May 23, 2012
Lessons in Engineering from Our Dean, Rod Alferness
UC Santa Barbara Today interviews Dean Alferness about his vision for the College of Engineering
UCSB Public AffairsSource:
Rod Alferness became the Dean of the College of Engineering in September 2011. He joined UCSB after working at Bell Labs, where he served as chief scientist.
Q: What are some of the global problems you believe should be addressed by engineers?
A: Many of the things we are already doing here at UCSB. Energy and its efficient utilization, and coming up with alternate sources, are key. Biomedical and bioengineering are very much aligned with current needs. The work we’re doing with communication in Third World countries, bringing the availability of wireless technology to areas with limited or no electricity — there is an opportunity to further leverage that.
Q: Are there issues you consider essential for the future of engineering?
A: Education, education, education. The ability to leverage the technology that comes out of engineering for education more broadly, and around the world, I think is important. But also it’s important for us, as a university, to reach out to the K-12 population, to help them get a better understanding not just of the “gee whiz” technology, but the impact on society and how engineering has changed and improved the lives of people. We need to make sure they’re prepared — and we want to make sure we have the best and brightest coming through engineering going forward.
Q: What lessons do you bring from your experience in private industry?
A: What I felt part of at Bell Labs — seeing the optical networks that underpinned the internet literally connect the world, enabling opportunities not just for knowledge, but economic opportunities in countries where it otherwise would not have been possible — brought multiple levels of satisfaction. The reward that comes from discovery, taking discovery to implementation, making a difference for society — it’s important for our engineers to understand that’s the opportunity that they have, and the obligation, quite frankly.
Q: What goals do you have for the College of Engineering?
A: One of my priorities is to ensure that we continue to build strong relationships with companies to better understand what industry is looking for in our students, and in our research. Not that we are driven by that, but we are informed by it. Our engineers really will be working in a global environment. They need to understand how to work in diverse environments that cross global boundaries and cultural boundaries. And I believe it’s important that they have a breadth of understanding of the basic principles of business. Our Technology Management Program is one way of doing that. Our goal for students is not just “get the first job,” but to have long-term careers in engineering.