CORVALLIS, Ore. - The College of Engineering at Oregon State University has joined more than 120 other engineering schools around the nation in an initiative led by President Barack Obama, to address some of the most pressing engineering issues facing society in the coming century.

As part of this commitment, each school pledges to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who have been specially trained to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with a broader goal of training more than 20,000 "Grand Challenge Engineers" around the nation in the coming decade.

The challenges include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.

In pledging OSU to work toward these goals, along with other leading engineering programs in the nation, Scott Ashford, Kearney Professor and dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said in a letter to President Obama that "engineering is about creating a better future."

"As the 16th largest engineering program in undergraduate enrollment in the United States, we offer our students hands-on research experience as early as their freshman year, in interdisciplinary areas such as materials science, personalized medicine, resilient infrastructure development, advanced manufacturing and clean water and energy solutions," Ashford said.

"In response to growing demand by students to make a lasting, positive impact on the world, last year we launched one of the nation's first Humanitarian Engineering programs," Ashford said. "This new discipline applies engineering solutions to issues that affect local and global populations, such as agriculture, public health and climate change."

From a hugely successful Global Formula Racing Team to helping the residents of a small community in Kenya obtain safe drinking water, OSU students are already reaching around the world to deal with a variety of technical and humanitarian challenges, Ashford said. Providing access to clean water is one of the challenges that has been outlined.

Other challenges also fit into areas where OSU has significant and growing expertise, such as making solar energy economical, securing cyberspace, advancing health informatics, developing carbon sequestration methods, preventing nuclear terror, and restoring and improving urban infrastructure. OSU has a major program under way to revolutionize the treatment of sepsis, a global killer.

Ashford, along with other institutional leaders, signed a commitment letter on this initiative which said that, "A measure of success will be the flourishing of hundreds of successful projects across the nation and globe, each benefitting a community while ultimately leading to solutions for the Grand Challenges themselves."

Other Oregon engineering programs also agreeing to support the initiative included those at George Fox University and the University of Portland.

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Scott Ashford, 541-737-5232