January 28th, 2015 @ 10:00 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi
I’ll never forget the excitement I felt as a child watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. His bravery and eloquence amazed me, but my heart was with the engineers at NASA down here on earth. I was determined to become an engineer before I understood what that really meant.
The world will always call upon engineers to design bridges, map out transportation systems, and improve developing nations through technology and innovation. Now, with global population expanding and our ecosystems under extreme stress, the field of engineering must also focus on sustainability and environmental repair.
The Grand Challenges
In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering surveyed a committee of experts to identify “Grand Challenges” that the world, and hence the engineering profession, will need to solve.
In the UC system, we have been working on plans for a new system-wide graduate research program tied directly to the NAE’s list, and many UC Davis faculty and students are already doing important work on these issues:
• Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering, invented technology that turns industrial waste and household garbage into energy. Her biodigester does that now on the site of the university’s former landfill.
• Dan Sperling, director of our Institute of Transportation Studies, and Bryan Jenkins, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, helped write California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the world’s first air quality standard to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels.
• Students at our Student Research Expo after Fall Convocation showcased their work to find a cheaper, easier way to recycle plastic and a new approach to tissue preparation that makes heart valve replacements more successful.
For future generations to lead prosperous, healthy lives, engineers must increasingly devote themselves to the Grand Challenges. I’m so proud that UC Davis is playing a significant role in creating a more sustainable approach to the engineering profession.
To read my full opinion editorial in the Huffington Post, visit HERE.