Engineering Scholars and Visionaries

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Motivated by the fact that her grandmother lives in Sudan, where clean drinking water is not universally available, Shayma Elsheikh of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a University of Iowa senior studying biomedical engineering, is working to provide access to clean water.

Nicholas Glynn of Clear Lake, Iowa, a UI senior chemical engineering student, also is studying clean water access, but with a focus on water quality in the state of Iowa.

In both cases, the students are pursuing their engineering projects thanks to the University of Iowa College of Engineering’s leadership role in a prestigious U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) program.

As NAE Grand Challenge Scholars since the 2010-11 academic year, Elsheikh and Glynn on Wednesday (March 13) joined with college administrators in describing that leadership role at a meeting of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa.

Eric Nuxoll, assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, notes that the UI College of Engineering is a national leader when it comes to Grand Challenge participation.

The UI College of Engineering was one of the first 10 institutions in the country—and the first in the Big Ten Conference—to have an approved engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

Today, the UI College of Engineering is the only engineering college in the Big Ten and in the state of Iowa having an approved Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

In addition, those distinctions have since led to the designation of 11 Grand Challenge Scholars during the past three academic years at the UI.

UI College of Engineering administrators also note that the UI college’s leadership position in the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program is part of an effort to have the college recognized internationally for engineering education and research, as well as for leadership to the profession.

“The Grand Challenge Scholars Program fits perfectly into our strategic approach to educate the ;engineer … and something more,'” Alec Scranton, dean of the College of Engineering, says. “We want to provide exceptional access for our students to make a difference in the world as they tackle global problems that require innovative engineering solutions. The Scholars Program enables students to expand their minds and imaginations to meet some of the toughest challenges we face as a human race.”

The NAE program is truly national in scope. In an attempt to help the engineering profession meet various challenges facing society, the National Academy of Engineering in 2008 identified access to clean water, improved medicines, and other goals as the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. The NAE says that the Grand Challenges are a call to action and serve as a focal point for society's attention to opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life.

The NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program is a combined curricular and extra-curricular program with five components, says Nuxoll, including: an interdisciplinary curriculum, service learning, research experience, global awareness, and entrepreneurship training.

Says Elsheikh: “The program is really great because it helps you explore areas of study not always available during your college curriculum. I hope more students will take advantage of the program.”

For more on the UI College of Engineering program, visit here.