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September 9, 2017



Congress and President Trump agreed to a government funding measure and suspension of the debt limit - both lasting until December 8 - averting both a government shutdown and default. The legislation, which cleared the House Friday 316-90 and was quickly signed by Trump, also provides $15.25 billion in emergency funding for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma "and other ongoing disaster response efforts." CQ reports that conservative House Republicans "scoffed" at efforts by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to sell them on the deal at a closed-door GOP conference. All the House "no" votes were cast by Republicans.

SPENDING BILLS STILL IN PLAY: Despite the three-month continuing resolution (CR) enacted Friday, the House still plans to complete consideration next week of a 12-bill "omnibus" appropriations measure covering all of FY 2018, CQ reports. The CR gives Congress more time to work out a bipartisan budget deal to raise the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act. Without such a deal, the appropriations would bust the caps and trigger sequestration.

SENATE PANEL OKs HIKE FOR NIH: Assuming this year's appropriations exercise still has meaning, the National Institutes of Health is a winner. Senate appropriators approved a $2 billion increase, $900 million more than the House bill. The Trump administration had wanted to slash the agency by $7.5 billion. A breakdown provided by the American Institute of Physics's FYI newsletter shows that within NIH, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences would get a 9 percent boost in the Senate bill and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering would get a 4 percent raise. FYI reports: "In addition to their stark rejection of President Trump’s requested 22 percent budget cut, both bills explicitly reject the administration’s proposal to cap research overhead costs at 10 percent."

'DREAMER' PROTECTION: The Washington Post sees four bills as offering the best hope of letting so-called Dreamers escape eventual deportation, although the authors are skeptical any can pass. President Trump has rescinded the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, but delayed implementation for six months. The Dream Act "[a]llows anyone who arrived younger than age 18, and has been in the United States for at least four years, to get conditional permanent residency. From there, if they have a job/stay in school/don't commit crimes, they can apply for a green card." The Recognizing America's Children Act does "p]retty much everything the Dream Act does, but for a narrower scope of people. Anyone who has come here before the age of 16 (as opposed to 18) and been in the United States for five years (as opposed to four) can apply for legalized status." The Bridge Act "[p]rotects dreamers for three years while giving Congress more time to figure out what it wants to do with them." The Enlist Act allows dreamers "to earn legal status by serving in the military."

MATERIAL GAINS: ASME's Capitol Update reports on a hearing by two House Science subcommittees on federally funded materials research, which has facilitated biomedical and defense innovation and enabled such breakthroughs as tailoring artificial joints to be compatible with a patient's tissue, speeding recovery. Among witnesses was Fred Higgs, professor of mechanical engineering at Rice University, who is reported to have said "new materials can improve the safety and environmental impact of energy production technologies and that material advancements can provide the foundation for new technologies in medicine, transportation, manufacturing and computing. Additionally he promoted the merits of science prize competitions, university-federal lab/agency partnerships, and university-company partnerships, in speeding the development of advanced materials."


DACA ENGINEERS: While their numbers may be impossible to pin down, engineering students currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order figure prominently in a few recent news stories. They include Purdue freshman Akanksha Guruvayur, who moved from India to New Jersey with her family four years ago; Marcos Bruno, a 24-year-old mechanical engineering student at UF, who moved to the U.S. from Argentina with his family in 2001; Oklahoma University industrial and systems engineering sophomore Carlos Rubio; and Edni del Rosal, a graduate student in electrical engineering at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The Chronicle of Higher Education offers samples of what it says is "a cascade of critical statements" from major universities about President Trump's decision to end DACA.  

COURT EASES TRAVEL BAN: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has sided with Hawaii’s challenge to the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, ruling that the ban does not apply to grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of persons in the United States; and certain refugees. 

SPACE PREEMINENCE: That's the aim of Rep. Jim Bridenstine, the Oklahoma Republican nominated to lead NASA. His American Space Renaissance Act, introduced last year, puts forward "a coherent, ambitious, multi-agency agenda for advancing U.S. interests in space and expanding the frontiers of human space exploration," the American Institute of Physics' FYI blog says. It "attends closely to the development of capabilities for navigation, communications, reconnaissance, and weather forecasting," and "the vulnerability of space-based assets to orbiting debris and attacks." The bill promotes commercial space innovation "as a critical path to securing the U.S.’s place as 'the preeminent spacefaring nation.'" Quartz reports that "he’s not a big fan of climate-change research" and two years ago "needled 'climate-change alarmists' on Twitter" 

POLAR ED: The National Science Foundation wants to "advance and develop understanding of learning environments that build upon the rich interdisciplinary resources emerging from polar investments" so as to "promote an informed citizenry and the next generation of polar scientists." NSF seeks "proposals for research and development projects that facilitate access to polar research efforts in (1) undergraduate education, (2) informal science education or (3) formal PK-12 science or math education." Learn more.

