Futuring Paper – Engineering and Technology

Co-Convenors: Ken Halvorsen (RNA Institute) and Siwei Lyu (Computer Science)

  1. What forces are shaping your discipline today (learning, work, and professional practice)?

    We have identified several forces shaping Engineering & Technology currently at the level of technology, learning, work/professional practice, and the society in general. Specifically, they are:

    Technology
    We have identified three major areas of driving forces in engineering and technology:
    • Computing/Data Analytics
      • Ubiquitous need for data analytics in fields without prior data-driven, and the rise of Machine Learning, in particular Deep Neural Networks.
      • Automation - virtual/intelligent agents such as mobile devices and cloud services are handling more and more tasks for us automatically.
      • Online and Social Media and their security (data security, national security, terrorism) and privacy (data collection, surveillance) issues.
      • Pervasive connectivity, especially the wide use of mobile networks.
    • Global Health
      • Expanding lifespans and dealing with aging population
      • Personalized/precision medicine
      • Dealing with health threats (new and existing diseases, antibiotic resistance, etc)
    • Environment/Sustainability
      • Reducing carbon emissions, meeting energy needs
      • Green technology, sustainable design
      • Planning for a changing environment
      • Smart city and smart grids
      • Space exploration

    Learning

    • The need for learning related with big data analytics and data sciences
    • Online learning at large scales (through online intelligent tutoring systems, MOOCs, etc)
    • Need for career experience/co-op and focus on entrepreneurship
    • Need to stay ahead of politically based reforms including tracking of student outcome data and connecting such data to institutional funding.
    • How the research and education in CEAS can have a positive impact on our communities through, e.g. internships, capstone experiences with community organizations, local businesses, governments, etc. “Doing good in our communities.”
    • The need to engage our students with modern pedagogy to remain competitive in attracting and retaining students, as well as to improve reputation, keep up with standards and accreditation, etc.

    Work/Professional Practice

    • Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing, and Open source movement
    • The sharing economy, the Open source hardware and software
    • Provide a greater focus on understanding on how the use of research can help improve policy and professional practice.
    • Documenting evidence of practice systematically and using assessment information gathered to improve practice across departments, disciplines and content areas.

    Society

    • Anti science movement (climate change, anti-vax, GMO, etc.)
    • The linkage between technology and significant societal effects in e.g. medicine, K-12 learning (esp. STEM), etc.
    • Advocate for more rigorous empirical scrutiny of various popular techniques of accepted practice.

  2. In ten years, what forces will shape changes in your discipline? How will professional practice be affected?

  3. Many of the current forces identified in (1) will continue as long term challenges, but perhaps growing more urgent as progress will likely fail to keep up with natural forces (e.g. escalation of global warming, antibiotic resistance, etc.).

    Technology

    • Computing/Data Analytics
      • Continued sophistication and maturity of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analysis that will percolate into more aspects of our lives
      • More connectivity based on Internet of Things -- all types of devices, big or small, will be able to interconnect and collaborate
      • Dealing with the increasing concern of breachment of data integrity, security and privacy
      • As Moore’s law begins to fail due to physical limitations, alternative computing methods may become important (e.g. quantum, biological, etc.)
    • Global Health
      • Increasing reliance on “omics” to provide “personalized” medical treatment (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, etc.)
      • Rapidly emerging health threats, exacerbated by a globalized population.
      • Growing antibiotic resistance will become a major health threat without new tools/drugs to combat it.
      • Growing health care costs will continue to rise. Low cost solutions in healthcare will be desperately needed.
    • Environment/Sustainability
      • Dealing with widespread impacts of climate change, some predictable and likely many unpredictable.
      • More urgent need for cleaner renewable energy
      • Dealing with environmental changes with potential crisis on food and drinking water to support the growing world population
      • Increasing pressure to design sustainable products
      • Alternative transportation and the sharing economy will become more prominent.

    Learning/Teaching/Institutional

      • Likely bursting of the “higherEd bubble” - tuition prices cannot continue to rise faster than incomes. This may reshape the role of universities in job preparation
      • Personalized, tailored education for specific job requirements and candidates will become increasingly important
      • More Bachelor and MS programs that specialize in Data Science, fellowship opportunities backed by the industry (e.g., IBM's Big Data for Social Good Fellowship program) to promote a culture of new scientists that explore new techniques and new datasets to "make the world a better place".

