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Engineers Help Control Drug Costs

Everyone complains about the weather and taxes. I now find a new common topic of complaint—the cost of prescription drugs. In his State of the Union address, President Bush hailed passage of the Medicare bill and a new “drug discount” card. Meanwhile in Iowa and New Hampshire, Democratic candidates assailed the high cost of healthcare and medication. The cover of Time magazine showed a drug capsule stuffed with dollar bills and asked, Why drugs cost so much and what can be done about it. This month, Prism has a timely article about the growing field of pharmaceutical engineering. What is a pharmaceutical engineer and what does the field entail? It appears there are different opinions, but schools with pharmaceutical engineering programs seem to agree on one thing: The pharmaceutical industry is interested in these graduates and vigorously recruits them. As drug companies feel the pressure to reduce the cost of medications that are helping Americans live longer and better, they need someone who can help bring a new drug to market more efficiently and less expensively, someone to design, develop, and optimize the process. Enter the pharmaceutical engineer.

Our article, “Toys That Teach,” examines activities that are successfully using toys not only to capture students' attention but to teach elements of engineering. Slinkys can teach wave function, yo-yo's, spin and mechanics, and silly putty, polymers. Sherra Kerns, ASEE president-elect, is featured in this story. She says children are natural engineers, and toys and tools can be used to stimulate a child's love of engineering.

“114th and Success” looks at SECME and its leader, Yvonne Freeman. SECME, originally the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering, but now known just by the acronym, is an organization whose mission is to attract minorities to science, math, and engineering. Under Freeman's energetic guidance, SECME has had many successes, but there is still work to be done. Fewer than 21 percent of graduates from engineering schools are women; 5.4 percent are black; and 5.5 percent are Hispanic. Passionate about her job, Freeman claims “Education is a ministry,” and she works at spreading the word. She wants to create an educational franchise with a menu of options for partners to invest in, and she's not doing too badly. Thus far, she's gotten funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corp., the Ford Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Remember that along with last month's February Prism, you received your Ballot for ASEE's 2004 national election. Please vote. This is your opportunity to say which candidates you'd like to see lead ASEE. Ballots must be returned to ASEE headquarters by March 31.

Frank L. Huband
Executive Director and Publisher
f.huband@asee.org

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