Q&A with Thomas Landers
Emerging tech could be reality
Q: What is engineering's tie to the business world?
A: Cars that communicate with each other to prevent accidents, liquid batteries, and computers that also serve as phones and TV receivers once were lab concepts and now are working prototypes or common consumer products. Everywhere you look, there are examples of how engineering builds value for businesses. Transportation is safer, many hazardous construction and manufacturing processes are mechanized or even automated, medical tests are more accurate and less invasive, and mobile computing enhances nearly every business communication and workflow.
Q: What engineering research has had the most impact on business recently?
A: Use of cloud computing for information storage and processing is a good example. Advanced materials and 3-D printing are opening up new markets for small businesses. And we now are seeing unmanned systems, typically known for defense, in civilian applications such as crop, livestock and pipeline monitoring, geographic mapping and emergency response, to name a few.
Q: What engineering trends do you see will have an impact commercially in the future?
A: Hackers, cyberterrorists and malware creators are becoming sophisticated at breaking encrypted information. Quantum physics offers the potential of cryptography that is impenetrable, saving businesses billions in intellectual property and personal information value. Innovations in biomedical engineering will improve patient care and quality of life, including advanced sensors for diagnostic applications, nanoparticles for precision drug delivery, medical imaging that more precisely defines the boundaries of a tumor at safer dosage levels, and functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for better understanding of how the brain processes information.
Q: How do you suggest the business community utilize these new engineering trends?
A: At OU, we're working with industry to identify current and future needs that can improve products or processes. We seek to build strong relationships and collaborations with practitioners and to work on industry-posed development problems and research questions. Through such projects, our students gain valuable experiential learning in interdisciplinary teamwork and creative thinking.
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER