Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

                                   June 30, 2018



This week's 5-4 Supreme Court validation of President Trump's travel ban caps 17 months of restrictive steps by the administration, the Chronicle of Higher Education recounts. These include “extreme vetting” of travelers; scrutiny of visitors’ social-media accounts; a crackdown on students who overstay their visas; new restrictions on the ability of recent graduates to remain in the United States; increased oversight of the H1-B program; and "limits on visas for Chinese students and scientists in certain sensitive, high-tech fields."

As Scientific American reports, Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent that 289 visas had been issued to students from Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia in the first three months of 2018. “less than a quarter of the volume needed to be on track for 2016 student visa levels.” Wired notes: "The version of the ban upheld by the Supreme Court on Tuesday states that Iranians in particular may still enter the U.S. under F visas for attending college, J visas for foreign exchange programs, and M student visas for vocational school, if they can pass extra vetting. . . . For the other Muslim-majority countries, . . . students are not explicitly called out as banned, but neither are they named as exempt. Instead, they will need to apply for special waivers." 

'DELETERIOUS EFFECTS': The Association of American universities pledged to "continue working closely with our federal partners to ensure the visa system prevents entry by those who wish our nation harm, while maintaining the inflow of global talent that has contributed so much to our nation." But AAU said "the travel ban has – and will continue to have – “deleterious effects on our higher education system.” Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, fears "tthis broadly written prohibition will have a long-term impact on our standing as a global leader . . . ."

"BRAZEN THEFT': Citing an Iranian hack of university computers that netted nearly $3.5 million in intellectual property and a former faculty member's collusion with a Chinese firm to license U.S. tax-funded medical technology, Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and Clay Higgins (R-La.) contend that academia must do more to "protect researchers’ work, universities’ scientific assets and taxpayers’ dollars." Yet "many institutional leaders have been reluctant to acknowledge real-world threats and unwilling to take needed actions," they write in Inside Higher Ed. Smith chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee; Higgins is vice chair of the panel's Oversight subcommittee. 


SENATE PANEL OKs HIKE IN DEFENSE R&D: "To say that this is a good bill for us is a vast understatement," exults John Latini, chair of the Coalition for National Security Research. "It includes substantial increases for Navy and Air Force University Research Initiatives, the Army’s University and Industry Research Centers program, and each service's Defense Research Sciences." The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the $675 billion measure 30-1 on Thursday, with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) casting the only "no" vote, CQ reports. The R&D total is more than $6 billion higher than the current level. It now goes to the Senate floor. The full House, meanwhile, passed a defense spending bill 359-49 with almost the same price tag, according to CQ. Differences in specific accounts will have to be resolved in conference. 

SOURCE OF INNOVATION: Explaining why they're prepared to spend a half-billion more than the Pentagon requested for basic research, Senate defense appropriators quote Michael Griffin, undersecretary for research and engineering, as saying: "‘The Department of Defense has the third largest investment among Federal agencies in basic research at U.S. universities, who have, through years of continued investments, been the source of many of today’s transformational technologies." See the report

TARGETED INCREASES: Senate appropriators want to boost spending on directed energy, key to "shaping the air, maritime, and ground battlefield environments"; hypersonics; microelectonics; artificial intelligence; combatting cyber-intrusions, and space. 

DRONE PROPULSION: The panel calls on the Army "to invest in technologies that vastly improve the mechanical durability of unmanned aerial propulsion systems and utilize multi-fuel capable, hybrid electric propulsion." It urges the Army to consider accelerating expansion of its Open Campus approach to its Materials and Manufacturing Science laboratories in order to benefit strategic materials research. A "research priority" for the Navy should be the "development and qualification of materials technologies, including nonflammable electrolytes, to reduce the risk of thermal runaway and improve safety in lithium-ion batteries." The committee also notes that "all solid-state battery technology could dramatically increase the energy density of current batteries while providing a safer power system by eliminating the need for a flammable electrolyte and reducing the complexity of the battery management system."

EDUCATION BOOST: More than doubling the Pentagon's request for the National Defense Education Program, Senate appropriators include a $15 million increase for manufacturing engineering education.

$2 BILLION MORE FOR NIH: In proposing a 5.4 percent increase tfor the National Institutes of Health, the Senate Appropriations majority crowed: "Since Republicans took back the Senate starting with the FY2016 appropriations cycle, the Committee has increased funding for NIH by $9 billion or 30 percent." According to the panel's report, the FY 2019 appropriation "is  estimated  to support  over  11,400  new  and  competing  grants." The panel's House counterpart proposed a $1.25 billion raise, Science magazine reports

NEEDED: A 'CRITICAL MASS OF TEACHERS' FOR ENGINEERING: Lewis-Burke Associates flags a passage of the House Appropriations report on funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: "Among the STEM topics, there is a relative small focus on engineering education and lack of a critical mass of teachers qualified to deliver engineering instruction. However, engineering is important in its application of scientific and mathematical principles to innovation, analysis, design, evaluation, and manufacture of machines, processes, and systems. Therefore, the Committee encourages the expansion of engineering initiatives to support, develop, and implement formal and informal engineering education programs in elementary schools and secondary schools through public-private partnerships."

