‘Tomorrow’s Engineer Week 2nd-6th November’ - is about the UK’s need to train and encourage young people to become engineers. Engineers create the future and prizes highlight the importance of engineering to society. Last month Queen Elizabeth presented a £1 million engineering prize to Dr Robert Langer (American Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) during a prestigious reception at Buckingham Palace for his 'revolutionary advances and leadership in engineering at the interface with chemistry and medicine'.
His work has improved the lives of more than 2 billion people and includes long-lasting treatments for brain cancer, prostate cancer, endometriosis, schizophrenia, diabetes, and the drug-coated cardiovascular stents that alone have benefited 10 million patients.
Dr Langer started his career working for pioneering cancer researcher Dr Judah Folkman, Boston Children’s Hospital (and was in fact the lowest paying job offer he received). However, although an unusual move for a chemical engineer, in Folkman’s lab his career flourished, his training, experience and enthusiasm set the stage for his ground-breaking advances in bioengineering - he has received over 220 major awards and is one of the most widely cited biotechnology researchers in the world.
Dr Langer became interested in chemical engineering at a young age and as an 11 year old he set up a small laboratory in the basement of his house in Albany, N.Y. He studied chemical engineering at Cornell University (Sc.D) and was driven by a desire to use his chemical engineering background to directly improve people’s lives.
Robert Langer’s engineering expertise has changed the world - engineering is about problem solving - and Langer has done ‘as much as is needed to solve a problem’ he has changed engineering principles into human beings. (The controlled delivery of large molecules in the human body necessitates complete knowledge and careful application of engineering techniques.)
Prizes stimulate, celebrate and reward innovation but young people need a better understanding of the importance of engineering jobs. Parents, Schools, Colleges and Universities need to raise the profile of engineering jobs in the UK to inspire a new generation into the discipline.