Engineering global change

‘Engineering is the most important profession: the future of our planet, and the quality of human life upon it, depends on engineering more than it does on any discipline.’

This bold statement was made as an opening gambit by one of my colleagues, Matt during a University Open Day for potential undergraduate students.  These events are particularly important for engineering because students usually don’t study engineering at school and so have little idea about what it involves.  Matt continued to say that ‘a decision to study engineering provides you with an opportunity to make a real and lasting impact on the world’.

Medical doctors and nurses have a considerable impact on our individual health and welfare, lawyers help us to resolve disputes and administer justice, philosophers advise us on how we should think while journalists and bloggers attempt to tell us what we should think but engineers manage the conception, design, development, manufacture or construction, maintenance, recycling or disposal of everything in our man-made world, i.e. products, processes & systems.  As Theodore von Karman, the great aeronautical engineer said ‘scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was’.  Engineers tend to supply what society wants and so have to share with society responsibility for the massive consumption of the world’s resources but engineers are also working to create solutions.  We need a massive level of innovation to create sustainable technologies that will allow everyone to enjoy the lifestyle of the average American or European.

‘If you really want to change the world then choose a career in engineering, and I mean real engineering, not financial engineering’ Lord Mandelson, March 2009

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