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2003 William A. Wulf, Ph.D.

America's Technological Challenge: Maintaining a Leading Role in the Global Economy

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William A. Wulf, Ph.D. 
President National Academy of Engineering 
Washington, D.C.

Dr. William A. Wulf was elected President of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in April 1997. He previously served as Interim President beginning in July 1996. Together with the National Academy of Sciences, the NAE operates under a congressional charter and presidential orders that call on it to provide advice to the government on issues of science and engineering.

Currently, Dr. Wulf is on leave from the University of Virginia where he is a University Professor and the AT&T Professor of Engineering and Applied Science. Among his activities at the University are a complete revision of the undergraduate computer science curriculum, research on computer architecture and computer security, and an effort to assist humanities scholars exploit information technology.

In 1988-90, Dr. Wulf was on leave from the University to be Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation where he headed the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). CISE is responsible for computer science and engineering research as well as for operation the National Supercomputer Centers and NSFNET (the immediate precurser to the 
commercial Internet).

Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Virginia, Dr. Wulf founded Tartan Laboratories and served as its Chairman and Chief Executire Officer. Dr. Wulf grew the company to about a hundred employees. Tartan developed and marketed optimizing compilers, notably for Ada. Tartan was sold to Texas Instruments in 1995.

The technical basis for Tartan was research by Dr. Wulf while he was a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University. At Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Wulf's research spanned programming systems and computer architecture; specific research activities included the design and implementation of a systems - implementation language (Bliss), architectural design of the DEC PDP-11, the design and construction of a sixteen processor multiprocessor and its operating system, a new approach to computer security, and development of a technology for the construction of high quality optimizing compilers.

Dr. Wulf received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics (1961) and his Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering (1963) from the University of Illinois. In 1968 he received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Virginia. Dr. Wulf is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Corresponding Member of the Academia Espanola de Ingeniera. He is also a Fellow of four professional societies: the ACM, the IEEE, the AAS, and AWIS.

Dr. Wulf is the author of over 100 papers and technical reports, holds two US patents, and has supervised over twenty-five Ph.D.'s in computer science. He is the author of three books: Hydra/C.mmp: An Experimental Computer System (McGraw-Hill, 1980), Fundamental Structures of Computer Science (Addison Wesley 1980), and The Design of an Optimizing Compiler (Elsevier, 1975).

America's Technological Challenge: 
Maintaining a Leading Role in a Global Economy

Dr. William A. Wulf's Gould Distinguished Lecture on Technology and the Quality of Life will focus on the extraordinary quality of life the United States now enjoys - whether compared to itself a hundred years ago or to the vast populations of contemporary developing nations; however, neither the absolute nor the quality of our lives relative to others is guaranteed. Dr. Wulf will give some personal perspectives on what we must do to extend our fortunate prosperity.

As President of the National Academy of Engineering, Dr. Wulf has focused on his attention on the need for engineering education to restructure itself to meet the growing global competition and to keep pace with the changes in the field. In general, his view is that engineering education has not kept up with this changing environment. In a speech to the annual conference of the ASEE in 2002, he stated that "I think it is only a slight exaggeration to say that our students are being prepared for practicing engineering in a world that existed when we were trained, but not for the 21st century."

While other scientific fields have changed to meet increasingly complex technological demands, engineering is lagging behind. Wulf notes that the adage " if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seems to be the opinion of most engineering faculty members. In his role as president of the NAE, he has put forth the message that change is necessary and in time he hopes that the attitudes of engineering faculty members will change as well. Dr. Wulf points out that our society is addicted to technological change and that although when people are asked to name the important events of the 20th century, they ". . . respond with the list of wars, the great depression . . . if one contrasts the life of an average citizen in 1898 with that in1998, the profound differences are all the result of the technology produced by engineers."

 Last Modified 5/6/14