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New Speaker Series

Science Diplomacy Talk Series

Lessons in Engineering Leadership

During the spring semester, the college invited alumni, students, faculty and industry representatives to sit down with engineering leaders for some insight into managing people, projects and technology.


Formula for Success You could hear a pin drop during the first talk in the series as Microsoft’s Kurt DelBene, BS Industrial Engineering 1982, took his audience behind the scenes to discover what it takes to lead in a world growing more technologically complex every day. Industry leaders must stay engaged in the intricacies and trends of engineering, “deep in the weeds,” he advised students, while never losing sight of the bottom line. “You really have to keep your hands on everything, from a business perspective,” he said. An easygoing manner belied DelBene’s stature as one of the most influential leaders in the software industry. The stress can get intense, said the Microsoft chief digital officer, who races vintage Formula One cars to relax.

Crawford believes in technical education and advocates for the government to increase funding to nonacademic technical training programs. He also believes that workers without college degrees can find meaningful occupations by helping to fill a nationwide shortage of skilled laborers. His interest in making employees happy and productive was apparent when he spoke about the magic that happens when you get the right person in the right job. “They go home, they celebrate their successes, they don’t develop ulcers and they’re happy,” he said.

Best Job in the World Laura McGill, third speaker in the series and vice president of engineering at Raytheon Missile Systems, loves being an engineer. But she never imagined becoming VP of engineering. “Every job I’ve had seemed like the most fun job in the world, and I was really reluctant to move on to whatever was offered to me because I loved what I was doing so much,” she said.

McGill said she thinks of her work like a system where all the Executive Insight—Kurt DelBene, right, chats with a student from the audience after his talk on leadership. parts are connected: Not only is she responsible for keeping track of hundreds of engineers from Built on Hard Labor different disciplines, but she has to Former Sundt CEO Dave Crawford, BS coordinate everything from training Civil Engineering 1972, started at the and development to infrastructure firm as a laborer in 1968 to help pay his investments to keeping highway through school, and stayed there performance technology up to date. until his retirement in 2016.

Hassan Vafai and Kevin Lansey of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Mechanics brought three of the world’s leading science diplomats to speak at UA.



Roman Macaya, ambassador of Costa Rica to the United States, said his country’s mandatory and state-funded education has paid off in that, today, some of Costa Rica’s biggest exports are high-value services such as engineering design and medical instruments like heart valves. “What all of these have in common is that they require an education,” he said. “You could say medical tourism is our new coffee.”

SCIENTISTS EVERYWHERE Bruce Alberts, the chancellor’s leadership chair in biochemistry and biophysics for science and education at UCSF, wishes the world worked more like science works. “One of the great features of science is that we don’t believe we know anything,” he said. Alberts believes scientists should work Bruce Alberts in all sectors, with career paths for PhDs into areas such as law, government and media. “Science has a common culture,” he said. “Scientists can communicate across a common set of assumptions and values.”

VACCINATIONS AS DIPLOMACY Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, described how global vaccination led to an 83 percent reduction in measles deaths from 1990 to 2013. “We even talked about the elimination of measles, one of the great killers of children globally,” he said. But with the “antivaxx” movement causing an increase in measles outbreaks in the United States and Europe, he believes it’s more important than ever for scientists to communicate their research to the public.


Spring 2018



Profile for University of Arizona College of Engineering

Arizona Engineer | Spring 2018  

Arizona Engineer | Spring 2018