Innovation at the Interfaces

Jacobs School engineers have developed sensors that surgeons place directly on the brains of people undergoing certain brain tumor and epilepsy surgeries. For me, engineered materials in direct contact with the human brain is a powerful visual regarding the responsibilities we have as engineers and computer scientists.

I'm particularly drawn to this mental image of a flexible mat of sensors following the surface of the human brain without piercing tissue. As an engineering dean, I build and protect interfaces between and among students, faculty, staff, industry and government partners, funders, and friends of the Jacobs School. Every interface is important, even if the short-term stakes are not as dramatic as sensors on a brain.

As our campus community prepares to carefully dial up the percentage of our interactions that are in person, I'm more focused than ever on the quality and impact of all our interactions—in person and virtual, synchronous and asynchronous.

For example, I'm proud of the interfaces we have created to introduce a wide diversity of engineering and computer science undergraduates to academic research. We open research doors to our undergraduates while prioritizing communication, self reflection, teamwork, and the big-picture WHY of the research.

Giving people opportunities to understand the big-picture WHY of the research is critical in so many contexts. In fact, it's central to my vision for a National Network of Innovation Centers. One of my big picture goals is to more deeply connect undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs to the WHY through expanded virtual access to researchers and research infrastructure, to industry pain points, and to testbed facilities across the nation.

At the same time, we need to get as many innovators under the tent as possible. It's not good enough for the same number of people to get smarter. We need to ensure that tomorrow's innovation workforce truly reflects society, and we need to create new ways to engage would-be innovators who are following a wide variety of paths.

As always, I can be reached at 


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