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Alumni Magazine

From the dean

Welcome to the fall / winter 2021 issue of NC State Engineering magazine.

Dr. Louis Martin-Vega

The beginning of this new year has brought back some of the joy, energy and annual traditions that those of us on campus so look forward to as a fall semester begins, along with a number of continued challenges.

We were delighted to welcome back our students in August with first-year students moving into dormitories and most of our instruction taking place in the classroom. While our campus is the busiest that it’s been since February 2020, the impact of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has also required our University leaders to implement a number of ongoing safety protocols. You can learn more by visiting

Notwithstanding the many unprecedented challenges we have faced over the last 18 months, I am very proud of how our students, faculty members and staff members have not only persevered, but thrived.

That applies especially to our research efforts. We’ve long made planning and leading major research institutes and centers a priority for our faculty. Your College leads more than 20 such centers and institutes and is one of only two engineering schools in the United States to ever take the lead role in two National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Centers at the same time.

I’m very pleased to tell you that those efforts have continued despite the challenges of the pandemic, and to great success. This year, NSF has announced that two new major research centers will be led by members of our faculty.

Jacob Jones, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Ross Sozzani, an associate professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, are the director and one of the co-deputy directors, respectively, on an NSF Science and Technology Center — Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS) ­— award. Thanks to an initial five-year, $25 million grant from NSF, this joint College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences effort will bring together a multidisciplinary team from NC State and eight partner institutions to strengthen the nation’s food security and improve water quality by charting a path toward sustainable use of phosphates in agriculture.

Our Department of Computer Science has long been a global leader in research on the use of artificial intelligence to further personalized learning. Now, a five-year, $20 million grant from NSF will establish the NSF AI Institute for Engaged Learning. James Lester, Distinguished University Professor of Computer Science and director of our Center for Educational Informatics, will lead this effort to create new AI-based technologies that transform education.

These outstanding successes don’t happen overnight. Landing major research grants requires vision and meticulous planning. It takes the right people, supported by state-of-the art infrastructure in place to do the work. I am grateful for your steadfast support of the College of Engineering and would like to acknowledge the significant role that our alumni and friends have played in getting us to where we are today. With your continued support, I know that we will be able to achieve even more.

I hope that you are staying safe and that you will please stay in touch with us.

Louis A. Martin-Vega, Ph.D., NAE