CU-Boulder: Thermodynamics, Atoms, and Citizenship

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Engineering Leadership Program: “Thermodynamics, Atoms, and Citizenship”


On February 5, 2021, the Engineering Leadership Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, a new JMC partner program, held the first lecture of its virtual series, “The New STEM Enlightenment: Political Promises and Perils of Science and Technology.” Bernhardt Trout kicked off the series with a discussion of STEM’s impact on citizenship:

The Engineering Leadership Program is proud to announce a new virtual speaker series titled The New STEM Enlightenment: Political Promises and Perils of Science and Technology. The series examines how America’s zealous promotion of science, technology, and scientific education affects American democracy. How does our reverence for science and technology alter the soul of our nation and its people? Can a citizenry educated under the auspices of modern science and charmed by the marvels of technology maintain the institutions and behaviors necessary for the survival of liberal government? Are our prospects for fostering human flourishing, for reclaiming a more nuanced civic discourse, and for producing citizen-leaders of prudence and character enriched or diminished by the habits of heart and mind cultivated by science education and technological dependence?

In the first lecture, we will discuss the particular way in which pursuing STEM forms the mind. That way has benefits to mastering nature but limits understanding nature. Such limits in turn have particular effects on citizenship, which we elaborate. Concepts and equations from thermodynamics and quantum mechanics are used, but no prior studies in those areas is assumed.

Friday, February 5, 2021 • 12:00 PM MST
A virtual event

Free and open to the public, registration required.

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Bernhardt TroutBernhardt Trout is the Raymond F. Baddour, ScD, (1949) Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of the MIT Society, Engineering, and Ethics Program. He received his S.B. and S.M. degrees from MIT and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. In addition, he performed post-doctoral research at the Max-Planck Institute. After having integrated humanities in engineering courses for over a decade, in 2009, with several colleagues, Trout started the MIT Society, Engineering, and Ethics Program. Its aim is to broaden and deepen the understanding of MIT engineering students, focusing on the societal and ethical implications of engineering. His scientific research focuses on applications of machine learning together with quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics in addition to experiments to develop pharmaceutical products and processes. In 2007, together with colleagues, he started the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing, a $85 million initiative to transform pharmaceutical manufacturing. He also leads a public outreach initiative to promote advanced pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing. He is co-editor of the 2016 volume Mastery of Nature and has published over 200 technical papers with 19 patents issued or pending

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The Engineering Leadership Program explores leadership challenges in applied science using liberal arts pedagogy. The program aims to cultivate leaders of curiosity and character, whose technical expertise is enriched through the study of the political, moral, and philosophic dilemmas posed by the perpetual advancement of science and technology. Students in ENLP are encouraged to see engineering leadership as a humane discipline that requires lifelong reflection on questions that arise within the purview of science, but which science alone cannot answer.

The Engineering Program maintains that leadership education is liberal education, or education in intellectual freedom. Liberal education provides effective preparation for engineering leadership because engineering education alone does not train engineers to reflect freely and deeply on the moral, political, and natural aspects of the engineering technologies they create.

Because liberal education poses the question of what the human good is, it supplements technical education by providing moral direction and purpose to the technical mind. Liberal education is valuable for future engineering leaders because it is education in, and exploration of, the manifold complexities and nuances of the human good. Reading widely, reasoning thoroughly, and thinking freely broaden the intellectual range of future engineering leaders, making them more competent to lead engineering enterprises whose missions are to produce technology that accords with the best interests of humanity.

Learn more about the Engineering Leadership Program >>



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