Superheroes Among Us
The fall semester begins with less certainty than most of us had anticipated or hoped. As I write this, the outlook for the academic year continues to shift as the coronavirus delta variant overwhelms communities and upends earlier expectations for a return to a more normal fall.
But as incoming ASEE President Adrienne Minerick points out on p. 40, seeking a return to normal is too low an aim. Engineering educators, she says, should strive to create something better.
For years, Minerick has “walked the talk” on removing barriers that prevent all students from succeeding in engineering. She has not only helped individuals personally but also worked to improve systems—for example, furthering gender equity in STEM through NSF’s ADVANCE program. Minerick brings this systems-focused approach to her new role at ASEE, as detailed in Pierre Home-Douglas’s profile and her President’s Letter.
Over the past year, my family and I have found welcome escape in the movies and television shows that comprise the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But real superheroes can be seen everywhere, battling to help people and improve the world. They’re especially evident in STEM—from health-care professionals saving lives in hospitals to engineers contributing to new vaccines and ways to distribute them (“Sure Shot,” May Prism). In this issue, chief correspondent Tom Grose highlights another set of individuals tackling a critical society-wide problem. His cover story examines some of the engineering and computer science researchers fighting a second emerging plague: ransomware.
Electrical engineer Pei Zhang also is focused on resolving societal challenges, such as falls among older adults, through innovations in a field he and his University of Michigan team deem “Structures as Sensors.” Our profile is written by former Prism editor Mark Matthews, and we’re thrilled to have him back in these pages.
Other everyday heroes include this issue’s authors who identify ways to fix our engineering spaces and expand who is welcomed into them—from women in makerspaces (JEE Selects) to Black students in classrooms (Last Word)—and compel us to examine our role in racial equity beyond “Diversity, Inc.” (ASEE Today Racial Equity Series).
The heroic ranks also include all who attended ASEE’s second virtual conference in July, fighting Zoom fatigue and wrangling time-zone differences, to share expertise and learn from each other. And they encompass everyone plunging into a new school year despite the obstacles. You, too, are superheroes. I wish you all the best for a successful year, even if your cape feels a bit worse for the wear.