Health, Technology, and Engineering

HTE@USC: An interdisciplinary program in Engineering and Medicine

President’s Special Address to the Health Sciences

“Opportunity at the Intersection of the Pacific Century and the Biological Century”

Excerpts from the President’s Special Address to the Health Sciences, August 25, 2010
C. L. Max Nikias, President, University of Southern California

The very laws of physics limit the growth of conventional electronics. But because of electronics, forces are gathering in such a way that this century is poised to be the Age of Medicine and Biology.

We can hope for breakthroughs in these areas–which will open up entire new sectors of the global economy. It is here that we will see the fastest-growing industries of this century. New technology can reshape medicine–with applications in drug delivery and patient care. We can see new therapeutic products unlike anything to date. And we can see new ideas move from the bench to the bedside–faster and more intelligently than ever.

So the leaders of the future will be universities that generate research and innovation in these areas, through cross-disciplinary approaches that generate intellectual friction and intellectual sparks; intellectual friction and sparks between medicine, and engineering, and biology, and chemistry, as well as pharmacy, and dentistry. Take any combination you like!

I believe there are two ways in which such interdisciplinarity pays off. The first is in the area of discovery, and the second is in the area of invention. To discover means, literally, to uncover something that was already there. To invent means to create something that never existed before.

There are already many heroes and heroines in USC’s efforts to build disciplinary bridges. These are stars who have been willing to set aside traditional measures of academic prestige in order to be a part of teams that can make a difference.