Volume IV•Issue 2•Fall 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
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.
THE NATURAL SETTING
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.
D EAN’ SM E S SA G E