Calestous Juma on 21st century’s grand challenges in engineering

Calestous Juma of Harvard University reports that some of the best engineers in the world are coming together to tackle environmental problems in order to increase food and water supplies in the developing world.

Calestous Juma: Some of the best engineers in the world coming together thought that solving environmental problems is the greatest challenge that faces the engineering community.

Calestous Juma is a professor of the practice of international development at Harvard University. In a meeting headed by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Juma and other scientists identified what they call the ‘Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century.’

Calestous Juma: I think one of the most exciting developments is the area of drought-tolerant crops as we look into the future, and what we think about ecological change and large parts of the world that are not able to grow food at the moment.

Juma said that plants, such as corn, are being developed with genetic modification to resist drought, not only in Africa, but elsewhere around the world. And it’s not just for food…

Calestous Juma: … but also being able to do revegetation in areas that previously didn’t hold vegetation. We are looking into a future where water may be a serious problem.

Another engineering challenge for the world is in infrastructure, which Juma said could benefit from stronger, lighter and more durable materials being made with nanotechnology.

Calestous Juma: Infrastructure as a whole is basically the ability to move goods, ideas, and services. This is one of the most critical problems facing the developing world.

Our thanks to:
Calestous Juma
Professor of the Practice of International Development
Director, Science Technology & Innovation,
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Jorge Salazar