In This Issue
The Changing Nature of Engineering
June 1, 1997 Volume 27 Issue 2
There seems to be a powerful confluence of technological and economic trends that, taken together, could produce dramatic shifts in engineering.

Frontiers of Engineering Introduction

Sunday, June 1, 1997

Author: Marc Levoy, Rebecca Richards-Kortum, and Eric Peeters

A sampler of abstracts from the NAE Frontiers of Engineering symposium series reveals the range, depth, and cutting-edge nature of work being done by some of the nation's best younger engineers.

Imagine 100 of the country's top younger engineers from industry, academia, and government labs meeting over a period of 3 days to discuss leading-edge research and technical work from a variety of engineering fields. Such a meeting would be lively, informative, even inspiring at times. And that, in a nutshell, describes the NAE's symposium series Frontiers of Engineering.

NAE initiated this activity in 1995 in recognition of the fact that as engineering becomes more cross disciplinary, it will be increasingly important for engineers to learn about developments and problems at the frontiers of areas different than their own. Convening these outstanding engineers not only helps to establish contacts among next-generation engineering leaders, but it also has the potential to lead to collaborative work and the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields.

One unique feature of the symposia is that an organizing committee, comprised of engineers in the same age cohort, selects the topics and speakers. The 1995 and 1996 Frontiers of Engineering organizing committees and symposia were chaired by NAE member Robert A. Brown, dean of engineering and Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Academy member Robert H. Wagoner, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State University, chairs the 1997 Frontiers organizing committee and will chair the symposium in September.

Previous Frontiers presentations have focused on such topics as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), silicon satellites, engineering of large-cell cultures, semiconductor lasers and optical communications, performance-based seismic design procedures, novel chemical processing of hazardous waste, and virtual reality and augmented reality in aircraft design and manufacturing. The 1997 symposium will include presentations on biomechanics, intelligent transportation systems, decision-making tools for design and manufacturing, safety and security issues, and sensors and control for manufacturing. The meetings are organized so that there is ample opportunity, both following the presentations and more informally, for questions, discussion, and exchange. Speakers provide abstracts of their presentations, which are then published and disseminated to a wider audience following the symposium. The National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Engineering Foundation have provided support for these meetings.

This issue of The Bridge showcases abstracts of several presentations from the 1995 and 1996 Frontiers of Engineering meetings. The intent is to highlight the work of some of the best U.S. "early career" engineers and to provide a glimpse of engineering developments in a few areas. While these abstracts cannot capture the depth of the original presentations or the discussion that followed, they are indicators of the exciting engineering research and technical work being done today.
About the Author:Marc Levoy is an associate professor, Computer Science Department, Stanford University. Digitizing the Shape and Appearance of Three-Dimensional Objects is based on a talk he gave at the 1996 Frontiers of Engineering. Rebecca Richards-Kortum is an associate professsor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Texas at Austin. Optical Spectroscopy for Diagnosis of Disease in Tissue is based on a talk she gave at the 1995 Frontiers of Engineering. Eric Peeters is a member of the research staff at Xerox PARC, Palo Alto, Calif. Large-Market Applications of MEMS is based on a talk he gave at the 1996 Frontiers of Engineering.