UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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New Initiatives Enrich Education with Research Experience

Frieder Seible

In this issue, we report on the wonderful progress being made in our William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement. The von Liebig Center combines unrestricted technology gap funding, high-level professional advisory services, and an entrepreneurial education program for engineering students - all under one roof. With this three-fold mission, the von Liebig Center is serving to greatly enhance the culture of innovation at the Jacobs School.

The von Liebig Center is also one of several initiatives underway to enrich our students’ education with experience in discovery, both inside and outside the Jacobs School. Our number one priority is to give our students the best possible education. We are in a wonderful position to do that because we are one of the top research universities. Only stellar faculty can truly motivate our students with examples and excitement from their own leading edge research, and so we have a unique opportunity to bring our research into the classroom. Research involvement and internships help prepare our students for graduate school and industry.

Last year, board members of our Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP) told me that in addition to a broad basic science and engineering education, the two most important attributes they are looking for in our students are teamwork experience and basics in systems engineering, or the integration of engineering knowledge. On page 8, we report on a successful experiment with the concept of a team internship. Four of our students spent the summer doing research for ABIOMED, a company that makes the artificial heart. They went to Boston as a team with requested expertise in four different areas; biomedical systems, mechanics, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. By the end of the summer, they had designed and built a smart battery pack system for the artificial heart. I visited the students in Boston half way through their project and already the company was so pleased with the quality of our students that all four had standing job offers from ABIOMED. And we are now working on additional team internships with several of our Corporate Affiliates Program partners.

The work our students did on the smart battery pack for the artificial heart also underscores the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to research and education. Perhaps the best example of how we are bringing this kind of experience to our students is through our California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal- (IT)²]. Over the past three years, more than 60 undergraduates and 100 graduate students have worked with faculty across the campus on applying IT to engineering and science challenges (see www.calit2.net/education).

This summer we offered, together with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, the first multi-departmental and multi-divisional course on Sensors and Sensor Networks. And this year, our Computer Science and Engineering department will offer its second course on Fluency in Information Technology, which is open to all UCSD students. These are first steps to help our students become proficient in basic aspects of information technology. With our pre-eminent IT research institutes such as the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cal-(IT)² and with our numerous partners in the telecommunications industry, UCSD, and the Jacobs School in particular, should be the place where all graduates are known for their expertise in information technology. This is one of our education goals.

At the graduate level, new research opportunities are equally critical to our students’ education, and we have just launched a research-based master’s degree program with Los Alamos National Laboratories focused on preparing students to work in fields related to national safety and security. Students in this program will work jointly with faculty at both the Jacobs School and Los Alamos, and this is one of the most valuable kinds of experiences we can offer our graduate students. Over the summer, 10 of our computer science and engineering graduate students were engaged in a research internship program in networks and systems with AT&T. They had the opportunity to work with AT&T researchers in partnership with Jacobs School faculty in a worldclass industrial research environment.

Despite today’s troubled economy, engineering as a profession is in high demand and on a steep rise. Our goal and our mission is to educate tomorrow’s technology leaders. We will do that by providing our students with both a fundamental understanding of engineering disciplines, and experiences that allow them to share the excitement of creating new knowledge and new applications.

Frieder Seible