National Needs Reflect College of Engineering’s Priorities
We need more engineers” asserted President Barack Obama in a policy speech on February 23, 2012, at the University of Miami. The College of Engineering wholeheartedly agrees.
When the President declared in his 2011 State of the Union address the necessity for “biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy” he was, in fact, delineating the very same three research thrusts established three years before in the College of Engineering’s strategic plan. Indeed, in early 2008, based on the expertise of our faculty and the needs of our nation, we established three critical areas for research within the College: Healthcare and Technobiology, informatics and Risk, and sustainable systems. The President’s validation of these research priorities underscores both their value and their alignment with national needs. Projects currently under way in the College in each of these areas also draw upon the critical mass of faculty and resources we have been assembling over the past five years. Recent grants in each of the areas include those funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on reverse engineering the brain, the office of Naval Research (ONR) on cyber security and the Department of energy (DOE) on energy assessment.
In fact, the latter DOE grant on energy assessment is actually a continuation effort initiated by Dr. Shihab Asfour in 2000; it was also the reason President Obama visited the College of Engineering, just before his February 23, 2012, policy speech. The President’s visit to our University of Miami Industrial Assessment Center (MIIAC) once again highlighted the importance of our research in sustainable systems and the nation’s need for innovative solutions to our energy problems. As he stated later in his policy speech, the work being done in the MIIAC is one of the “fastest, easiest ways to reduce (America’s) dependence on oil and make (our) economy stronger…we’ve got to develop new technology that helps us use less energy and use energy smarter…we’ve got to rely on American know-how and the young engineers right here at the U who are focused on energy.”
According to President Obama, the work done in the MIIAC “couldn’t be more important.” He praised the Center and mentioned that its research is “helping manufacturers save millions of dollars in energy bills by making their facilities more efficient.” MIIAC has thus far conducted over 220 energy assessments of small and medium sized businesses in south Florida and Puerto Rico and, according to Dr. Asfour, the savings to each assessed company usually exceeds 25% of their total energy expenses.
The activities of MIIAC are clearly answering the President’s call for bold new energy strategies. Realizing that our efforts are consistent with national needs inspires us to push forward with the Center’s projects, as well as with other activities in sustainable systems, including Dr. James Englehardt’s work on autonomous net-zero water systems (funded by the National Science Foundation) and the work of Dr. Helena Solo-Gabriel and her group in water quality control. (This project is highlighted on the Momentum2 website
Recently, a New York Times article (Catherine Rampell) underscored the fact that the US has a “comparative advantage in high-skilled services such as engineering…as the developed world has gotten wealthier, global demand for skills and services—especially the higher-end ones—has risen.” This demand for engineers and their knowledge-based and leading edge skills are exactly what the College is striving to meet. All three research thrust areas are not only being responsive to President Obama’s agenda for the nation but they constitute an integral part of the College’s mission to produce tomorrow’s technology leaders for career success. A video capturing the President’s visit and our efforts in sustainable systems is available at CoE Video Gallery