Engineering thought leader looks to the future with public lecture

Mechanical engineering students charged to help achieve the National Academy of Engineering's 21st Century Grand Challenges

September 13, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “All domains of engineering can be described using four words: creation, solutions, people, society. That is what engineering needs to address in the 21st century,” said Clayton Daniel Mote Jr., immediate past president (2013 to 2019) of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and former president of the University of Maryland.

On Sept. 9 at Penn State's University Park campus, Mote addressed faculty, students and staff in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME), reflecting on the past achievements of engineering while largely casting a gaze to the goals of the future.

Mote is recognized for his impacts as a scholar, inventor, educator and mentor, and as a leader who has advanced higher education, innovation and the engineering profession. He has authored or co-authored more than 300 publications and holds four patents. Mote also has a connection to the Penn State ME department, as he served as a doctoral adviser to Chris Rahn, the J. Lee Everett Professor and associate dean for innovation, who introduced him at the event.

In his previous role as president of the NAE, Mote played an integral role in shaping the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. The initiative was designed to inspire young engineers to champion the biggest issues facing humanity.

Throughout his talk, Mote expanded on this vision, including reverse-engineering the brain, making solar energy economical and advancing health informatics.

“These goals can only succeed if we create the needed workforce,” he said. The students in attendance for the lecture and reception were charged with helping make that happen.

“We were delighted to welcome Dr. Mote to the department to share his insights on the future of engineering as we reimagine ME,” said Karen Thole, distinguished professor and mechanical engineering department head. “His lecture and the future lectures we are offering this semester will help us to prepare our students to fully engage in solving global issues.”

Photos from the event can be found on Flickr.


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With more than 60 faculty members, 330 graduate students, and 800 undergraduate students, the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering embraces a culture that welcomes individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Our faculty and students are innovating today what will impact tomorrow’s solutions to meeting our energy needs, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems. We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S.) graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at

Department of Mechanical Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519