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Engineering Distinguished Lecture

Each Fall and Spring, the College of Engineering brings together experts to address a high-profile engineering topic. Established in 2009 by the Dean’s Advisory Council, the Engineering Distinguished Lecture series draws a wide audience of students, faculty, community members, alumni, and supporters. Over the years, the series has addressed such top-of-mind topics as: 

Renewable Energy Solutions: Batteries Not Included


The amount of electrical energy derived from photovoltaic and wind sources inherently varies with time, day of week, season, and random factors, such as the weather. Electrical energy must be stored during times when production exceeds consumption, and returned to the grid when production falls below consumption. Large scale electrical energy storage is the single most challenging issues that California faces as it moves toward more dependence on renewable sources.

  • Jennifer Didlo '02, Market Business Leader, AES Western Region (View presentation)
  • Josh Gerber, Manager of Advanced Technology Integration, San Diego Gas & Electric (View presentation)
  • Taison Tan, Technical Staff Senior Member, The Aerospace Corp. 

The Confluence of Arts and Engineering


As technology advances, arts and engineering are combining in new and surprising ways. From videogames that require software development, storytelling, and visual skills, to electronic music that's produced by both programmers and composers, the two disciplines are drawing ever closer. In today's networked society, it's even more important for artists and engineers to collaborate to create experiences that lead to intellectual growth and knowledge. This panel examines some of the novel creations that have set the foundation for this new spirit of multidisciplinary cooperation.

  • Bill Ballew, Director of Research and Development, DreamWorks Animation
  • David Dearth, President, Applied Analysis and Technology (View presentation)
  • Ed Finn, Founding Director of the Center for Science and the Imagination, Arizona State University (View presentation)

El Niño Engineering Challenges

October 22, 2015

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As perhaps the strongest El Niño on record formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, public officials in California prepared for a winter in which disastrous floods might interrupt the state's drought emergency. Panel members discussed current weather predictions, how this water could help resolve the current drought, what had been done to better control flooding in the Los Angeles basin since the last wet El Niño years of 1982-83 and 1997-98, and effective long-term solutions.
Experts included:

  • Pamela Emch; Engineering Fellow; Northrop Grumman
  • Mark Jackson; Meteorologist in Charge; Oxnard National Weather Service office, NOAA
  • Russell H. Boudreau, PE; VP, Coastal Engineering; Moffatt & Nichol
  • Kevin Bryan; Senior Principal Geologist; Leighton Consulting
  • Moderator: Matt Petrime, ’93; VP and GM; Applied Medical 

The Age of Drones and New Societal Concerns

April 23, 2015

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While drones have been widely used since the 1960s during the Vietnam War, they really revolutionized warfare during the recent Middle East conflicts. We saw drones take on roles in both surveillance and strike. Not only has our military found practical and cost-effective use of these autonomous aircraft, but commercial entitles such as Google and Amazon are looking at how they can help their businesses as well. Add to that a whole host of civil applications such as police forces, security systems (including pipeline surveillance). Homeland Security and Border Patrol. Last, but not least, is the neighbor next door who just bought a quad copter and is flying it over your backyard swimming pool.
The Panel of Experts included:

  • Chris Hernandez '81; VP, Advanced Systems Business and Advanced Systems; Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
  • Michael E. Drobac; Executive Director, Small UAV Coalition; Senior Policy Advisor, Akin Gum Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP [presentation link]
  • Paul J. Fraidenburgh, Esq.; Attorney; BuchalterNemer [presentation link]
  • Kevin Hull; Manager, L.A. Aircraft Certification Office; Federal Aviation Administration
  • Matt Petrime '93 – Moderator; VP and GM; Applied Medical

U.S. Manufacturing: Technologies for Recapturing Global Advancement


October 22, 2014
If the top 500 U.S.-based manufacturing companies were counted as an independent nation, their total revenue would rank them as the third’s largest economy in the world. Yet, the US manufacturing sector has experienced substantial job losses at an alarming rate over the past two decades. Aerospace employment in California plummeted in the decade of 1990-2000 at a considerably higher rate as compared to the rest of the nation (a reduction of 57% in CA vs. 40% in the entire US). After the 9-11 attacks, increase in military spending allowed much of the aerospace regions of the nation to reverse the downsizing trend. Unfortunately this did not impact any large gains for CA’s aerospace firms. Specifically, the LA County aerospace industry continued to have the worst rate of decline (29% decline in LA County from 2000 to 2011 vs. 23% decline in California vs. 6% decline in the nation.)
The Panel of Experts included:

