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Message from the Dean

November 10th, 2008

Given the number of hours we spend here each week studying (and socializing), it may at times seem as though the University of Rochester, or even the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is its own discreet world. However, recently an international contingent of scientists converged on campus, reminding us of the tremendous value of global collaboration.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering, with support from the departments of Pediatrics and Pathology at the medical center, hosted a conference Oct. 25 and 26 at the Robert B. Goergen Hall for Biomedical Engineering and Optics. The topic of the event, which dates back to 1958, was red blood cells — that is, membrane transport, physical characteristics and measurements, erythrocyte development, and so on — and it featured 23 talks and 25 poster presentations by experts from Europe, Japan, Canada, and across the U.S. (The conference honored longtime attendee Dr. Philip Knauf, a Biochemistry and Biophysics professor from the University who died in June 2006 of lymphoma.)

Hosting conferences in leading fields of research offer wonderful opportunities for broadening perspectives and sharing scholarship, and I’m eager for SEAS to continue enhancing its role as a leading player on the world’s engineering and science stage.

That said, I know we’re all well aware of the tremendous talent we’ve got right here at SEAS — great thinkers like my predecessor, Dean Emeritus Kevin Parker, who will give a talk at 4 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 14, in the Class of 1962 Auditorium at the medical center. He will speak about elastography, a novel form of imaging being used to detect tumors. (Dean Emeritus Parker was one of the founders of this discipline in the late 1980s.) Elastography takes into account the biomechanical properties — stiffness, for example — of tissue, so that along with the high-tech hardware found in today’s radiology suite that gauges things like position and shape, doctors can learn some truly life-saving information, including the likelihood of a tumor’s malignancy.

And speaking of deans giving talks, I attended the ASME International Mechanical Congress this past week and gave a keynote address entitled “From Aircraft to Biomolecules: Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries and Dimensional Scales.” One of the highlights of my time spent at the conference was sharing lunch with prior SEAS Mechanical Engineering faculty member, Dick Benson. Dick currently serves as Dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, an institution where I spent a great deal of time studying many years ago. Dick clearly remembers his time here at the U of R fondly, and we discussed the many challenges facing engineering educators and researchers in the years to come. He asked that I extend a warm hello to his fellow colleagues here in SEAS.

I’d like now to congratulate Greg Bentsen, a sophomore in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Greg was recently recognized by the Iota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa with the Iota Book Award. The University’s chapter, with support from the College, annually honors select students for having achieved “exceptionally high GPAs” in their freshmen year. Other criteria for the award include humanistic values, co-curricular involvement, and leadership potential. Great job, Greg. Here’s to the next three years of your University career!

So far, I’ve received some great feedback on these e-memos. Folks have told me they add to the sense of community around SEAS — and that was exactly the goal. Please, if you have any thoughts on these weekly notes, whether they be positive or simply constructive criticism, keep them coming. Also, keep us posted on the important news and events of interest to others in the SEAS community. Have a pleasant and productive week!

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