Monday, April 27, 2009

Welcome to my blog

My name is Dr. Laura J. Steinberg, and I’m Dean of SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS). This is the first installment of periodic blogs from me. My Dean’s blog will focus on topics of interest to LCS students and alumni – things like my upcoming visit to London and Milan to talk about how scientists and engineers model the effects of terrorism attacks and natural disasters on urban infrastructure. On occasion, my blog might even be a bit whimsical – you may find a description of a play at Syracuse Stage, or of a snowshoe trek I took at Beaver Lake Park. As often as possible, I’ll offer websites where you can follow-up for more information.

I’ll also report on some things that are happening at the College. For example, you’ll hear about the LCS plans for convocation, and I’ll introduce you virtually to our graduation speakers. Over the summer, the blog will keep you updated on some of special events we are planning for the next academic year. Eventually, we’ll offer a forum for you to respond.

One of the reasons why I want to talk with you on this blog is that there is so much happening in the world of engineering that I would like to share with you. This is a very exciting time to be an engineer: so many of the issues the world is focused on will need engineering and technology to help address them. For example: we need to create secure cyber-infrastructure to prevent hacking into our most personal information; we need to find ways of capturing, storing, and using alternative forms of energy; we have challenges in protecting our country from natural and manmade disasters and in protecting our GI’s on the battlefield; and much of the world is thirsting for reliable water supplies and in need of medical breakthroughs.

At the same time, the world of engineering work itself is changing. With more computerization and globalization, more of the engineer’s time is spent managing, coordinating, and interpreting than ever before. With much of the mundane work of engineering now done by computers or even by engineers living “offshore,” the engineer has more time to focus on difficult design issues and on managing the design and analysis process. And, engineers are spending more time working in groups and engaging with public policy makers, rather than living a “solitary “ life at the drafting board. These changes mean that engineers will need to develop their capabilities in teamwork, communication, and big-picture thinking very early in their careers. It will be a challenge for engineering schools to meet these developmental needs during the four years students are at school. In upcoming editions of this blog, I will talk more about how LCS can best prepare our students for life as engineers or in other professions in the 21st century

As I was thinking about starting this blog, I was excited to see a piece about the future of engineering in the April 12, 2009 edition of the New York Times. Imagine my surprise when the piece, entitled “With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King?” began with these sentences, “In the Depression, smart college students flocked into civil engineering to design the highway, bridge, and dam-building projects of those days. In the Sputnik era, students poured into the sciences as America bet on technology to combat the cold war challenge.” As Steve Lohr writes in the article, this pattern is returning after a hiatus when many of the best college students studied finance and business consulting. “Science could well rise in the new pecking order of career status. The Obama Administration wants to double federal spending in basic research over 10 years and triple the number of graduate fellowships in science.” Quoting Dr. Eric Roberts of Stanford University, Lohr writes, “What we need to do is to broadly educate as many people as possible in science, so the most talented people find their way into the field. “

So, students, as you begin your studies for your exams this week, consider this: the world awaits your ideas and your expertise. There is much to be done.

I’ll be back at this spot later this week, when I’ll be reporting from London.

Dean Steinberg