A Message from Dean Vijay Kumar: Introducing Penn Engineering’s Three Signature Initiatives

Signature Initiatives Graphic
Penn Engineering’s three signature initiatives are meant to tackle the world’s most pressing problems, with investments in the fields of precision healthcare technology, data science, and sustainability.

Happy New Year! With all of the stress and challenges of the pandemic, let me begin by saying how proud I am of Penn Engineering’s students, faculty and staff for their resilience and determination as we start a new semester. While we have to hold off on returning to in-person learning a bit longer than we had hoped, there is much to look forward to in the coming months and beyond.

I am particularly excited by the launch of Penn Engineering’s signature initiatives, which will usher in a new wave of research, education and outreach efforts on three topics of global importance. With new buildings and spaces, opportunities for faculty hiring and seed grants for innovative projects, I know these initiatives will catalyze the Penn Engineering community in new ways and help us do the most good for all of the communities we engage with.

First, Penn Engineering worked to establish the new Center for Precision Engineering for Health (CPE4H), a $100 million investment to develop new laboratories and hire new faculty to develop customizable biomaterials, active implantable MEMS devices and novel delivery mechanisms for individualized diagnostics, treatments and therapies. CPE4H will further strengthen our ties with the Perelman School of Medicine and the other health schools at Penn, positioning us to be the top school at the interface of engineering and health. And most importantly, this collaboration will enable Penn Engineers to develop technologies that will fight future pandemics, cure incurable diseases and extend healthy life spans around the world.

Second, an initiative centered around Innovation in Data Engineering and Science (IDEAS) will commit $60 million in resources for faculty hiring and research in the areas of data-driven scientific discovery and experimentation, design and engineering of safe, explainable and trustable autonomous systems, and data science for neuro engineering and bio-inspired computing. This initiative complements the School’s investment in Amy Gutmann Hall, the new home for data science at Penn. Infusing data science into every department and sparking new collaborations — both with industry partners and the next generation of data scientists in Philadelphia’s public schools — will allow us to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital age head on.

Finally, the Energy and Sustainability initiative commits $60 million toward faculty hiring and research in energy storage technologies, renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and sustainability, and monitoring, capturing and sequestering climate-changing pollutants. The laboratories for this initiative will be housed in the new Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology, which reflects a substantial $150 million partnership with the School of Arts & Sciences and the University. We see the threats posed by climate change more clearly every day, so there can be no higher expression of Penn Engineering’s ideals than to respond with our own brand of ingenuity.

In addition to these signature initiatives, the School has committed significant resources to our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, taken substantial steps toward our aspirational goal of democratizing high-quality engineering education through online degree programs, and implemented a new undergraduate curriculum with more flexibility and with enhanced advising, so our students are better prepared to meet the challenges of the next decade.

I want to thank all of you for your dedication to the Penn Engineering mission, your friendship, and for your help in making this the best year in our School’s history. It is with a great deal of optimism and excitement that I look forward to all that is to come in 2022.