April 1, 2008

President of National Academy of Engineering presentation available online

Audio of speech available at http://multimedia.lsu.edu/media/Vest.mp3

Hi-res photo available at www.lsu.edu/pa/photos

In a recent talk on the LSU campus, Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of MIT, told an LSU audience that:

  • Universities play a key role in technological innovation
  • The number of science and engineering graduates needs to increase for the United States to be competitive in a global economy
  • Students need to experience other countries

Vest visited LSU as part of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Lectureship Series, or CDLS, on Monday, March 31, giving a presentation titled “Teaching, Research and Learning in the 21st Century.”

In his talk, Vest stressed the importance of technological innovation and of blurring the lines between science and engineering. “More than 50 percent of the United States’ economic growth during the last 60 years was due to technological innovation,” said Vest. He said that universities produced much of that innovation, including computing technology, lasers, GPS fundamentals, tools for the genetic revolution and many more examples, making these institutions crucial to the country’s future.

He discussed the idea of location, suggesting that, in many ways, it no longer matters in our global economy when connections spanning continents can be made instantaneously. However, he also pointed out that location does count, especially for places like Baton Rouge, because location can bring the advantage of proximity to regional investment clusters, laboratories and universities, which small companies can use to their benefit.

He also had suggestions for ways that universities – and the country as a whole – can maintain the lead America has traditionally enjoyed in many areas of research and development investments.

“For the U.S. to maintain competitiveness in the global community,” said Vest, “the number of science and engineering graduates needs to strengthen. Students should also have more opportunities to travel, interact or experience other countries – or at least be mentally prepared to do so.” This, Vest maintained, is the direction that career paths are headed.

Some LSU initiatives that address Vest’s concerns are the Center for Computation and Technology, which targets technological and computational innovation; the China Program, which provides LSU students with working knowledge of the current Chinese business and cultural environment; and LA-Stem, which works to increase the number of under-represented students receiving terminal degrees in the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – fields.

Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering and vice chair of the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering. He is also president emeritus of MIT and a past and present member of many government task forces and advisory committees that have helped shape national and international policies on research, science, education and national security. In 2006, he received the National Medal of Technology from President Bush.

Listen to Vest’s lecture at http://multimedia.lsu.edu/media/Vest.mp3.

Related Links:

• Center for Computation & Technology

• The LSU China Program

• LA-Stem

• Charles Vest Bio

• Chancellor’s Distinguished Lectureship Series (LSU)

• The Charles Vest Challenge

Article excerpted from LSU Public Affairs News Release, Ashley Berthelot, LSU Media Relations, 225/578-3870

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