Letter from Dean Mary C. Boyce

The first day of the fall semester marks a new beginning for students and faculty alike, and, at Columbia Engineering, many exciting changes have taken place over the past year, paving the way for great advancements in research, education, and innovation.

Last year we initiated a series of faculty discussion forums focused around highly interdisciplinary research themes that cut across our School, many of which also leverage incredible collaborations with our sister schools. We have discussed research initiatives that address society’s grand challenges and those that push disciplinary frontiers. Not surprisingly, these fields intersect and all spur discovery of novel areas of research.

Our faculty and students are concentrating on global challenges including water, energy, climate, mobility, human health, and communications, and, on the frontiers of sensing and imaging, data science, computation-based engineering science, and advanced materials and devices. These research endeavors advance fundamental knowledge that will impact society at all levels—truly transcending disciplines and transforming lives.

The research focus of this issue showcases our work in nanoscience and nanoengineering—a field of advanced materials and devices where the line between a material and a device is often absent. Columbia is recognized worldwide as one of the leaders in the development of nanoscience. Manipulating materials at the atomic and molecular levels will provide new ways to fabricate macroscale products with innovative applications that will impact medicine, energy, water, computing, and much more.

To support the research endeavors of our faculty, including 15 new faculty and four more joining in January, we have committed significant resources to outfitting new laboratories, renovating current laboratories, expanding and renovating clean rooms, and creating an electron microscopy lab with a new transmission electron microscope as part of a set of shared facilities with Arts and Sciences.

In addition to renovated spaces for research, transformations to education and common spaces have also been a priority. Students were greeted by a fresh, sleek campus-level entry to Mudd, and a modern, inviting student space, Carleton Commons, with areas for quiet study, tables to work or eat together, and comfortable seating for relaxing between classes or activities. Carleton Commons is open 24 hours a day and is well used, both day and night! See details of all our new renovations in this issue.

Also in this issue you’ll get to know some of the many innovations coming from our faculty, students, and alumni. Shree K. Nayar, T. C. Chang Professor of Computer Science, a serial inventor, has developed a self-powered video camera. Alums Ky Harlin of Condé Nast and Shahram Ebadollahi of IBM Watson Health both use big data to achieve their different business objectives; and students like Jason Kang, Ritish Patnaik, Riley Spahn, and Jessica Valarezo epitomize the spirit and inventiveness of today’s Columbia Engineering students.

We are proud to share these stories with you so that you can see for yourself the remarkable institution that is Columbia Engineering today.

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