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Harvard SEAS, Newsletter, Fall 2005

Harvard SEAS, Newsletter, Fall 2005

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Biannual newsletter of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Biannual newsletter of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

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Published by: Harvard School of Enginering and A on Jan 11, 2010
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Volume IVIssue 2Fall 2005
This coming year will be my last serving as Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. I plan, however, to spend my remain- ing time working with the same dedication,enthusiasm, and intensity as when I first ar- rived. As you will read in a special section of  this newsletter (pages 
 ), thanks to the hard work, commitment, and generosity of our fac- ulty, students, staff, and friends, we have made tremendous strides over the past decade.
oward Aiken’s electromechanicalcomputer sits quietly at the Sci-ence Center. Bill Gates’ computer codefor BASIC, three reams of dot-matrixprintouts, rests on a wall in MaxwellDworkin. Our faculty and students’ lat-est findings, posters exploring the nano-sphere to the troposphere, grace ourhallways. While all these objects hint athuman ingenuity, all are firmly trappedbehind glass—protected for posteritybut not easily accessible.Such technological snapshots can, how-ever, generate conversation: How did itwork (can clunky metal switches reallymake calculations)? What problem wasat stake (simple curiosity or a cure for adisease)? What was the historical con-text (a world war or a software war)?Who were the engineers and scientistsbehind the scenes (and what did they goon to do)? The dialogue may provide astart but it is seldom enough to ensurethe next great breakthrough or encour-age a future generation of innovators.This brings up two questions parallel tothe one I posed in my last message aboutinspiring students to better understandand appreciate technology. What kindof environment encourages individualsto rise to a grand intellectual challengeor motivates them to invent an entirelynew way of doing something? How dowe go about creating such a culture?
DEAS is a special place at Harvard. Wehave limited hierarchy and a high levelof autonomy; we have no formal depart-ments but countless informal groupslinked by similar interests; and on a giv-en day, someone here is likely to crosspaths or collaborate with a half-dozenpeople or more. That translates into theability to always adapt, the creativity tocome up with fresh ideas, the opennessto connect with others, and the willing-ness to share knowledge and the excite-ment we have about pursuing it.The power of this approach is increas-ingly apparent.A small group of faculty and staff transformed a staid corner into abeautiful, comfortable setting withseating and refreshments, to promotestronger community.A senior concentrator in biologyworked in a DEAS microfluidics labcreating “armor-plated” bubbles; hecelebrated his last semester at Harvardby becoming a lead author of a
Nature Materials 
paper.After being inspired to enter anentrepreneurship competition, a DEASPh.D. student in microbiology starteda company that could greatly improveenergy efficiency in heating systems.Recently, several DEAS researchersreceived grants for work on treatingdisease in the developing world, atopic not normally associated withengineering.In other words, our faculty, students,and staff are encouraged to pursue sys-tems thinking at all levels. And just likein every system, nurturing its successmeans getting involved at the groundlevel—learning about individual partsand processes—and appreciating howit all fits together and what support itneeds to be an integrated part of an evenlarger enterprise. I want to be wherethose natural intersections happen: thelabs, the classrooms, and even the stair-ways where people meet for a quick chat.The vibrancy I feel and see each day as Imake my rounds is what inspires me inmy own research and reminds me of theimportance of doing all I can to removethe barriers that inhibit it.
To open up entire fields of inquiry, trans-late knowledge into applications, andmake an impact on the world meansinfusing a strong sense of purpose intoall that we do. Only by doing that willwe generate the ideas and inventionsthat will wind up behind display casesin some future Harvard building. At ourbest we are a magnet that draws in thecurious and charges them up, givingthem the energy and drive for what-ever they end up tackling, from appliedmathematics to engineering.Looking back, I am excited about allthat we have accomplished, from hav-ing
