Engineering professor named to national "Grand Challenges" committee

January 12, 2007

The National Academy of Engineering has named Robert Socolow, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, to a prestigious international committee to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities for engineering in the 21st century.

Chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, the Grand Challenges for Engineering committee will explore engineering solutions for the future drawing on their own expertise and extensive public input to the project’s website, www.engineeringchallenges.org.  In an exclusive essay on the site, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter offers his view of the greatest challenges facing today’s world to kick off an online discussion.

Socolow, who joined the Princeton faculty in 1971, co-directs Princeton’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative with Stephen Pacala, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.  A joint project of Princeton University, BP and the Ford Motor Company, the initiative seeks solutions to the global warming problem. Socolow and Pacala developed the widely used concept of “stabilization wedges” to motivate the early adoption of mitigation strategies to stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Socolow is joined on the Grand Challenges committee by a number of recognized leaders from academia and industry, including entrepreneur Dean Kamen, Google co-founder Larry Page and renowned scientist J. Craig Venter.

The committee’s membership also includes two graduates of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Wesley Harris and Jackie Ying.  Harris, the Charles Stark Draper Professor and chair of the department of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earned his Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton in 1968.  Ying, the executive director of the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore, received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton in 1991.

The committee will meet for the first time Feb. 6 at Stanford University and announce their findings in September. The Grand Challenges project is sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation.