ASEE Prism Magazine
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Grip and Win

By Nicholas Altiero

By working together, industry and academia can solve some big problems.

Though there are many interesting aspects of university-based engineering research, two issues seem to be generating the must buzz at the beginning of the new millennium. One is attracting more domestic students to graduate study in engineering, to doctoral programs in particular; the other is enhancing industry-university research partnerships and industry funding of university-based research.
Interest in these topics is driven to a large extent by the dramatic increase in industry support of engineering research and development over the past several years. Inflation-adjusted data reported by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science indicate that since fiscal year 1994, federal funding of R&D has remained essentially flat, while R&D funded by private industry in the U.S. has increased by more than 40 percent.
This rather dramatic increase in industry-support carries two major implications for universities. Schools need to produce for research-oriented grads to fill industry's needs. And they need to make themselves more competitive for research projects that companies outsource.
It is important to make clear exactly what the “problem” is in terms of the domestic graduate student issue. U.S. citizens are not enrolling in engineering doctoral programs in sufficient numbers to fill all of the needs of industry and academia.
There can be no doubt that we must find ways to make graduate studies and careers in engineering research more attractive to U.S. students. Women and minority students, in particular, are important targets. The fact is, however, that the many international students who choose to stay and work in this country after receiving their graduate degrees are playing a major role in meeting the nation's need for research-trained graduates. It may be useful for us to data on this other kind of domestic student: those who are not U.S. citizens while enrolled in the graduate program but who subsequently become U.S. citizens.
As for the second implication of increased industry-sponsored R&D, there are many compelling reasons for universities to work more closely with industry. More financial support through collaborative research efforts is an obvious benefit, but such activity also broadens the relevance and applicability of the university's research. This is particularly desirable at a time when an increasing percentage of doctoral students are going into industry.
Both of these important topics were discussed at length at the Engineering Research Council summit, a biennial event held in odd-numbered years in conjunction with ASEE's Engineering Research Council's annual meeting. Most participants at the February summit—while acknowledging the efforts of many industry- university-government groups—expressed frustration with persistent barriers that prevent them from working more closely with industry. In describing those barriers, the deans cited differences over intellectual property policy, and publication rights, proper handling of proprietary information, and the unwillingness on the part of many companies to accept indirect costs as real costs.
Summit participants recognized that these are not new problems, and that ERC is not the only group trying to address them. There was a general consensus, however, that engineering research at universities faces very serious problems, and that the ERC must play an active role in helping resolve them.

Nicholas J. Altiero is chair of ASEE's Engineering Research Council
and dean of engineering at Tulane University.


Grant Opportunities

NRC Twinning Program
Amount: $14,000-$16,000
Deadline: Sep. 1
Description: Two-year collaborative research projects that link individual U.S. scientists with their counterparts in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
Contact: Office of International Affairs/DSC, (202) 334-2644; fax (202) 334-2614; e-mail:

Internet Infrastructure Technology Fellowships RC Twinning Program
Amount: $25,000-$50,000, typically
Deadline: Sep. 1
Description: Research and education projects that focus on computer-related communications technology, public communications policy, and domestic communications regulatory issues
Contact: Stuart Winkelman, director, e-mail:; or see

Office of Naval Research Postdoctoral Fellowships
Number: 30 per year
Amount: $36,000-$53,000
Deadline: Jan 1; Apr 1; Jul 1; Oct 1
Description: To increase the involvement of highly trained U.S. scientists and engineers in disciplines to meet the evolving needs of naval technology
Contact: Noah Weiss (202) 331-3509; fax (202) 265- 8504; e-mail:; or see

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