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Harvard SEAS, Newsletter, Spring 2006

Harvard SEAS, Newsletter, Spring 2006

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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 V • Issue 1 • Spring 2006
The Bigger PicTure
ach week, I gather up intriguingnewspaper, magazine, and Webclippings, along with a few technicalpapers, and stuff them into a well-wornred folder marked “readings.”Here’s a quick sampling of some of myfavorite headlines of the past few years:“The Tinkerer as an Engineer”; “HowBlackberry Conquered the World”;“Googlemania”; “All Science is Com-puter Science”; “Nanotechnology TakesAim at Cancer”; “Why Math Will RockYour World.”Whether the articles come from
, The
New York Times 
The Economist 
, or fromthe countless online sources, they alltell the same story:Engineering and applied sciences areeverywhere and underlie everything,from commerce to quantum physics,and connect every place, from Bostonto Bangladesh.Thomas L. Friedman summed up theconsequences of this fact in his fascinat-ing book,
The World Is Flat 
: “I’m not say-ing that every politician needs to be anengineer, but it would be helpful if theyhad a basic understanding of the forcesthat are attening the world.”Not surprisingly, the Council on Com-petitiveness stated in 2005 that “[tech-nological] innovation will be the singlemost important factor in determiningAmerica’s success through the 21stcentury.” Likewise, I believe a large partof Harvard’s future success depends onfostering a culture of innovation.To remain a leading and societally rel-evant university in a globalized world,we must do two things:• Continue to enhance our efforts inscience and engineering• Create a global campus and trainglobal citizens
The changing universiTy
During this time of institutional transi-tion, Harvard’s commitment to expand-ing its pedagogical and research effortsin science, engineering, and technol-ogy remains rm. Such emphasis is alsosupported in a report by the NationalAcademy of Engineering,
Engineering Research and America’s Future: Meeting the Challenges of a Global Economy,
whichsuggests investment in three key areas:
Engineering research
, to bridgescientic discovery and practicalapplications
Engineering education
, to giveengineers and technologists theskills to create and exploit knowledge
Engineering profession and practice
,to translate knowledge into innova-tive, competitive products and servicesWe need only look at our past for areminder of the potential intellectualand social return on investment sucha strategy can bring. Nuclear Mag-netic Resonance (NMR), the scienticfoundation for MRI, was pioneered byBloembergen, Purcell, and Pound atHarvard. Purcell won the 1952 NobelPrize in Physics for this discovery. Asthe ultimate capstone, the 2003 NobelPrize in Medicine was awarded to Laut-erbur and Manseld for work leading tothe development of modern magneticresonance imaging (MRI).That’s the power and the promise thatengineering and applied sciences hold.That’s why we must make them a natu-ral part of everything we do at Harvard.
The global universiTy
What we do outside the lab and off Harvard’s campus matters as well.Already, we host researchers from allover the globe and attract an interna-tional student body. Harvard is alsogoing global with efforts such as theU.S.-Indo Alliance (page 7), by hostingalumni events in Mexico and India, andwith in-country academic partnershipssuch as those sponsored by the Medicaland Business schools.As engineering has become as muchabout bridging information as buildingbridges, the talent pool for creative andinnovative individuals has widenedand will continue to do so. Put simply,great ideas can come from anywhere;we must be open to hearing them andcreate more opportunities to harnesssuch knowledge and ability.Likewise, our students need to bothmaster the language of engineering andtechnology and gain an understand-
ing of how it is shaping and is shapedby the world. The National Academyof Engineering’s assessment,
The En- gineer of 2020
, asks questions that allour programs needto address: “Do ourengineers understandenough culturally, forexample, to respondto the needs of themultiple niches in aglobal market? Canwe continue to ex-pect everyone else tospeak English? Whatwill be our specialvalue added?”Being bilingual in today’s world maymean knowing a foreign language anda computer language. Appreciating cul-ture may mean studying abroad in an-other country and understanding howthat culture is evolving as its citizens
Our students need to bothmaster the language of engineering and technologyand gain an understandingof how it is shaping and isshaped by the world.
“The Tinkerer as an Engineer”“How Blackberry Conquered the World”“Googlemania”“All Science is Computer Science”“Nanotechnology Takes Aim at Cancer”“Why Math Will Rock Your World.”
Whether the articles come from
The New York Times
The Economist 
, or from the countless onlinesources, they all tell the same story: Engineering and applied sciencesare everywhere and underlie everything, from commerce to quantumphysics, and connect connect every place, from Boston to Bangladesh
