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                                October 6, 2018



That's what the American Institute of Physics FYI bulletin finds in the FY 2019 defense appropriation bill enacted last week. The 8 percent increase overall brings the total for basic research to $2.53 billion. Of that amount, $1.62 billion will go to Defense Research Sciences, with the Army getting the biggest increase. "Funding for basic research at DARPA is remaining essentially flat at $423 million, following a 17 percent increase in fiscal year 2018." University Research Initiatives will get $392 million (a 2 percent increase) to support multidisciplinary projects, research instrumentation, graduate fellowships, and presidential early-career awardees. University and Industry Research Centers will get $114 million, Basic Research Initiatives $57 million (up 40 percent), and the National Defense Education Program $136 million (up 32 percent). However, funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions "is leveling out at $40 million."

The Pentagon spending measure was part of an appropriations  package signed by President Trump that also included Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments. Lewis-Burke Associates looks at the whole package


HIGH-PERFORMANCE MOLECULES: Using artificial intelligence to discover and optimize them is the object of Accelerated Molecular Discovery (AMD), a program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). "The program calls for teams of researchers to develop AI-based, closed-loop systems that automatically extract existing chemistry data from databases and text, perform autonomous experimental measurement and optimization, and use computational approaches to develop physics-based representations and predictive tools." A Proposers Day webinar is set for Oct.18.

'DEFEND FORWARD': This pledge appears four times in an unclassified summary of the Pentagon's 2018 cyber strategy, which aims to "shape the day-to-day competition, and prepare for war by building a more lethal force, expanding alliances and partnerships, reforming the Department, and cultivating talent, while actively competing against and deterring our competitors." Neither DoD's plan, nor the White House's National Cyber Strategy, was greeted with unanimous approval on Capitol Hill. Lewis-Burke Associates reports they "were met by concerns from Congress and the General Accounting Office (GAO) that a more unified interagency approach is needed." The White House has also released a National Biodefense Strategy, intended to make sure the country "actively and effectively prevents, prepares for, responds to, recovers from, and mitigates risk from natural, accidental, or deliberate biological threats."

NO LONGER AN EXPERIMENT: The entity formerly known as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) is now a permanent organization within the Defense Department and has thus dropped "Experimental" from its name, Lewis-Burke Associates reports. Its new managing director, Michael Brown, "previously served in the White House as a Presidential Innovation Fellow, and served as the chairman and CEO of Symantec Corp from 2014 to 2016.  Brown also co-authored a recent DIU report on China’s Technology Transfer Strategy," He "envisions working with academic institutions located near the three DIU hubs in Austin, Boston, and the Silicon Valley."

'A CULTURE OF CENSURESHIP': This is what China seeks to foster "across academia," Vice President Pence alleges. He cites the example of Shuping Yang, a 2017 Chinese graduating senior at the University of Maryland who praised America's "fresh air of free speech" at her University of Maryland commencement. "The Communist Party’s official newspaper swiftly chastised her. She became the victim of a firestorm of criticism on China’s tightly-controlled social media, and her family back home was harassed. As for the university itself, its exchange program with China . . . suddenly turned from a flood to a trickle. . . . Beijing provides generous funding to universities, think tanks, and scholars, with the understanding that they will avoid ideas that the Communist Party finds dangerous or offensive."

WHITE HOUSE WEIGHED BAN ON CHINESE STUDENTS: Citing the Financial Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that immigration hardliners, led by Stephen Miller, pressed last spring for "a blanket prohibition on Chinese citizens studying in the United States." The plan was shot down because of its economic and diplomatic impact, but the report "sent ripples of alarm across American campuses on Tuesday." 

