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The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges: An Overview and Focus on Water

Date:November 24, 2009 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST
Location:Columbia University,
Morningside Campus,
International Affairs Building,
Room 1501
Contact:For further information regarding this event, please contact Betsy Ness-Edelstein by sending email to .

The Columbia Climate Center, in collaboration with the Columbia Water Center and the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy, presents "The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges: An Overview and Focus on Water," with speakers

Charles Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering; President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Farouk El-Baz, Director, Center for Remote Sensing; Research Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University

Introduction by

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute; Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University; Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Conclusions by

Peter Schlosser, Director, Columbia Climate Center; Associate Director and Director of Research, The Earth Institute; Vinton Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science; Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University

Sustainable development on a planet with finite resources and a growing population is not only a desirable, but a priority.  In February 2008, a National Academy of Engineering committee unveiled their perception of the grand challenges of engineering that face humanity in the 21st century.  Meeting the demands of growing energy needs while curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, disease, security, sustainable urban infrastructure, and furthering discovery and learning are just a few of the areas that require concerted research from engineers, natural scientists, doctors, and social scientists alike.

•    Make solar energy economical
•    Provide energy from fusion
•    Develop carbon sequestration methods
•    Manage the nitrogen cycle
•    Provide access to clean water
•    Restore and improve urban infrastructure
•    Advance health informatics
•    Engineer better medicines
•    Reverse-engineer the brain
•    Prevent nuclear terror
•    Secure cyberspace
•    Enhance virtual reality
•    Advance personalized learning
•    Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

Dr. Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering and President Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will discuss the process that led to the list and present an overview of fourteen challenges and the role that we can play in meeting them. He will be joined by Professor Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, who will focus primarily on the challenge inherent to meeting the need for water in the face of a growing population, increased urbanization, and a changing climate.

For more information about the NAE’s Grand Challenges of Engineering, to express your opinion about the fourteen challenges, or to choose the highest priority challenge, go to

This event is free and open to the registered public. Reception to follow.

For more information on the Earth Institute, visit

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