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JSU noted as top engineering school joining ‘Grand Challenges’

Grand challenge banner

Jackson State University is listed among the top engineering schools in the nation collaborating to establish a program by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to graduate 20,000 students with special skills over the next decade.

Called “Grand Challenges for Engineering,” the program adopted by JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) is designed to improve the quality of graduates in the nation’s engineering schools.

The plan has been presented to President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington.

Under the program, the challenges are complex yet achievable goals to improve health, security, sustainability and quality of life.

“We really are excited to commit to these Grand Challenges as the measures being suggested to meet them align with efforts we are already folding into our CSET program,” said CSET Dean Dr. Richard Alo. “If we are really going to achieve the goal of graduating 20,000 students over the next decade, we must focus on goals and procedures to do that.”

For example, he said, JSU and other engineering schools, must focus on retaining students enrolled, improve the persistence of students to achieve a degree, as well as enhance the academic infrastructure to respond to national and international needs.

‘A societal impact in civil, environmental engineering’

Along those lines, he said, “our CSET engineering students are already making a societal impact in civil and environmental engineering, and we look forward to their making similar impacts in our new degree programs in biomedical engineering and data sciences/engineering.”

“We have a huge warehouse of minority health and health disparities data here that 18 minority research institutions provide as part of our NIH funded Research Consortium of Minority Institutions,” he said. JSU houses and coordinates that data.

Alo noted that CSET is a leader in cybersecurity, which is a component of the Challenge. This was highlighted by the recent appointment at JSU of Dr. Gordon Skelton as director of Data Sciences, Engineering and Intelligence.

Jackson State was one of the first universities in the nation to offer a doctoral degree in big data, which can provide young people the CyberInfrastructure discovery tools that will assist in correlating, analyzing, synthesizing and creating new knowledge from diverse sources of data, he said.

“Today’s engineers and those of the future must understand and align in using this new knowledge creation resource as they design new bridges, spacecraft, biomedical and rehabilitative devices, etc.,” Alo said.

A focus on cybersecurity, intelligence and big data

Skelton’s focus on intelligence includes cybersecurity, the ability to gain intelligence and creation of knowledge from big data through public and private contracts, including business, social research, chemistry and biology. These capabilities will figure largely in achieving the Challenge goals, Alo said.

“The NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering are already inspiring more and more of our brightest young people to pursue careers that will have direct impacts on improving the quality of life for people across the globe,” said NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. “Imagine the impact of tens of thousands of additional creative minds focused on tackling society’s most vexing challenges. ‘Changing the world’ is not hyperbole in this case. With the right encouragement, they will do it and inspire others as well.”

Each of the 122 signing schools has pledged to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who have been specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of training more than 20,000 formally recognized “Grand Challenge Engineers” over the next decade.
For more information on this initiative, see: www.nae.edu. The initiative grew out of a 2014 workshop organized by the American Association of Engineering Societies, Epicenter, Engineers Without Borders USA, EPICS, and the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.