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Engineering program pushes students to tackle scientific challenges

This fall, Miami's College of Engineering and Computing will be offering a new program in concert with their new Socially Engaged Engineering and Computing (SEEC) initiative.

The new program, named the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), is centered around preparing students to address "Grand Challenges" that affect both society and science. The GCSP takes 14 broad challenges and allows students to build a research plan from that topic and a framework designed by the National Academy of Engineering, who helped to create the national program.

"The program is a natural fit for science, engineering, and computing, but should interest most majors," said Troy Douglas, head of the steering committee and director of the program.

The program plans to implement a student-mentor program that will have students who have been in the program help newer students that have selected the same challenge as them. Elaine Gossard, a junior bioengineering major, is one of the two students currently enrolled in the early stages of the program.

"I was really excited that not only does Miami give us a great academic foundational experience, but also that next step of how can you use your gifts and talents to impact the world around you," she said.

The program is designed to fit around a student's current curriculum with outside experiences like internships, faculty research or a service project and coursework that is typically less than a minor.

Mark Scott, a professor on the program's steering committee, is hopeful that the program will be a good way to get more minorities and women into the field of engineering. Scott also believes this is a good way for students to get more exposure and skills on niche topics that will set them apart from the tens of thousands students graduating each year.

The challenge topics fall under four categories: energy and environment sustainability, medicine and healthcare, vulnerability protection and expanding human capacity and joy. Douglas and Scott both see more topics being eventually added, deep space research being one of them.

The GCSP was approved over last winter break and is planned to formally begin in the fall of 2017. The committee hopes to graduate 20 scholars each year, while raising awareness of these grand challenges throughout the school. Application deadlines for the program are Mar. 16 for the fall and Oct. 12 for the spring.

Miami University is a part of a group of 120 universities that made a commitment to prepare students to take on these current rising global issues. Currently, Miami is one of 40 universities to be offering this program. Students that complete the program will also receive recognition from the National Academy of Engineering.