Dear WSE community,
Through this issue’s three feature stories, I believe one can see how resilient we are, even in the most challenging times; how inventive we are, especially as we expand our horizons; and how diverse our community is, while maintaining a cohesiveness that feels like “home” on our Homewood campus. There’s a reciprocal relationship: between feeling like you’re a part of something and knowing that, because you’re part of something, you can cultivate curiosity to inspire change.
I believe this is reflected in the school’s vision to “advance data- and science-driven engineering discovery, innovation, and systems applications to help everyone live longer and healthier lives and empower communities and society to thrive even in extreme environments.” It’s a twofold grand challenge: to improve lives, and to support the creation of resilient communities.
The story of Lauren Gardner and her leadership in establishing the COVID-19 dashboard (“Data Democratizer”) is a shining example of advancing data-driven systems applications to help everyone live longer and healthier lives—just as the work of Michael Schatz and his team’s efforts to map the human genome is science-driven engineering enabling society to thrive (“Putting Genetics on the Map”). Furthermore, when students, faculty, and staff can find commonalities amid cultural differences, they establish a foundation from which to achieve great things together (“Sense of Identity”).
As engineers, we have an ever-present and underlying desire to identify problems, develop solutions, and enact those solutions for the benefit of individuals and society. It’s how we improve the world. And when we come together and encourage each other toward discovery and solutions that solve the most pressing problems—whether mapping the spread of a global pandemic, studying the origins of disease, or bonding over similarities—we can achieve more. There’s that resiliency. It underpins everything we do.
I believe that the next few years are pivotal in the history of our school of engineering, and all of this is just a start as we begin to embark on exciting new fundamental and translational advances around artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and the application of these in the fields of medicine, energy, and security. There’s an awakening happening here at the Whiting School, a sense of becoming. I can’t wait to see the lasting impact I know we’ll have.
Benjamin T. Rome Dean