HARVEY'S CHALLENGE: NSF-backed researchers "have a long history of advancing understanding and knowledge about natural and built environments, as well as the relationship between humans and their environments in the context of large-scale disasters." The agency now encourages proposals addressing science and engineering questions raised by Hurricane Harvey and "fundamental science and engineering research projects whose results may enable our country to better prepare for, respond to, recover from, or mitigate future catastrophic events. Research proposals relating to a better fundamental understanding of the impacts of the storm (physical, biological and societal), human aspects of natural disasters (including first responders and the general public), emergency response methods, and approaches that promise to reduce future damage also are welcome." Learn more.


Race, ethnicity, and sex of early career doctorate holders with a science and engineering degree: 2014

Source for all 3 graphics: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF), Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering (Digest version).

Broad field of degree among early career doctorate holders with a science and engineering degree: 2014

Median salaries of early career doctorate holders with a science and engineering degree: 2014


U.S. BEACON DIMS: Many institutions "expect international enrollments to be flat or down -- in some cases significantly -- this fall," Inside Higher Ed reports. Some cite "a slowdown in the flow of students from China and declines in graduate students from India, two countries that together account for nearly half of all international students in the U.S. Universities also continue to feel the effects of the declines in enrollments of Saudi Arabian students that began in 2016." Indiana State University "experienced a 50 percent drop in new international students and its total international enrollment is down by about 20 percent." The University of Florida "has 1,273 new international students this fall, compared to 1,883 last fall."


FORTIFY OR FLEE? "As sea level continues to rise, the choices for protecting vulnerable areas become starker," a National Academies report says, citing a lecture last October by Robert J. Nicholls, professor of coastal engineering at the University of Southampton. For example, the level requiring "unavoidable choices between building massive and expensive new barriers or abandoning parts of London is about 3 meters . . . which is above the levels projected for the 21st century. 'But the science can change,' he added. 'These numbers can move.'" 

'AN IMPORTANT MECHANISM': That's how a National Academies report characterizes a series of exchanges between U.S. and Iranian academics. "More than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and medical professionals . . . from about 120 institutions in the two countries—primarily universities and other centers of research—participated in the program sponsored by the National Academies from 2000 to 2016." The talks "kept science-engagement on political screens" in support of "constructive science diplomacy." Fields of of interest changed over time. "[I]n 2016 they were seismic science and engineering, conservation and effective use of water resources, promotion of resiliency of urban areas, reduction of air pollution, and conservation of wetlands."

WAR TO END ALL WARS: Scholars under 30 are invited "to research and write a scholarly paper on a major aspect of how scientists and engineers in the United States were engaged in the World War I effort." The focus of this competition sponsored by the National Academies. "is on institutional changes . . . and the research enterprise in America. In effect, scholars should look at how the war experience shaped long-term relationships among scientists and engineers and U.S. policymakers regarding national security and public welfare." First Prize: $10,000.


STREAMLINED COURSE DESIGN: Next month, ASEE is launching a live, four-part online program to help engineering faculty streamline their course design process and design more effective courses. The program will be led by course design experts Dr. Karl Smith and Dr. Ruth Streveler and will take place in four (4) two-and-a-half-hour sessions over the course of eight weeks. Learn more about this program here – and sign up for a free info session on September 15. Questions? Email education@asee.org.

•The Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) provides an opportunity for college students to participate in research at a Department of Navy laboratory during the summer. The online application process closes on October 31, 2017. Learn more here.

NOMINATE A YOUNG SUPERSTAR: Prism magazine plans a repeat of its widely read "20 Under 40" issue, highlighting especially talented engineering and engineering technology teachers and researchers. Please send your nominations and a brief description of the nominees' achievements to m.matthews@asee.org with "20 under 40" in the message line. Note: Choices will be based on both accomplishments and variety.

STUDENT COLUMNIST SOUGHT: Prism's current millennial voice, Mel Chua, has earned a Ph.D. and so is no longer a student. She leaves big shoes to fill. We're looking for an engineering student who writes with skill, flair, and attitude, and who can back up a point of view with evidence. We pay a modest honorarium. Students should send a resume and writing samples to m.matthews@asee.org.

FIRE UP THE FUTURE WITH eGFI: Filled with engaging features, gorgeous graphics, and useful information about engineering colleges and careers, the latest edition of ASEE's award-winning Engineering, Go For It is sure to get your students excited about learning - and doing - engineering!

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