News & Events

Washington Engineer - April 2014 Dean's Message

As engineers, our mission is to offer innovative solutions for society’s most challenging problems. Sometimes that means responding in crisis situations, and I'm proud of the recent work of our engineers in local and national disasters, both in real-time and in retrospective research. Using our knowledge to respond nimbly in trying circumstances reminds us of our collective goal of preparing students to develop solutions for the challenges society faces.

On March 22, a devastating mudslide claimed lives and property in a rural community north of Seattle. A national team co-led by Joseph Wartman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, quickly formed to provide a technical investigation of what caused the landslide. Wartman and UW geomorphologist David Montgomery offered expert opinion on likely causes and safety considerations. Their report is due out next month and will inform future investigations.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. Human Centered Design & Engineering assistant professor Kate Starbird researches the use of social media in crisis events. Shortly after the bombings she analyzed thousands of tweets from the crisis and proved how difficult it is to correct widespread misinformation in a disaster. Her team hopes to develop a real-time tool to stop inaccurate information from spreading virally on Twitter.

Our engineering faculty and students continue to drive innovation. As you’ll read in this issue, we are at the forefront of designing a quicker, easier way to analyze tissue biopsies for cancer diagnosis, and we continue to find breakthroughs in battery-free technologies that could enable an Internet of Things world.

Just as importantly, our faculty recognize the need to offer resources and opportunities to engineering students. A recent $4.4 million grant awarded to the UW Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will develop and promote teaching practices that help undergraduate engineering students reflect on their experiences. The UW-led consortium will involve a group of 12 higher education institutions, including community colleges, four-year colleges and research universities.

Thank you for taking time to learn more about UW Engineering and for reading Washington Engineer. Please join us this weekend for our annual Engineering Discovery Days to meet some of the best and brightest innovators at the UW.

Michael B. Bragg
Frank & Julie Jungers Dean of Engineering