  4. What are the implications for your profession, continuous professional development, and teaching and learning? Specifically, what new opportunities may be created in the future?

  5. We have identified several implications in Engineering & Technology for our professions, continuous professional development, teaching and learning. Specifically, they are:

    Managing, interpreting, and protecting data

    • Intelligent systems will make accurate long-term forecasting of significant societal and natural events, such as disease outbreaks, earthquakes, and financial crisis.
    • Sorting through messy data: development of smart algorithms to find the needle through the massive data haystacks of the future will be important. Novel approaches for storing and managing data and metadata will be important.
    • Security and privacy will be increasingly important, with two aspects:
      1. Security and privacy of people, which leads to homeland security field. Homeland security requires technological innovations in multimedia computing, computer vision and signal processing subfields of computer science.
      2. Security and privacy of people's data, which relates to cryptography (encryption, authentication, etc.) and privacy preserving data mining techniques. Hence, we believe that cyber security and privacy will be a major driving force for the computer science discipline in the coming decade.
    • New tools in logistics and artificial intelligence will be important for many types of networks (e.g. driverless cars, energy distribution, sharing economy, automated delivery, etc.)

    Building tools for the health care economy

    • Health care is increasingly cross-disciplinary, and will require researchers, caregivers, and analysts with a variety of backgrounds. Lines between disciplines blur, and single-discipline knowledge/experience is insufficient.
    • Health care is becoming personalized. Making this personalized/precision medicine a reality will require innovative new diagnostics, treatments, and analysis tools. Home health monitoring and treatments may be an important part of this future.
    • Molecular level design and engineering has great potential for health applications. Molecular-level robotics built from naturally occurring molecules such as DNA could perform complex tasks such as biosensing, decision-making, and drug delivery.
    • The stagnation of traditional pharmaceuticals needs to be addressed, potentially with huge opportunities for new/unconventional drugs and drug targets such as RNA therapeutics.

    Meeting needs of changing environment and population

    • Climate change will have widespread impacts that need to be addressed, including access to clean water and clean energy.
    • Further developments in alternative energy, energy storage, and energy distribution, and transportation are critical.
    • Environmental engineering and even geoengineering may become increasingly important to address population and climate needs.

    Implications for teaching and learning

    • The need to use social media as a tool for teaching and learning
    • The need to integrate public awareness into science/research to help avoid politicizing science and to keep general public informed
    • The need to improve flexibility in academics for cross-disciplinary studies and design “personalized education” that bridges disciplines

  6. How will the future developments and opportunities affect the university - impacted departments or units? How might UAlbany respond to these within the strategic process?

  7. We have identified departments and units that will be strongly affected by these developments and opportunities, including

    • College of Arts & Sciences (Math & Statistics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry)
    • College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Computer Science, Computer Engineering & other planned Engineering programs)

    We have also identified a few strategies for UAlbany to respond to these impacts:

    • Increase the visibility of the university and improving its rank in different university ranking systems
    • Finding and nurturing niches in Atmospheric sciences, RNA Institute, Forensics, Rockefeller college
    • Fostering cross-disciplinarily
      • Interdepartmental and inter-school collaborations/meetings, Provide more seed funds to support interdisciplinary projects
      • Develop strong ties between academia and industry and governments
      • Develop interdisciplinary graduate programs (e.g. CMU has started a new program: Master of Educational Technology and Applied Learning Science)
      • Huge health care economy requires strong medical school relations, e.g., CEAS can collaborate with School of Public Health, Wadsworth, NYSDOH, etc.
      • Integration of engineering departments with science and non-science experience (interfacing with society)
    • Training for careers
      • New specialized or custom made minors and flexibility in disciplines
      • Hands on research experience -- develop “living laboratories”
      • Focus on improving the quality of graduate students in terms of their research productivity
      • Develop new interdisciplinary courses that introduce students to future forces, such as advanced AI, personalized medicine, and clean energy.
    • Encouraging entrepreneurship
      • Foster entrepreneurial culture -- promote the development and growth of startup companies
      • Providing an “incubator”-like program to support the potential startups that can form from within the university
      • Create more industry internship opportunities for students and Industry Affiliate programs