Carnegie Mellon University

Dear CMU Ambassadors,

“Generations ago, Mill 19 used to roll out 10-inch steel bars.
Today, it rolls out the latest innovations in advanced manufacturing,
robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence.” — President Joseph Biden

Hosting a sitting U.S. president for a campus visit is a rare and remarkable occasion for any university, and I’m pleased to share with our CMU Ambassadors that Carnegie Mellon recently had this opportunity. President Biden traveled to Pittsburgh in January specifically to visit our Mill 19 facility at Hazelwood Green, where he engaged with faculty and students to learn about their leading-edge research in robotics, advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence. During the president’s nationally televised address on the importance of investing in innovation, he also highlighted the important work being done by CMU and our industry and regional partners to revitalize domestic manufacturing.

The president’s trip was an incredible opportunity for Carnegie Mellon, and I am thrilled that several Tartans were able to meet him. In addition to student leaders who joined me to greet President Biden upon his arrival, three students and several faculty members demonstrated innovations in human-robot collaboration that could transform assembly lines, as well as a robotic additive manufacturing welding process that could enable on-demand production while reducing waste and lead time. These advances are exactly why we have invested in facilities like Mill 19 — to advance research that can have a powerful impact on the future of industry and provide opportunities for everyone to thrive in this technology-fueled economy.

While a presidential visit is a singular experience, CMU’s leadership in critical areas is regularly tapped to help inform policies. This fall, Mill 19 was the site of the inaugural U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council meeting, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and attended by European leaders. Our faculty also regularly contribute thought leadership to important national issues. For example, Professor Costa Samaras was recently appointed to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to serve as chief advisor for energy policy. And in January, we partnered with a bipartisan group of Pennsylvania officials to host an event unveiling new legislation that would help the state to compete in the development of self-driving cars.

Our leadership in robotics and automation was reinforced in a report the university commissioned for the 25th anniversary of our National Robotics Engineering Center. The report found that NREC has been the key driving force in the emergence of Pittsburgh’s Robotics Row, which today includes more than 80 companies — collectively valued at more than $18 billion — focused on robotics, artificial intelligence and other related technologies. Beyond Pittsburgh, NREC’s impact can be measured on a global scale: Its technologies have been licensed more than 450 times by organizations in 31 countries and deployed on all seven continents and in space. 

As we look to the future of automation, robotics and other technologies, we are placing a strong emphasis on cultivating the next generation of inventors. A new educational facility — the JPMorgan Chase & Co. AI Maker Space — will help us prepare and inspire future leaders in artificial intelligence. This 2,000-square-foot Tepper Quad space, which opened in the fall, gives CMU students access to robots, drones, virtual- and augmented-reality devices, and high-end computers. Students of all majors can use the hands-on facility to spark ideas and collaborations that may lead to solutions for some of society’s greatest challenges.

Even as they change the world around us, our researchers’ ambitions extend to the stars. A pair of projects led by Mellon College of Science faculty members aim to unlock mysteries of our universe using data from two astronomical projects coming online. The first will help make sense of the petabytes of data that will be generated by the Legacy Survey of Space and Time, a 10-year project to scan every point of the southern sky 1,000 times using the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. The second will utilize data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope over its first year of operation to learn about the nature of dark matter.

From projects as large as the universe to those at the nanoparticle level: Researchers in the College of Engineering have developed a sensor system using additive manufacturing and nanotechnology that’s able to detect smaller levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine than ever before. To give you an idea of how small: Imagine less than a gram of dopamine in Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States — the sensor would be able to detect it. With this discovery, they have broken a previous barrier in the detection of biomolecules, with potential applications in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

The ongoing disruption of every field by digital transformation has been particularly acute in the entertainment industry. Despite predictions of the demise of legacy companies, many have instead thrived by embracing opportunities created by these disruptions. In a Harvard Business Review essay, Professor Michael D. Smith of the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and the Tepper School of Business recently explained how corporations in other industries can use lessons from entertainment studios to make successful pivots when facing similar challenges.

Finally, I wish to recognize CMU faculty members who recently received significant honors. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named faculty from four schools and colleges to this year’s class of fellows: professors Baruch Fischhoff, Tuomas Sandholm and Wilfried Sieg, and professor and Heinz College dean Ramayya Krishnan. In addition, the Association for Computing Machinery elected professors Anupam Gupta and Matthew T. Mason to its 2021 fellows, and the National Academy of Inventors elected professors Marcel Bruchez and Larry Pileggi. Professor Manuela Veloso was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and professors Fei Fang, Pravesh K. Kothari, and Carl Rodriguez received 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships, which are considered one of the top awards for young researchers. Congratulations to all!

As always, thank you for your advocacy and support of Carnegie Mellon. I look ahead with great anticipation to the coming months when I sincerely hope to see you in person. Until then, be well.

Warm regards,

Farnam Jahanian
President and Henry L. Hillman President's Chair