Something for Everyone at Reunion 2016!

Visiting alumni got an expansive look at topics ranging from groundbreaking interdisciplinary research to the future of STEM education

Jul 05 2016 | By Jesse Adams

Columbia Engineering alumni on campus for Reunion Weekend June 2 to 5 got an expansive look at topics ranging from groundbreaking interdisciplinary research to the future of STEM education and came away with a better sense of how Columbians are advancing the frontiers of knowledge in engineering and beyond.

Adam Cannon addresses alumni on the future of STEM education.
Adam Cannon addresses alumni on the future of STEM education.
—Image courtesy of Timothy Lee Photographers

After a Thursday evening welcome dinner and research awards presentation, hosted by the Columbia Engineering Alumni Association, and convened by Dean Mary C. Boyce, Reunion kicked off Friday, June 3, with an array of academic sessions featuring faculty from throughout the University. Among offerings examining literature, law, and the fine arts, Kristin C. Myers, associate professor of mechanical engineering and an expert in the mechanical behavior of soft tissues, gave a mechanical engineering perspective on why women give birth preterm. Other talks included a survey of evolving grammar with John McWhorter, associate professor of English and comparative literature, and an exploration of the evolution of cooperative behavior with Dustin Rubinstein, associate professor of ecology, evolution, and biology and co-director of the Center for Integrative Animal Behavior.

Reunion goers enjoyed departmental luncheons, tours of the ever-evolving campus and neighborhood, and parties and gatherings with peers and colleagues on campus and throughout New York City.

On Saturday, sessions included a talk with NPR’s Robert Seigel ’68CC, excursions into classical and contemporary civilization, and a Societyof Columbia Graduates Great Teacher Lecture with Adam Cannon, senior lecturer in computer science at Columbia Engineering and associate chair for undergraduate education.

Reunion attendees
Reunion attendees were treated to wine tastings, class dinners and more.
—Image courtesy of Timothy Lee Photographers

“The modern liberal education is about building the foundation for a lifetime of learning in a changing world,” Cannon said, describing a new course, Computing in Context, he is continually developing with colleagues across the University to help students harness the power of algorithms and computer science in the context of other fields. “We are at the beginning of a revolution in the liberal arts … The next crop of faculty will be computationally empowered, and our students are going to lead the charge.”

Following an alumni BBQ, attendees had the chance to hear an in-depth progress report from Jamey Barbas BS’83, project director of the new replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge connecting Westchester and Rockland Counties for the New York State Thruway, detailing its design and ongoing construction.

“The proposal was selected based on the best value, shortest construction time, least dredging required, and studies suggesting no need for major structural repairs for 100 years,” Barbas said, noting that the bridge is designed to reduce congestion, offer paths for bicycles and pedestrians, and accommodate potential expansions of mass transit. “We’ve learned a lot from studying our long-span bridges.”

Reunion continued into the evening with a variety of receptions for the School’s diverse communities, convening veterans, alumni of color, LGBTQ engineers, and former athletes among other affinity groups, followed by a wine tasting, class dinners, and a starlight reception at Low Plaza in front of Alma Mater. The weekend concluded with a brunch Sunday morning, and an open invitation for all alums to stay connected with their home away from home.

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