Behind the Front Lines
If hospital emergency rooms form the main battleground against COVID-19, the ultimate defeat of this mysterious killer will depend in part on engineering laboratories. There, researchers are working on, among many other projects, improved modeling to keep up with the disease as it mutates, new designs for ventilators to speed their manufacture, a test that could deliver results in minutes rather than days, and a vaccine that will provide more robust immunity than versions on the market earlier. In some cases, researchers repurposed ongoing projects—modeling of social media, for instance, and a test for prostate cancer—to address the novel coronavirus, Tom Grose reports in our cover story. Progress on some of these efforts will likely be impeded by social distancing strictures and the need of some researchers to work remotely, but engineers are a resilient and imaginative group. By mid-April, the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Directorate had made 20 rapid-response awards geared to COVID-19.
Elsewhere in Prism, Beryl Benderly explores how engineering schools can avoid getting caught up—even inadvertently—in ongoing Department of Justice probes of China’s pursuit of U.S. scientific and technological know-how. In an offbeat feature, Joshua Brilliant looks at what can happen when an engineering initiative veers close to Jerusalem’s holy shrines.
In ASEE Today, Stephanie Adams, the Society’s 2019-2020 president, devotes her last letter to beneficial lifestyle changes prompted by the coronavirus. We also offer a preview of ASEE’s first all-virtual Annual Conference. You’ll be surprised to see how much of this signature event can be moved online.
Finally, farewell: I’ll be retiring July 1, making this my last issue of Prism. By September, Eva Miller, an experienced editor currently with the National Society of Professional Engineers, will appear on the masthead.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve ASEE as editor for nine years—with wonderful, extremely talented colleagues, organizational leaders who have allowed us considerable freedom, and a wise and supportive Editorial Advisory Board.
Getting to know and write about engineering educators and researchers has been eye-opening and at times even jaw-dropping. Your eagerness to take on tough challenges, creativity, and commitment to high standards are an inspiration.