Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
February 12, 2001
Good morning and welcome to the National Science Foundation.
As PIs in the Integrative Graduate Education and Research
Training Program (IGERT), you have two important claims
to fame. You know what IGERT stands for and you are
participants in one of NSF's newest and most promising
IGERT is designed to develop new paths in graduate
education for your students, for your university,
and for the nation. As IGERT participants, you are
pioneers in a reformation of graduate education in
U.S. science and engineering.
A few years ago, The Economist magazine did
a study of innovation throughout the world. In a sidebar
to one segment there was a caption that read, "Innovators
break all the rules. Trust them."
Well, we know that the study was not talking about
'breaking the law' when it said rules. Rather, breaking
the mold or the norm, meaning moving outside of traditional
ways of thinking - outside the box, as the consultants
You were chosen for the IGERT initiative because you
showed the promise to be able to redesign old patterns
of graduate research and education to meet the challenges
of today. Although our system of graduate education
is the finest in the world, the world is rapidly changing
and graduate education must keep pace with those changes.
Science and engineering are leaving a pervasive imprint
on every aspect of our social, economic, and political
life. Academe, industry, and government are now but
three of a multitude of work environments requiring
scientists and engineers. This dictates that we train
our scientists and engineers for versatility in their
career options. Today, they are needed in everything
from local community activities to international programs.
And without question, we need many more in the U.S.
Scientific and technological advances are creating
societal transformations in decades rather than centuries.
We used to talk of tech transfer occurring slowly,
over many years. Now, we think of it happening over
lunch. We know that change is constant, but today's
changes have two compelling characteristics, their
rapidity and their complexity. For example, in the
1970s, nearly 60 percent of the world's top exports
were simple products, raw materials, fuels, and ores.
Today, roughly 25 years later, it's just the reverse.
Sixty percent of our exports are complex products,
advanced electronics, software, and the like. They
require complex processes to produce.
At the extremes of complexity, we often come full circle
to integration. It's no accident that the I in IGERT
stands for Integrative. In fact, in almost all fields,
the boundaries between and among disciplines are blurring.
Often we find the most fertile scientific opportunities
in these "foggy crossings" where the knowledge in
one field answers the questions in another. Your role
as IGERT awardees is crucial. Your job is to create
the 'boundary-crossing attitude' and environment in
graduate education for today and tomorrow.
The IGERT program is NSF's flagship initiative for
graduate education. It is built on the universe of
knowledge and experience that NSF has gained from
the Science and Technology Centers, the Engineering
Research Centers, and a variety of other experiments.
It is holistic and flexible in approach. In some sense,
it is a program designed to learn from itself.
The ultimate goal is to graduate PhDs with experiences
that both span boundaries and dig deeply in several
areas. Graduates will need these to meet the career
demands of relentless change in trends, tools, technology,
This speaks to the main features of the IGERT program:
its emphasis on emerging areas of science and engineering,
the hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instrumentation
and methodologies, and the opportunities for work
experience on and off- campus, and the excitement
of prospecting at disciplinary interfaces. We fully
expect that those who graduate with this preparation
and experience will lead a new generation of scientists
and engineers. They will "break the rules" with new
Decades ago the migrant worker, social philosopher,
and well-known writer Eric Hoffer said, "In times
of change, learners will inherit the earth, while
the learned will find themselves well-equipped to
deal with a world that no longer exists." We know
that IGERT is about the world that already exists
-and the one that will exist.
In this time of change, and with your help, we will
have a new generation of learners. NSF is pleased
and proud to sponsor your efforts, and it has been
my pleasure to welcome you to NSF this morning.