Friday, May 28, 2010

Brown University establishes School of Engineering

Brown University has transformed its Division of Engineering into the Brown School of Engineering.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] - The Corporation of Brown University has approved transformation of the University's Division of Engineering into the Brown School of Engineering, effective July 1. The Corporation took that action at its spring business meeting Friday, May 28, 2010. The University's faculty had voted its approval of the proposal on April 6.

"Today's monumental scientific and societal challenges depend greatly upon engineering know-how for advances in biology, medicine, clean energy and nanotechnology," Brown President Ruth J. Simmons said. "The Corporation's approval of a School of Engineering underscores our commitment to maintain and enhance the engineering curriculum and research activities that attract the brightest students and the highest caliber faculty."

Many recent studies, including a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, note that a comprehensive and coordinated effort is urgently needed to bolster the nation's competitiveness and pre-eminence in the physical sciences. A school of engineering will support the University's continued recruitment of outstanding faculty and students and its strategy of building on existing strengths in energy and the environment, biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, photonics, solid mechanics, and the mechanical behavior of materials.

Developing engineering as a school has been a work in progress for more than a decade. The idea received strong support from President Simmons, whose Plan for Academic Enrichment has expanded research and faculty across the University. A team of engineering faculty led by Rodney Clifton, the Rush C. Hawkins University Professor of Engineering and interim dean of engineering, presented a School of Engineering proposal to the Provost's office in December 2008. Clifton will continue as interim dean until a founding dean is named.

"We are grateful to the administration, the faculty and the Corporation for supporting our proposal," Clifton said. "By establishing a School, Brown has taken a big step toward raising its historic and renowned engineering program to a new level. This action ensures that Brown engineering will play a significant role in addressing the science and technology challenges that our society faces and will remain competitive nationally and internationally."

"The University community is grateful to Dean Clifton for shepherding the School of Engineering proposal to its successful vote today," Brown Provost David Kertzer said.

The School of Engineering expects to increase its share of external funding for research through faculty growth in areas of national importance and by expanding collaborative efforts with colleagues throughout the University.

"The federal funding agencies are increasingly interested in applied and translational research, the type of scientific investigation that helps solve societal problems," said Clyde Briant, vice president for research and professor of engineering. "Having a strong engineering school at Brown will undoubtedly help our faculty and students compete effectively for federal research dollars and contribute to solving challenging problems."

Engineering is the No. 1 area of academic interest expressed by members of the Class of 2014, who will matriculate this fall. The Division of Engineering currently has 437 undergraduate students and 178 graduate students, taught by 40 full-time, tenure-track faculty. Engineering is one of the most popular concentrations at Brown, with 140 students in the Class of 2013 pursuing it as a concentration.

Established in 1847, the undergraduate engineering program at the University is the oldest in the Ivy League and the third oldest civilian engineering program in the country, preceded only by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1824) and Union College (1845). In 1916, the departments of civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering were merged into one Division of Engineering with a common core of basic engineering courses. This model has been preserved, ensuring that faculty and students engage in an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to engineering.

[Photos show students working on final semester projects including a solar cell and light powered car]