Opinion: Engineering optimism fuels problem solving

July 14, 2022 Jelena Kovačević
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Lately, it’s been easy to focus on what seems to be a steady drumbeat of bad news and tragedy — enough to make me reluctant to open the paper or turn on the television. And while I am extremely troubled and saddened by it all, as an engineer, my instinct is to focus not on problems, but on how to address them That’s the beauty of engineering — as problem solvers, we’re on the front lines of being able to take real steps toward improving things.

And every day at NYU Tandon I see reasons for optimism. I’m buoyed by our community’s transformational work to address the issues plaguing society, including that NYU Tandon Institute Professor Maurizio Porfiri has received one of the first authorized federal grants to study U.S. gun violence and is harnessing the power of data to find ways to reduce harm while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners.

Maurizio Porfiri, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NYU Tandon leads new research on social information and spontaneous emergence of leaders in human groups.

Associate Professor Rumi Chunara and her colleagues are engaged in making sure that healthcare is equitable and accessible to all by ensuring practitioners take the data that matters into account at the point-of-care. In addition, a multidisciplinary team of more than 20 researchers has joined forces specifically to tackle climate change and environmental contamination. One of their projects involves reducing emissions from petrochemical manufacturing, ensuring that a solution not only cleans up the process and protects the planet but is profitable for the industry.

Over the years, well before our school became known as NYU Tandon, we have talked about the “power of Poly thinking” and using technology in service to society in celebrating our role in mass-producing penicillin, landing men on the Moon, laying the foundation for next-generation wireless, and countless other life-altering accomplishments. Today, we’re still advancing powerful new research and technology to solve the issues we’re facing, and no matter how bad the news gets, that makes me powerfully optimistic about the future.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

As Dean Jelena Kovačević approaches year five of her tenure, she has fueled NYU Tandon’s upward trajectory, powering the school’s contributions to vital fields and empowering a new generation of engineers and technologists. Along the way, she has also garnered an impressive portfolio of accolades — just in the last week, Kovačević was named to City & State’s 2022 Brooklyn Power 100 list recognizing the borough’s most influential people in government, business, law, education, nonprofits and more, and she received a 2022 IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBS) Career Achievement Award recognizing pioneering and outstanding academic leadership in biomedical imaging research and education. These add to her already considerable list of accomplishments, including founding and co-chairing the Northeast Regional Deans (NeRDs) council.

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