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Winter/Spring 2008 Vol. 8 No. 1

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NAE Launches New Web Site for Girls

"Engineer Your Life," a new Web site to encourage girls to enroll in undergraduate engineering programs, was unveiled by the National Academy of Engineering in February. The site is the centerpiece of a national campaign targeting high school girls and the adults in their lives -- parents, counselors, teachers, and other educators -- who want to learn more about the life and work of engineers.

At <>, visitors can "virtually" meet 12 young women engineers and read inspiring stories about working with their communities, solving real problems, and how they came to choose engineering as a profession. Other young engineers also talk about their careers in their own words.


The site provides details about nearly a dozen engineering fields, including possible projects, starting salaries, and other resources, as well as information on how to prepare for and choose college engineering programs.

It expands on the success of the EngineerGirl! site, which was designed to reach middle school girls.   -- Maureen O'Leary

Grand Challenges for Engineering

A year ago the National Academy of Engineering announced a project to identify the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for engineering in the 21st century.

Culled from about 1,600 suggestions from engineers, scientists, medical experts, policymakers, and ordinary people around the world, 14 challenges were selected by a panel of some of the most accomplished individuals of their generation, experts in science, engineering, and medicine convened to identify advances that could improve quality of life around the world. The committee included William Perry (chair), Sir Alec Broers, Farouk El-Baz, Wesley Harris, Bernadine Healy, W. Daniel Hillis, Calestous Juma, Dean Kamen, Raymond Kurzweil, Robert Langer, Jaime Lerner, Bindu Lohani, Jane Lubchenco, Mario Molína, Larry Page, Robert Socolow, J. Craig Venter, and Jackie Ying.

The challenges fall into four areas essential for humanity to flourish -- sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living. The panel decided not to make any predictions or focus on gee-whiz gadgets. It felt that it was more important to outline broad objectives that might inspire action.

And here they are (drum roll) … Get to work, engineers!

  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and to provide comments at the project Web site at <>.   -- Maureen O'Leary

NAS to Post Hundreds of Memoirs Online

The National Academy of Sciences is placing its complete collection of biographical memoirs on the Internet. These brief biographies of deceased Academy members are written by people who knew them or their work. Although memoirs published since 1995 have been available online, more than 900 memoirs published in earlier volumes were available in print only. "This is a 'historic' event that will have substantial scholarly value and be of general interest to the public. This personal and scholarly view of the lives and work of such prominent scientists will be a wonderful resource," said John Brauman, home secretary of the Academy.

Among the recently added memoirs are those of famed naturalist Louis Agassiz; Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Thomas Edison; Alexander Graham Bell; noted anthropologist Margaret Mead; and psychologist and philosopher John Dewey. More memoirs will be published regularly until the entire collection is available online. PDF files of each are available online at <>.   -- Maureen O'Leary

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Copyright 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences