Schuster delivers State of the Institute

Interim President Gary Schuster stood before a crowd at the LeCraw Auditorium in the College of Management to give the annual State of the Institute address. Omicron Delta Kappa hosted the Tuesday morning event, which saw attendance from both the student body and faculty.

While the speech carried no overriding theme, like last year’s emphasis on “Vanishing Boundaries,” Schuster spent equal time highlighting the accomplishments made this year by members of Tech’s community and laying out the future challenges remaining to be tackled.

“Wayne Clough certainly played a key role…in all of [our accomplishments], but he was always the first to tell you that what made Georgia Tech great was the quality of the players. Georgia Tech’s most valuable resource has always been its people and that will continue to be true in the future,” Schuster said.

He spoke about several students who had received prestigious scholarships, including winners of the Marshall Scholarship, the George J. Mitchell Scholarship, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.

Mostafa El-Sayed, Regents professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was recognized for winning the 2007 National Medal of Science, the first one awarded to a faculty member of any college or university in the state of Georgia. Elliot Moore, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was also acknowledged for being awarded the PECASE award, which recognizes the nation’s top young scientists.

Looking into the future, Schuster claimed that the current challenges facing the world today presented a prime opportunity for Tech to take a leadership role going forward. He cited the research efforts into nanomedicine, high-performance computing models and energy and environmental sustainability as areas where Tech can make an impact.

“[Tech] has long taken an entrepreneurial approach to energy, with a focus on the development of alternative sources and technologies. For a while, our efforts in this area were considered a little esoteric, but the day and time is right for our work in alternative energy to play a more central role,” Schuster said.

“We’re gaining attention for our expertise…with faculty increasingly quoted in news reports and testifying before Congress…. These are complex issues and there are few in Washington with the background or knowledge required to sort them out.”

The field of nanomedicine, which sits at the intersection of nanotechnology, medicine and computer science and high-performance computing simulations, also melds with Tech’s current research directions.

Schuster said that Tech’s interdisciplinary environment is allowing it to assume a leadership role in nanomedicine, and because computing simulations are the test tubes of the 21st century, Tech’s concentration in that area will allow it to define new uses for these systems.

Schuster outlined several other challenges that Tech faces in the coming year, with the foremost being the search for a new institute president. Until this new person is found, Schuster said that the Institute will review their administrative processes to make sure they serve Tech and uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

Each unit on campus, academic and administrative, will also develop a white paper, in order to help the new incoming president get up to speed as quickly as possible.

With six percent of Tech’s state budget being cut, Schuster addressed how Tech would be prioritizing its efforts.

“As we absorb these cuts, the constant priorities are to keep our resources focused on the academic core and to maintain the same level of excellence so that the quality is not sacrificed,” Schuster said.

“These times of financial austerity provide an incentive to cast a critical eye on how we are spending our money. They call us to make sure that we spend our resources wisely… and we are getting the biggest possible bang for our buck.”

At the end of the session, Schuster answered a couple of questions submitted by members of the student community.

One person asked the interim president about the complaint regarding the lack of writing in the Tech curriculum and what changes students could expect going forward.

Schuster answered that the process to deal with this problem was currently underway, as two task forces, one to address undergraduate education and the other interdisciplinary studies, were considering the issue.

Schuster recalled that when he was the head of the chemistry department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the best predictor of success for a graduate student was communication skills.

“I think that our faculty knows [communication skills are important], and that we’re going to work to enhance in the curriculum here at Georgia Tech,” Schuster said.