The prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has admitted two more UCSB professors into its ranks this year, giving the university a total of 26 faculty members in the renowned organization under its belt.
John Bowers, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Robert McMeeking, a professor of mechanical and environmental engineering, were elected to the NAE on Feb. 11 along with 72 other American academics and 10 foreign associates. The National Academy of Engineering is a nonprofit organization that selects the best engineers in the country to advise and advance the nation through their unique knowledge of their profession. McMeeking was chosen for his contributions to computational modeling and codes widely used by the industry, and Bowers was selected for his innovative techniques in the use of optical communications devices.
Dean of the College of Engineering and NAE member Matthew Tirrell said the government and other institutions call upon members of the NAE to advise on national policies dealing with the sciences.
“This is supposed to be the highest distinction that an engineer can earn,” Tirrell said. “The academy is set up to have 1,800 members out of hundreds of thousands in the nation … It helps in reputational rankings and attracts undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members.”
Tirrell said being elected to the organization is more than a mere honor.
“The National Academy [of Engineering] was created by [President] Lincoln to advise the government on matters of science and engineering policy. Being a member of the national academy brings a level of civic responsibility.”
The influence that engineers can have on national policy is one of the biggest perks that Bowers said came with the honor.
“My goal is to change the way communications are done,” Bowers said. “I hope I can have some impact on how the government runs telecommunications. The way the government runs it now is fairly antiquated … we can get things to go 100 times faster without costing any more [money].”
McMeeking said little would change, even though the NAE has honored him for changing the way the engineering industry works by developing computer models for how materials behave in engineering applications.
“It’s been a great honor,” he said. “My research work will continue and I’ll continue to teach classes – but I’ll probably walk around with a smile on my face more often.”
Bowers said the prestige of the NAE is rewarding to both the university and the people that labor on engineering problems behind the scenes.
“It says a lot and reflects well on UCSB,” he said. “It’s not going to change my life, but it’s nice to have recognition of the work we do. It’s inspirational for new professors and inspirational for students; there are long hours and it’s often frustrating.”
In an e-mail, Chancellor Henry Yang, a fellow member of the NAE, said so many university staff being included in the academy will be a big boost for UCSB’s academic standing.
“The honors accorded to our faculty certainly help to raise the international reputation of UC Santa Barbara,” Yang said. “On a per capita basis, UCSB is among the top three or four universities in the nation for the number of our faculty who are members of the National Academy of Engineering. This visibility helps us attract more funding for our teaching and research programs. The stellar reputation of our College of Engineering also aids in the recruitment and retention of the best faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students.”
Reflecting on his own entrance to the prestigious organization, Yang said the admittance of more academics can only improve the university as a whole.
“Being elected to this academy by one’s peers is an important affirmation of hard work and years of groundbreaking research,” Yang said. “It meant a great deal to me when I was elected in 1991, and I am so honored and delighted to welcome two more of my UCSB colleagues to the NAE. I know that our entire campus community joins me in applauding their achievement.”