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Summit seeks to spark call to action on facing world's biggest challenges

TEMPE, Ariz. Leading futurists and technologists have worked with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) to identify "Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century," focusing on technological breakthroughs needed to build sustainable societies and improve the quality of life in a growing and increasingly complex world.

To help launch a call to action toward achieving these goals, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University is organizing one of five regional NAE Grand Challenge Summits.

On April 8 and 9 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, experts will explore critical needs to develop new medicines and biomedical technologies, make solar energy economical, find better ways to manage and recycle the increasing amount of waste materials produced by growing nations, and transform education to prepare the next generations for facing these and other challenges.

Those issues are among the NAE's 14 Grand Challenges that also include ensuring access to clean water around the world, preventing nuclear terror, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters, improving health-care information systems and making cyberspace more secure, among others.

"The past century has seen technological advancements that have improved life for many on the planet," says ASU President Michael Crow. "But as remarkable as these achievements have been, we are challenged to now find even better and more sustainable solutions to our problems and to extend opportunities to more people to better their lives."

Deirdre Meldrum, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, says progress depends on fostering collaborations of engineers with scientists, policy makers, leaders in industry, economics, law, technology entrepreneurship, education, sociology and the humanities.

"All of that starts with a call for public awareness about how important it is for us to overcome these challenges, and giving the public a voice in decision-making," she says. "That's what we hope to begin with this summit."

Featured speakers at the summit will be:

  • Leland Hartwell, Nobel Laureate in Physiology and Medicine, and President and Director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

  • Kristina M. Johnson, Undersecretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

  • Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences, Stanford University

  • James Duderstadt, President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

For more information, see:


Contact: Joe Kullman
Arizona State University

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