HOUSE GOP TO TRY AGAIN ON IMMIGRATION: Regrouping after an embarrassing defeat of their "compromise" immigration bill this week, House Republicans "are planning votes in July on two more narrow bills that are also not guaranteed to pass," CQ reports. Their "primary focus . . . will be to pass legislation addressing family separation at the border,," but some in the party hope for a larger measure. Moderate GOP Reps. Jeff Denham of California and Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who pressed in vain to protect Dreamers, "say they are reluctant to accept another immigration bill pushed further to the right." 


WEBB TELESCOPE STRETCHES TIME AND COST: The launch date for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has slipped to  March 30, 2021. Science magazine reports that an independent review "concluded that there was excessive optimism in the launch schedule. . . . NASA also revealed that the development cost of the telescope would rise from $8 billion to $8.8 billion, requiring it to be reauthorized by Congress, which set an $8 billion cap in 2011. (The total cost of JWST, including operations, is expected to be $9.66 billion.)" Joanna Barnum, watercolor on paper.

DOE AWARDS $100 MILLION FOR 42 EFRCs: The list of Energy Frontier Research Centers includes 22 new centers and nine existing ones, all approved for up to four years, plus 11 others given two-year extentions. The Department of Energy says they will "help to accelerate scientific understanding in diverse energy-relevant fields including catalysts, electro- and photo-chemistry, geoscience, quantum materials, and nuclear and synthesis science." The resulting knowledge "will lay the scientific groundwork for future advances in solar energy, nuclear energy, energy conversion and storage, electronics and computation, production of fuels and chemicals, carbon capture, and control of the earth’s subsurface." The announced funding is for FY 2018, "with outyear funding contingent on Congressional appropriations."  

NSF HIGHLIGHTS MATERIALS FACILITIES: Specifically, they are the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL); the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS); the Center for High Energy Neutron Scattering (CHRNS); ChemMatCARS; National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI); Materials Innovation Platforms (MIP); and the Materials Research Facilities Network (MRFN). Read the Division of Materials Research newsletter.  

MELANIA TRUMP'S 'BE BEST' INITIATIVE provided the context for the STEM Education Coaltion and a representative from Lewis Burke Associates to sit down June 27 with Reagan Thompson, the first lady's policy director. Lewis-Burke, ASEE's federal relations partner, raised a number of issues related to engineering education, including: the importance of teacher preparation and teacher development programs including engineering and the need for strong post-secondary education to train future STEM teachers; engineering as a great hook into STEM for students; the importance of teaching engineering skills like design and analysis to kids; and ideas of ways to expand awareness and interest in engineering among young people.


Source of both graphics: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF)


MIT LINCOLN LAB TO HOST 2018 FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING: The September 5-7 symposium will bring together 84 young engineers from industry, academia, and government who are pursuing cutting-edge quantum computing, technology for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, resilient and reliable Infrastructure, and theranostics. (The latter are individualized disease treatnents that combine diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities.) See a list of sessions and the participants' roster.


NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE: PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS FROM 2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference. Check them out on ASEE PEER.

ASEE AT 125 VIDEO CONTEST: One of the activities planned to mark ASEE‘s 125th anniversary is EEin25, the first-ever ASEE video contest. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students may submit a 90-second video on where engineering education will be in 25 years at ASEE‘s 150th Anniversary in 2043. Click here to find out more. Click here to learn about other activities commemorating 125 Years at the Heart of Engineering Education.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE ACCELERATOR: ASEE's free monthly newsletter for undergraduate and graduate students has a wide array of resources: scholarship and internship/co-op listings, student news and essays, podcasts, professional development resources (e.g., advice on how to get an internship and how to make the most of it), and academic advice - plus entertaining engineering videos. Tell your students! Click here to subscribe. Send content to Jennifer Pocock at j.pocock@asee.org.


The joint annual summit of the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES) and the Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) focuses on Peace Engineering, working toward "a world where prosperity, sustainability, social equity, entrepreneurship, transparency, community voice and engagement, and a culture of quality thrive. . . . As we educate future engineers, we must . . . provide them with the skills, understanding, capacity for reflection, sense of social responsibility and ethics, and resources to successfully navigate the socio-political impacts of their projects, engage in transdisciplinary developments, and frankly, imagine, design, and create a better world." See the agenda

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!

Order Your Copies