Letter from Dean Mary C. Boyce

May 03 2019

Another exciting year is nearing its close at Columbia!

We are pleased to report that our reputation among peers continues to climb and our graduate program was recently ranked eleventh according to U.S. News & World Report, where we are again the highest-ranked engineering program in the Ivy League. While our programs and actions are not driven by rankings, it is still important to see the excellence and stature of our faculty, students, and programs getting increasing recognition.

Those of you in the New York area will have heard about our recent collaboration with Governor Cuomo, the MTA, and Cornell Engineering to prevent the shutdown of the L train, a busy subway line that transports more than 250,000 commuters each day between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The planned 15-month shutdown was a source of anxiety for many New Yorkers, but working with the MTA and other partners, we proposed a new approach to renovate the century-old tunnel that had suffered significant damage from Hurricane Sandy. Our plan took inspiration from state-ofthe- art designs, incorporating cutting-edge materials, and allows the tunnel system to remain operational during repairs as well as provides an improved system for the future.

The project highlights how engineers can directly impact the communities we live in. More than two-thirds of the world will live in cities by midcentury, presenting challenges to meet the needs of neighborhoods, families, individuals, and businesses. In this issue, we turn our focus to smart cities to show how we are improving urban life and leveraging our unique position as a global capital to research and test solutions in our own “backyard.” Columbia engineers are using cloud-connected sensors to make streets safer, advancing green infrastructure, priming intersections for situationally aware vehicles, investigating recycled and low-carbon materials for structures, and helping municipalities develop protective strategies against extreme weather.

We are also proud to be a driving force for the expanding engineering and technology ecosystem across NYC as technology now permeates nearly every industry sector. Alumna Ursula Burns MS’82 joined us this spring at a special event to launch New York City Women in Tech (NYC WIT) with academic partners at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, CCNY Grove School of Engineering, Cornell Tech, Cooper Union, and Barnard College, along with sponsors from Google, Addepar, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, and WW (formerly Weight Watchers). Burns is part of our NYC WIT working group that aims to bring together leaders from across the city to leverage the talent of female engineers as the city takes its place as a global tech hub. There are already more than 7,500 New York–based tech companies, and our industry-academia partnership is working to promote a more receptive climate while broadening the engineering and technology pipeline. To read more about Burns and her pioneering career as the first African American woman to lead an S&P 500 company, see page 32. We also interview another woman breaking down boundaries—Michal Lipson, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical Engineering. Lipson, a pioneering expert in silicon photonics, is one of the mostly highly cited researchers in modern physics and recently won the National Academy of Sciences’ Comstock Award in Physics.

Our faculty has grown considerably in the last five years and numbers more than 220. Yannis Tsividis, Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Electrical Engineering, was elected into the National Academy of Engineering. Six members of our junior faculty received 2019 NSF CAREER awards, an incredible number for one year! In this issue, we spotlight several other innovators whose research is bringing our Engineering for Humanity vision to life.

We also say goodbye to two alumni who had a significant impact on the emergence of biomedical engineering as a new and enormously transformative research area. Their legacy lives on in the lasting contributions they made to the Columbia community.

 

Mary Cunningham Boyce
Dean of Engineering
Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor

Our NYC WIT working group aims to bring together leaders from across the city to leverage the talent of female engineers as the city takes its place as a global tech hub...and our industry-academia partnership is working to promote a more receptive climate while broadening the engineering and technology pipeline.

Mary C. Boyce
Dean of Columbia Engineering