UC Davis engineering changes the world

UC Davis engineering changes the world

College of Engineering celebrates 50 years of accomplishment

 Article by Hudson Lofchie
Photo Courtesy The California Aggie
Published in The California Aggie (theaggie.org) on February 29th, 2012
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It is not every day that an individual can look back on their work and see how it has changed the world. But this rare privilege is bestowed on scores of professors and researchers from the UC Davis College of Engineering. This year, the College of Engineering will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and looking back on the countless accomplishments made during that time.

The College of Engineering has eight departments and 15 undergraduate majors totalling 3,460 current undergraduate students and over 21,000 alumni. It has been ranked in the top 20 public university engineering programs and ranked third among all engineering programs for percentage of female faculty. Of the 201 faculty in the College of Engineering, 46 have received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, the NSF’s highest honor. It is awarded only to those who have demonstrated outstanding teaching and scholarly abilities, excellent research and solid integration of their research and teaching.

Enrique Lavernia, the dean of the College of Engineering since 2002, is incredibly proud of the accomplishments of the faculty working in his college.

“The single most significant accomplishment in the last 10 years is the hiring of over 90 faculty members, nearly half the faculty body,” Lavernia said. “The 46 NSF career awards are a reflection on the quality of our college; no other engineering college has been awarded 46 NSF career awards.”

The College of Engineering includes the departments of applied science, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering and materials science, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering and the department of biological and agricultural engineering.

The department of biological and agricultural engineering is also part of the College of Agricultural Sciences. UC Davis is a university known for agriculture and some of the most notable advancements in worldwide agricultural have come out of this department.

“This is a unique department,” said Raul Piedrahita, professor and chair of the department. “There are many projects that will affect the general public very directly.”

There are many current projects in the department of biological and agricultural engineering: a Bio-Digester that takes food waste and converts it to bio energy, a new method to store and deliver large quantities of algae for bio-fuel production, a system for electronically controlling agricultural spraying to dramatically reduce the amount of chemicals used and even a Human Gastric Simulator that can determine how certain foods will break down in the stomach.

Many of the faculty and emeriti in the College of Engineering have played major roles in the advancement of modern science. Their careers encompass everyday practical applications, such as Diane Bryant, the corporate vice president of Intel, and Bernie Alder, who has received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama after his work on computational physics.

The College of Engineering also does work on the cutting edge, such as Ralph Algazi creating the first three-dimensional sound experience. Steve Robinson, an astronaut for NASA, has made four shuttle trips including one to the International Space Station.

Researchers are also developing technologies that will soon be available to the general public. Ming Kuang has his name on 40 of the 461 patents on hybrid vehicle technology by Ford Motor Company.

“[Engineers] can make a living at the same time as doing something for society,” Kuang said. “Future engineers at UC Davis shouldn’t take it for granted that they are at UC Davis … it is a great school.”

The college creates a $290 million impact in Northern California alone and put over $90 million into research in the 2010-11 academic year.

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