Zoom or wide angle?
Vision for engineering in global service requires both
My colleagues in electrical engineering did something earlier this year that had seemed impossible: They showed how to capture an image that’s zoomed-in and wide-angle at the same time. It was quite a feat, requiring fundamentally new thinking (see story, page 8). It is also a great analogy for our approach to engineering education and research. To make a difference in the world, engineers need to acquire deep, detailed insight into particular areas and then apply that knowledge broadly. This issue of EQuad News shows some of the ways these complementary perspectives inform through teaching, research and service around the globe.
An international perspective could not be more important in today’s world. The major issues facing us today—the economy, the environment, security, health care—all play out on a global stage. Each of these areas requires technological advances, but also an understanding of the broader human context—the cultural, political and economic forces that drive and are driven by technology. When Princeton engineers and ecologists study water systems in Africa (page 18), they aren’t just advancing the science and technology needed to manage scarce resources. They are bridging cultures and exposing students to the non-technological dimensions of problems—the basic human habits that shape the environment.
At the same time, dramatic technological advances are also vital. Creating inexpensive and sustainable energy systems, for example, will require more than incremental improvements. Game-changing advances often arise from a focus on fundamental questions. What are the basic principles that govern the process of combustion and will allow a new generation of cleaner fuels (page 4)? How could advances in physics and nanotechnology lead to a method for sequencing genome for under $100 (page 6)?
Bringing together these deep and broad views is our constant goal at Princeton Engineering. In their optics break-through, my colleagues used a “nonlinear crystal,” an exotic material that causes light rays to mix with each other in unusual ways. In teaching and research, the approach is the same: Allow people from all parts of the University to interact, inspire and inform. I invite our alumni, friends and colleagues to join in—visit our website, send us a note, come to our events and look for opportunities to collaborate. Our combinedper spectives make a difference.
H. Vincent Poor *77
Michael Henry Strater University
Professor of Electrical Engineering