B.L. Ramakrishna's lecture looks to the future

B.L. Ramakrishna giving his lectureB.L. Ramakrishna discusses the historical context  
for the Grand Challenges Scholars Program

B.L. Ramakrishna addressed the engineering challenges of the past and looked towards the future in the first annual Socially Engaged Engineering & Computing Lecture.

Ramakrishna, the Director of the Grand Challenges Scholars Program Network at the National Academy of Engineering, gave a talk entitled “Perspective on the Grand Challenges for Engineering”.

The lecture wound its way through time, starting with Abraham Lincoln, who founded the National Academies, through the complicated history of engineers vs. scientists and eventually, in February 2000, the announcement of the 20 Greatest Achievements of the 20th Century.

But of course engineering is always moving the world forward, and the national Grand Challenges Scholars Program is all about solving new problems that will transform the world. Problems such as reverse-engineering the brain, advancing personalized learning, securing cyberspace and providing access to clean water.

Ramakrishna explained that, while the greatest achievements of the 20th century were focused on “things”, the ones of the 21st century will be about people and the planet.

Ramakrishna, before joining the National Academy of Engineering, was a faculty member at Arizona State University and started both ASU’s Grand Challenges Scholars program and a humanitarian engineering program.

Both programs should sound familiar—within the last year similar programs have been implemented in Miami’s College of Engineering and Computing. In fact, this semester is the first for our Grand Challenge Scholars program, led by Doug Troy.

Students interested in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program can go to its website. Applications are accepted each semester, and questions can be sent to

By Paige Smith