Dean's Message

We should practice what we teach.

November 2021

Albert P. Pisano

As an engineering dean, I feel the weight of the future of our U.S. innovation economy on my shoulders. (I sense an even greater weight on the collective shoulders of the Jacobs School of Engineering here at UC San Diego.) Talented graduates in engineering and computer science are critical for building and sustaining innovation-driven industrial ecosystems in this country. These ecosystems, in turn, are critical for U.S. innovators and companies to emerge and remain competitive in the global marketplace. The tools I think we need, in order to make this happen, are Innovation Centers for the Practice of Platform Technologies. 

Many people reading an email from an engineering dean know, as I do, that critical talent and technology come from all across campus. While I'm focused on engineering and computer science today, this argument can extend to many other parts of a university.  

I don't think we spend enough time discussing how engineering schools can work within and across universities, and with government and industry, to help strengthen the future of the U.S. innovation economy. I believe that practice is a useful entry point to these conversations. 

Graduate students need more opportunities to practice using what they are learning. They need this practice in relevant contexts, and this context goes beyond the boundaries of their thesis work. Undergraduate students at every school across the country need these inspiring and exciting opportunities too. It helps reinforce their grasp of the subject matter and improves problem solving. I'm particularly proud of our efforts in this area for undergraduates, including  Project in a Box, the Experience Engineering Initiative, our Team Internship Program, and Global Ties, to name just a few of our many hands-on programs. But I would offer the time is now for new platforms that scale nationwide and reach well beyond project-based undergraduate learning. These platforms should engage in technologies that are strategically important and can be pivoted for use in emerging applications. That's how we'll inspire more young people. That's how we'll move the needle on equity, diversity, and inclusion and on global competitiveness. 

As I would have it, we need to create rich, dynamic ecosystems in which students of all levels, as well as seasoned researchers in industry, government and academia, can interact with a networked, virtualized research infrastructure that is specifically designed to encourage learning and engagement through practice. If we build these Innovation Centers for the Practice of Platform Technologies right, our colleagues in U.S. industries and government sectors will have compelling ways to interact with diverse pools of new talent.  

I'm currently working on a more detailed blueprint for these practice-focused innovation centers. And I am hoping this vision resonates with people inside and outside the Jacobs School of Engineering. I'll be communicating more about this soon. I'm hoping to get buy-in from a broad sector of colleagues because, in the end, this will never work unless we are all pulling in the same direction. 

As always, I can be reached at

Read a PDF of the November 2021 Jacobs School monthly news email. 

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