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CEID ups UTSA’s game in quest for national recognition

CEID ups UTSA’s game in quest for national recognition


SEPTEMBER 9, 2021 — The University of Texas at San Antonio is already reaping the benefits of its new College of Engineering and Integrated Design (CEID). Building on the new collaborations taking shape, faculty in the college have a competitive advantage in their pursuit of larger and more dynamic research grants.

“This fits completely into our destination to become a Carnegie R1 research institution, which is part of UTSA’s 10-year strategic plan,” said CEID Dean JoAnn Browning. “Many of the large research initiatives require the interdisciplinary collaborations that were not happening purely within a single discipline, such as mechanical engineering or architecture.”

“Breaking the boundaries in the way we pursue research in this college will affect the way we teach and educate our students.”

David Akopian is CEID’s associate dean of inclusive and research excellence. He says the new college removes boundaries and promotes big thinking in pursuing research grants. An example is a $50 million grant available through the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. He adds one of the grant’s qualifications is being able to demonstrate what’s called “convergent research,” the capability to bring different departments and expertise together to synthesize something innovative and new.

“Looking at the grant requirements again, this is exactly what we’re doing at UTSA through the new CEID. This changes our approach from whether we should apply to we need to apply,” Akopian said. “We are adopting a different and more complex organizational culture that will become more sophisticated through integrating, synthesizing, separating and experimenting to discover optimal arrangements. That’s an interesting development.”

This new approach is already paying dividends through expanded partnerships with the City of San Antonio. One example is a collaboration with the city’s R&D League. Faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in CEID and the College of Health, Community and Planning are enrolled in a service learning projects course called EPICS to create a new platform that will match UTSA researchers with city departments and challenges.

"In addition to the strong projects and partnerships with the City of San Antonio in place, the new combined CEID converges a wider range of city-related expertise, diverse discipline knowledge, and community engagement experience,” Akopian said. “The challenges facing San Antonio, like COVID recovery, climate change mitigation and inequality reduction, call for such convergent solutions.”

Akopian adds this transformation will result in trickle-down benefits to students through more interdisciplinary research projects. Electrical engineering students working with planning students, for example, is just one of many scenarios that will become the norm through CEID.

“Sophistication means more options and modes of studying for the students,” he said. “Breaking the boundaries in the way we pursue research in this college will affect the way we teach and educate our students.”

⇒ Learn more about the university's Integrated Design Initiative.

There’s untapped potential through CEID to generate millions of dollars in grants and create stimulating interdisciplinary research opportunities for students and for faculty. Throughout this evolution, Browning wants to make sure societal impact remains part of the college’s focus.

“CEID will take us in new directions pursuing cutting-edge research, but it also needs to support our commitment to solve grand challenges,” Browning said. “Grand challenges are many times grand research challenges. Our ultimate goal as a professional is to ensure that our solutions meet humanity's needs.”

Bruce Forey

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University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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