School of Engineering
Paul English, cofounder and chief technology officer at KAYAK, was on campus Apr. 12 to speak at the inaugural Alan Shapiro Entrepreneurial Lecture Series. He discussed his career as an entrepreneur and his path to forming one of the largest travel sites on the web.
On Apr. 4, Dr. Richard A. Meserve, A66, president of The Carnegie Institution, received the Vannevar Bush Dean’s Medal from the School of Engineering and spoke on “The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Its Implications.”
We had hoped to tweet live from the event, but faced some technical difficulties. Nonetheless, we decided to post our reporting of the event here:
- Today in Nelson Auditorium, Dr. Richard A. Meserve will be honored with the Bush Dean Medal.
- He will also present “The Fukushima Accident and Its Implications,” a lecture on the recent nuclear power accident in Japan.
- Meserve humbly accepts the award, and speaks to the audience about Vannevar Bush’s contributions to Tufts and society.
- Bush is acknowledged to have been a visionary of the Internet.
- Dr. Meserve: “If you were to envision a list of people who most influenced the 20th century, Bush would be on it.”
- 30% of Japan’s electricity comes from nuclear power.
- During the accident, Reactors 4,5 and 6 were luckily shut down for maintenance and inspection.
- The sea was supposed to be the ultimate heat safe of the reactors.
- The fission of Uranium produces an incredible amount of energy.
- Even if you shut down the plant, reactors will continue to operate and release energy.
- If you could convert leftover energy to electricity (you can’t), that electricity could power a whole city.
- Dr. Meserve illustrates the components of a nuclear power plant through projected diagrams.
- Dr. Meserve: “So, what happened?”
- “The earthquake hit, and the nuclear reaction shut down. Ideally, the heat would have been absorbed.”
- “But then the tsunami hit. It was 14 meters high.”
- “The plant was designed to deal with a tsunami of 5.7 meters.”
- There are still unknowns about what exactly happened.
- “I have heard various inconsistencies.”
- “We don’t know the whole story about the decision making.”
- On a US reactor, there is a venting system which leads to a stack to release steam. We don’t know to what extent this was a part of Japan’s plan.
- Now, Japan is dumping water on the reactors to cool them and prevent a hydrogen explosion.
- This releases radioactive contamination into the environment.
- “There’s a bit of mystery as to how this all happened.”
- Dr. Meserve begins a discussion of the health effects of the radioactivity following the disaster.
- While doses of those exposed in Japan, especially workers, are above NRC limits, acute deaths are not occurring.
- Serious questions remain about how this disaster will be cleaned up.
- “That will be an expensive task.”
- “It is important to keep health effects in perspective.”
- In the example of Chernobyl, thyroid cancer increased but other increases in cancer were not seen.
- Dr. Meserve explains that in comparison with other cancers, thyroid cancer is more manageable.
- He hopes that there will be serious lessons learned from the event such as how to handle extreme events, important safety measures for nuclear plants, etc.
- Major nuclear construction projects are happening in China, Russia, India, South Korea and Japan.
- The US is not currently pursuing construction due to economic problems.
- Meserve does not expect that projects will altogether stop, but thinks that scientists and policymakers will learn from what happened in Japan.
- He fears that the greater lesson of prioritizing preparation for extreme events will not be learned.
- He identifies climate change and elevated seawater as central causes of an increase in natural disasters.
- Meserve thanks the audience and opens the floor up to questions.
- An audience member asks about the correct rules of engagement between public and private authorities in situations like Japan.
- Meserve answers that there were grotesque failures of communication in this situation, and that communication is key to the disaster response.
- Someone asks: “Is there any possibility of a nuclear explosion?”
- Meserve: “[With regard to nuclear fission] It’s highly unlikely. You have to do some tricky things to make a nuclear weapon.”
- An audience member wants to know: “Do you personally support nuclear power?”
- Meserve responds affirmatively: “I do – but I am one of the few people who believe in climate change. You have to do it safely.”
- Meserve compares the dangers of nuclear power with those of using coal for energy, which kills thousands of people.
- Finally, he thanks the audience again and the conversation is moved to a reception area.
On March 7, as part of the Center for Engineering Education Outreach (CEEO) lecture series, Eric Mazur, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, gave a presentation titled “The Scientific Approach to Teaching: Research as a Basis for Course Design.”
Want to find out how high you can duct tape your friend to a wall using the least amount of tape? So do we! Yes, that’s right, Tuesday marked the beginning of Engineering Week, a chance for engineering departments to go head-to-head in numerous events to earn points, while testing their engineering knowledge in a lighthearted way.
‘E-Week’ is a national celebration that supports the education of engineers, and the values of engineering ethics. This year at Tufts, there are six different groups composed of specific engineering majors (mechanical, chemical, etc.) and at each event, ten points will be distributed to the winners of the competition, or the group with the highest attendance at a lecture or movie.
According to Engineering Student Council president, Maren Frisell, E12, an environmental engineering major, at the end of the week, “the winning group will be awarded the ‘E-Week’ trophy and will pick a charity to receive money collected during ‘coin wars,’ one of our favorite events.”
In past years, some events have attracted over 50 students, with many noting that it’s a great chance for engineering students from different years to interact with one another. The student-run week began Tuesday with opening ceremonies in Anderson, and runs through Friday night, with a closing ceremony in Hotung Cafe.
The 13 events are coordinated by various School of Engineering student groups such as BME, EWB, ASCE, NSBE, and more. The events this year include everything from a lecture on Chilean earthquakes to a chili taste-off, and even a few returning favorites like the Lego building or clown car competition. Is there anyone who doesn’t wish that they could have a Lego building competition? (Check out photos from the competition from the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach.)
For Tufts, this is the third annual Engineering week. As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, Matt Van Lieshout participated in ‘E-Week’, and in 2009 as a mechanical engineering graduate student at Tufts, he proposed the idea to Dean Abriola’s office. Although the idea was introduced only a few weeks prior to the official start date, student groups rallied quickly and were able to make the event a huge success.
As a part of the tribute to engineering week, the National Engineers Week Foundation is recognizing the exciting and unique work of young engineers who are working to solve issues on a global scale. Among the New Faces of Engineering is Sampathkumar Veeraraghavan, a recent Tufts graduate, who in December of 2008 launched the Information System on Human and Health Services, the first online database in India to collect information on people with disabilities. Veeraraghavan was nominated by IEEE/IEEE-USA after receiving the Achievement Award from the Member Geographic Activities (MGA), the Outstanding Student Humanitarian Prize, and even the People’s Choice Prize, which recognizes students who use engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills to develop solutions to real world problems.
‘E-Week’ coordinators hope that Veeraraghavan’s story will inspire others to make a connection between engineering and benefiting humanity. Engineering Week kicked off Tuesday at noon in the Anderson Lobby.
For a schedule of events taking place, visit the Engineering Student Council website.
To read more about Veeraraghavan, read last year’s feature story on his work. Or for more information on E-week, nationally, visit http://www.eweek.org/
On Oct. 20, Tufts welcomed back Pamela McNamara, E81, President of U.S. Operations at Cambridge Consultants, for the Fall Lecture 2010 in the Lyon and Bendheim Lecture Series sponsored by the Tufts Alumni Association.