Brown University School of Engineering

Research Impact on Society

Our curriculum provides a deep foundation in the traditional academic disciplines of engineering, while our future growth will take place in key areas where technological innovation can have a broad and bold impact on society: biology and health care, energy and the environment, information technology for society, and entrepreneurship. 

Biology and Health Care

Even as the world is confronting the challenges of infectious diseases, a rapidly aging population, public health improvements, and restorative medical care, the field of biomedical engineering is translating scientific advances into clinical outcomes. Brown’s concentration in biomedical engineering has grown—in just ten years—to be among the most popular withDomenico PacificiDomenico Pacifici our engineering students, building on five decades of leadership in the fields of neuroengineering, biomechanics, biosensing, biomolecular engineering, biomaterials, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, medical devices and orthopedic implants.

Already, Assistant Professor Domenico Pacifici has developed a biochip that can measure glucose concentrations in human saliva. This technique could eliminate the need for diabetics to draw blood to check their glucose levels. And Associate Professor Anubhav Tripathi has developed a biochip that enables fast, portable flu strain detection. The new biochip simplifies genetic amplification—a process in the middle of a series of steps needed to identify the makeup of a sample of blood or tissue.

Energy and the Environment

Global warming, environmental restoration, alternative energy sources, smart transportation… When we confront the major global challenges needed to create a sustainable society for the future, energy and the environmental technologies are at the heart of the solution. Brown Engineering has close ties to the environmental science disciplines on campus, conducting research inTayhas PalmoreTayhas Palmore areas of environmental remediation, alternative energy sources and storage, and new “sustainable” materials.

One outcome: Professor Tayhas Palmore has created a new battery that uses plastic, not metal, to conduct electrical current. The prototype polymer-based hybrid device packs more power than a standard alkaline battery and more storage capacity than a double-layered capacitor.

Information Technology for Society

Information technology is at the heart of the global revolution in communications and computing, and has an enormous impact on economic development. For example, the World Bank estimates that every ten percent increase in the use of wireless phones in a developing country boosts theirREVEAL Laboratory: 3D Visualization of ArtifactsREVEAL Laboratory: 3D Visualization of Artifacts gross domestic product growth rate by one percentage point. From low-power computers to computer vision for archaeology, and from robotics to new kinds of lasers, Brown is helping to create an exciting new interconnected world through the use of information technology.

One outcome: Led by Professor Ben Kimia, the REVEAL (Reconstruction and Exploratory Visualization: Engineering meets ArchaeoLogy)
Laboratory has computer engineers working alongside archaeologists and historians. Researchers at Brown design software that allows archaeologists to model and reconstruct columns, walls, buildings, statues and other complex shapes from photos and video of unearthed fragments and objects. 

High Technology Entrepreneurship

One of the greatest challenges facing the world today is the creation of high-paying jobs in high-growth companies and industries. Brown engineering students—with their deep technical backgrounds and leadership skills—are well positioned to lead this renaissance. Entrepreneurial thinking is at the heart of the transformation of the engineer in the 21st century. Likewise, Brown has a long history of fostering entrepreneurism in its students—it was recently ranked No. 13 in the Forbes list of most entrepreneurial schools in the nation.

Our students have had great success in a number of forums: at the RhodeOverhead.fmOverhead.fm Island Business Plan Competition, for example, Brown students and their start-up companies won in 2012 (Overhead.fm), 2011 (PriWater), 2010 (Speramus), and 2009 (Runa). And dozens of other ventures continue to be launched. As the School of Engineering continues to grow and create an entrepreneurial incubator, we believe that this rate of success will accelerate.

We are committed to infusing entrepreneurship into our students and faculty, so that their innovations and ideas can create the technology companies of the future. From biology and medicine to environmental remediation and alternative energy sources, Brown faculty—and students—continue to change the world.