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Message from the Dean

December 15th, 2008

Although the semester is winding down it’s almost impossible to discern any decline in activity amongst SEAS’ faculty, staff and students. Exciting, forward-thinking events were in no short supply last week.

This past Tuesday’s “Two Schools, One Mission” symposium –hosted by myself and Joanna Olmstead — provided a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand how truly interconnected we are across academic disciplines here at the U of R. From energy and environmental problems, to pressing economic, social and cultural issues, addressing current challenges in these areas increasingly demands the combined efforts of engineers, humanists, artists, and scientists of all types. Collaboration across disciplinary boundaries will help push our research and education in compelling, novel and ultimately successful directions. The symposium was a timely celebration of our shared dedication to strengthening the ongoing partnership between the School of Arts and Sciences and SEAS. As the University moves forward with this long-term strategic plan, I would certainly appreciate any thoughts you might have.

Last week came to a close with another important SEAS related gathering, the First Annual Social and Strategic Summit of the Rochester Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, which took place in Goergen Hall on Friday afternoon. With over 100 companies in Rochester focused on or involved with biotechnology– an impressive number — this was an event aimed at bringing together local practitioners, faculty, and students in order to discuss employment opportunities along with new avenues for technical innovation in areas where engineering and medicine cross paths. The public summit included poster presentations by researchers here at the U of R, as well as from the Rochester Institute of Technology and several upstate biomedical companies. Topics included the use of ultrafast lasers to see inside the body, new methods to grow skin and bone for healing, development of new ways to predict how brain tumors spread, and methods to gauge the growth of lung tumors more accurately. Clearly having a School of Medicine across the street from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is a catalyst for our multi-disciplinary research efforts.

Another noteworthy item from the past week was President-elect Barack Obama’s reported choice of Nobel physics laureate Steven Chu as Secretary of the Department of Energy. As an alumnus and current trustee of the U of R, Chu stands as an exemplar of our University’s continuing commitment, through both its faculty and students, to work toward the advancement of sustainable energy technologies and policies. With Chu as energy secretary — an individual long dedicated to finding solutions to the causes and effects of global warming — SEAS will have a significant opportunity to be at the forefront of next generation energy research and technology development. Look for Chu to be appointed later this afternoon.

On the student side of things, I’d also like to mention the outstanding work of several of our SEAS’ seniors. Samantha Ruiz, Howard Kanter, and Jordan Parker, all chemical engineering undergraduates, have been working together on “Creating the Foundations of a Sustainability Consulting Firm,” through the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY). The group’s mission is to solidify the concept of sustainability, which they’ve defined as: “A smart use of resources that will enable sufficient resource use in the future. This encompasses: wise behavioral use of resources, energy efficient technology, and low environmental impact.” In the next year and a half, the KEY group will work with campus offices and local Rochester companies to create a sound sustainability assessment, which will serve as a measure to help companies become sustainable. Personally it’s great to see the high level of commitment of the SEAS’ community, and in particular our undergraduates, in pursuit of sustainable practices.

Finally, as a follow-up to an item in my post from several weeks ago, I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to the huge success of the fourth annual Finger Lakes FIRST LEGO League Tournament Series, which took place last Sunday here at the U of R. We had a turnout of 33 student teams from the Rochester region. Altogether there were approximately 1,000 people in attendance, including 100 or so volunteers from the UR and general community who helped out with the tournament. To that end I’d like to personally acknowledge the planning committee for all of their hard work throughout the year planning the tournament series. Many thanks to Jack Mottley, Lisa Norwood, John Ballou, Rosemary Boyd Parker, Celia Palmer, Christina Pero, Sally Christodoulou, Elayne Stewart, Ray Mulgrew, and Rick Bryant! The theme of this year’s competition was climate change, and student participants — ages 9 to 14 — were asked to design Lego robots and make presentations geared toward addressing current environmental crises. For more details, you can check out the Democrat & Chronicle’s coverage, as well as a cool time-lapse video covering the entire event from set up to take down. With outside sponsorship coming from local companies like Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, RG&E, FRA Engineering, and Advantage Credit Union, it’s hard to mistake Rochester and the U of R’s commitment not only to bringing greater attention to climate change, but also to instilling the next generation of students with a passion for engineering. I sincerely thank all of the students, staff, and faculty that made it possible for us to provide an engineering experience for young minds. Good stuff all around!Next week, the last of the fall semester, looks to be somewhat relaxed event-wise as faculty and students scramble to wrap up course and degree related affairs. In that regard, I want to wish all of our students good luck on their upcoming final exams, course projects, and presentations. Your hard work will undoubtedly pay off, and remember, the holiday break is right around the corner!

As always, don’t hesitate to shoot your news or ideas my way. And most importantly, enjoy the final days of the semester.

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