In This Issue
Winter Bridge on Frontiers of Engineering
December 14, 2018 Volume 48 Issue 4

Guest Editor's Note: Engineering at the Cutting Edge

Friday, December 14, 2018

Author: Jennifer West

The US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, held September 5–7 at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, brought together an incredibly diverse group of talented young engineers representing the best and brightest from academia, industry, government, and nonprofit sectors across all engineering disciplines. This unique symposium provided attendees an opportunity both to learn about some of the most cutting-edge and impactful engineering developments and to network and enjoy intellectual discussions across traditional boundaries in engineering. The session topics were

Quantum Computers

  • The Role of Engineering in the Face of Conflict and Disaster
  • Resilient and Reliable Infrastructure
  • Theranostics.

The meeting was introduced by C. D. Mote, Jr., NAE president, and by Eric Evans, director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

The first session, on quantum computing, was chaired by Grace Metcalfe from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Sara Gamble (Army Research Office) gave a very educational overview in her talk “-Quantum Computing – An Introduction to What It Is, Why We Want It, and How We’re Trying to Get It.” Many in the audience were unsure what quantum computing really is, and this talk provided a very clear introduction. It was followed by presentations on quantum algorithms by Shelby Kimmel (Middlebury College) and on logical quantum computing by Sarah Sheldon (IBM T.J. -Watson Research Center). The session ended with a stimulating talk by Norman Yao (University of -California, -Berkeley) about three experimental platforms for quantum simulation: ultracold atomic systems, polar molecules, and superconducting quantum bits (qubits).

During a poster session after lunch participants shared and discussed their research, and continued these discussions throughout the meeting. Sohi Rastegar from the National Science Foundation then gave a short talk, “Where Are the Emerging Frontiers of Research and Innovation?”

The second session, The Role of Engineering in the Face of Conflict and Disaster, was chaired by -Francesca D’Arcangelo (MIT Lincoln Laboratory) and Mira Olson (Drexel University). The first two presentations were Wednesday afternoon, and the session continued with two more talks on Thursday morning. Julia Moline (FEMA) discussed the use of mapping technologies to more rapidly assess damage after Hurricane Harvey (2017). Darshan Karwat (Arizona State University) gave a thought-provoking talk, “Engineering for the People: Putting Peace, Social Justice, and Environ-mental Protection at the Heart of All Engineering,” about how to inspire engineering students. Willow Brugh (Truss) explained the need to integrate formal and informal disaster response teams. Closing the session, Marissa Jablonski (USAID) described USAID efforts in disaster relief.

On Wednesday evening, the participants enjoyed a fascinating lecture by Grant Stokes, head of Space Systems and Technology Division at MIT -Lincoln Laboratory. We were left with a bit of fear about near-Earth asteroids!

The third session, Resilient and Reliable Infrastructure, was chaired by Iris Tien (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Julie Pietrzak (Enovate Engineering). Josh Vertalka (RS21) opened with a talk entitled “Communicating Advanced Infrastructure Resiliency -Analytics to Diverse Groups of Stakeholders.” Next, Robert -Hanson (Department of Homeland Security) described his work, “Identifying Infrastructure Dependencies and Interdependencies.” Firas Saleh (Jupiter) concluded the session with “Climate Change and Infrastructure -Resilience,” leaving us with provocative images and a lot to ponder.

On Thursday afternoon, the group was treated to a fantastic set of tours at MIT Lincoln Lab, with opportunities to see the Flight Test Facility and the Antenna Test Range at Hanscom Air Force Base, the Space Surveillance Complex, the Air Traffic Control Decision Support Facility, and the Micro Electronics Laboratory.

The final session, Theranostics, took place Friday morning and was chaired by Rebekah Drezek (Rice University) and Darrell Irvine (MIT). Andrew -Tsourkas (University of Pennsylvania) gave an excellent introduction to the issues associated with combining diagnostics and therapeutics in a single platform. Ester Kwon (University of California, San Diego) presented her work on “Synthetic Biomarkers for Cancer Detection and Diagnosis.” And Evan Scott (Northwestern University) described the use of nanobiomaterials to improve vaccination and the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

The next US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium will be held September 25–27, 2019, hosted by Boeing in North Charleston, South Carolina. I encourage you to nominate outstanding young engineers to participate so that we can continue to facilitate cross-disciplinary exchange and promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields in order to sustain and build US innovative capacity.

About the Author:Jennifer West (NAE) is the Fitzpatrick Family University Professor of Engineering in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University.