Greetings From McCormick

A message from Dean Ottino

This fall, we launched a series of events called “Conversations at the Intersection” as a way to bring together thought leaders from different fields from across the University and Chicago to discuss subjects that cut across boundaries. Our series began with a focus on the nature of creativity. How do different fields—art, technology and science—incorporate new ideas? In what ways do these different areas intersect and enrich one another? It was a thought-provoking discussion that attracted university-wide participation.

Creativity was a deliberate choice; the theme fits McCormick well. Creativity has long been associated with the humanities and the arts, but less with science and engineering. The idea that engineering isn’t creative is, of course, a myth. Creativity is essential to engineering thinking, as exemplified by the diverse content in this issue of our magazine. Engineers display creativity when charting new paths to deliver drugs to targets within the body, when finding solutions to end conflict in materials mining, or when defining new questions—the kinds of questions that have not been asked before—that guide our research. Creativity is also evident in how we evolve our curriculum, as highlighted in the Engineering First® program that we began planning 20 years ago.

Creativity has long been associated with the humanities and the arts, but the term is not used as frequently within science and engineering. The idea that engineering isn't creative is, of course, a myth.

Bringing diverse perspectives together is also critical. At McCormick, we have long believed in the power of intersections; that the best ideas and breakthroughs, in both research and education, are in new combinations and opportunities that come from the intersecting boundaries of different domains. Our Lab Notes section highlights the wide range of research we conduct at the intersection. Another especially interesting intersection—the best opportunities are the unexpected ones—is between Diego Klabjan, an analytics expert, and John McGinnis, a professor at the Northwestern Law School. They are working together to better understand what triggers patent litigation, an important issue of our time.

As you know, we are in the midst of an ambitious fundraising campaign: We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. Generous donations from alumni and friends of McCormick have already impacted our ability to build research and education activities at the intersection, but there is much more that we will accomplish. Now, more than ever, engineering plays a central role in our world. We are encouraged that so many donors support our vision.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

Julio M. Ottino
Dean, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science