An Invitation – and a Charge

As we listened to President Obama’s inaugural address on January 20, we were encouraged by his remarks emphasizing the role of science. However, the nation’s research community would be shortsighted to take these words simply as an invitation to submit funding requests and expand programs. Instead, we must mobilize quickly to identify the most ambitious challenges we are capable of tackling—in other words, our “moon shots” for the 21st century.

Clearly, our contemporary equivalents to the Apollo mission are in the areas of health and energy. Mr. Obama himself has charged us to “wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost” and “harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Urgent questions about health and energy animate nearly every conversation here at Berkeley Engineering, from our classrooms and labs to affiliated programs such as CITRIS.

In November, we took up these questions at the inaugural A. Richard Newton Global Technology Leaders Conference, which I co-hosted. Funded by the Kauffman Foundation, which exists solely to advance entrepreneurship, the conference extended the late Dean Newton’s own “moon shot” thinking by bringing together two dozen academic and business leaders to map out the fundamental challenges that are not only worth solving, but are also likely to result in entirely new industries.

Provided that research activity and policy incentives can successfully drive innovation and market adoption over a time frame 10 to 15 years ahead, we see the greatest potential for social impact in the following areas:

  • the new war on cancer;
  • noninvasive diagnostics and personalized medicine;
  • oil independence with sustainable vehicles;
  • the affordable zero-energy home;
  • thermoelectrics for efficient energy; and
  • synthetic biology, which holds promise for both new drugs and new fuels.

Mr. Obama’s endorsement of science and technology is also manifest in his choice for energy secretary, our friend and partner Steven Chu. We wish Steve all the best as he departs Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for Washington, D.C., to continue his fight on behalf of clean energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean, College of Engineering
NEC Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Email Dean Sastry

Upcoming Events

February 10 Regents' Lecture: Bill Buxton presents "Multi-Touch Interfaces: Their History and Their Future."

February 12 BEARS 2009: EECS Annual Research Symposium: Program includes presentations, keynote speaker Randy Katz, and open house for many research centers.

February 23 UC Berkeley Energy Symposium 2009: "Bold Ideas for a New Energy Landscape."

February 26 Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum: "Earth, Wind & Fire: The Clean Tech Opportunity Today."

February 27 CITRIS Headquarters Opening Celebration

Please join us in celebrating the new home of the University of California’s four-campus Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society with a reception, guided tours, interactive exhibits and more.

Topics: Education & outreach, Research