  • Said Hilal '72, '76; President and CEO; Applied Medical
  • Walter Kemmsies; Chief Economist; Moffatt & Nichol
  • Marc Madou, Chancellor's Professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Biomedical Engineering; University of California, Irvine 
  • Matt Petrime '93 - Moderator; VP and GM; Applied Medical

Reverse Engineering of the Brain

April 24, 2014

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Human biologists, computer scientists and engineers are teaming to advance neuroscience toward achieving yet another one of NAE's Grand Challenges, namely, understanding the complex network we call brain. Modern noninvasive methods can simultaneously measure the activity of many brain cells. Comprehension of how the brain works will enable engineers to simulate its activities, leading to deeper insights about how and why the brain works and fails.One exciting line of research in this area is the reverse engineering of the brain with the key objective of deciphering details of the brain's secret communication code. Nerve cells communicate by firing electrical pulses that release small molecules called neurotransmitters. These are chemical messengers that hop from one nerve cell to a neighbor, inducing the neighbor to fire a signal of its own or, alternatively, inhibiting the neighbor from sending signals. Because each nerve cell receives messages from tens of thousands of others, and circuits of nerve cells link up in complex networks, it is extremely difficult to completely trace the signaling pathways.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Roy Hamilton, MD, MS; Assistant Professor of Neurology; University of Pennsylvania
  • Mario F. Mendez, MD, PhD; Director of Neurobehavior; VA Greater Los Angeles
  • David C. Lyon, PhD '92; Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies; Anatomy and Neurobiology; University of California, Irvine 
  • Nick Sramek-Moderator; Senior Project Leader; The Aerospace Corp.

Engineering for the Body: Reproducing Body Functions

October 24, 2013

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Over the last several years, engineering has empowered numerous innovations in the field of medicine that have improved the lives of many. These innovations cover a wide array of areas, including prostheses (producing limbs with 3D printers) and transplants, nanotubes, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine (growing body forms) and genetic medicine to name just a few. The applications for these innovations are growing as their use increases and more and more physicians learn about the expanding technologies. These innovations enable doctors and their patients to do things that they could never have imagined five or 10 years ago.
Panel of Experts included:

  • David Stout '10; Research Engineer; Brown University
  • Fred Burbank, M.D.; Partner/Medical Director; Salt Creek Medical
  • Mike Jones '80; Partner/General Manager; Salt Creek Medical
  • Adam Young, Ph.D.; Bioengineering Consultant; Cytograft Tissue Engineering, Inc. 
  • Patrick Ikehara; Senior Patent Counsel; Applied Medical
  • Nick Sramek-Moderator; Board of Harbor Commissioner; Port of Long Beach

Bioengineering: Robotics and Medicine

April 15, 2013

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Over the past century, engineering has made numerous fundamental contribution to the field of medicine. From the most prosaic forms of engineering like sewer and water sanitation, to chemical engineering processes to produce drugs like penicillin in economical form, and now with medical applications of robotics, engineering has been crucial is increasing human life expectancy. Nowadays robots and automated devices are applied in many diverse forms such as replacing a missing limb, performing a very delicate surgery, delivering rehabilitation therapy like neurorehabilitation for stroke patients, and assisting with learning disabilities.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Gary Johnson; President; Surgical Group Applied Medical
  • Howard Fried; Global Manager, Business & Product Development CAE Healthcare
  • Daniel M. Bethencourt, M.D.; Cardiac & Thoracic Surgery, Robotic & Minimally Invasive Specialist MemorialCare
  • Mel Marks, M.D.; Executive Vice President, Research MemorialCare Health System

California's Clean Transportation Future

October 25, 2012

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The world needs fundamental and rapid changes in transportation technology, fuels and systems because of the immense and growing impact of transportation on the planet. Increasingly, these impacts stem from three main and integrated challenges: urban air quality, energy security and climate change. A wide range of clean and advanced transportation technologies are being developed that can provide significant environmental and economic benefits. These clean transportation technologies can provide cleaner air; help secure the nation's transportation energy future; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and create economic opportunities. With the right policies in place, California can be a global leader in this field, and can reap significant environmental and economic benefits as a result.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Peter Greenwald; South Coast Air Quality Management District
  • Daniel Abraham; Argonne National Laboratory
  • Jeff Reed; San Diego Gas & Electric
  • Moderator: Nick Sramek, '72, '79; Board of Harbor Commissioners; The Port of Long Beach

The United States Energy Challenge

April 26, 2012

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American energy independence will be achieved when all cars, trucks and buses on U.S. highways — boats, ships and barges on U.S. waterways — aircraft flying U.S. airways — trains on U.S. railways — and off-road recreational, construction and farm vehicles, are powered by transportation fuels made in the USA from U.S. resources. The United States needs a long-term policy that addresses environmental goals, health concerns, and the risk of supply disruption. The members of this distinguished panel will answer your questions and discuss how the U.S energy demands can be met in the 21st century.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Ralph J. Moran; BP America, Inc.
  • Gabriel Canto; Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
  • Greg Wolfson; SVP and CTO, PsomasFMG, LLC
  • Kent Peterson '86, Moderator; VP and Chief Engineer; P2S Engineering, Inc.

