Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2018 Symposium
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Funding for the activity that led to this publication was provided by The Grainger Foundation, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense ASD(R&E) Research Directorate—Laboratories Office, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Microsoft Research, Amazon, Cummins Inc., and individual donors. This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-18-1-0550. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1802662. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-48750-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-48750-1
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25333
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Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggestion citation: National Academy of Engineering. 2019. Frontiers of Engineering: Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2018 Symposium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25333.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.
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Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.
JENNIFER WEST (Chair), Fitzpatrick Family University Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University
JERRY CHOW, Manager, Experimental Quantum Computing, IBM
FRANCESCA D’ARCANGELO, Senior Staff, Homeland Protection Systems, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
REBEKAH DREZEK, Professor, Departments of Bioengineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University
DARRELL IRVINE, Professor, Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
GRACE METCALFE, Physicist, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Air Force Office of Scientific Research
MIRA OLSON, Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Drexel University
JULIE PIETRZAK, Senior Project Manager, Enovate Engineering
IRIS TIEN, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
JANET HUNZIKER, Director, Frontiers of Engineering Program
SHERRI HUNTER, Program Coordinator
This volume presents papers on the topics covered at the National Academy of Engineering’s 2018 US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. Every year the symposium brings together 100 highly accomplished young leaders in engineering to share their cutting-edge research and innovations in selected areas. The 2018 symposium was hosted by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, September 5–7. The intent of this book is to convey the excitement of this unique meeting and to highlight innovative developments in engineering research and technical work.
GOALS OF THE FRONTIERS OF ENGINEERING PROGRAM
The practice of engineering is continually changing. Engineers must be able not only to thrive in an environment of rapid technological change and globalization but also to work on interdisciplinary teams. Today’s research is being done at the intersections of engineering disciplines, and successful researchers and practitioners must be aware of developments and challenges in areas that may not be familiar to them.
At the annual 2½-day US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, 100 of this country’s best and brightest early-career engineers—from academia, industry, and government and a variety of engineering disciplines—learn from their peers about pioneering work in different areas of engineering. The number of participants is limited to 100 to maximize opportunities for interactions and exchanges among the attendees, who are chosen through a competitive nomination and selection process. The symposium is designed to foster contacts and learning among promising individuals who would not meet in the usual round of professional meetings.
This networking may lead to collaborative work, facilitate the transfer of new techniques and approaches, and produce insights and applications that bolster US innovative capacity.
The four topics and the speakers for each year’s meeting are selected by an organizing committee of engineers in the same early-career cohort as the participants. Speakers describe the challenges they face and communicate the excitement of their work to a technically sophisticated but nonspecialist audience. They provide a brief overview of their field of inquiry; define the frontiers of that field; describe experiments, prototypes, and design studies (completed or in progress) as well as new tools and methods, limitations, and controversies; and assess the long-term significance of their work.
THE 2018 SYMPOSIUM
The topics covered at the 2018 symposium were (1) quantum computers, (2) the role of engineering in the face of conflict and disaster, (3) resilient and reliable infrastructure, and (4) theranostics.
The first session was titled Quantum Computers: Are We There Yet? In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in research and financial investment in developing a quantum computer, which theoretically could solve some problems much faster and more practically than classical computers. A few quantum computational operations have been performed experimentally on a small number of quantum bits, but there are still fundamental scientific challenges to overcome in order to scale up these small quantum systems into large-scale quantum computers. The first speaker in the Quantum Computers session introduced the concept of quantum computing and described possible applications. The next speaker focused on quantum algorithms and the power of quantum systems to process information. This was followed by a talk on logical quantum computing, a method of quantum computation based on logic gates similar to classical digital circuits. The session concluded with a presentation on quantum simulation of phenomena that are too difficult to study otherwise.
The next session, The Role of Engineering in the Face of Conflict and Disaster, addressed the important role of life-saving and community-restoring technologies—from digital, networking, and mapping technologies to those that deliver basic human services in humanitarian crises. An important challenge is ensuring that the technologies in these environments are appropriate for fast-paced and complex situations. The first speaker set the stage by discussing the role of technology from the federal perspective with a focus on mapping technologies utilized during Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. This was followed by a talk that reflected on the role of the engineer within society and in the advancement of peace and social justice. The third presenter provided a perspective on technology implementation in disasters with a focus on digital assistance to facilitate cooperation among responder groups. The final speaker discussed USAID’s approach
to development engineering and disaster relief, describing her experiences with technology implementation in developing regions of the world.
As climate change escalates the possibility of severe weather, infrastructure must be adapted to mitigate against flood impacts and rising temperatures. The session on Resilient and Reliable Infrastructure explored the interconnectivity of water, transportation, energy, and telecommunications infrastructure; how to predict future impacts of disaster events; and solutions that may be incorporated to upgrade these systems to be resilient and reliable. The first speaker introduced the idea of infrastructure resiliency and discussed how to effectively communicate data science evidence to untrained audiences using web applications with graphic interfaces that make the data highly accessible and interactive. The next presenter added the critical cybersecurity element and outlined national programs that expedite communication between researchers and governmental agencies to achieve infrastructure resilience. The final talk described state-of-the-art modeling techniques that further understanding of the impacts of climate change, including gradual stressors such as sea-level rise, on critical infrastructure.
Theranostics—a system in which multifunctional materials combine sensing, imaging, and/or drug delivery that can simultaneously diagnose and detect disease while providing a means to treat the pathology—was the topic of the final session. The presentations described challenges and potential solutions to developing targeted theranostic nanoparticles, synthetic biomarkers for cancer detection and diagnosis, and immune theranostics, which identifies and quantifies immune cells to better monitor those cells during immunotherapy.
In addition to the plenary sessions, the attendees had many opportunities for informal interaction. On the first afternoon of the meeting, a poster session provided an opportunity for attendees to share their research and technical work so that they could get to know more about each other relatively early in the program. On the second afternoon, MIT Lincoln Laboratory arranged tours of its Lincoln Flight and Antenna Test Range Facility, the Lincoln Space Surveillance Complex, and three campus tours that included the Integrated Weather and Air Traffic Control Decision Support Facilities, Wide Area Persistent Surveillance, and Micro Electronics Laboratory.
Every year a distinguished engineer addresses the participants at dinner on the first evening of the symposium. The 2018 speaker, Dr. Grant Stokes, division head of Space Systems and Technology at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, gave a dinner speech titled, Asteroids—Fact and Fiction. He talked about the history of asteroid detection, the probability of Earth being hit by an asteroid, and the search for asteroids in a presentation that sprinkled interesting scientific data with humor.
The NAE is deeply grateful to the following for their support of the 2018 US Frontiers of Engineering symposium:
- MIT Lincoln Laboratory
- The Grainger Foundation
- Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
- Air Force Office of Scientific Research (This material is based upon work supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-18-1-0550. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force.)
- Department of Defense ASD(R&E) Research Directorate–Laboratories Office
- National Science Foundation (This material is based on work supported by the NSF under grant EFMA-1802662. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.)
- Microsoft Research
- Cummins Inc.
- Individual contributors
We also thank the members of the Symposium Organizing Committee (p. iv), chaired by Dr. Jennifer West, for planning and organizing the event.