learn how to Google. That’s why the ef-fects of engineering are as important asthe practice of engineering. That’s whystudying engineering in this era mustnot only be about cre-ating engineers butstudying the two-wayrelationship betweentechnology and so-ciety—essential fordeveloping globalcitizens and leaders.As an applied sci-entist, head of a re-search lab, and a manof two countries, Ihave experiencedthe attening of the world rsthand. Ihave watched nanoscience go from anintriguing idea to an entire eld that’schanged the way we think about matter,and thus to an emerging industry. I haveseen how the IT revolution has begunto transform developing countries, likemy birthplace of India, into lands of technology developers. Most fortunate,I have been part of a great communityand of an entire university where engi-neering and the applied sciences havebeen renewed and have emerged.These days, in my red folder I see moreheadlines that pair Harvard with tech-nology and innovation: “TransplantedCells Regenerate Muscles”; “UndergradsDevelop System to Fight TB”; “HarvardLaunches Wireless Classroom”; “NewLight on Modern Optics (Harvard’s RoyGlauber Wins the Nobel Prize).”They are my weekly reminder of whatDEAS and Harvard have always beenabout. It is also why I’m so excited aboutwhere all of us can go.
2IDEAS – Spring 2006
 Cr o s s C urr ent s
“It is a paradoxical butprofoundly true and importantprinciple of life that the mostlikely way to reach a goal isto be aiming not at that goalitself but at some moreambitious goal beyond it.”—Arnold Toynbee
f you want to experience an MP3 playerthat actually lives up to the name nano, youbetter trim your ngernails. A human nail isabout 10 million nanometers thick. Despitethe liberty taken by Apple’s marketing depart-ment, science and engineering at the smallestscales will likely mean sweet music for basicresearch and consumer products.Assistant Professor of Electrical EngineeringKen Crozier recently set up a new lab dedicatedto nanophotonics, or optics on the nanometerscale. His particular interests involve develop-ing greatly improved imaging techniques forscientists and building new devices based onphotonic crystals, materials used to controland manipulate the spread of light.On an everyday level, movie fans already reapthe benets of such research in the form ofat-panel and plasma displays. Continuedadvances will likely lead to new fabricationmethods, such as electron-beam lithographyand plasma etching, critical for next-genera-tion optical circuits and electronics.
n Ray Bradbury’s shortstory,
The Toynbee Convec- tor 
, an engineer who claimsto have built a time machinereturns from his trip to thefuture with astoundingnews. Despite the currentdismal state of the earthand of society, he assureshis fellow citizens that 100years hence, human beingswill live in a near utopia.In the decades following, thetraveler’s snapshot of thefuture—a clean and healthyenvironment, technologi-cal marvels, and a peacefuland prosperous society—be-comes a reality.In typical Bradbury fashion,the objects in the mirror endup being much closer thanthey rst appear. Havinggrown up hearing the tale of the time traveler from theirparents, members of thefuture generation expect tolive long enough to greet theinventor upon his arrival.On the appointed day andtime, the machine and itsoccupant fail to shimmerinto view. Instead of bend-ing the laws of physics, theengineer bent the truth.With inspiration rather thanreal evidence, he succeededin encouraging the citizensto dream big, and in doingso, they banded together tobuild a brighter future.When we imagine the fu-ture, by denition we thinkin terms of time, fast-for-warding through the years,decades, or even centuries.But to get a sense of what’sto come in engineering andapplied sciences at Harvard,the trick is to see time as justone dimension in which to
In meters, the size of a nanoparticle
travel. Advances in basic andapplied research will dependon events happening at thenanoscale and machinesbuilt at the microscale.Financial scales will rise andfall based on billions of bitsintersecting with billionsof dollars. Engineering andbiology will begin to un-tangle networks on a humanscale (the neurons insideyour head) and make con-nections on a global scale(new cures and drugs).So, strap yourself in fora tour of some of the fu-ture dimensions of scienceand engineering developingat DEAS right now—notime machine (or tall tale)required.
Joint DEAS and Physics appointee VinothanManoharan, Assistant Professor of Physicsand Chemical Engineering, also explores theshapes of things to come. Manoharan co-authored a groundbreaking paper in Scienceabout predicting how groups of colloids, tinysuspended particles oating like Ping-Pongballs in glue, might arrange themselves.The researchers discovered that when squeezedby a liquid droplet, the microspheres form anunusual sequence of structures. Despite someof the shapes looking decidedly unfamiliar,they all follow the same mathematical rule:Particles favor groupings that minimize thedistribution of particle distances from thecenter of mass of a given cluster. More amaz-ing, Manoharan did not set out to make sucha fundamental discovery; the original researchinvolved trying to rene the manufacture ofphotonic crystals.Even the smallest predictions in this smallestof elds will likely continue to surprise us.
DEAS – Spring 2006I
Future dimensions

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