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 COMMENTS

FROM THE PUBLISHER
Frank Huband

LABS GO TO WAR


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a collateral effect of pressing research and engineering for what the military calls a “quick win,” or faster solutions to today’s battlefield needs. One such need is for effective counters to the improvised explosive device (IED), which together with the suicide car bomb accounts for 70 percent of U.S. casualties in Iraq. This need led to a sweeping effort by university-affiliated research centers to develop the technology to detect and neutralize this small, crude, killer weapon often hidden along the roadside. Our cover story, “Greener and Safer,” reports on academic-based responses to such technology challenges and the interesting inventions that have resulted. One — a portable refinery capable of converting garbage into electricity in the field — has potential beyond war zones, and could be used, for example, by civilians after a hurricane has knocked out power and piled up trash. Think Katrina.

“Premium Prices” looks at a growing trend by the nation’s public research universities to charge students a higher tuition if they choose engineering as a major. In general, schools justify the practice, known as differential tuition, as needed to cover the cost of higher paid faculty, laboratories and equipment in engineering. Those concerned about the practice claim it’s more likely a politically tolerable way to raise tuition. There are troubling questions that should be considered. Do these higher costs steer lower-income students away from engineering? And if so, do tuition differentials undermine our national goal of recruiting engineering students from under-represented minority groups?

“Subtle Change Agent” is a profile of ASEE President Sarah Rajala that highlights her independent spirit. At Michigan Tech, Rajala studied engineering against the advice of professors and friends. After completing her doctorate in 1979 at Rice University, Rajala was hired by North Carolina State, where she stayed for 27 years, teaching and honing her leadership skills. In 2006, she moved to Mississippi State University to head the department of electrical and computer engineering. This summer, Rajala was named MSU’s first female dean of engineering.

Prism wins a dozen awards every year, but our Publications department constantly looks for ways to improve the magazine for your reading pleasure. Changes this month include a new body type that’s easier to read, new writers and a new feature, “Up Close,” that will profile someone doing distinctive work in education or technology. If you have comments or suggestions, I would, as always, welcome hearing from you.

 

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

 

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