Context emerges when we do the work

As an engineer, I'm obsessed with context. For me, doing the work to understand the context is critical for problem solving. As an engineering dean, I see nearly everything through the lens of context. In terms of research, context connects to relevance. Empowering our faculty to engage with industry on the toughest challenges no lab, company or industrial sector can solve alone motivated our launch of 14 new agile research centers and institutes at the Jacobs School of Engineering since 2014.

I've recently been engaging the Jacobs School's strong academic and industry ecosystems on big questions—context questions—about the future of wireless communications. The topic is so incredibly broad that each time we drill down, we find ourselves stepping back and seeing more of the context. In June, we extended this ongoing series of conversations to national and international ecosystems through a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) member-led event which I was honored to co-organize.

The events prompted forthright, unvarnished conversations. We connected people between and among large and small companies across many industries, with people at universities and in research funding agencies.

I won't get into details of the meeting here, but I do want to make a brief comment. The future of wireless will literally be part of the future of nearly all industries. The separations are disappearing as the communication and computational fabric of the nation become more and more knit together. This critical convergence drives the need for a new kind of engineer, and so the talent and technology flows coming directly or indirectly from engineering schools will be essential.

As an engineering dean, I take all this to mean that we need to keep up the hard work of encouraging conversations among many different industries and groups that will shape, and be shaped by, the future of wireless. The wisdom gained from these conversations allows us to better train our students.

I believe that we took a useful preliminary step last month in this direction regarding the future of wireless via the NAE member-led event. I also firmly believe in the motto of "practice what you preach." The Jacobs School's strength comes from our willingness and ability to provide education and perform research that is both fundamental and relevant. I expect the same of my activities as dean. As engineers and computer scientists, we must keep up our quest for context. Without context, there is no wisdom.

As always, I can be reached at



Albert ("Al") P. Pisano, Dean
UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering