When the going gets tough, engineers get going

I am honored and excited to have been tapped to serve as acting dean while Dean Sastry is on leave this spring to join his wife, EECS professor Claire Tomlin, in Stockholm during her appointment as the Tage Erlander Guest Professor at the Royal Institute of Technology. For those of you who don’t know me, I have been on the College of Engineering faculty for 26 years and chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department for the last six. I know we will accomplish a lot during these next six months.

My most urgent charge is to deliver Berkeley Engineering’s customary high value to our students and the greater public during this period of declining funds and rising costs. While the budget outlook is daunting—the college had to absorb a cut of more than 20 percent in its state-funded share—our drive and momentum remain strong. No hand wringing or desperation here. We are engineers, and we thrive on challenges.

Our students are benefiting from improved advising and student life facilities, thanks to a move from McLaughlin Hall to Bechtel Engineering Center. Our faculty have not slackened the pace of their research and innovation in such high-impact areas as energy sustainability, health care delivery and global poverty. In work that serves all three of these areas, CEE professor Ashok Gadgil just received the international Sustainability Pioneer Award for his efforts to design energy-efficient water purification systems for the developing world. Gadgil, the Rudd Family Foundation Distinguished Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation, also led the team that developed the Darfur cookstove, an efficient stove for displaced rural populations.

Berkeley engineers are also drawing from the sobering lessons of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. EECS professor Ron Fearing is working with graduate students Paul Birkmeyer and Kevin Peterson on a robotic cockroach that could make future earthquake rescue efforts safer and faster. CEE alumna Elizabeth Hausler (Ph.D.’02), the founder of a nonprofit that builds earthquake-resistant homes in developing nations, will travel to Haiti this spring to help with rebuilding efforts.

Please visit Berkeley Engineering’s website to follow these stories and others, and to keep up on college news as we venture forward. Pay no attention to rumors to the contrary. We are more alive than ever.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Albert P. “Al” Pisano
Acting Dean, College of Engineering
FANUC Professor of Mechanical Systems
Email Acting Dean Pisano