Secure the future of America’s leadership in innovation.
“I want to be an engineer when I grow up. . .”
That was the heartening sentiment in a thank you note I received from a fifth-grader after I spoke at my daughter’s class about engineering and the stories behind America’s most dynamic inventions. Once they learned what an engineer did, they wanted to join the innovators of tomorrow in creating real value for society—to launch satellites, design virtual reality, build components for wind turbines, invent nanosized devices for detecting biological hazards, make life-saving biomedical breakthroughs, and more.
It is heartening because at a time when the US faces a shortage of students seeking an engineering degrees, it suggests that if we reach students early enough about what engineers actually do and how they improve our quality of life more young people might choose a career in technology innovation.
As we approach graduation season, it’s worth noting that the number of engineering graduates has been rising in recent years and is likely to do so again this year. But a large percentage of this increase is driven by students who do not reside in the US and can return home after they complete their studies. This is a problem for U.S. innovation, particularly since engineer draws fewer women and almost no underrepresented minorities, such as Hispanics and African-Americans.
Sunshine from the warm, cloudless day penetrated the air of excitement inside the Track and Tennis Center, where faculty, staff, family and friends gathered to celebrate the 63rd commencement of 350 undergraduate students from the College of Engineering on May 14.
Dean Kenneth Lutchen began the ceremony by acknowledging the challenges students had to face and overcome in order to arrive at that moment today, noting that while engineering is the toughest course of study at BU, “the hard is what makes it great, and you made it.”
Lutchen also recognized the important role that family and friends played in supporting their graduates, noting that commencement was a celebration that was years in the making.
“From first steps to learning you were admitted into this great institution, you have been celebrating achievements and important milestones for the past 22 years,” he said. “Today you will celebrate the best investment you could have made walking across this stage.”
The College of Engineering has earned its highest-ever ranking from US News & World Report, placing 35th among its peer American schools in the magazine’s latest rankings. It’s a two-slot advance from last year and a long jump from a decade ago, when the school placed 52nd, says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG.
Additionally, ENG’s biomedical engineering instruction ranked ninth among such programs nationally. The ratings of 194 engineering schools considered peer assessments, student selectivity, student-faculty ratios, the number of doctoral degrees granted, and research funding, among other factors.
Lutchen attributes his school’s success to several strengths, starting with a commitment to interdisciplinary research across both the college and the University, “recruiting complementary faculty in areas such as photonics, information and cyber-physical systems, the intersection of engineering and biology, advanced materials, and nanotechnology.” That approach, he says, has garnered “tremendous extramural funding success among our faculty.”
One hundred and twenty six materials researchers from as near as Boston and as far away as California and Iran convened in the Photonics Center on September 25 for the BU Materials Day symposium, “Nanomaterials in Medicine: Improving Healthcare Through Small Innovations.”
The day-long event featured an array of speakers who addressed the promise and use of nanomaterials in drug delivery, biomedical imaging, and fighting cancer and infectious diseases.
Dean Kenneth Lutchen welcomed the symposium participants and noted the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary strength of the College of Engineering’s Materials Science & Engineering Division. Materials research, he said, will play an important role in advancing society, particularly in healthcare.
“The current challenges facing health care call for biomaterials solutions,” he said. “It is an inherently complex, multi-scale problem you are trying to address.”
In an effort to train its graduate students in rapidly expanding fields, this fall the College of Engineering will begin offering three new master’s degree specializations in the fields of data analytics, cybersecurity, and robotics.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of ENG. “By combining a master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
The specialization programs are open to all master’s degree candidates in ENG. Students who opt to add a specialization will select at least four of their eight required courses from a list specific to that field. Specializations will be noted with the degree title on students’ final transcripts.
Classes for the fall 2015 semester begin September 2, and master’s degree students who are interested in focusing on one of the three fields should contact the Graduate Programs Office for more information.
Motivated by emerging economic sectors, the College of Engineering has created new Master’s degree specializations in the high-impact, interdisciplinary fields of Data Analytics, Cybersecurity and Robotics. The specializations are designed to meet the demand for highly skilled professionals in these rapidly expanding fields.
“The corporate sector has voiced frustration with the shortage of trained engineers in key sectors of the innovation economy,” said Dean Kenneth Lutchen. “By combining a Master’s degree in a foundational engineering discipline with a Specialization in a fast-growing, interdisciplinary field, students will be well positioned to meet this need and impact society. This unique combination should greatly enhance the power of their degrees in the marketplace.”
College of Engineering Dean Kenneth Lutchen is one of 121 deans presenting a letter of commitment to President Barack Obama this week to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.
These “Grand Challenges,” identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.
In his commitment letter Dean Lutchen explained how the College of Engineering’s long-standing focus on creating Societal Engineers addresses the Grand Challenges.
“Societal Engineers have the passion and attributes to integrate people from all disciplines and lead organizations to address society’s challenges and improve lives,” he wrote. “In addition to their discipline strength, Societal Engineers’ attributes include broad communication skills, systems thinking, global awareness, and a passion and understanding of the entrepreneurial process, the role public policy plays in technology innovation, and strong social consciousness. These attributes, which echo those of the National Academy of Engineering’s Engineer of 2020, are developed with the specific courses and programs that will translate into creating Grand Challenge Scholars.”
By many accounts, manufacturing is making a comeback in the United States. US manufacturers have added 500,000 new workers since the end of 2009, energy costs have dropped, and labor costs in competing countries such as China and India have been inching upward. President Barack Obama has been pushing to expand advanced manufacturing, most recently in his 2013 State of the Union address.
When those jobs materialize, BU College of Engineering graduates may well be among the first hired, thanks to Kenneth Lutchen, a professor of biomedical engineering and ENG dean, and to a $18.8 million in-kind gift of product design and lifecycle management software from PTC® that is currently used by about 27,000 manufacturers worldwide. Under Lutchen’s leadership, the college is transforming its curriculum so that all students, regardless of major, will graduate with a thorough understanding of how to develop new products, from concept and design through manufacturing and delivery. That knowledge will be nurtured in the new Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC), a 20,000-square-foot teaching and design studio equipped with the latest industry technology that will be housed in the former Guitar Center space at 750 Commonwealth Ave. While other schools have efforts to prepare engineering students for advanced manufacturing, says Lutchen, the ENG program is unique in how it will transform the entire engineering curriculum, enabled by modern technology and software infrastructure and through a partnership with regional industries.
The College of Engineering’s Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen was featured on an American Association for the Advancement of Science podcast last week for Science Translational Medicine magazine. During the interview, Dean Lutchen discussed biomedical engineering innovations and technology transfer, the process by which inventions made via university research transition into the private sector as new products.
Dean Lutchen was selected for the podcast because of his status as president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Senior Editor for Science Translational Medicine Kelly LaMarco spoke with the Dean about his involvement as the chair of a recent workshop for leaders in the biomedical engineering field from the academic realm as well as corporate medical device and pharmaceutical companies to discuss ways to drive technology innovation.
First, Ken Lutchen gave engineering students a more meaningful education. Now he wants them to have more meaningful lives.
What works in a lab doesn’t always work in the field.
That’s lesson number one Amy Canham brought back from Zambia when she went to the African nation two years ago to figure out the best way to build a portable pulse oximeter, an instrument that measures oxygen in a person’s blood and can help doctors distinguish patients with malaria from those with pneumonia. It’s a lesson, Canham says, that should be required learning for anyone who hopes to design instruments that will be used in places where spare parts are truly spare—places like Zambia or Nicaragua, where she traveled last spring with a group of engineering students and professors.
“One thing we learned was that it’s impossible to find double A batteries in Zambia,” says Canham. “On the other hand, cell phone batteries are available everywhere, so if you’re going to design a medical device in a resource-limited place like Zambia, you want it to run on cell phone batteries.”
It’s also a lesson of increasing importance at the College of Engineering, where Dean Kenneth Lutchen has put forth an extraordinary proposition as a kind of moral lodestar for the college. Lutchen wants to create what he calls societal engineers, people who, in his words, “use the grounded and creative skills of an engineer to improve the quality of life for one person or for an entire population.”
College of Engineering Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen was elected president of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) at the group’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, on Feb. 22. Dean Lutchen will lead the non-profit organization’s mission to advance public understanding of medical and biological engineering, and honor significant achievements in the field.
“It is a great pleasure to see such a talented individual take leadership of this dynamic organization,” said Lutchen’s predecessor in the AIMBE presidency, Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research at the University of Virginia. “We look forward to Dr. Lutchen’s leadership and his ability to help AIMBE realize its vision to help the public understand the value of medical and biological engineering innovation to benefit society.”
The College of Engineering has reason to celebrate: a sizable fellowship was recently named in honor of the dean and two mechanical engineering professors have received top awards in their field.
Coincidentally, these accolades come during National Engineers Week 2010, which several ENG student organizations are marking with special events through February 26.
The Kenneth R. Lutchen Distinguished Fellowship Program, created by an anonymous donation from a former student, will award a total of $100,000 annually to 10 undergraduate engineering students to fund summer research projects.
Lutchen, dean of ENG, says he is honored, humbled, and stunned by the donor’s desire to create and fund a fellowship in his honor.