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NAE highlights engineering programs

2012-11-15

Rice University engineering initiatives are prominently featured in a report issued this week by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 

The publication, "Infusing Real World Experiences into Engineering Education," features case studies on Rice's Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) program and the NanoJapan: International Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. Among the 28 colleges and universities in the report, only Rice is featured twice. 

"The inclusion of two Rice programs, BTB and NanoJapan, in this important NAE report is no surprise, given that Rice engineering is all about exposing our students to experiences that push them well beyond their comfort zones and urge them to journey into places far from Houston, leading to great professional development and maturity across a variety of engineering disciplines," said Ned Thomas, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.

The report (available as a free download here) spotlights schools that incorporate real-world experiences into their curricula and highlights best practices for institutions seeking to create new programs, according to the NAE.

Each case study compares anticipated versus actual program outcomes to demonstrate how well the programs prepare their engineering students. 

 Beyond Traditional Borders, part of the Rice 360˚: Institute for Global Health Technologies, trains students to use the engineering design process to develop solutions to global health challenges provided by physicians in the developing world. Students work on their inventions at Rice's Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and often develop them further using feedback they gather from physicians during internships in developing nations. 

NanoJapan is a 12-week international research experience that prepares undergraduate students to work in cross-cultural settings in Japan. The program seeks to cultivate an interest in nanotechnology among first- and second-year students while adding to their research skill sets and simultaneously educating them in culture, language and nanoscale science. The program was founded in 2006; since then, more than 106 American students from 37 institutions, including three community colleges, have participated. While the program traditionally takes place in Japan, in the wake of 2011's devastating earthquake, 25 Japanese students from partner labs in Japan came to Rice for three months of study.

 "The report amply demonstrates Rice leadership in translating fundamental science and engineering into high-impact practice," Rice Provost George McLendon said. "We are extraordinarily proud of the many ways in which Rice engineers make the world better."

"This nation’s prosperity, security and quality of life are direct results of leadership in the engineering achievements that drive society forward," said NAE President Charles Vest. "These programs are strategically preparing students to become the engineers who will tackle the technical and social complexities that lie ahead in the 21st century."

The NAE is one of four organizations that make up the National Academies, along with the National Academy of Sciences (created by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863), the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology and health policy advice under congressional charter.