Dean's Note

The future of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard has never looked brighter, in large measure thanks to the tremendous philanthropy of John A. Paulson, for whom our School, and my deanship, are now named. His extraordinarily generous gift of $400 million will be felt across the School for years to come – by our students, the faculty, staff, and ultimately by our alumni as well. We are a young school, launched in 2007 with modest initial resources. Since then, our student body has grown rapidly, and with such growth comes a commensurate need for additional resources (both faculty and facilities). Mr. Paulson’s gift will enable SEAS to excel in inter-disciplinary research and teaching, while providing a world-class environment for Harvard investigators.

The term “convergence” is being used with increasing frequency to describe a multi-disciplinary approach to solving complex societal problems. It was the subject of a National Academies report released last year titled “Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond,” (authored by a committee that included former SEAS Dean Cherry Murray). I was struck, in particular, by the words “and Beyond” at the end of the title. Harvard already excels in research at the interfaces between engineering and the life and physical sciences. Many of the next great challenges lie “beyond” those interfaces. Solving them will require close partnership not only with science and engineering, but also with the arts and humanities, social sciences, law, medicine, business, public policy, and other disciplines in which Harvard’s professional schools lead the world.

Collaboration within SEAS and beyond will lead to innovations that help address issues such as: curing chronic diseases; addressing climate change; meeting the global demand for sustainable energy; ensuring cybersecurity and protecting privacy in a digital world; and providing clean water, food, and a reliable infrastructure for a growing global population. Our focus on teaching, learning, and research will also lead to 21st-century advances in pedagogy, hands-on education, and the fusing of aesthetic considerations with the quantitative aspects of design. This is but a small sampling of the areas of fruitful collaboration that will be advanced by SEAS, in partnership with colleagues in other parts of Harvard.

During the coming months, I look forward to sharing our progress as we plan for the expansion of SEAS to the Allston campus. This so-called “Promised Land” will be an exciting nexus for educational and research activities at Harvard. It will provide critically needed laboratory and teaching resources for SEAS, as well as for the broader Harvard community. The proximal location with Harvard Business School, the Innovation Lab, and the Launch Lab (a new accelerator for alumni startups; see page 20) will open new opportunities to extend the impact of our faculty and students.

In closing, I want to recognize Professor Harry Lewis (A.B. ’68, A.M. ’73, Ph.D. ’74), who stepped in to serve as interim dean for the past six months. I cannot imagine a more effective leader at such a crucial transition period for SEAS. He has been a literal font of knowledge for all things Harvard, and most especially all things SEAS. I am deeply grateful for the mentoring he has provided (and, I trust, will continue to provide) in the start-up phase of my deanship.

I look forward to discussing the dynamic state of SEAS today and our School’s exciting future with our alumni, friends, faculty, and students. As I settle into my new position at Harvard, I encourage you to be in touch with your thoughts and ideas (dean@seas.harvard.edu).

 

Francis J. Doyle III 

John A. Paulson Dean
John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences