a faculty employment requirement.

The dean noted that Greg Pass, former chief technology officer at Twitter, joined Cornell Tech last year as founding entrepreneurial officer.

Huttenlocher, who likened his professors to baseball “free agents,” expects pushback as he rethinks the “big and lumbering” mindset of academia.

He welcomes it because “you can’t do interesting work without conflict.”

The Cornell Tech campus will feature an open floor plan that is the hallmark of tech companies.

There will be a resident venture capitalist on the Roosevelt Island campus, start-up incubator, in-house product development space and a corporate presence in a third of 12-acre complex.

The three hubs of the graduate school’s programs are healthier life, connective media and built environment.

The first seven students began their studies in January at Google’s NYC facility on Eighth Ave. There are now 30 students.

The Roosevelt Island campus will begin to open in 2017. Site demolition will start next year

Though Huttenlocher has a “grand vision” for the school, he has “no concrete plan of how to get there.”

Computer sciences professor Deborah Estrin neatly summed up her vision of the school as “applying the applied sciences.”

Capturing ‘Digital Traces’

Estrin, a former UCLA professor, is founder of the Open mHealth non-profit group in San Francisco that is working on developing software architecture to break down the existing barriers in the mobile health space

She talked about how innovations in smartphone technology have sparked the rise of personalized health.

Her goal is to capture the myriad of “digital traces” or “small data” that are collected by third-party communications service providers and use that material to manage a person’s health.

She said data from a Time Warner cable box about volume levels could be used to spot the gradual loss of a customer’s hearing.  

Information yielded from a supermarket loyalty card could help a physician treat and tailor a diet for a person with diabetes.

Estrin gave a TedMed presentation in April (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAEhSGYEHWU) about the “trail of digital breadcrumbs” that a person scatters each day.

Her goal is to liberate that information from service providers and apply it on ways to improve individual health.