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Former Science Board Member Eduardo Glandt Profiled

With a lifetime of learning and resources at his disposal, Eduardo Glandt chooses a well-worn sports analogy to describe his work as dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at theUniversity of Pennsylvania. He prefers to think of himself as a long distance runner who is two-thirds of the way through a race to equip his students with the best current technology has to offer, coupled with a top-notch faculty devoted to both education and research.

However simple, the marathon man's description is appropriate. The native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is at home in two worlds--"I am bi-cultural. I return to Argentina every year, but Philadelphia is my home," he says--but the home he has helped build for some of Penn's brightest minds is entering the final component of an ambitious program of expansion and enhancement of SEAS. "We can offer world class education and research," says Glandt, who has served as dean of SEAS since 1999 and is often referred to as the most charming man on campus.

Building a world-class engineering and applied sciences school is more than just a nice smile and buildings, however, and Glandt is eager to name some of those bright spots he has recruited. "A golden couple," is how he introduces Jonathan Fiene and Katherine Kuchenbecker. Fiene is director of the PACE (Partners for Advancement of Collaborative Engineering) Education Laboratory described as a center for advanced computer-aided design, simulation and manufacturing. Kuchenbecker, who is the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation, researches the design and control of robotic systems that enable users to touch and manipulate distant environments as though they were real and within reach. Called haptic technology from the Greek word haptikos (to touch or grasp), the implications for robotic surgery, among other applications, are enormous.

But what makes the pair special in Glandt's opinion is the fact that "they are here all the time, after hours, and on weekends you will find one or the other, often both here with groups of students working on special projects. They are like rock stars in their fields."

Another faculty star would be Beth Winkelstein, who did her undergrad work at Penn, "I wanted to work in the field of prosthetic devices, not realizing Penn did not include that field in its bioengineering program, but I found plenty of other cool things to study." She obtained her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Duke and did postdoc work at Dartmouth before returning to Penn. Her current area of research is in the biomechanical and cellular mechanisms that regulate painful injuries. She has just won a grant to collaborate with Department of Defense researchers on the loading exposures of men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That means studying not only factors like actual helmet or weapons weight but being crammed into an armored vehicle patrolling for hours over extremely rough terrain. In airborne vehicles heavy vibration is an added factor that patrols experience over long periods of time. The research's aim is to develop new models that will alleviate problems like chronic low back pain and other chronic pain that result from the various loading factors.
"I am interested in helping them stay intact while they're under this incredible stress (of heavy equipment and long hours contorted in too-small spaces under poor conditions)," she says.

Asked about SEAS and Glandt's tenure, Winkelstein, who has been involved with the department since 2002, says, "This school supports women at all levels and in all topics and believe it or not, we've reached almost 50-50 (male-female) enrollment in the bioengineering department." She adds that bioengineering is the largest department in the school so that is significant. Overall, SEAS has a 30-percent female enrollment--the national average is 20 percent. Winkelstein has served as faculty advisor to the school's chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and when she recently had to resign because of other commitments, her place was taken by Kuchenbecker. It should be noted that women faculty, grad and undergrad students in SEAS, utilizing a generous donation from alumni, created AWE (Advancing Women in Engineering), a group dedicated to encouraging girls in high school to consider careers in engineering and to smoothing the path of those young women who enroll at SEAS so they succeed.

According to Glandt, the first phase of his "race" to house all this star power and activity was the easiest -- the construction of the Melvin J. and Claire Levine Hall, which houses the Weiss Tech House and the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Laboratory. Dedicated in 2003, Levine Hall has given the IT component of SEAS its own home and Glandt says it was entirely appropriate to begin the SEAS expansion here because Penn was on the groundbreaking frontier of IT with the development of ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first general purpose computer. Faculty in this department have been recruited from all over the academic map: Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Cal Tech, the University of Minnesota, and Carnegie Mellon to name a few.

The second phase of the program, completed in 2006, is Skirkanich Hall, which Glandt explains has everything to do with "bio." Biotechnology and bioengineering remain the largest majors in the school. The fact that Penn's medical school is a half block away and SEAS's undergraduates are welcome there means biotech will remain at the top of the school's sought-after majors list for years to come. Skirkanich Hall is the recipient of one of the top architecture awards in the country: the 2010 Institute Award for Architecture from the American Institute of Architects.

"I am an architect groupie," Glandt says with a smile. "I have enjoyed enormously the phase of interviewing architects, working with them to bring our projects to completion on budget and on time." He adds that one of major concerns with Skirkanich was laboratories for teaching and labs for research. "The two needs are very different but the design took that into account."

Next and final on the agenda is the Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, which will be a 100,000 square foot, $80 million facility that will help shape nanotech education and research throughout the world. "It is the most complex of the designs because of the demands of nanotechnology development," Glandt says, adding that everything must be "clean." That means all kinds of barriers must be in place to prevent contamination of even the most microscopic kind and elaborate cleaning systems with fail safe back-ups in place to insure absolute control of the environment. Faculty and students will both don "clean" gear before entering the labs to conduct research. Glandt boasts that the building will receive LEED silver certification upon completion. He adds, "A platinum rating (the highest, most desirable) is not possible with a building which must have such complex cleaning systems in place, unfortunately."

With two thirds of the physical expansion completed, applications up 32 percent and a thriving and diverse faculty and student body, it appears as though the final leg of Glandt's race as dean of Penn's SEAS is off to a fast start. Read More

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Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

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