Fresh Eyes on the Prize
Minority-serving institutions form a complicated patchwork of more than 700 two- and four-year colleges and universities that together enroll 30 percent of U.S. undergraduates—in all, some 5 million students. For our cover story, we couldn’t do justice to all seven officially recognized categories of MSIs, so we concentrated on one of the most prominent: historically black colleges and universities. Created to serve a population denied access to higher education, they train a disproportionate number of African-American STEM graduates. Their 15 ABET-accredited engineering schools play a key role in preparing the engineering workforce and in addressing two important challenges facing the field at the moment: a lack of diversity and the paucity of U.S. citizens pursuing graduate degrees. But they could be doing more. One way is to partner with larger, wealthier institutions on research projects, which serve not only to advance U.S. competitiveness but also to train future faculty. Now, engineering schools at Carnegie Mellon and Howard Universities have taken a bold step to institutionalize this idea, developing a dual Ph.D. degree program that includes shared enrollment and research.
A second feature takes us to a derelict industrial zone in Toronto slated to become “the world’s first neighborhood built from the Internet up,” a smart-city test bed with roads that heat up to melt snow, autonomous vehicles ferrying trash, and modular buildings that can be reconfigured for changing needs. The story notes that “planners can draw on a strong local brain trust. The University of Toronto, which recently established an interdisciplinary School of Cities, has 220 faculty members conducting urban-focused research.”
Britain’s space agency readily admits that its new foreign-aid venture isn’t exclusively altruistic. It hopes to generate business for the nation’s rapidly growing space industry by showcasing how satellite technology can benefit countries in the developing world. That said, companies funded by the agency seem to find worthwhile projects, like early warnings of dengue fever in Vietnam and of dzuds, a weather catastrophe unique to Mongolia, and micro-weather forecasts to help coffee growers in Rwanda and Kenya.
We hope you enjoy this first Prism of 2019. Happy New Year.