College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

More than numbers

When asked about the difference between scientists and engineers, Albert Einstein is said to have remarked, “Scientists investigate that which already is. Engineers create that which has never existed.”

I like to make that point to young people when I speak of the engineering profession and its rewards. Engineers put science to work and literally design the world we occupy each day.

It’s not a world of cold calculations and precise angles. It’s a world that is about people and their quality of life.

That’s why we emphasize to our students that engineering is practiced within a strong social context. It is a creative profession that uses technology to improve lives and livelihoods. Today’s students are tomorrow’s practicing engineers, and we want them to become leaders for a cleaner, healthier, safer, and more sustainable world.

To help our students prepare for that future, we align our research and educational programs with looming societal problems that might threaten quality of life in the coming decades. Our National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals is an opportunity for students to learn about, and advance, the technology for producing industrial chemicals from biomass. Our Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory is a place where students work on the next generation of wind turbine blades.

Sustainable agriculture. Safe roads, bridges, and supply chains for our food.  Secure power grids. Clean and plentiful water. Green energy. Each is a big issue that we read about in today’s headlines, and that today’s students will confront during their careers. Their solutions will bridge engineering, economics, and public policy. We’ll be proud of them, and our world will be better for their creativity.