This weekend, the engineering department hosted students, faculty and alumni at a series of talks, panel discussions and ceremonies commemorating 150 years of teaching and research.
While the events opening events Friday focused on the college’s history, Saturday’s events looked to the future of both Cornell’s college and the engineering field in general.
The first panel on Saturday examined what the University is doing to encourage entrepreneurship at both Cornell Tech, the University’s applied sciences graduate campus in New York City, and the Ithaca campus. Dan Huttenlocher, dean and vice provost of Cornell Tech, and Zachary Shulman ’87 J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship@Cornell, joined Collins for an a discussion on the expansion of the department.
Huttenlocher said Cornell Tech currently has four master’s degree programs already running, with two more to be initiated next year. He added that there is a required entrepreneurial curriculum at Cornell Tech that brings masters students from both business and technical backgrounds together to work in teams to build projects and businesses.
“Our goal is not necessarily that our students go out and immediately start a company, or ever start a company, but it’s that skill set, that ability, that confidence in themselves to work and manage in very high growth and uncertain environments,” he said.
Shulman described Entrepreneurship@Cornell as a University-wide endeavor that has support from all 15 Cornell deans. The office guides interested students and faculty through the process of building a startup, from building a business model to launching it. He said he hopes that Entrepreneurship@Cornell will create a total of 14,000 sq. feet of incubator and collaboration space for entrepreneurs.
Elaine Jackson ’78 said she was impressed by what Cornell Tech has to offer students.
“Like [Dan] said, an engineering or an MBA student is not going to be successful in and of themselves. I think that being able to be that one person[the faculty member] that has all the answers that will take it [startup] forward is really very unique,” she said. “Having that interdisciplinary support from the university is going to be key, like they said, to take these startups forward.”
Later in the day, featured guests Dr. Robert Langer ’70, and Padmasree Warrior M.S. ’84 joined Collins for a discussion on what the engineering field will look like in 50 years.
Langer talked about the increasing role of engineering in medicine. He said that technology will enable the synthesis of new tissues and organs and will aid the treatment process, from better sensors for identifying diseases to better recognizing of data patterns to effective drug delivery mechanisms.
Warrior said the role of robots will increase in nursing and health care as the world’s seniors start to outnumber its youth for the first time. She also focused on how the next 50 years will fundamentally change transportation as we know it due to the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles.
After a day full of talks and panel discussions, a time capsule created by Cornell’s Steel Bridge project team was unveiled. It will be buried under the sundial on the Engineering Quad, loaded with, among other items, alumni social media posts about the department, a 3-D printed ear from a Cornell lab, a piece of the original yellow terracotta of Upson Hall and the Intel Galileo Board, which is the first board specifically designed to power the maker community.
After the day’s events, alumni told The Sun they enjoyed the sesquicentennial events not only because of the opportunity to listen to leading scholars talk about their fields, but also to touch base with other Cornellians, and appreciate the beauty of the campus once again.
“I always love meeting faculty, but what I really look forward to is meeting with student project teams, and seeing what they’re up to,” said David Orr ’87.