Program Puts SMU’s Lyle School on Path to Solve 14 Global Engineering Challenges

SMU is Texas' first private school to utilize the NAE Grand Challenges Scholarship Program, which aims to solve problems like preventing nuclear terror, making solar energy economical, reverse-engineering the brain, and more.


Southern Methodist University’s Lyle School of Engineering is teaming up with the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholarship Program to solve 14 worldwide engineering challenges around health, public welfare, and technology.

The first private college in Texas to utilize the program, SMU will combine curricular and extracurricular tasks to help engineering students overcome the challenges facing society today.

SMU was approved by the NAE in March and began to implement the program on-campus in October. Students selected to participate will create a portfolio of internships, community service, and more, all while working closely alongside faculty members and paired industry mentors. 

Scholarship recipients’ work includes producing new types of nanobiotechology and using robotics to tackle the challenge of engineering better medicine. Micah Oxner and Cassie Hammond, for example, study policy and ethical questions related to their search to develop corkscrew nanorobots to drill through blocked arteries.

Lyle Engineering CEE Brett Story Lab. [Image: SMU]

The Grand Engineering Challenges include:

  • Prevent Nuclear Terror
  • Secure Cyberspace
  • Enhance Virtual Reality
  • Making Solar Energy Economical 
  • Reverse-Engineer the Brain
  • Engineer Better Medicines
  • Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure

Applicants to the program must have five distinctive qualities to be considered, including: social consciousness, multicultural awareness, talent and creative experience, versatile teamwork practice, and practical entrepreneurial skills.

The program hopes to prepare students for global engagement with hopes that the students will gain relevant work experience through internships and community service, providing them with a holistic approach to problem solving.

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering utilizes the NAE Grand Challenges Scholarship Program. [Image: SMU]

“We are proud to be joining the Grand Challenges Scholars Program at SMU,” said Bruce Gnade, executive director of the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership. “Many of our students across campus are already engaged in the program’s core competencies, and several faculty members are involved in extensive research directly related to GCS, such as providing mentoring and infrastructure for the students to carry out their research projects, so it was a natural fit for us to pursue involvement in this program.”

The NAEGCSP was founded in 2008, and there are currently 62 universities with approved programs across the world. Other approved Texas university programs include Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin.

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering and Dedman College have 13 scholars on their inaugural cohort. These students include:

  • Gabrielle Gonzales, junior, Electrical Engineering with Biomedical Specialization
  • Cassie Hammond, first year, Mechanical Engineering
  • Sienna Dugan, junior, Health and Society
  • Ceydan Kaya, junior, Management Science & Math with Operations Research Specialization
  • Michael Rollins, junior, Civil Engineering
  • Jonathan Lindboom, sophomore, Math & Finance
  • Micah Oxner, junior, Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical Specialization
  • Joshua Lauer, junior, Computer Science
  • Carson Little, first year, Mechanical Engineering & Spanish
  • Michael Rainey, sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
  • Eric Zhang, first year, Computer Science
  • Taylor Slaton, junior, Computer Engineering
  • Morgan VandenBerg, first year, Computer Engineering

Scenes from SMU’s Grand Challenges Scholarship Program

[All images: SMU]

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