September 4, 2015
This week, we announced the chair of the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Endowed Chair in Power Engineering
. Brian K. Johnson, a professor in the College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department, brings national recognition in the field, a track record of securing and completing exciting research, and a deep commitment to the success of students. This is a great choice for SEL’s first-ever endowed chair
at a university, and we’re very grateful to have their vote of confidence in our excellence.
SEL has been a valued partner of UI for many years. A global leader in power technology, SEL employs more than 250 UI alumni out of 4,000 employees worldwide. They also offer internship opportunities, assist with student projects and research, sponsor College of Engineering programs, and participate in our annual Engineering Design Expo.
A $2 million gift from SEL makes this endowed chair possible. That generosity translates to income of about $90,000 per year, in perpetuity. Those funds provide partial salary support for the designated chair, as well as flexible funds to enhance graduate and undergraduate research, equipment, or other needs to move Professor Johnson’s work forward. SEL is a world-class company, and as we strive to be a world-class university, we’re glad to have a partner on the Palouse helping us achieve lofty goals.
UI engages with industry at many levels, relationships from which industries and our university both benefit. When we partner with industry, whether it’s through a new faculty or chair position, or through sponsored research, faculty and students find opportunities to work in real-world settings, identifying major problems. Similarly, internships lead to the acquisition of skills and often to great jobs. We sustain industry with a talent pipeline of graduates well-prepared to contribute to leading-edge organizations. Our research expertise allows us to address issues that affect industry and keep them strong for our state and our region.
During my presidency, we’ve remapped the way we engage with industry, especially in respect to our intellectual property (IP) agreements. It’s now easier for companies to benefit from intellectual property created during research projects they support. UI retains the right to publish research — a critical part of our university mission. Those changes first bore fruit with a research agreement with SEL, and UI has gone on to forge agreements with Idaho Power Company, with Avista Corporation and, now, just this August, with Micron Technology Inc.
These enhancements are new and robust, positioning us well for the future. They follow a historic pattern of UI engagement with industry. For more than 100 years we’ve worked with industries important to Idaho, including in fields like agriculture and natural resources, where research has contributed to new potato and wheat varieties, better agricultural and forestry practices, and improved training and know-how for industry and communities.
This week Dr. Schweitzer said something that sticks with me. As a freshman at Purdue, his Engineering 101 professor asked, “Why do you want to be an engineer?” He said becoming an engineer meant he could “take science, math and technology, and put them to work to improve the world.” He certainly has done that at SEL. It’s also what we do at UI across fields of research and scholarly activity — put concepts into action. We Vandals work on ideas that matter — a framework that you’ll be hearing more about in the future as we lay out a vision for UI in our strategic planning.