Introducing the Kuh Distinguished Lecture Series

I recently had the honor of introducing a new annual lecture series to the college community. Thanks to a generous gift from Professor Emeritus Ernest Kuh and his wife, Bettine, we now have the opportunity to hear from the world’s most creative and inspiring scientists and engineers tackling our most pressing problems.

As our dean from 1973 to 1980, Ernie was instrumental in securing the college’s reputation as a leader in engineering education. Fittingly, the first Kuh Distinguished Lecture was held in the Bechtel Engineering Center—a building that exists largely because of Ernie’s vision and the partnerships he established with the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and other supporters.

COSPONSORS: The Bioengineering Honor Society and a new campus group, Out in Science, Technology and Mathematics (oSTEM), helped host the first Kuh Distinguished Lecture Series. MATT BEARDSLEY PHOTOCOSPONSORS: The Bioengineering Honor Society and a new campus group, Out in Science, Technology and Mathematics (oSTEM), helped host the first Kuh Distinguished Lecture Series. (Photo by Matt Beardsley.)Just as fitting was our choice of speaker, Dr. Andy Grove—Berkeley alumnus and onetime faculty member, former CEO of Intel and a legend in technology and business. His April 5 lecture, “Of Microchips and Men: Tales from the Translational Medicine Front,” took up the provocative question of whether we can drive up the quality of health care while driving down costs.

Drawing from his experience leading the semiconductor industry, Andy is now calling for the rapid translation of biomedical research innovation into affordable health care. The problems he identified in his talk are fundamentally engineering problems: Paper medical records are not aggregated and analyzed as valuable data; a drug development and approval timeline that is getting longer, not shorter; and little motivation to factor cost considerations into the design of new therapies.

These are challenges we take seriously at the College of Engineering. In fact, when Andy met with our second cohort of students in the new Master of Translational Medicine Program only days before the Kuh lecture, he said it was the first time he heard ideas for cost reduction brought up during the initial research phase. In the short term, the students’ work meant that Andy had to update one of his slides before his talk because he didn’t think any such projects existed. In the longer term, it shows that the Berkeley Engineering legacy of excellence and leadership built by people like Professor Kuh continues.

Once again I would like to thank Andy Grove for sharing his perspective with us. We are also extremely grateful to Ernest and Bettine Kuh for making this lecture series possible.

As always, I invite your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
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