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USC Viterbi and Caltech to Offer Vest Scholarships

Southern California schools will offer Vest Scholarships for research regarding the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering.

March 14, 2013 —

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are establishing Vest Scholarships at their institutions, along with six other universities around the country.

The announcement was made at the inaugural Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS) in London. The new scholarship program, named after outgoing National Academy of Engineering (NAE) President Charles M. Vest, will foster international collaborations among graduate students whose studies are focused on tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges. The scholarship has been endorsed by both the NAE and the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering.

The participating universities are all conducting leading research toward addressing the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering™, 14 “game-changing” goals with the potential to dramatically improve life in the 21st century, identified by a blue-ribbon committee of leading technological thinkers and doers. The challenges are also the inspiration for the GGCS.

“The NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering address global issues that transcend national boundaries,” says Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “They are timely, inspirational, and interdisciplinary. Their solutions are also within reach in this time of exponential technology gains. The Vest Scholarships will provide the glue that will enable the engagement of the international engineering and scientific communities in pursuits that will benefit all of humanity.”

Both Southern California schools offer opportunities for students to research a number of the Global Grand Challenges. Caltech and the Viterbi School have extensive expertise and resources in the Grand Challenge of securing cyberspace and each houses multiple groundbreaking projects focused on protecting digital assets. The Viterbi School also provides opportunities for Vest Scholars to conduct research in the areas of reverse-engineering the brain and enhancing virtual reality. At Caltech the scholars can also choose to investigate ways to make solar energy economical and to engineer the basic tools of scientific discovery. These basic engineering tools could, for instance, be used to design flexible and foldable space structures, to develop high performance composite cathodes for solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) applications, or to demonstrate the effectiveness of a community seismic network to analyse earthquakes as they occur.

“The Vest Scholarship is a superb opportunity for high-powered international graduate students to work with faculty and researchers who are international leaders in their engineering disciplines,” said Ares Rosakis, chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science. “At Caltech, due to its small size and strong interdisciplinary philosophy, the students will have the opportunity to work closely with not only these international leaders in engineering research, but also with their collaborators in all areas of science and technology.”

The NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering are already being incorporated into education at all levels – including an undergraduate Grand Challenges Scholars Program being implemented at several colleges and universities across the United States – and Vest has been an influential leader in raising the visibility of these goals.

In the first year, students from schools attending the Global Grand Challenges Summit will be eligible to apply for the scholarships. In later years, the program will be expanded to additional schools. Students who are chosen will receive an expense-paid year to pursue research opportunities related to the 14 NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering at one of those institutions.

Other participating schools are Duke University, Illinois Institute of Technology, MIT, North Carolina State University, Olin College, and the University of Washington.

Additional details about the Vest Scholarships can be found at vestscholars.org. The NAE announcement about the Vest Scholarship program is available here.