faculty members integratedwith Division activities to tripling theadmissions to our graduate programs.But I am proudest of what’s hardest tomeasure—the shared passion for engi-neering and the applied sciences thathas made the Division such a wonderfulplace to think and work.While I have always had one foot inthe Dean’s Office and the other in mylab, I am looking forward to being oneresearcher among many, one collabo-rator in a sea of collaborators, and onecontributing member of this thriving,imaginative community that all of ushave shaped together.
0 300 600 900 1,200 1,50020032004200220032001200220002001199920001998199919971998
18.8% acceptance rate20.4% acceptance rate17.2% acceptance rate22.6% acceptance rate14.2% acceptance rate10.8% acceptance rate12.5% acceptance rate
Number of ApplicantsNumber of Students Admitted
Number of Grad Program Applicants
/ Selectivity 1997–2004
A look back
As we greet another new academic year and we ready for the transition to a new Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences, it’s an appropriate time to look at where we’ve been and where we are today. Our success has been possible because of the great determination and character of those in the past. We can think and act boldly in the years ahead because of the excellence and dedication of our current faculty, students, staff, and supporters.
The graduate student populationhas grown from 175 to 270 during1995–2005, an increase of over 50percent. Most impressive, the num-ber of applications to our programshas nearly tripled over a shorterperiod and selectivity increased;less than 13% of students whoapply are admitted.
Alumni success 
Recent alums have used their skills to: return home–Salil Vadhan ’95 is now anAssociate Professor at DEAS; become computer-graphics animators–a lead light-ing designer for Pixar, Danielle Feinberg ’96 led the team that rendered the aquaticuniverse in
Finding Nemo
and most recently worked on
The Incredibles
; and even ownand run a bakery–Joanne Chang ’96, an honors graduate with a degree in AppliedMathematics and Economics, now runs Flour Bakery and Café in Boston’s South End.Others like Gitika Srivastava ’01 have founded high-tech companies like Skyris orused their quantitative skills to enter a wide array of fields like finance and banking.
“What’s great about theDivision is that youcan get the best of both worlds: a well-roundedHarvard educationcombined with one of thebest engineering pro-grams in the country.”
—Daniel Curran S.B. ’05,Engineering Sciences
“There are very few placesin the world where onecan spend the morningthinking about somephenomenon seen in amicrofluidic device andthe afternoon thinkingabout how fish swim or why microorganisms areshaped in the way thatthey are.”
—Marcus Roper, Ph.D. candidate,Applied Mechanics
Over the past decade, undergraduate enrollmentsin our three concentrations have ranged from300 to 400. While our engineering sciences pro-gram has been ABET-accredited for 20 years, theadvising committee in 2003 particularly praised ourinterdisciplinary, flexible approach to education.
2IDEAS – Fall 2005
The number of faculty (full-time equivalents) in engineering and applied sciences has growntremendously over the past ten years, from 40 FTEs in 1995 to 66 in 2005, even as many of the longstanding faculty members retired.
High honors 
Eight members of the DEAS facultyare members of the National Acad-emy of Engineering, and eight aremembers of the National Academyof Sciences (three of both).Other major honors and awardsby DEAS faculty include: HarvardCollege Professorships (5); MacAr-thur Genius Award; GuggenheimFellowship; and Alpha Iota Prizesfor Excellence in Teaching (4).
Without boundaries 
Today, nearly 80 faculty members inareas including—applied mathemat-ics, applied physics, engineering,environmental sciences, computerscience, and biology—actively col-laborate with DEAS.
World-class work 
In terms of citation impact, Harvard ranked second nationally in the category ofEngineering and Computer Science in a 2002 analysis by ISI (for 1998–2002data). Many of our faculty are the most cited individuals in their fields.
$ in mil
“Because of Harvard’sintrinsic excellence,I hope we can alwaysget the brighteststudents and the bright-est faculty, which stillis more important thananything else I do.
—Dean Venky in a 1998
Harvard Gazette
By the numbers 
Sponsored research in the Division hasincreased more than 60 percent from1995 ($20.6M) to 2005 ($33M).
Bolstering engineering 
In recent years, DEAS has built a strong foundationfor invention-oriented disciplines such as computersystems research and increased its collaborations infields like electrical engineering and bioengineering. 
DEAS – Fall 2005I3

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