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Mark Matthews

Where There’s a Will

Prism has covered the changing global environment from multiple angles, reporting on radical schemes to “re-engineer” the climate, coastal protection from rising seas, research on new energy sources, hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, and the growing discipline of sustainability engineering. A common theme is one of engineers seeking ways to protect the Earth without weakening the economy or our quality of life. That’s an especially tall order for a small army of researchers at the University of Alberta, as our cover story, “Heavy Industry,” explains. Oil sands in a region the size of Florida give Canada the world’s third-largest oil reserves and would go a long way toward cutting North America’s reliance on volatile or unfriendly regions for energy. But extracting the crude requires so much strip mining and generates so much greenhouse gas and polluted wastewater that environmentalists call the oil sands’ output “the world’s dirtiest oil.” U. of A. researchers are still a long way from mitigating these ill effects, but their innovations have already made the extraction process more efficient and cleaner, Pierre Home-Douglas reports.

For the million children destined to die this year from diarrhea, anything that improves sanitation is a potential lifesaver. But the responses to the Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet challenge are more than just clean latrines. Systems under development could yield fuel, fertilizer, and clean water, Don Boroughs reports in our feature, “A Way With Waste.” Not only are these projects adding luster to the field of sanitation engineering, but they’re pulling in materials scientists, physicists, and chemical engineers as well.

It has been a decade since Prism last checked in on Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who seems to have found the secret to helping underrepresented minorities succeed in science and engineering. Actually, there’s nothing secret about it. Most of what UMBC does is common sense or is based on available research, as Kathryn Masterson reports, and applies to all students..

Elsewhere in this issue, read about two trailblazers who neatly fit in the tradition of engineering pioneers we celebrate as part of Women’s History Month. Krisztina Holly, profiled by Alison Buki in Up Close, helps researchers at the University of Southern California navigate the world of start-up entrepreneurs. Jaimie Schock describes how AnnMarie Thomas’s students at the University of St. Thomas learned introductory dynamics by performing and observing actual circus stunts.

With this issue, we bid goodbye to Creative Director Lung-I Lo, whose inspired, award-winning designs graced many issues of Prism. His talent, work ethic, and personality will be missed. We wish him great success.

We hope you’ll enjoy this month’s Prism. As always, we welcome your comments.

Mark Matthews




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