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ENE Memo: October 31, 2011

From the Head: 10/31

Acknowledging others

The initiative by our graduate students to send a "thank you" card to former teachers and mentors who inspired them is an excellent one that deserves our applause. Most of the teachers and mentors who were formative in shaping my academic career have passed, so I cannot write them a card but I honor them via this memo. Space only permits me to highlight three of the mentors to whom I own a debt.

The first is Tom Leahy, a professor at the University of Queensland, who taught the graphics class in my first year. He made graphics come alive by introducing the various projections in their historical context—why they were developed, by whom, where and when. Thus I learnt to appreciate the importance of a sense of history. Years later when I was a graduate student, Tom shared stories of academic life like taking his family by boat from Australia via the Suez Canal to the UK (in the days before mass air travel) to spend a sabbatical at the University of Southhampton. Tom was a gentle person who sometimes suffered at the hands of academic bullies.

My undergraduate education occurred in the transition between the practice-based approach and emerging engineering science-based approach. Younger faculty had PhDs and introduced exciting new ideas like state-space methods. More traditional faculty like T.V. Krok had many years of industry experience and “war stories” to match. As students we spent hours bent over large drawing boards where we learnt design through the tip of a finely sharpened pencil, immersed in stories of practice and of engineering failures shared by the design faculty. I learnt systems thinking and the importance of people from Trevor Krok. While the design faculty were often looked down on as relics of a passing era, it was Trevor who, following a stint at Imperial College in London, introduced fracture mechanics into our classes and to local industry—this was cutting-edge stuff in 1969.

I also want to acknowledge Robert Kenedi, founding head of the Bioengineering Unit at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland, where I did my PhD. Yes, Kenedi with an "i"; he was a refugee following the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Bioengineering was very new discipline in the early 1970s, and this was a brand-new PhD program—sound familiar? Kenedi always told the graduate students that a PhD is a broadening, not a narrowing, degree. Of course we dismissed this as rhetoric, but I have since come to appreciate his wise words. In completing a PhD you certainly become very expert in a particular topic area, but in the process you really understand your fundamentals and have a broad platform from which you can go most anywhere. Since graduating, I have never held a position related to bioengineering in my career, but things have worked out fine. In 2008, to honor Professor Kenedi, I took on the role of co-chair of the ASEE Global Colloquium on Engineering Education held in his home town Budapest, and I gave a testimonial to his impact on many students as I introduced a keynote session. 

In his book Choosing Civility, Forni includes a chapter on the importance of acknowledging others—essentially being there in the moment with others. I believe we should do more. We should not only acknowledge the debt we owe to those who have helped us on our journey but also look for constructive ways we can give back. President Kennedy exhorted an earlier generation to "Ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country." We can easily replace "country" with community—the community we work in and draw strength from—and ask the same question.

 - David

News and Information: 10/31

From the ENE Graduate Student Assocation

  • Hey all! The ENEGSA will be hosting the final fundraiser of the semester at Qdoba Mexican Grill on Tuesday, November 1, from 7am to 10pm. Print the ENE Qdoba flier and present it at the time of purchase. We have had great fundraising support throughout the entire semester, so let's finish strong!  
  • Also, on Tuesday the PGSG will be showing "The PhD Movie" at 7pm in Loeb Playhouse. You will definitely want to attend if you are a fan of PhD (Piled Higher & Deeper Comics
  • Following the research seminar on Thursday, November 3, we are finally hosting our traditional "Happy Hour" in which the ENEGSA provides appetizers at selected location;  this Happy Hour will be hosted at the 9 Irish Brothers location in West Lafayette. Enjoy the rest of the week!

ENE Research Seminar


Dr. Robin Adams, ENE

Title Planning Your PhD: New ENE PhD Program Milestone Checklists
Details 3:30-4:20 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3,  Forney Hall, Room G124

Independence and National Days around the World

  • Nov 1 - Algeria - Revolution Day
  • Nov 3 - Dominica - Independence Day
  • Nov 3 - Panama - Independence Day
  • Nov 4 - Tonga - National Day

Maybe the 7 billionth person was just born in one of these countries.

Calendar: 10/31

Spring 2012

Kudos: 10/31 Demetra Evangelou, on receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) this month. President Obama  honored 94 recipients of the award at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (See NSF press release.) Krishna Madhavan, who has been invited to present the keynote address at the workshop "Measuring the Impact of eScience Research," in conjunction with the 2011 International eScience Conference (Stockholm, Sweden) in December. the First-Year advising staff for their tireless efforts in advising our First-Year Engineering students. The staff visited each ENGR 131 class on October 4, 5, and 6 to present information on the First-Year Engineering plan of study, registration for Spring 2012, and the criteria for acceptance into a professional engineering major. The staff then returned to each ENGR 131 lab on October 13, 14, and 18 to individually advise our First-Year Engineering students for Spring 2012. The staff continues to work with continuing First-Year Engineering students daily on a walk-in basis. On Wednesday October 19, our office had 87 students come for walk-in advising! the ENE Graduate Student Association (including Mel Chua, Velvet Fitzpatrick, and Qu Jin) for organizing last Thursday's successful thank-you card campaign. As Mel has noted, there are now expressions of appreciation going out around the world to our PhD students' mentors: to preschool teachers, elementary school principals, high school faculty, college mentors, and beyond. Our thanks to all the PhD students who participated. IDE students Trevor Brown, Manaz Taleyarkhan, Kaylyn Cox, Michelle Schutter, Wilson Williams, Justin Richter, and Aaron Crow, who wrote "Thanks for Giving" notes to donors to our Interdisciplinary Engineering program.

To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact David Radcliffe or Lisa Tally by midday Friday for the following week's issue.