Smart Grid: How Smart Is It?

October 27, 2011

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Our nation’s electric power infrastructure that has served us so well for so long – also known as “the grid” – is rapidly running up against its limitations. Our lights may be on, but systemically, the risks associated with relying on an often-overtaxed grid grow in size, scale and complexity every day. Today’s electricity system is 99.97 percent reliable, yet still allows for power outages and interruptions that cost Americans at least $150 billion each year — about $500 for every man, woman and child. From national challenges like power system security to those global in nature such as climate change, our near-term agenda is formidable. Some might even say history making. Today, many customers still have questions on how the Smart Grid will impact them both in the near and long-term future. The members of this distinguished panel will answer your questions and discuss how the Smart Grid will be an enabling engine for the 21st century electric grid.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Lee Krevat; Director of Smart Grid, San Diego Gas & Electric
  • Joe Dada; CEO; SmartLabs, Inc.
  • Chuck D. Prescott; Program Manager, The Boeing Co.
  • Brad Gammons; VP Sales and Solutions; IBM Global Energy & Utilities
  • Kent Peterson ’86; Moderator; VP and Chief Engineer, P2S Engineering, Inc.

Cyberecurity and You

April 27, 2011

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Your data is at risk and you need to protect it. Our growing dependence on information technology has given rise to the need for greater protection of digital networks and infrastructures. The increased number of attacks on our cyber networks has become one of the most serious economic and national security threats we face. The Department of Defense has included Cyber Security as the fifth arm of the Department for securing the country for the 21st Century. We are all impacted by technologies and innovations that center on computers, cell phones and the Internet. But as we utilize these technologies in our daily lives, we must protect our personal information or any form of digital asset stored in our computers or in any digital memory device.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Andrea Hoy ’84; CEO; A. Hoy & Associates
  • Ronald Williams; CEO; Talon Companies
  • Roberta Gotfried; Director Engineering Learning and University Relations, Engineering Space and Airborne Systems, Raytheon
  • Kent Peterson ’86; Moderator; VP and Chief Engineer, P2S Engineering, Inc.

California's Water Challenge

October 14, 2010
The members of this distinguished panel discussed California’s water challenge; from a supply and quality perspective focusing on available technologies, policy and potential solutions. Depending on where you are in the world, your supply may be drawn from groundwater, surface water such as lakes, rivers or reservoirs, or desalinated seawater. Getting water to your faucet can also be difficult. California has one of the most elaborate water delivery systems on the planet, supplied with giant pumps and thousands of miles of pipes and canals. The state’s world-renowned plumbing is now perilously stressed, forcing mandatory water restrictions for many residents.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Kip Lipper; Chief Policy Advisor, Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment Office of the CA Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg
  • Scott Taylor '90; Senior Vice President with RBF Consulting and Chair of the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA)
  • Stephen Arakawa; Manager of the Bay-Delta Initiatives Program; Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • Kent Peterson ’86, Moderator; Vice President and Chief Engineer, P2S Engineering, Inc.

Sustainability of Our Planet

November 12, 2009

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The long-term maintenance of human wellbeing depends on the wellbeing of the world around us, which in turn depends on the responsible use of natural resources. It is now clear that human activities have a significant and sharply escalating impact on the biodiversity of world ecosystems, and there is abundant scientific evidence that humanity is living unsustainably. With the drastic increase of human population, natural ecosystems have declined and changes in the balance of natural cycles have had a negative impact on both humans and other living systems. Sustainability in its broadest term can be applied to almost every facet of life on Earth – from the nano to macro levels, from a local to a global scale, and from minuscule chemical cycles that redistribute water, oxygen, nitrogen and carbon through the world's living and non-living systems, to the way massive global systems are operated. Returning human use of natural resources to within sustainable limits will require a major collective effort – one that is rooted in the integration of economic, technological, social and environmental concerns.
Panel of Experts included:

  • Nancy McFadden; SVP, Public Affairs: Pacific Gas and Electric
  • Matt Kestian; CTO, Southwest District
  • Braden R. Allenby; Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, Professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, and of Law, Arizona State University
  • Michael R. Niggli ’87; Moderator; COO, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co.