PRE-COLLEGE ENGINEERING ADVANCES: A five-year effort spearheaded by Darryll Pines, University of Maryland engineering dean, to create a nationally recognized advanced precollege engineering course just got a major boost from the National Science Foundation. The three-year, $4 million Engineering For US All (E4USA) pilot "will be led by the University of Maryland College Park and include Arizona State University, Morgan State University, Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech, a dissemination collaboration with NASA, and a sampling of some 70 high schools across the United States." This past February, more than 100 engineering deans signed a letter pledging to consider awarding college credit for an advanced high school engineering course. See the background in Prism  Mary Lord provides more information in eGFI

HURRICANE RESEARCH: The National Science Foundation invites "proposals that address challenges related to Hurricane Florence, similar events that could occur in the coming weeks, and their aftermaths." Research "on new science and engineering questions posed by such natural disasters" can "enable families, communities, businesses, institutions, and governments to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from future catastrophic events." Learn more.



ENGINEERS WIN NOBELS IN CHEMISTRY, PHYSICS: Frances H. Arnold (far right photo), a Caltech chemical engineering professor who pioneered “directed evolution” to create new enzymes, shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry with biologists George P. Smith of the University of Missouri  and Gregory Winter of the University of Cambridge. The Washington Post reports: "Other academics scoffed at the engineering bent of Arnold’s early research." Today, according to Caltech, her technique "is used in hundreds of laboratories and companies that make everything from laundry detergents to biofuels to medicines." Gérard Mourou, center photo, a University of Michigan professor emeritus of electrical engineering and computer science (now at the École Polytechnique in Paris), is one of three winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.” While at the University of Rochester, he and grad student Donna Strickland (left photo, now at the University of Waterloo), who shared the award, jointly developed the  revolutionary “chirped pulse amplification," which has led to advances in science, engineering and medicine. The physics prize was also awarded to former Bell Laboratories scientist Arthur Ashkin for the invention of optical tweezers.

GLOBAL FORUM ON ENGINEERING ED: Tsinghua University recently hosted leading educators from around the world at a conference that touched on, among other topics, skills development for modern industry, sustainability, education in the AI era, entrepreneurship, ethics, and diversity. ASEE Executive Director Norman Fortenberry, who was among panel speakers, found especially noteworthy a plenary address by Marielza Oliveira, director of UNESCO's Beijing office. Find her text here. See the conference agenda.

DROP IN FOREIGN GRAD STUDENTS:new report from the Council of Graduate Schools shows a 3.7 percent drop from fall 2016 to fall 2017 in first-time international graduate enrollments in U.S. institutions. According to Inside Higher Ed: "Engineering enrollments fell by 3.8 percent year over year, compared to just about 1 percent the year prior. Engineering applications fell 7.3 percent last year." Hironao Okahana, the Council's associate vice president for research and policy analysis, "attributed some of this change to the decrease in international students." Suzanne Ortega, council president, called the emerging trend “worrisome.” IHE reports that it's hard for the Council "not to think of the Trump administration’s stance on immigration" as a contributing factor.

HISPANIC ENROLLMENT LOOKING UP: CGS reports that for two consecutive years, first-time graduate enrollment of Hispanic/Latino students increased (5.6%)--both for men (7.9%) and women (4.2%). "The growth appears to be linked in part to the 21.8% increase in first-time enrollment in mathematics and computer sciences, 11.2% increase in business, and 10.3% increase in engineering."


FRIENDLY SKIES: A National Academies panel believes robust drone flight operations in the United States are achievable and could provide significant net safety benefits to society. Indeed, unmanned aircraft systems could help firefighters monitor wildfires, deliver defibrillators to those in cardiac distress, and prevent disasters before they happen, such as with "long-range inspection of rail lines to avoid potential derailments." The panel presents findings and recommendations to help the Federal Aviation Administration "foster an environment where UAS can operate safely while also contributing to public health, safety, and economic growth." See also the proceedings of a workshop on cyber resilience.  


ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS ARE OPEN . . . for ASEE's 126th Annual Conference & Exposition at the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, Fla., June 15 - 19, 2019. See the Call for Papers (you may need to log on to the website as a member).

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.

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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